Alt: What are you guys doing when you’re not playing with the Apples?
EA: John, our drummer, has a band called the Deathray Davies, but also does music for movies. Robert producers other bands and does engineering, Bill does as well. We all have various bands we play in and also part time, day jobs.
Alt: That’s what I was getting at. Who has a part time, day job and what do they do? I can’t imagine going into a restaurant and having one of you guys ask me if I want a cup of coffee.
EA: That’s not outside the realm of possibility. I work at a university library in Denver. It’s flexible and I can go on tour.
Alt: Apples don’t pay everyone’s bills, so since SpinArt went out of business, what’s going on with your catalog?
Alt: In mentioning music from the ‘90s, the Apples worked with a sound that was in stark contrast to the Seattle thing that was going on. Did you guys play shows with any of those groups and what was that interaction like?
EA: Apples were touring for about a year before I started playing with them. Sometimes we’d get on bills and it’d be with grunge bands. I’m sure the exact same thing happens today when a couple of small, unknown groups are coming through town on the same day and then just get put on the same bill together.
Alt: That was the main mode of pretend, underground music at the time, though. It’s surprising to me that you wouldn’t have run into any of those bands and had them be fans or detractors.
Alt: Robert talks a lot about his adoration for the Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Velocity of Sound, maybe because it was striped down, the Beach Boys’ pop stuff comes through more clearly. Is everyone in the band as big a Brian Wilson fanatic as Robert is or has he foisted that upon you?
EA: I would say Robert takes the cake for being a Beach Boys fan. I mean, we all like that band. The thing about Velocity is that we wanted a Ramones kind of thing. I never really thought about it, but the Ramones were Beach Boys’ fans. I guess it’s a Beach Boys approach via the Ramones.
Alt: In reading about how and when the Apples got together, there’s always a lot of talk about punk bands and how you guys were an anomaly within the scene. But I don’t think too many folks can name any thrashy punk bands from Colorado.
Alt: If you’re known for one style of music and then you release this stuff that’s wrong to your listeners are you trying to relate a different ideal to your fan base?
EA: I don’t know if we’re trying to relate anything except that we’re growing naturally as a band. We’ve been together for a long time. So, when we get excited about moving in a new direction with people that we’ve been playing together with for fifteen years, it’s a really good feeling. It’s like growing in any relationship.
The thing is I don’t think that Apples’ fans are going to hear the new stuff and think that it’s wrong. I wouldn’t even say that the ‘60s songs sound wrong, but in a way, it didn’t cut the mustard. They just weren’t as exciting.
Alt: I was going to ask if each disc was conceived as an independent entity. The songwriting credits, though, don’t seem democratic. It’s Robert’s name on most of the stuff. Should it be credited to the group instead of a single person?
EA: Some group’s do that regardless of who’s the impetus behind the song. For the Apples, Robert really is the one that comes in with most of the ideas. Like I said, sometimes he does have every part of the song fleshed out. We do all contribute stuff to production or editing, but that’s different than song writing credits.
Alt: New Magnetic Wonder (2007) was your last album. All of the interludes that are on that disc, did they just come up in the studio while you were playing or were they preconceived?
Eric Allen: We’ve played festivals and odd dates here and there since then. We went to Taiwan a year and a half ago and were in New York recording a record when we actually played a tribute to R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall. That could have been our last show. Maybe it’s been about a year since we’ve played. We’ve been recording since then, but that might have been our last show.
Alt: The new record, Travelers in Space and Time, took an entire year to complete? Was that you guys laying tracks down or Robert trying to produce it to no end?
Over the last five decades the musician, artist and educator hasn’t strayed from doing music. And it’s resulted in an unruly back catalog of work that’s as broad as it is dense. Even putting in a bit of time with Cleveland’s Pere Ubu during the ‘80s didn’t slow the pace that Thompson set for himself. Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know. But regardless of the incessant release schedule – now through Chicago’s Drag City as opposed to various smaller imprints – Thompson can focus on craft with the business side of things being cemented since the early ‘90s.
It’s all a confounding mess. But the situation simply points to the fact that there isn’t really a pure genre left on the face of the earth. It remains to be seen whether or not that’s gonna push music forward or not. What’s certain, though, is that the result has been a buncha new recordings.
But in its wake a slew of bands claiming some connection to New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records have begun issuing work that should make folks dance and smile slyly. For the most part that stuff works out. With record stores glutted, differentiating one group from the next isn’t always too simple. And really, why bother? There’s not too much of a difference between one poppy group that used to listen to the Germs and the next. People love it though. And So Cow specifically.
I have no idea why a label called Analog Africa, which is responsible for a great deal of good work, has anything to do with Anibal Velasquez. The tune's pretty entertaining, though.
In Cleveland, as one grows up, paying attention, even in the lightest sense of the word, to bands around town yields some unruly list toted around in the mind. I don’t think I ever saw Songs: Ohia, but I remember seeing bills for that group pretty regularly. Regardless, my proclivity for psych stuff should have secured a rather extensive view of the going’s on in Northeastern Ohio. Apparently, that was a faulty perception.
Beginning in 2006, Jeremy Earl, who fronts the band Woods, has worked towards solidifying an outlet for all of the downer and lo-fi folksy stuff that might not have a chance at a wide audience without his assistance. Issuing work from bands as radically different as Magic Lantern, Psychedelic Horseshit and Ganglians, Woodsist has become a relative success in a marketplace that doesn’t sport too many bold and persistent new comers.