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The Apples In Stereo

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Hilarie Sidney and Robert Schneider, am: 23.01.2003 ]

Kaum eine andere Band hat sich dem Lo-Fi oder Vintage Pop so verdient gemacht wie die Apples In Stereo um Mastermind Robert Schneider. Mit ihrer letzten, wieder mal hervorragenden Platte "Velocity Of Sound" haben sie bewiesen, dass sie durchaus auch rocken können. Man hat die verträumten Space-Orgien auf die hintere Bank verwiesen und setzt jetzt wieder auf den schlüssigen und kompakten Popsong. Das gefällt. Grund genug mich mit Hilarie und Robert etwas über ihre Stereoäpfel zu unterhalten. Wir sprachen über das Songschreiben, Mathematik, Poetry und wie das Ganze dann doch irgendwie zusammenhängt.


Musicscan: Your new record "Velocity Of Sound" is much more raw and direct than your previous releases? How come? Have you been rather frustrated lately?

The Apples In Stereo: Hilarie: Yes, it is much more raw. We intended to make a record that was more stripped down, and more like what we sound like live. Sometimes people are shocked when they see how much we rock live. We always want to do something that sounds somewhat different with every new release as well. Robert: The world is full of frustration right now, and that rubs off on you. Plus we really wanted to capture something real-- the energy and excitement of playing in a rock band-on record. We wanted to make a futuristic pop record that would blow up your hi-fi, and we are interested in making our own sounds that set us apart from our heroes.

Musicscan: What would you say was the biggest difference between the new album and your previous releases? Did you approach it differently and did you have different ambitions and goals in mind while creating it?

The Apples In Stereo: H: I think the ambitions and goals are always somewhat similar as far as the finished record is concerned. We did want to knock this one out quicker, getting lots of great first takes with energy and enthusiasm. The new album is much more straightforward with less of a retro feel, as far as the production is concerned. The songwriting is still classic and timeless, as with all of our records!

Musicscan: You guys usually used some acoustic instruments in your songs that always made for an awesome, mellow pop sound. This time around you pretty much focused on guitar, bass and drums. Why so?

The Apples In Stereo: H: Just to get across the way that we play when the 4 of us get together in a room to practice or play a show. R: Thanks, I'm glad you like the mellow pop - we really want to do something different right now, to challenge ourselves - and making psychedelic records is something we are really good at, so that is not really a challenge. We limited ourselves to only electric or electronic instruments on this record - beside drums of course - to force us to do something different, and difficult. And like Hillary said, we wanted to capture the real sound of our band, the way we sound in our garage when we play together - we love the sound we make together, and it would be a crime to never capture that unique vibe on record.

Musicscan: R: I write plenty of not-so-wonderful songs too, but most of my songs are unfinished until I record them, and I am pretty lazy in the studio so I take great care only to record the best songs - they almost arrange themselves. So I don't end up finishing the crappy ones, but they are still there stalking me. Of course most songs wouldn't even get started if there weren't some redeeming hook or bit of inspiration - but sometimes you have a great piece and you feel like you sort of owe it to the piece to write a song around it and frame it, and you might end up forcing the rest of the song then throwing it all out later. Then down the road a bit, the little piece which first turned you on pops up again from your subconscious, you may not even recognize it, and it will just sort of write itself and turn out great. The best songs always write themselves, you just sit and play along and don't even really pay much attention. And suddenly it feels like it's been around forever - when it feels like that, then it's finished, and anything else you add to the song just fucks it up. Except for polishing up the lyrics a bit maybe. I'm especially bad with unfinished lyrics. I'll record a whole song, background vocals and arrangement and everything, and have no idea what the song is about. Usually I'll have a title, maybe a non sequitor verse or phrase in the chorus - I don't want to force a lyric, so I'll wait until one hits me one day while I'm staring at the wall or something, and never think of it until then. I've got a lot of unfinished songs lying around in my head, and I feel absolutely no pressure to finish any of them. Not always, sometimes I'll write a whole song at once, lyrics and all, in like fifteen minutes. Usually every time I pick up the guitar I start a new song, but I don't need to finish it right then. I'm happy to sit on it and wait for it to hatch. Still, when it's time to record the vocal track the lyrics seem to flow more freely. And so I write a lot of my lyrics the day I record the vocal track. I'm amazingly poetic on that day, I'm a fucking James Joyce. Just joking, but I often put off finishing the lyrics until I have to sing the song. Usually the lyrics come to me before that day, but also good songs have been left off our records because the words didn't come to me at the eleventh hour. I really can't think of what I could tell you about my songwriting process. My main thing is not forcing it - maybe I'll have a really catchy piece and I'll sing it over and over, then stop abruptly and sort of listen in my mind. Most of the time I can hear the next chord or even the whole next section, my mind just sort of plays it like a tape as if the song were already written. And then I feel around for the chords and try to capture what I heard, before the memory fades. Sometimes I'll just start strumming random chords and singing randomly and see what comes out. Or a lot of times a melody will hit me while I'm driving or walking or something. I'll hum it over and over and if it's good it will stick and I remember it later. For years I used to carry a tape recorder and hum into it, so that I could listen back later and write a bunch of new songs. But I accumulated like 50 cassettes or more, tons of these cassette tapes and I've never listened back to any of them. I always remember the really good tunes later, and the rest don't really count anyway, if they're not memorable.

