Remember those moments in your life when you listened to a new record and it gave you goosebumps? For me, it’s only happened a few times. Loveless, Crooked Rain/Crooked Rain and Daydream Nation come to mind. But the goosebumps were out, when I listened to Out of View, the debut album from The History of Apple Pie for the first time. Hailing from London, the band stand poised to become massive in 2013. Forget for a moment that Joshua Third from The Horrors co-engineered the record. This is an album whose brilliance stands on it’s own. It runs the gamut from pop sensibility to brilliant, ear-shattering dirge. It’s THOAP’s ability to maintain a balance between the two, that sets this album apart from anything I’ve heard in the past year. Stephanie Min, singer and guitarist for the band talked to me at length about the process for recording the record and their passion for staying connected with their fans.
Todd: I hate asking bands how they came up with the name of the band! But, whenever I tell someone about the band, they immediately want to buy a shirt because the name is so brilliant. So….sorry, but please tell us how you came upon the name.
Stephanie: It was originally a name Jerome and I used for the music we began to write on our own. We just randomly searched on Google for some name inspiration and came across a children’s book with that title. We then put our first couple of songs up online under that ‘guise – just to show our friends and stuff… Yet when the band was formed we ended up keeping it. It’s fun, it’s random, and it kind of represents us. We really like the phrase – it has a real American, homemade feel to it even though it has English roots. I can’t really imagine us being called anything else… I am pretty picky about names and I’ve always been conscious of having something I’d get bored of or easily lose interest in. We’re pretty carefree about it, which is perfect when there’s more important things to think about like touring and the music. I mean, it can’t be that important when we’ve been given so many opportunities with such a name… We must be doing something right?
Todd: Have people reacted to the name as positively as I would expect? Selling lots of shirts? Or do you start to get irritated by the reaction and prefer that people just listen to the music?
Stephanie: As we’ve grown, so has our fan base so there’s been more acceptance of it. When trying to break into new territories though, the ‘controversy’ sometimes flares up again and we get a few “There is a band called The History Of Apple Pie lols”. Nothing major, though, and nothing to be taken seriously. The funny thing is, some people go on and on and on about it, stating “With a name like that this… With a name like that that…” – but from where I’m standing, having basically been the band’s manager as well as front woman for the past 8 months – I don’t think having a different name would have made any difference. No matter what obsessions people have had with the name, I don’t think they realise how much we’ve accomplished and the opportunities we’ve been given. I read about the latest hyped bands all the time and see they’re doing exactly what we did ages ago. It’s a really exciting time when all that shits going down – you know, support tours, festivals, etc., but the real challenge is actually coming down from the high that being a buzz band creates, sitting down and actually writing a full length record. Not just any record – a good record! One that you’re proud of and put blood, sweat and tears into. We’re at a stage now where we’re releasing our album, and if the name was so detrimental to our music then we would have dissolved as a band a long time ago. But we’re still here, aren’t we? I read a blog the other day where some guy was reviewing our song and jokingly made a point of how it almost pisses him off how we just keep going and going… riding this wavelength and not fading away… and he couldn’t help but just like our songs. That’s just it, I guess. So long as we continue writing music and interacting with our fans, which we see ourselves doing for a long while, we’ll be sticking around. The longevity of the band is important to us, and if we can do it with a name like ours then all the better!
Todd: “See You” is one of the best new songs I’ve heard in years. Seriously. Can you breakdown the songwriting history of that song? Did it start with a guitar riff, a vocal melody, bass line, etc?
Stephanie: I had the vocal melody idea for quite a long time. It was tracked very roughly on a different instrumental and soon forgotten about. Then Jerome had some sort of end of year breakdown over Christmas 2011 and he ended up writing the instrumental you hear in “See You. We decided to try out the old vocal melody I had written for the other song and found that it worked really well. It was also one of the first times that Jerome had help me write some of the vocal melody (chorus). Then like with many of our songs, we experimented with different sounds and guitar riffs. It’s quite an emotional song that starts off quite melancholy and then rises up to very euphoric moment towards the end. That’s kind of how we felt during the songwriting of this particular track, anyway. One of my favourite parts of it, actually, is the noise at the end that kind of sounds like the Playstation start-up screen music.
Todd: The guitar sound on that song, along with a few others on the record is really thick. Are there multiple tracks of guitars going on there?
