An evening with APRE - gig review and interview
APRE are an alternative pop London-based duo. Their sugary sound brings audiences back to the guitar pop of the previous decade with a refreshing touch. I managed to catch up with the band before their sold-out appearance at The Camden Assembly with fellow London group, Kawala. The band’s ascension in to the UK alternative scene has been a fairly rapid one, their debut single ‘All Yours,’ firing them into the spotlight.
The group’s origins are not a usual route taken for a band of their calibre. Charlie, the lead singer of the duo, reminisced on the chess club at which the pair first met:“the owner Sue very kindly paired me up with Charlie as she knew we were both into music, she let us use the backroom of the chess club to make some tunes.’ With Jules, guitarist and keyboard player, adding ‘We were very lucky that people have believed in us.’
Since then, the duo’s releases have been tight, heartfelt pop songs harking back to the sound of the mid 2000s, with the additional use of samplers and iconic drum machines. Their particularly rhythmic vocal lines cut through tracks and sear themselves into the back of your mind for days. I was intrigued to find out what inspired Charlie to do this. “John Bonham, I was just fascinated by the way he’d use rhythm. Our vocals are quite rhythmic and snappy, and I try and play the drums a bit with my words,” he explained.
Even though that snappiness did come across on the band’s recent EPs, the live vocals lacked the sharpness that helped those lines to really stand out. All together, the tracks sounded a little too anthemic, and washy when compared to the records. The band’s influences are clearly far-reaching, yet grounded in a love for pop songs. Jules delved into this further speaking on an album which had great influence on him, Peter Gabriel’s So. “He wasn’t afraid of calling himself pop, and I think in our industry nowadays, if you’re called ‘pop’, it’s deemed as a negative. I think it just means a really good pop song, verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus you know – that's it. You shouldn’t be afraid of it, he never was.”
Whilst the band may consider themselves as ‘pop’ musicians, their music does a great deal more to introduce innovative techniques than your average ‘Top 40’ hit. Their most released EP bore the bold title, Drum Machines Killed Music. As a band that incorporate electronics in a subtle and creative way, this bothered me slightly so I decided to dig a little deeper into the relationship the band have with the ever-changing music technologies at their disposal. “We rely heavily on electronics but we use a mix of both I guess. From acoustic guitars and electric basses to modern-age synths. And the sound card we record on is pretty terrible, it’s old but that’s what gives it its sound.” Charlie added, ‘I’ll use anything, if it works, it works.’
It seemed as though whilst synths and samplers play a big role in APRE’s sound, the arrangement was more of a ‘part time lover’ situation. The band’s core, guitar based timbre was laid down throughout their set and whilst rare, the additions of sampler keyboards and drum pads added such a sweet texture to this sound that when it did come through, it was a real treat. Whilst the live performance lacked the precision of the band's records, it more than made up for it with the duo’s on-stage presence. Although the pair have only started releasing music as APRE this year, their musical relationship does stretch back, and this really comes across as they perform. The coarse but toneful vocals of lead singer Charlie were complimented delicately by Jules’ gentler backing vocals. This and the countless moments of interplay between the two, hopping from keys to pads and back to their guitars kept the audience unable to look away.
It was refreshing to hear a group revitalise a sound which has been subject to innumerable imitations, I was intrigued to hear how heavily influenced they were by guitar pop of the 2000s and 2010s. Names such as Foals and Bombay Bicycle Club have been scrawled through most of the press coverage the band has seen so far. I was keen to know whether this had been a part their writing process. “We didn’t think about what we’d like to bring into it, it was just what worked. We never went, oh we’re gonna write a song like Foals or something,” Jules explained. “It’s gotta be like that, I’m not hearing enough new music that’s coming straight from the heart,” added Charlie.
The band do have an inventive and often innovative sound, dropping chopped up melodies on samplers against sharp guitar tones and snappy vocals. However, there is room for the band to delve deeper into their style, and break away from the remnants of pastiche that occasionally crop up.
Whilst the London group have been grafting their way through the UK music scene, touring throughout this year and on to the next, they’ve managed to bring an unprecedented energy to the stage, which definitely transferred to the audience, even joining in the duo belting out ‘Everybody Loves You,’ towards the end of the set.
As the duo continue their touring up until what promises to be an exciting festival season for them, they also have plans for the release of their third EP early next year and an exclusive Record Store Day LP. The London group has sparked a lot of interest in such a short time and the group’s infectious sweetness is certainly not the only aspect of their sound that is turning heads. I thought I would end our chat by asking the group for some advice on how a new artist might go about trying to make a name for themselves in such a saturated scene. “If you write one song a day for two weeks, one of them is gonna be good.” “Unless you’re completely deaf.”
Photo credit: twitter.com/Apreband