Arriving live and loud from Marin County, California, Apollo Complex have been charged with kickstarting Rootstock 2017 off with style, taking over the Main Stage first on Saturday 8th July at 4.30pm. Dedicated to playing original and cover songs, the trio perform genres rich in improvisation and musicianship. Fusing together their influences like chemists playing with compounds – from jazz icons such as Miles Davis, to jam masters the Grateful Dead, to simply taking a jam for a long walk – Apollo Complex can play it all.
We spoke to guitarist Zachary Baum in between the band’s Rootstock 2017 rehearsals to get an exclusive sneak-peek of their sound and their vision.
This is Apollo Complex’s exclusive Rootstock 2017 interview.
A New Original: Good vibrations wake up the foundations of Château Micault
Q. Apollo Complex. Awesome to meet you guys and thanks for letting me sit as you rehearse. Tell me a little something about the band….who does what?
“I do all the organizational stuff, a lot of the song writing, play guitar, and so some of the singing as well. Eddie plays the drums, shuttles us all to and from practice, and convinces his parents to let us practice at his house. Jackson, my brother, plays keyboards, bass, and since he’s the one with the most singing experience tends to sing the most too.”
Full Flow: Jackson, Zachary and Eddie jam through an original composition
Q. Other than Rootstock 2017 rehearsals today, what is the group hoping to achieve this year?
“Currently, we are working on a combination of writing, recording, performing and rehearsing. Our top commitment as a group right now is really working together to expand our songs beyond their typical limits and developing our abilities to improvise together. Having those two skills are the most important factors for our band and we are working to develop these through exercises I have recently studied. One effective method is called “Hey Hole”. This is where one person plays and repeats a riff and then each band member adds a separate riff on a different beat. It can sound very cool.
Aside from this, we are rehearsing our songs for Rootstock 2017 and making sure we transmit a sense of authenticity. It’s one thing if you can just replay a song note for note every single time, but it’s another thing to play a song with dynamics and tune into each other member and be in a moment while playing a song.”
Sonic Prayers: Apollo Complex’s music is available to stream on Soundcloud
Q. How would you define your sound?
“OK, so quick disclaimer on our sound. We released a recording online titled ‘Sonic Prayer’ which incorporates a lot of harder rock elements. While we enjoy playing stuff like that, it’s not our main style. ‘Sonic Prayer’ was simple, a really good studio take we wanted to release. But our sound is really a blend of a few really broad genres; the most influential genres to our sound would be jazz, blues, funk, and rock.”
Trio Two Times: The band will perform two sets at Rootstock, on the Acoustic Stage and the Main Stage
Q. The three of you seem to really enjoy performing live, as if you’re actually channelling sound waves…
“I definitely am a big advocate of allowing ourselves to really play songs the way we are feeling in the moment. I think that the independence we have as musicians in our band is a major definition of our sound because it allows for everyone to interpret the songs based on their individual musical experiences, incorporate their own feelings and influences, and have that all come together as our sound. We really try to development a tight groove – so expect a lot of funky material in our set!”
Château Complex: A photoshoot unfolds in Château Micault
Q. How did you first get into music and what made you all want to be musicians?
“Music has always been around in my household, in some way or another, for a long time. I took music lessons on and off during middle school, but I didn’t really start playing seriously until my first year in high school. Ever since then, I’ve just been putting in a lot of work to developing my technique and musicianship.
Jackson has been playing piano for a long time, probably almost 10 years; he began training in a Conservatory for several years in the beginning. Eddie took drum lessons at our middle school, but was mainly influenced to take up an instrument because his dad is really into music and plays at a professional level. My dad also played more piano when I was younger and he’s just always showed me a lot of cool music that I still listen to today. I’d say the more you play music the more you expand your music listening, in hopes of growing your influences.”
Inspirations: The band’s aesthetic is influenced by rock and prog rock album cover art of the 1970s
Q. Where do you get your inspiration for your original compositions from?
“I write most of the songs in the band. The inspiration for a lot of them is reflected almost all through lyrics and there tends to be no secret for which comes first, words or chord progression. Most often, I will have a chord progression I have been playing around with for a while that begins to become pretty developed and seems like it would deem worthy of being a song. From there, I try to convey a real life experience that I have experienced or a common experience that probably everyone shares. For example, one of the songs we will play at Rootstock is called ‘Chasing Around’ and it is about forgetting an idea and trying to remember it, even though you probably can never remember it, an experience shared by many daily.