Stephanie: Yeah, there are. We tend to do that with all of our songs to give them a real full sound and we love layered vocals and harmonies. The thick guitars basically form the foundations of our songs, and then gives us an idea of what other sounds to keep and strip out – after all, with songs that are quite guitar heavy there’s not always a lot of room for everything else that we want to put in like cool glitches and frankenstein sounds… so we try and be as selective and clever as possible.
Todd: I’ve read that you rerecorded to the entire album to make it sound less “lo-fi”. What led you to make that decision?
Stephanie: The first time we recorded it, we were trying to mix the record in our bedroom and working to a really strict deadline. That was terrible! So many sleepless nights, and arguments and anxiety. Sounding lo-fi has never been intentional for us. It’s just something that us and a lot of bands get stuck with when you don’t have access to proper recording equipment or facilities. We became closer with The Horrors leading up to recording the album the second time around and they kindly allowed us to use their studio for what we needed to do [record the album]. I think then, having been given the opportunity to record it more professionally than what we were used to, we wanted to see how far we could go in terms of heavy production before our songs lost their energy and feel. It was all about balance for us – keeping the edginess and rawness of our previous demos which people were obviously fond of – but also utilising what we had access to… which was essentially a plethora of interesting recording equipment and instruments, but also the guidance and advice of some experienced musicians [The Horrors] who had recorded several albums before. Who wouldn’t take advantage of that? Of course, if you’re going to delve into the world of ‘proper’ production and mixing then you still need to be clever about it. It’s all well and good going in with a producer or mixer and just letting them get on with it – but for us, we wanted to be involved in every part of it to make sure we really nailed the sound. Jerome was very involved as he basically produced the whole thing himself with Joshua (Third, The Horrors) co-engineering. Then when it came to mixing, we were also very involved in that process. We worked with pop producer called Charles “Chicky” Reeves who was an old friend of ours, and it was really interesting and fun bringing the whole record together.
Todd: Had Jerome done production work before that helped him prepare for the rather daunting challenge of producing the album?
Stephanie: He had produced/mixed a couple of songs for friends’ bands, but biggest project most notably came from helping out on the Horrors record “Skying”. He gained a lot of experience and learned a lot doing that. However, recording any album on your own is one of the toughest challenges we’ve ever had to face. It’s absolutely shit and the amount of pressure is ridiculous. We’d never recommend it to anyone. We are glad and lucky that we got a few friends in to advise us and support us and Jerome throughout the process. It was a challenge the first time around, yes, but easier the second time around. Being an unsigned and self-funded band, we needed the album to be the best it could possibly be on a shoestring budget… I think we did a pretty decent job of it.
Todd: To what extent did Josh Hayward influence the sound of the record? He engineered it and mastered it, right? Did he talk to you about song arrangement or did he get into the nuts and bolts of the sound, talking about what amps to use, what levels to put the guitars at versus the vocals, etc.?
Stephanie: He’s been kind of ‘there’ for the whole time we’ve been a band and has been the first person to hear a lot of the songs and demos and always gave a good critique of each one. His direct involvement on the record was engineering. The first time we recorded the album was very rushed and didn’t really sound good at all. Once Josh got back from tour Jerome suggested we redo it with him and that’s what we did. It’s turned out way better this way. Jerome spends a lot of time talking about pedals and sounds and techniques with Josh, anyway, so I’m sure he’s definitely steered the guitars slightly, but Jerome already had a really strong idea of what he wanted them all to sound like so it would have been hard for anyone to really change any of it. Jerome and Josh did both lay down guitar tracks together on the closing track though – that was super fun. They both just got in the live room, set both their peda lboards up and whacked the amps up really loud, with the song coming through a PA. They just did one take and left it at that.
Todd: What kind of amps/guitars/pedals are you using on the record and do you have a different set-up live?
