Apollo Sunshine tore onto Boston’s music scene in the earlier part of the decade with a unique sound that blends punk, country and psychedelia in a way that is barely accessible to categorization. They top off their unique sound with a fiery, super-sonic live show that’s consistently left audiences stunned, and by no coincidence, the group’s name has gradually begun appearing on more and more critics lists of acts on the rise. Having gone from a Western Mass-based act with a small following, to national tours, it’s obvious the group is going places. As the stakes have gradually risen, and potentially reached a boiling point on a west-coast tour with the Benevento/Russo Duo, the group surprised many members within its camp by deciding to take time off from the road, and indulge in some hard-earned down-time.
Glide’s Andrew Bruss caught up with the Apollo Sunshine just before the break, discussing everything from touring on grease, and lineup changes, all the way to their sound, which they refuse to categorize. More importantly, on the eve of their departure from the road, the group gave Glide a bit of an idea where the band is going, how the dynamics developed, and what fans can expect from Apollo Sunshine in the future.
First thing’s first, where does the Apollo Sunshine story start?
Jesse Gallagher: Where do you want it to start?
Well I understand the group met at the Berklee School of music in Boston.
Jeremy Black: Pretty much. We were all living in Boston and Sam and I were playing in a band together.
Jesse: And one time my dad stuck his dick in my mom.
Jeremy: Well, that’s the real beginning of it all. But a friend of Sam and mine introduced us to Jesse, and we all started jamming together.
Jesse: It’s all on Wikipedia. You can find out more about Apollo Sunshine on the internet…which is something Al Gore invented in the early 80’s.
So you guys were in Boston around the late 90’s and just started jamming?
Jeremy: We graduated in 2003 or 2002 or some shit.
Jesse: It was the golden summer of 2002.
You guys graduated? Because on your website the bio says the group dropped out due to frustration over the schools industry-oriented curriculum.
Sam: That’s just Jesse. Jeremy and I graduated with a recording degree.
How did things progress? How did the writing process work?
Jeremy: Well, we were practicing a lot in Boston, and played a lot of shows.
Sam: And then we stopped practicing, and kept playing a lot of shows.
Jeremy: That’s pretty much what happened. We finished school and played a lot of shows, and eventually we got a record deal and hit the road for a while.
At what point did Sean Alyward come into the picture?
Jesse: I grew up with Sean; I’ve known that fucker since I was a young kid.
Jeremy: He was a friend and we wanted someone to fill in the sound a bit.
Jesse: But he’s out now, we kicked his ass out.
It seems that that has been implied in more of an ambiguous context in the past, but how did that decision come to be made?
Jesse: We were like, "you fucking suck man."
Sam: We were really just a 3-piece band. We needed some help for a little while.
Jesse: At the end of the night he was scooping up all the chicks and we were like "fuck that, I want my fucking dick to get wet."
Sam: Basically he was just doing a little too well with the ladies (laughs)
So is it fair to say Sean was unhappy with the decision?
Jesse: Nah, he was cool. I mean, he’s got good shit going on.
Jeremy: He was cool with it, because it was always kind of like our band and he was just coming in to help us out. He’s one of our best friends, and we wanted to go back to being a trio and he was cool with it.
Is the songwriting process done as a group? Or is writing done as individuals and the group begins working on the individually written material?
Jesse: We sort of come in individually with a song and build on it.
Jeremy: Yeah, we’ll start to put it together as a group, but it depends on the song. Sometimes a lot of the parts will be there, and the role of the group is just to arrange it.
How long of a process is it between the birth of a songs lyrics or chords, and then having it developed enough to take into the studio?
Jesse: It sort of depends on the song.
Sam: Some songs we write in the studio, but other songs we might have been playing for over a year live before we even record it.
What’s a good example of a song within the group’s catalog that just clicked and was ready to be recorded from the get-go?