The chorus states, “a moments too late to remember the words, and now I’ve been left to chase them around,” which is saying like you’ve forgotten what you were going to say and now you can only try to remember. Another song like that I wrote is called ‘Day and Night’ combines a true story with life morals. It is about a day that two of my friends, my brother, and I had an epic day and night of playing music together, along with a lesson about greed and seeing through falsehoods in life.”
Guitar, Drums and Keys: Apollo Complex
Q. What do you love most about making music?
“I really like playing music with other people. Recording in the traditional sense isn’t actually a lot of fun ; unless you have the capacity to do it as a living, as preparation for gigs and writing far surpasses recording. But playing music with other musicians is the most fun because there’s just something so original and magical about creating something in real time. I used to be a big sports fan, but became frustrated a lot in how little you can control.
In music, you and the band control everything and it isn’t a competition. Music is a unified effort to create and the earliest music was a way to bring people together. So, for me, the fun is seeing how creative you can get with two or more people ; and playing really whatever you want. There is no right way to play music. So as long as your in tune and playing the notes you want, you’re pretty much good to go.”
Q. Do you have a particular song you love to play live? If so, why?
“Well, we only play songs that we enjoy playing live because we prefer a live sound than a manufactured studio sound, but there are a few songs that we have identified and work on as definitely songs to be jammed on. We play a mix of original content and cover stuff. I thoroughly enjoy playing original content the most because it seems to have less limits and be a little tighter. However, we’ve also had fun to some rearrangements of covers, which probably no one will be able to distinguish some as covers because some are from less well known bands.
A big goal of our rehearsals for Rootstock is making sure that we quickly evolve jams and play as intently as possible together to ensure jams aren’t just boring stretching out of songs and aren’t too long. We will play a song called ‘Sand’ at Rootstock, which is a major funk jam staple. Definitely be on the look out for that one! Bluesier songs we play, like ‘Crossroads’, will typically just be more of trading solos between guitar and piano. Another one of our originals, ‘Chasing Around,’ is a cool funk rock song that we will jam out.”
Looking Up: 2017 will be a big year for Apollo Complex
Q. Who do you consider to be your idols?
“We don’t idolize anyone really. No one band’s playing is ever perfect and even some of the bands we like definitely have their rough spots. The one band that sticks out to what we are sort of doing is Phish, in a few regards, but I wouldn’t say we are at all like them. Phish serves as a great example of a band with a similar instrumental arrangement to our band. Jimi Hendrix is another very interesting artist that we have studied a little bit too; we will play a few Hendrix tunes at Rootstock. Now, of course, it is tough to not mention the Grateful Dead!
I have learned a good amount from analyzing Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir’s guitar playing styles, as well as drummer Bill Kreutzmann. The Grateful Dead is one of the best music groups in terms of ability to play off of each other and be purely original ; but their music is based far more in country, blues, and folk than any other artist we have looked at.”
Q. What makes for an awesome Apollo Complex show?
“When the band plays live there is a certain magical trance that develops and our playing becomes subconscious. This happens particularly in jams. You focus so much on listening and playing that you really forget about everything else. It’s nice to be able to achieve this state of playing while playing live ; and I am happy that our band can consistently achieve this. What really makes for an awesome Apollo Complex show is if the audience is actively listening to the music. Not listening to it like it is background music at dinner, but really feeling it as well.
If that happens, there’s a human connection formed between audience and band. I would say what makes seeing an Apollo Complex show unique is also the variability or unpredictably of what we will play. We play a very wide variety of types of songs, with different grooves and feels to them. If it seems like the crowd enjoyed a rocking blues tune we can pull out another one. It’s always good to judge how your audience is reacting after every song just to make sure you are playing to their attitude.”
Rootstock 2017: Jam masters Apollo Complex take to the Main Stage at 4.30pm on Saturday 8th July
Q. Are you guys planning on releasing any music this year?
“Yeah, we will definitely be releasing some music this year. We want to focus on doing some live studio videos, as we can use this for good promotional content. Our drummer, Eddie’s dad, Adam, has a pretty serious music recording set up that we’ve been able to use. So, hopefully we can get a couple of high quality videos of us playing, do some studio mixing to the tracks and vocal overdubs and release the videos online.”
For more details, and to purchase your Rootstock 2017 tickets, head on over to www.rootstockburgundy.com.
To hear more from Apollo Complex, head on over to https://soundcloud.com/apollocomplex or check them out on Facebook @apollocomplexband