Apollo Sunshine: God's Electric Ragtime Band

By: Dennis Cook

Apollo Sunshine isn't what you think they are.

Apollo Sunshine
"We like listening to music that makes us feel cool," says Apollo Sunshine's multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Jesse Gallagher. "Bringing in punk rock but also jamming together makes me feel like a cool dude [laughs]. I don't want to listen to some guy whining about his relationship. I want some stoic dude that brings out the cool dude in me. I love when I read reviews about us that say 'quirky pop group.' Arghhh! It makes me think, 'I'm gonna come to your house and cut you [laughs]. Oh sweet, you read a press review of our first album when we were like 20-years-old.' We get compared to XTC, Guided By Voices and all these other bands I've never even listened to."

If one must conjecture about Apollo Sunshine's pedigree, there's the flavors of Os Mutantes infused with a lil' ZZ Top boogie, a more high minded, hard rock Bonzo Dog Band and the Minutemen given a metallic psych wash. They are an evolutionary extension of these restless tweakers o' thangs that operate with equal measures of mirth and seriousness, and their whimsical invention is in full flower on Shall Noise Upon (released August 5 on Headless Heroes).

Their third long-player burbles and skips them into fresh territory where lads too smart for their own good make music as complex and individual as "The White Album" or Return To Cookie Mountain. Built around the Apollo trio – Gallagher (bass), Sam Cohen (guitar) and Jeremy Black (drums), though all switch instruments like some possessed hurdy-gurdy – the album also features contributions from Edan, White Flight and Drug Rug.

"Making our albums is a psychological, if not a psychedelic, experience. I know bands that are much more efficient in methodical ways but for us it's a long process to break down each idea," says Cohen. "We didn't finish the sequencing [on Shall Noise Upon] until four in the morning the day we were going to master the record. We knew we were gonna make lil' heads 'n' tails to tie the songs together but we didn't know how to make those interludes until we set the order, which then helped create those interludes. On the last day, we started grabbing sounds from outtakes and stuff and chopping them up."

Apollo Sunshine by Josh Miller
"Only the things we can actually agree on make it through," says Black. "Each album has been very different from each other, but it's never been a conscious decision to make them that way. With the second album [self-titled, 2005], the whole idea was to do everything as live as possible. We tracked live, even the vocals. None of it is contrived beyond a loose notion like that. These are just the songs that happened to pour out of us at a given time."

There's real density and lift, depending on the section, to the new album but it does so in under 40-minutes. If brevity is the soul of wit, then these are some witty muthas.

"There's awesome albums that are so fuckin' long and it's a lot to digest, but new parts keep revealing themselves, like Electric Ladyland is a classic records that's super long. But most classic albums sit on one LP that's like 30-minutes," says Cohen. "I think our natural tendency in the end is to make long records. During the recording of every album there's probably been a period where we talked about making it a double CD. We fall into the trap of listening to just one or two tracks of a song, like two instruments, and thinking, 'This is so cool! We should just release a bunch of alternate mixes and you won't know what song it is!' There's a certain something about things that are stripped way down."

"There's no need for extra crap," says Black. "Sometimes it's hard to know what makes up the real core. Finding it makes us put a lot of checks and balances on each other so only the good shit gets through the cracks. I feel lucky that I met Sam and Jesse. I've never connected musically with anyone else in my life like I have with the two of them, and they probably feel the same way. We have some sort of psychic thing together. We trust each other musically. With most bands, the point they start doing great shit is when they really listen to each other."

"I take everything I do in my life as something that will come out in my music. I worry sometimes when I haven't been playing music for a while but I know all that I'm doing will eventually surface in the music," says Gallagher, whose attitude reflects the general thickening of Apollo's sound on Shall Noise Upon. "Each cut is its own lil' dense creation. The first few songs flow really easily but hopefully uniquely. It shows how far off-center I am but, to me, the songs I write sound like hits! Each one could be a single, kind of, though there are no choruses usually so I guess it's like weird pop [laughs]."

Continue reading for more on Apollo Sunshine...

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