So first of all, how did APES come to be?
Billy: APES formed out of a break-up with our ex-drummer (in the Boo Hoo Hoos), who is an awesome guy by the way. But-
Sam: It really started with me and you though.
B: Yeah me and Sammy moved out together, and wanted to keep things going after the Boo Hoo Hoos.
How old were you when you started recording as the Boo Hoo Hoos?
B: 17 I think. It was when I was talking to you (at James Toohey), and I was talking to Toohey online and asked him if he knew any drummers and that’s how Rohan joined really.
What influences you all when creating new music?
S: I mean, definitely performance wise we try to kick it up a notch, and vocally we all try and pull from a band such as The Hives. But musically, Black Keys, Black Rebel, some Strokes and Jeff Buckley. Billy’s a big Jeff Buckley fan.
B: Definitely the Stones man too.
S: Yeah, and definitely anything from the early blues period.
B: It’s about getting that good blues, but making it, I don’t know, catchy you know? More radio-friendly. But not everything’s in that vein, I mean a lot of it has that White Stripes feel. And Jack White does the same thing. He’ll have a solid blues track and then the next thing is something like ‘Seven Nation Army’, he just hits that many genres and categories of music.
Toohey: (stirs from his quick drunken slumber) I really just want to make guitar rock with pop-hooks.
S: Exactly man. Amen.
B: Not exactly typical pop-hooks though. I mean, you want to be able to leave a song but still know and remember it.
Whose idea was it to incorporate Ray Charles in the track Cheatin’?
S: This boy here (points to Billy)
B: Yeah I wrote that song.
S: It doesn’t really have much of Charles in it, but really it’s our way for all of us to pay homage to all sorts of blues records really. I mean, essentially it’s our tribute song. I mean with the opening line, people may misunderstand it at times.
B: What you have to understand though, is that when I wrote that line I didn’t intend to like, make my own version of Ray Charles’ music, it’s just a small glorified blues tribute really. And it was our first sort of step towards thinking like hey, ‘Why aren’t we making more music like this?’ You know?
So it’s a mix between paying homage to the blues, and taking control of the direction of your music?
S: Yeah I mean, I remember back where we were living we were just listening to ‘Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time’, and we were listening to a lot of late 50’s, sort of American-Blues stuff. So we really didn’t want to trivialise the blues or anything, it really is just our own little ‘nod’ of respect towards great music made by someone like Ray Charles.
So who writes most of your music?
B: Yeah but the thing is, I can’t write guitar like Toohey does, which is what makes him such a valuable asset. I mean we’ll jam and mess around and stuff, and Toohey will just come out with these riffs and it’s a sort of sound that I couldn’t even begin to imagine thinking of myself.
From seeing you play, I feel like your live shows can musically go anywhere. How much is impromptu between you guys?
B: Oh well I mean anything improvised on the spot is really just what you’re feeling at the time. You can just take it wherever you want, and that’s really the best thing about music.
S: The performance will always dictate it too.
B: Yeah, you have that freedom to do whatever is based on the mood of the show I guess. And that’s going back to blues as well I suppose. I mean, you listen to 100 different artists and then listen to them live and it’s never the same. I mean you don’t want it to be as simple as ‘this is what is sounds like on the record’, so ‘this is what it will sound like live’.
S: Yeah definitely.
B: I mean we’ll be recording in the studio and I’ll still be writing lyrics there and wherever the fuck we’re staying.
S: (laughs) Yeah it’s basically Billy’s motto that ‘We don’t use any lyrics until we bend them in the studio’.
So you guys do quite a bit of in-studio writing?
B: Yeah, you get that definite freedom of trial and error that you might not get rehearsing. It’s just easier to set something new down.
So would you say your process is half together in studio, and half making things on your own?
B: Well kind of. I mean, I never write any lyrics down or anything, they’re just all in my head.
S: Plus the process is never pure improvisation or anything, and it’s much more about the music than the performances. But yeah, we never finalise any lyrics until right up till we’re about to record.
B: Just what I don’t like about penning down lyrics is that is just feels so permanent. It’s like, if you record a song, you’re stuck with a certain image of a song and it makes it difficult to work off it.
(Sam assist’s Toohey to the bathroom)
So what would you say has been your greatest live performance yet?
S: (returning to the interview) Did you say greatest gig? Because I’ve got this one covered. The best gig we’ve ever played I reckon, and probably not the tidiest but the most fun, was our gig in Brisbane at Comic Sans last show.
B: Ah that was fucking sick. It was Bleeding Knee’s first show and Comic Sans last, and we played right in the middle.
S: We just got the perfect audience and atmosphere, copping a lot of Comic Sans supporters’ right when we started played. And up in Brisbane they just have the greatest people coming out to check out the local music scene so it was just the best. It wasn’t our greatest show musically, but I’ll tell you what I loved about it. You always want to go see a filthy, debauched, garage rock n’ roll show and that show absolutely embodied every part of that. People were pissed, speakers were falling over, the bar was wrecked and for me that was the epitome of growing up and playing in a band and it absolutely fucking rocked.