Who Are…The History of Apple Pie
Two years ago, Stephanie Min and Jerome Watson formed The History of Apple Pie as a modest bedroom project. Little did they know how fast things would move: A warm reception to a few songs they posted online caused them to cobble together a live band; in the months that followed, the pair used the classified ads to connect with James Thomas, met Aslam Ghauri through Thomas and found Kelly Owens through their pals the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the Depreciation Guild.
Their first full-length, Out Of View is sure to please fans of much-missed Britpop/shoegaze act Lush — Owens and Min’s burnt-sugar vocal harmonies echo the late group — but its saw-toothed guitar drone, cheerful feedback buzz and lilting melodies transcend any one influence. The record’s melancholic sheen gives it lovely sentimental weight.
Just after Christmas, Min answered some email questions from eMusic’s Annie Zaleski about the band’s origins, inspirations and unique alchemy.
On what brought the band together:
I think it was boredom, mainly. We didn’t really have anything else to do apart from our jobs and were just sitting around.
On their songwriting process:
Jerome and I write all of the music, but in the live environment the band all like to experiment and contribute. In terms of the actual songwriting process, a lot of the early demos began with Jerome writing the instrumental and me writing the lyrics and vocal melody. As time has gone on, we have both involved ourselves in each other’s duties. The one thing that held me back the most from contributing instrumentally was the fact I couldn’t really play any instruments and hadn’t got any grasp of programming. In the last year, I got more to grips with it all, and even started to learn guitar, so it’s become a lot easier for me to lay down song ideas that I have. It beats having to hum guitar and weird noise parts into my phone!
On how fiction inspires Min’s lyrics:
I’ve been inspired by past friendships, situations I’ve been in, but the majority of experiences that I write about aren’t experiences that I’ve had at all. Some of my favorite songs have come from imagining myself in hypothetical, sugar-coated situations, the kind you only see in the movies. The lyrics have always come naturally, after I get a feeling for the instrumental. If it makes me feel like running away with a loved one, I write about that. If the song makes me feel like I’ve just been fucked over and seek revenge, I write about that. I like making the listener feel something, but am especially interested in hearing people’s own scenarios having listened to our songs.
On getting it right…the second time:
We actually recorded [Out Of View] twice in total. The first time around was a disaster, but a good learning curve. The band was pretty much thrown in the deep end and expected to record, produce and mix the record entirely on our own. We had some experience of producing and mixing, but not to the scale of how we wanted our full-length LP to sound. We were never happy with the first output, so we turned to some of our friends for help. [The Horrors'] Joshua [Hayward] became a huge help to us from an engineering perspective, and our old friend Charles “Chicky” Reeves stepped in to handle mixing duties. Without them, we wouldn’t have a record so we’re extremely grateful.
The biggest challenge Jerome and I had the first time around was getting the right balance between lo-fi (which we were firmly against) and highly-produced (which didn’t necessarily suit our style of music). We just didn’t know how or what we wanted the record to sound like. Nothing seemed to be working. Then, like magic, the second time around it all just came together. Charles had experience of mixing lots of pop acts, and he somehow managed to keep the energy and rawness flowing throughout the record, whilst still giving it a polished sound.
On how contrasts inform the band:
Singles are great, but an album gives us the opportunity to tell our listeners a story. It’ll demonstrate stuff like Jerome’s love for strange sounds and guitars, my love for harmonies and appreciation of female pop groups, and the band’s love for feel-good, noisy music as a whole.
The songwriting is all very natural. Jerome tends to come in from more of a noisy guitar angle, whereas I come in from a sweet, melodic angle. That’s pretty much how our songs are made.
On their worst gig ever:
Every band has that “one show” that they “dare not speak about ever again.” For us, it was our second show at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town, London. Our previous managers had taken us to a curry house an hour before the show. Just before we were due on stage, I was pretty much throwing up just behind the stage, and I think the rest of the band felt pretty rough, too. Fortunately, the next time we played Kentish Town was a year later supporting one of our guitar heroes Graham Coxon [Blur], and we had an absolute blast.
On Lush and other Britpop bands:
Lush are great. I’m obsessed with their song “Nothing Natural” at the moment. There’s a bit in the video that just reminds me of Kelly and I — you know, where Miki [Berenyi] and Emma [Anderson] are sitting close to each other and the strobe lights are all going off?
Jerome grew up listening to bands like Blur, Pulp, Oasis. His dad used to work at a record shop in Soho, so he introduced Jerome to a lot of cool stuff. He was also in this amazing stoner rock band called Terminal Cheesecake!
On Min’s formative influences:
I fell into music very suddenly and only thought about pursuing it when I started writing songs with Jerome for this band. Before then, though, while growing up, I was excited by girl groups like TLC and Salt-n-Pepa. I wanted to be in a hip-hop group! I was later introduced to bands like Placebo, Smashing Pumpkins and Pulp by my sister indirectly — mainly by sneaking into her room and rummaging through her tape and CD collections. I soon fell in love with the song “Nancy Boy” by Placebo and that’s when I realized guitars were fucking cool.
On being misunderstood:
Any tags that we’ve had have always been misleading and based on hearing one single or song. That’s why the album will be a nice way to confirm our sound once and for all. Whilst we do like a lot of ’90s bands, I think people fail to understand that the songwriting process for us personally is a lot more complex than just replicating what those bands do.
On not being slacker-rock:
There’s nothing really slackerish about the album at all. It’s pretty polished and well-thought about. We’d know, considering we went through hell and back to record it!
On unexpected influences:
We are quite into a lot of electronic music, actually — stuff like Add N to X, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin and Portishead. We love the strange noises and arrangements created by these artists and bands; it inspires us to go and create our own bunch of Frankenstein sounds. Listening to the album, there is a definite nod to this genre of music.
On the biggest misconception about them:
Weirdly enough, one of the biggest has been that we’re signed to Rough Trade! We aren’t really signed as such. We are just doing our part for the indie community by releasing our album through one of our good friend’s labels, Marshall Teller. We’re glad that we’ve been able to help increase the status of this particular independent label and encourage people to give it the recognition it deserves. They’ve been so good to us. It’s nice to not be treated like a product, but treated like musicians.