Sam: Maybe a song like "Today’s the Day." I mean Jesse just showed up with that song
Jeremy: That’s the type of songs that’s been done before like a million times and when you’ve got a rock song that fits the mold, it’s pretty hard to fuck up. It was pretty self explanatory
Jesse: But we’ve had some good ones. I remember the first time we played "Flip!" we were like "whoa, this is sick," but that took time to assemble.
Jeremy: When you don’t get that much time off the road to work on ideas, there will be a new song and we’ll play it live a bunch of times, and it will sort of evolve every time we play it.
How did the west coast tour with the Benevento/Russo Duo work out?
Jesse: It was alright.
Jeremy: It was fun, those guys were cool. They have a lot of gear…
Jesse: Yeah (laughs) they’re fucking wankers.
Jeremy: Nah, they’re good dudes, we had a lot of fun, and played a lot of good shows together. Some of them sucked…
Jesse: Sam played pedal steel for them on one tune (“Memphis”)
What was the decision behind customizing the bus to use grease rather than gas when you hit the road?
Jesse: The goddamn environment! You feel like a dickhead touring around, burning up gas, and driving around like an idiot. I mean, there’s all this grease sitting around, so why not?
Jeremy: We knew some other groups that were doing it, and it just seemed like a great idea. Pieball and the Yolks were both touring on grease. You’d be surprised how many groups tour on grease if you check around.
Is it fair to say the group is trying to set an example for people by taking more of an eco-friendly approach to the road?
Jeremy: I hope other people take the lead though, because we can only do so much.
Sam: It’s not the kind of issue that you try to be a snob about, because you’ve got folks who’ll say "I was into saving the environment, but now everybody is trying to save the environment."
You’ve made a lot of headway since your days jamming out as Berklee students. The group has been nominated for a handful of Boston Music Awards, and you’ve opened for pretty big acts like Matisyahu. How does the progress feel from the group’s perspective?
Sam: We don’t really give a fuck about shit like that.
Jesse: I mean, I think Matisyahu kind of bites, but it’s cool.
Jeremy: We’ve been playing shows since we started and everyone’s cool individually. We’re definitely not going to be super-stoked because we played a show with Matisyahu. Maybe from an outside perspective everyone thinks we’re doing really well. But we’re just trying to keep our heads together, and keep writing more songs.
Sam: We still get broke. Sometimes we have money, and sometimes we don’t, but it’s still the same old shit to us.
There is no one point in the group’s career where you’ve felt like you made it to a higher plateau?
Sam: I don’t think any one moment every accelerated things that much faster.
Jeremy: It’s been a pretty steady process.
Sam: We just keep writing new songs, and going out and playing them.
Jesse: It might not even be a steady build; it’s just what we’re doing. It’s our life. I can’t imagine us not doing this, so each day is just a different thing.
Are you writing new material?
Sam: We’re getting ready to.
Jeremy: We’re going to be taking a little break, and we’ll be returning with some new shit.
How long of a break are you guys taking?
Jeremy: At this point I’d say it’s indefinite.
Will you relocate?
Sam: I’m going to be in Brooklyn.
Jeremy: I’m going to be in San Francisco and Jesse’s going to be in Boston.
What’s one thing readers should know about Apollo Sunshine before they go out and buy an album?
Sam: We’re racists. (laughs) And Jesse shaves his testicles.
Jesse: It’s all true. I shave my balls each day; we don’t like black people (laughs)…all the usual.
Jeremy: No, no, no. They should know that Jesse Gallagher is a big asshole.
Sam: Seriously guys, what should they know about us?
Jesse: We’re just like them. We fucking shit and we put on our pants one leg at a time. That’s a good quote right there.
And what should they know about the music before they make an investment in it?
Jesse: It’s the best music they’ll ever hear.
Is that a fact?
Jesse: No, I’m full of shit.
Jeremy: To be honest, our music is hard to describe. I think people should just check it out.
Jesse: We’re the Red Sox of music.