Stephanie: Jerome likes to use stuff he finds that is cheap. He’ll pick up anything that’s cheap and see if it’s good – if it’s not, he just sells it on for the next person to try. That’s lead to a lot of pedal board changes over the course of the band. The one thing that’s always stayed on there is his Marshall Drivemaster (although he recently got a Guv’nor which sounds a little bit better). He’s a massive Electro-Harmonix fan too and I’ve just started collecting all the old ‘big box’ pedals. Mine and Aslam’s boards are far more sensible and compact. I think part of Jerome wishes he could have it all simple, but a much larger part of him goes, ‘Listen to this sound, wwwwaaarrrgghhhccsssh’. When we were demoing we were largely using the computer for effects and then trying to replicate it live, but we then realised that it’s way better to just have a board set up and use it the same as you would live. Amps-wise, Josh has so many it would be hard to say exactly what was used on what bits. I know for sure Jerome’s Fender Deluxe 85 was used for quite a lot of it and it’s what he uses live. Pretty sure there’s some DeVille and AC30 in there too, and even some amp-simmed bits. After playing with Graham Coxon all Jerome really want is a big old Marshall now! With guitars, Jerome’s main guitar is a Telecaster and anything on the record with whammy bar stuff is his Strat. Both his and Aslam’s Strats have humbuckers in so I guess they’re not really all that Strat-like. My guitar is probably the coolest, though: a Duo-Sonic.
Todd: I love the mixtapes you’ve done on MixCloud. Are they an indication of your influences or just an indication of what you’re listening to? The Jesus Lizard and Richard Hell?! Bravo!
Stephanie: A bit of both really! With Jerome and I doing most of the songwriting, I wanted people to get to know the whole band as it’s not just us. I thought this would be one fun way to do it – getting all of the band to let fans know what they’re into music-wise as our tastes vary. I also wanted to do some more creative stuff for the band, too, and draw mixtape covers for the series.
Todd: To that end, I’m wildly amused by the variety of bands and genres that people are comparing you to. Everything from 90′s indie rock to twee-pop. Personally, I hear a C86 influence, so will you settle this and tell everyone what bands and music have influenced the new record?
Stephanie: Influences were quite passive in the making of our record, but we did find ourselves listening to Blur, Radiohead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elliott Smith and Add N to X in the background quite a lot. I think these bands helped us experiment with the production side of things as opposed to the songwriting, though.
Todd: I love the silliness of the Mallory video where lip-syncing seems like a secondary concern. Do you like making videos and who comes up with the concepts?
Stephanie: Love making videos – I love every creative aspect of being in a band. From graphics/web design stuff to helping come up with the storyboard for our videos. Video-wise, we have worked on 3 videos now with Camille Benett. Camille first worked with us on “You’re So Cool”, and since then we’ve continuously gone back to her when possible to come up with the next one (“Mallory” and “See You”). The best thing about her videos is that they just suit the songs so well, and she kind of knows how to get the best out of all of us. The videos are also visually stimulating and help tell a really good story. We worked with one other guy called James Burgess on our video for “Do It Wrong”, which had a lot of kaleidoscope action. We thought we’d do something different for that song seeing as it has a whole different vibe to it!
Todd: You seem like you’ve really immersed yourselves in social media. Is there someone in the band that maintains and really enjoys using Twitter or are you paying minions to carry out the task for you?
Stephanie: No minions, just me… I guess I really like doing all the admin and social media stuff surrounding the band. I can’t help but enjoy it! Plus, I strongly believe in interacting with your fans as much as possible. I always find it frustrating how out of reach your favourite bands can be sometimes. It’s cool because sometimes we just go on Twitter and get the fans to ask us a bunch of questions that they might wanna know about our songs, or what our favourite things are or just talk crap with us. What better way to build a loyal fanbase? It’s great as well when you start to see familiar faces turning up to your shows and you can really thank them because you know their name and stuff. It’s all very rare these days, but we’ll always be about interacting with them. Some have been with and supported us since the very beginning so they don’t deserve to be ignored!
Todd: What can we expect from The History of Apple Pie, once the album is released? Please tell me that you’re planning to come to the US this year……
Stephanie: Would absolutely love to, but we pretty much fund ourselves so it’d take a lot of planning. The US is somewhere we definitely want to tour though, and we’ve had such a great response so far that it’d be a shame not to. After the album is released, we’ll be embarking on our first headline UK tour (19 dates) plus some dates in Europe. We have just confirmed our first French shows – it baffles me how we’ve never played there? – so they’ll definitely be fun. We’re also continuously writing… pretty much potential second album material at the moment. We’ve got so many ideas that we’ve been experimenting with so it’s been great working on something new and working towards a new goal – now that we have accomplished the first!
For more information about The History of Apple Pie, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and their website.
Pre-order their debut album, Out of View on cd: http://t.co/hIUVuB3I and vinyl: http://t.co/hDuNbXxi