Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview with Apache Dropout

It had to be in early 2011 when I first listened to Apache Dropout. At the time, I was in college at Duke and was digging my fingers into anything that even had the scent of garage rock wafting from it. The greatest thing about being a multi-tasking English major was honing the ability to read and listen to music at the same time, thereby allowing me to soak in information from two different sources at once. I always had a bare-bones living situation with a bed, a chair, and then my turntable and record collection. Chaz from Bull City Records turned me on to Apache Dropout after one of my extended listening sessions. Chaz would always put on an assortment of records he thought I'd dig sometimes for hours at a time, but it was very much appreciated. I think everyone in the Triangle Area dug hard into this band pretty much immediately - I think I remember them playing the Casbah with Last Year's Men, another great band that should be listened to.

After I moved to Chicago, Bill and Lisa Roe of Trouble in Mind put out the band's great sophomore record Bubblegum Graveyard, a more poppy affair in my opinion, but equally great. Also, this record clearly has an example of Undead Jughead before the Afterlife with Archie comic existed. Coincidence? Stay tuned, sportsfans. I got the cassette release of Bubblegum Graveyard and used to walk my sales route listening to this on my walkman when I was a beer salesman. It definitely made the cold Chicago winter a bit easier to deal with.

The band is now putting out their third full-length album Heavy Window on Magnetic South, the Bloomington label headed up by Seth Mahern of Apache Dropout and John Dawson of Thee Open Sex. The first 500 copies of the record feature glow-in-the-dark eyes so you know you need to get one of those copies. Toss these guys a "like" on Facebook too so the world knows you're cool.

Jordan Reyes: I've always been curious about Bloomington just because there are so many great bands that come from there, including people currently or previously on your roster like yourselves, Thee Open Sex, Circuit Des Yeux, and Thee Tsunamis. TV Ghost is also a totally standout band in my opinion. I know that it's a college town, but is there much overlap from the people who go to school there and the bands that come out of Bloomington?

Seth Mahern: There's certainly some bands in town that have university students.  Most bands seem to have more graduates or dropouts.  TV Ghost is from Laffayette, Indiana.

JR: Do you think you guys would ever move from Bloomington?

SM: There's been talk. Who knows? Sonny Blood already did. He's been living in Indianapolis for a year now.

JR: Magnetic South puts out a ton of different kinds of records. I've heard noise, rock, and punk from the label. Do you think any one thing in particular links the kinds of releases that come from the label?

SM: It’s all music that John Dawson and I like. That's the only requirement.

JR: You guys just released Heavy Window on Magnetic South in an edition of 1000 copies. I know Trouble in Mind put out a couple pressings of Bubblegum Graveyard and you guys put out a cassette version, but is 1000 copies the largest single pressing that you guys have done?

SM: This is the biggest pressing that Magnetic South has done.  Apache Dropout's self-titled LP and Bubblegum Graveyard were pressed in similar amounts, I believe. For the "Magnetic Heads" LP, Family Vineyard pressed 500.

JR: How does the writing and recording of Heavy Window compare to the three full-lengths that came before it?

SM: You'd have to talk to Sonny about the song-writing process.  For the recording, we spent fair amount more time getting the "sounds.” This is also the first record we've released that was recorded in stereo. That's been in the plan since we were recording our first record. When we were first starting the band we made a lot of decisions concerning future aesthetics.

Sonny Blood: Heavy Window contains our most paranoid material to date, which is influenced by the house I was living in at the time.  Before we moved in, the house was central to the local activist/anarchist community and when we signed the lease some of our friends were like, "Don't live there, that place is bugged!"  Soon we started seeing unmarked vans cruising the block and FBI agents knocking on the door to ask, "Does so-and-so still live at this residence?"  It was hard to abide in my shady lifestyle, but my personal life at the time was even worse so I decided to let the paranoids in the door, embracing paranoia because it's actually easier to deal with than loss and trauma.  It was almost like living in a fantastic conspiracy theory, which is the theme of the record, if there is one.