The Apples In Stereo: You all have your own studios but even though you don't have to pay loads of money in order to record a decent sounding album, you don't spend a lot of time actually recording the songs. I guess you don't aim for perfection but a rather fresh and spontaneous approach?

Musicscan: H: It actually took us a really long time to record "Fun Trick Noisemaker", and "Tone Soul Evolution", but I think as we go along, the process of recording gets easier. We are getting better at getting good sounds to tape quicker. We try not to get too hung up on perfection. At least, we try to only perfect the elements that need to be. Having your own studio is hard though. It's really easy to just screw around and not focus on the record, because you are not paying by the day, or hour. R: A record isn't really perfect (in my opinion) unless it is fresh and spontaneous, so I guess we do aim for perfection in that way. But it is really important to us not to polish away the rough edges.

The Apples In Stereo: How was working with Bryce Goggins? Why did you choose him to mix the album? You have always taken care of that in the past. In what way did he have an influence on the record?

Musicscan: H: We chose Bryce because he had mixed Pavement records, and the Ramones. Robert has always wanted to get someone else to help us mix, and it seemed like a good time to try it. The new record was a little bit harder for Robert to mix than previous records. I think because it is more stripped down, but he wanted to make sure that every instrument was loud and in the speaker, and that it sounded raw, and loud. R: Yeah, my production style is a little too trippy, and not direct enough for what I wanted to get across on this record. Bryce was the perfect choice, and he definitely helped keep the record loud and raw.

The Apples In Stereo: I have read that you are really into poetry. What are some of your favorite authors and what are you reading lately?

Musicscan: R: Mostly I like to read billboards and street signs. Just joking. As far as poets go, I love William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens-- my favorite current poet is David Berman, who is a great songwriter but an even better poet. I really like ancient Chinese poetry too, like Han Shan and Li Po. I'm also into mathematics and physics pretty heavily right now-- lately I have mostly been reading Albert Einstein-- one of my heroes-- and Charles Peirce, an American philosopher. Mathematics is a lot like poetry, like haiku - the best math is short and full of implications, like the best poetry.

The Apples In Stereo: What ever happened to Elephant 6? Is it still a fully functioning label? Why did you decide to quite a couple of years ago?

Musicscan: H: No, we quit doing e6 as a label, it is no longer functioning. I'm sure it still exists as a movement though. R: Elephant 6 is an ideal and a method for making art, for making it special and personal, and for doing great things with your life - it has outgrown the organization that started it

The Apples In Stereo: How has your outlook on life changed since you have become a father? Do you feel any pressure to succeed as a musician and support a family at the same time? Is their any tension at all in this respect?

Musicscan: R: I feel more pressure to do something great, that Max will be proud of and think is cool when he grows up. To me, that is success. As far as making a living goes, it is really a crapshoot and there is no guarantee whatever you do. So although of course there is pressure to pay the bills and such, I can't count on record sales to do this forever - but making great music, it will be out there forever for people to hear, whether it sells or not. So to me, success as a musician is all about doing something great and soulful - plenty of my heroes succeeded financially less than I do, but made amazing records anyway - this is the model of success I work with.

The Apples In Stereo: Why did you only play one show in Germany? Is there a full on tour scheduled?

Musicscan: H: I'm not really sure why. We really hope to play a lot more shows in Germany. We had a great time at our show in Hamburg. Everyone was so nice, and we went out with our friend Thomas from Hamburg after the show to a bar full of sailors, and got drunk and danced with the sailors all night long!! R: I don't know why we are only playing one show, but I assure you we will do a full tour's worth of rocking.

The Apples In Stereo: 3 favorite records, books and movies?

Musicscan: R: These are big questions: Records: oh man that's too big to answer right now Books: Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Relativity and Other Essays by Einstein, Tao Te Ching Movies: Harold and Maude, Rushmore, Best in Show

The Apples In Stereo: Any last words, comments, requests...

Musicscan: H: Thank you so much! R: Thanks for listening.

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