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Eclectic Trio Shines on in SF
by Matt Crawford on Nov 06, 2008
Apollo Sunshineís latest genre-bending LP Shall Noise Upon fuses 60s psychedelia with dusty steel guitar licks, ornate string arrangements, Spanish horns, distorted harmonica voodoo and pretty acoustic ditties to bond equally disparate moods in a common universe. The trio, which formed on the East Coast and released its first album 2003, opens for Dead Confederated on November 16th at The Independent. San Francisco-based drummer Jeremy Black, who also co-founded Black and Green Records and a new recording studio in Oakland, spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from the road.
SF Station (SFS): Do you still enjoy living in San Francisco?
Jeremy Black (JB): Yeah, I love San Francisco. I think itís the best place in this country.
SFS: What do you like best?
JB: Itís a really relaxing place to live and I like the controlled climate. I donít have to deal with the East Coast winters that I grew up with. I find the people to be agreeable, and there are a lot of great musicians and places to play music. People are into it for the right reasons.
SFS: You started a recording label shortly after you move here, right?
JB: I did. It basically was started to release the first couple of Apollo Sunshine records on vinyl. It expanded from there and we started signing bands. Our first real release was a guy name Brian Scary and we have put out a couple of other artists.
SFS: Do you spend a lot of time working on the label or is it just a side project for you?
JB: There are three of us who work for the label now. For me, itís not really a day-to-day thing. We all have our artists that we champion on the label.
SFS: Have you been more productive musically since you moved to SF?
JB: My taste in music has evolved, but I donít know if it really has anything to do with San Francisco. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music that influence each other.
SFS: Strings pop up on several songs on Shall Noise Upon. What led to that decision?
JB: I donít know. With certain songs, that is just what we heard. For us, it was kind of a limitless album with the sonic palette and we went with what we wanted to hear. A lot of the songs were written in the studio, but other songs like ďHappinessĒ were written out. That song was obviously meant for that type of orchestration.
SFS: Whatís the story behind ďHappinessĒ? Itís not a particularly cheerful song.
JB: No, itís kind of bittersweet. It is pretty dark like the movie Happiness. The song is not a reference to that movie, but itís similar in title and has a dark theme. I actually didnít write the music for that song, so I donít think Iím the one that should answer that question.
SFS: How did attending Berklee College shape you musically?
JB: I donít know if it shaped me. It was kind of like an incubator for us to do our thing and make what we wanted out of it. It was a good environment to be in to grow as a musician, but I donít think it necessarily made me who I am as an artist or a musician. It just helped me in my path.
SFS: You studied music production and engineering. Do plan to get more involved with that as you career progresses?
JB: Absolutely. I actually just opened a recording studio in Oakland called Coyote Hearing. Itís definitely something I am moving towards right now. I have talked to a couple bands about producing them and I have already done some production projects. Itís been open for about four months, and it has been sort of a building process as we build up our arsenal of gear.
Itís fun for me to work on other peopleís music because sometimes I get so lost in the music Apollo Sunshine makes. Sometimes itís good to be the outsider.
SFS: Do you often get lost with Apollo Sunshine songs?
JB: Definitely. This last album took about eight months to make, and a lot of the time was spent putting a lot of work into the songs and then getting a perspective on the work we had done. We had to check ourselves sometimes to make sure what we were doing was what we really wanted to do. When you are given the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the studio you can overdo things and not necessarily be serving the music or the songs.
SFS: When you listen to the album, do you wish you did anything differently?
JB: No, I think we are all pretty satisfied with the way it turned out. I think itís an album that will last a lot longer for people than some of our previous albums because there are so many layers to it and it kind of unfolds.
Apollo Sunshine open for Dead Confederate at the Independent on November 16th. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 7:30pm and the show starts at 8pm.
by Matt Crawford on Nov 06, 2008