JR: Do you think that songwriting gets easier as you write more songs? Or do you begin to run out of options?

SM: I haven't personally written a song since the last Lord Fyre recording session in 2008. Maybe I ran out of options. Honestly not really sure.

SB: I could project an algorithm to describe my songwriting habits, but I think that would miss the point. Inspiration is the most important thing, and how you find inspiration depends on your life and how you live it.  Sometimes the window is open, sometimes it's closed. The muse is wild and mysterious and I honestly recommend Goddess worship as the only sustainable means of staying in touch with your inspiration.  Light a candle, take the sacrament and open your mind as wide as it will go.  Writing songs has made it easier for me to open my mind, but I don't know if it's made it easier for me to write more songs.  The songs just happen.

JR: I know that Mikey Young of Total Control previously mastered Bubblegum Graveyard. Were there people in other projects involved in Heavy Window (I know John Dawson recorded it)?

SM: It was mastered by Paul Mahern. John Terrill AKA the Mad Monk plays additional percussion on the record. He was also involved in the design.

JR: I am personally a big fan of things that glow in the dark. It's a totally underrated aesthetic choice. I'm glad that you guys used it in the first 500 copies of your record. How did you decide on the album cover and the glow in the dark eyes?

SM: I saw an advertisement in a '50s drag racing magazine that said "weird eyes glow in the dark". I made a xerox of it and hung it on my bedroom wall for a couple of years.  Pretty sure the idea is growth of that ad and a bunch of other ideas.

JR: You guys are about to go on a pretty substantial tour around the country. Are there any bands that you are particularly excited to play with? Are there any places you always stop when touring?

SM: We always go on a big tour when we release an LP. Another decision made from the beginning. We're very excited to be playing with Kid Congo Powers, and Psychic Baos. We just played with Danny and the Darleans last week. That was a dream come true.

SB: I'm very excited to play with Kid Congo Powers in Brooklyn.  We are playing at Cropped Out Fest with Obnox, the Sun Ra Arkestra and the legendary Belgian Waffles!!

JR: What do you guys typically listen to or do in the car while touring?

SM: We mostly listen to Flaming Groovies and the "Songs Lux and Ivy Talked About" compilations.  I personally can't really read in a moving vehicle. So I spend a lot of time watching the beautiful country-side. Sonny read a lot of conspiracy texts and Nathan does a lot of studying of Indian ragas.

SB: We really like to listen to the Rolling Stones.  I read a lot when I'm traveling, and some of the books I've read on the road have inspired our songs -- stuff like Arthur Machen, HP Lovecraft, William Burroughs, Nick Tosches, anything sci-fi, and especially any book about the Rolling Stones.  We all read Keith Richard's Life together on tour, and AE Hotchner's Blown Away: The Rolling Stones and the Death of the Sixties.  I'm hoping the boys will read Marianne Faithfull's autobiography on this tour, because it's one of the best books on the Stones and also she is the greatest and I love her.

JR: Are you guys working on any other releases either as Apache Dropout or anything else?

SM: More Apache Dropout releases coming at some point I'm sure.  And a pile of new stuff coming out on Magnetic South Recordings. Working on archive releases from Nevermores and Zero Boys.  And new stuff from Psychic Baos, The Hemingers, and Thee Tsunamis.  Not to mention plans to open a Magnetic South store in Bloomington this fall. I've got my work cut out for me.

SB: We will be road-testing some new Dropout songs on this tour which we might be recording sometime soon.  I'm the guy in the band who's always working on 1,000 side projects.  I've been quietly self-releasing party-psych tape collages under the name the Exploding Head Scene and working on a new band the Submarine, which explores heavy deep-sea baroque psych.  I've been playing bass with a mysterious young ripper name Chives, out of Indianapolis. There are also some great recordings in the can by the Sitar Outreach Ministry (featuring all members of Apache Dropout) which should be coming out sometime on Family Vineyard.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

SM: Can't think of anything.

SB: Riot!

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