Sam: People need to find music in a normal way though. You can’t hype it up because then they’ll hear it with a bunch of assumptions about what to expect. You’ve got to put it on in a way that’s organic. You can’t just hype up Apollo Sunshine and have all these people be like "whoa, this really is that amazing."
Jeremy: The only way I’m going to check out a new band is if someone I know is like "here, listen to this." I can’t remember the last time I just read something about a band, and was like "I’m going to check this band out." I mean maybe I’ll read about it and then someone will tell me about them, and I’ll check the band out.
How do you characterize your sound?
Jeremy: We really don’t. That’s not a question we answer. How do you characterize our sound?
Maybe Johnny Cash with a taste of Syd Barrett. I think there’s definitely a hint of the Wilco in there.
Jeremy: Well those are some very diverse things.
Jesse: I mean, I like those things, but those are also three things I’ve never heard us compared to before.
Sam: That just goes to show you can’t even guess how someone’s going to hear it unless you go talk to them.
Jeremy: Well, we get Wilco every now and then.
Sam: The bands all over the place. If someone just listened to some Mexican radio and then they hear one thing in us that reminds them of it they might be like, "they’re awesome; they’re totally picking up where Mariachi music left off." It’s really whatever is in their head.
Jesse, can you tell me about your side project, DJ Nighttime Gallagher?
Jesse: He’s unreal.
Is that how he is?
Jesse: I mean, its one of those things where it’s like, "I’ll spin your pants right off." It’s not me though, it’s DJ Nighttime Gallagher.
Well you look at someone like Thom Yorke who was in a band for over a decade before he did anything on his own. How does that reflect on your experience?
Jesse: This is nothing like Thom Yorke’s solo album. I get fucking hammered and I play shitty songs on turntables. I’m getting good at it. But it’s not any sort of solo thing. It’s just an extension of me trying to get people drunk and to start having sex with each other. It’s not like anything serious. Its juts a silly sort of thing
Jeremy: There’s definitely no jealousy in the band over it whatsoever *laughs*.
Sam: Nobody is saying "God damnit Nighttime Gallagher" (laughs)
Jesse: It’s not even really a "solo project." It’s more like when we get time off I can’t stop making music, so I DJ. I got into records and a few folks taught me how to do stuff, and its really addictive once you start. I play a few gigs outside of the band, but that’s all.
How does the group characterize the fans?
Jesse: There are a lot of different kinds of people. But I feel like most of them are pretty fucking cool and down to earth. I don’t feel like any of them gush over us, and we can definitely talk to them. I don’t feel we keep it particularly "real," but maybe its us. They’re cool and they’re all over the place. You know all about the Duo…that sort of scene was totally new to us.
You mean the jam band scene?
Jesse: Yeah. Before the tour with the Duo it was really more of a punk rock thing (with us). But I didn’t know shit about the jam band scene at all before this year
Sam: We got invited to do a few dates, and we thought it sounded like fun. But it’s definitely a whole other world. For us, it was never like "here’s all these people that you’re going to play for." We always had to actively get people to come to our shows.
Well you played the High Sierra Music Festival. Is it fair to say that playing a gig like that exposed you to more of the people and bands within the scene?
Sam: Definitely. And it was a lot of fun too.
Jesse: But yeah, our fans are all over the place. We have fans that are all about hip-hop and fans that are all about punk, [but they are mostly all down to earth]. I definitely chilled with a dude who had tattoos all over his face, and a few people who were all about acid and shit.
Are there any fan stories that have particularly bugged you out or blown you away in a good way?
Sam: I don’t know, we’ve had funny experiences, but not one that comes to mind.
Jesse: Once when our bus broke down we wound up staying on our mechanics farm in Indiana and ended up getting hammered, shooting shotguns and having him teach us about skeet shooting. We had to canceled a few shows on the tour, but instead we got to learn how to fucking shoot shotguns. We really just take it one day at a time.
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