Image credit: Chuff Media
Olivia Hall spoke to Charles and Jules, co-vocalists of the band APRE, whose experimental sound spans the indie of Foals to the lyricism of the Pet Shop Boys. New album ‘Always in my Head’ is OUT NOW.
Listening to the album, you have a brilliantly eclectic sound. Do you have any direct inspiration for this, musically or personally, or is it a culmination of tastes as you’ve grown together as a duo?
Charles: I think it’s all pretty subconscious. We both have very distinct music tastes. We both love Foals, Two Door Cinema Club and Bon Iver and all those sorts of people but then there’s the 80’s stuff like Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Tears for Fears – your chart pop.
We never go into the studio with an agenda to write anything specific – we never think, ‘Oh, let’s make a song that sounds like Coldplay.’ It just comes out subconsciously. With song writing, you can’t force a motive. You know when you try and plan a really good night and it’s just shit, and you just think ‘I’ll just go for a quiet one’ but you end up having the best night ever, with your pants gone, passed out at a friend’s place. (Laughs)
You’ve got to let a song be what it wants to be. I find the idea of genre quite difficult, especially in the modern music world where is everything contains bits of everything. But that’s also what I love about some of the current music.
You guys met at a chess club in Ealing. I love that – how do you go from a chess club to touring, upcoming features in NME and releasing your first mini album?
Jules: Charlie and I got writing together through that chess club. Well actually we got together because of grass. (Laughs)
Charles: (Laughs) I can see where you’re going with this actually. Where we record is in my Gran’s front room and she needed her lawn mowing so when me and Jules were playing chess, I was a bit strapped for cash so Jules said his Gran needed her lawn mowed.
Jules: It was a big lawn.
Charles: It was and yeah, he trimmed her bush (laughs) and because he was there, I invited him in. Then we joined another band – you might know them. I won’t say the name because they’re so big –
What was the band? I’m intrigued now!
Jules: Do you know a band called Only the Poets? Yeah, don’t look. (Laughs)
Charles: (Laughs) We struggled because we’re session artists, so when you’re just there playing aimlessly and not writing anything, we’re like: ‘Why am I here?’ One of the things we love about music is the creativity, the writing. So we wrote on the side, ‘All Yours’, ‘Without your Love’ and we thought, ‘this pretty good.’ Then we went to a BBC introducing event, met some pretty special people for us and they stuck around. This put us amongst some major labels, indie labels, publishing lawyers – that was in November of 2017. Then by June 2018 we signed and dropped everything else and that was it. It was quite a quick process really. I think it’s when you start building a fan base, everything sort of slows down because those things take time, to digest and understand what you are. The whole process of getting the project on the ground was really quicker than making a child – wait that’s wrong (Laughs).
Jules: Wait hang on, that’s not right (Laughs).
I feel like the album title Always in my Head is particularly appropriate with everything going on in the world today. What made you think of this as the name for your mini-album?
(Charles stops to right down an idea for a song).
Charles: Sorry, I just had an idea – when I get ideas, I have to write them down. It’s going to be awesome.
So, the reason I wanted to call it ‘Always in my Head’ is because in the first lockdown – thanks for that Boris – I found myself to be in quite a dark frame of mind, I think a lot of people probably went down the same path. It’s such an unimaginable thing, to not be able to go outside and so I was writing about being very honest, wanting to escape and wanting to be free. There was a lot of negativity in some of the tunes too, like in Without Your Love. But there’s also elements of hope – so I wanted to call the album that because it’s kind of a release of all of the things that were going around my head at the time.
The song Is that really what you live for? has this really fresh, catchy sound but I think the lyrics make us reflect on how our outlook changes as we grow up. Is this something you had in mind while writing?
Charles: Yeah – hang on that’s a good question, I want to get this right. (Laughs) Yeah, definitely. A lot of this record is about the things in life that hold us back and breaking free from those to fulfil your potential, whether that’s reaching a peak or whatever it might be. It’s a message to that part of the brain, you know, just telling that negative part to ‘fuck off’, so you can just be yourself. Just let me be me. I wanted to get across the idea of freedom, which we’ve lost for the time being, so that we could bring people together. We both love that idea – it’s like church, but without the bullshit really.
There’s something really nice about that concept of unity and the track really asks that question, ‘Why do we do all these things?’, ‘Why do we spend all day on social media liking pictures of someone’s dog?’ I don’t care, and they’re probably sat there thinking the same thing. But we still do it! And I just thought, ‘What a fucking waste of time, we don’t need to do this to feel good.’ And that’s what the song is asking, which was definitely very relevant in that period of lockdown when all the things that give us a sense of freedom were taken away from us.
On the other side of that, the single Without your Love features some bold and very honest lyrics; a punchy breakup anthem. I particularly like the lyric ‘without your love, we’re miles apart, so go take your love and leave me in the dark.’ Was there any kind of inspiration or meaning you had in mind for that?
Charles: With that song, it’s a ballsy way to break up with someone. Most break-up songs are like: (sings) ‘My heart is breaking, nooo…’ But this track is a big fuck you!
Jules: It’s basically saying you’re better off without them.
Charles: Those lyrics sound quite lonely, but I like to think of it as being said in a kind of strong way, that you’re totally okay with it and you need to stand on your own two feet because there’s no longer a benefit of you being in my life. I really love that song too because you have a really negative lyric but with an upbeat track. It’s a real juxtaposition – for me it’s like the effect of social media. People are dressing up shit, everything is filtered to make it look you’re having a great time but that’s not reality. Life’s not like that and it’s really hard for a lot of people, why do people have to dress it up to feel better about it? That’s the coincidence that happened with this song but the more I think about it, the more I love it. The song is someone who is hurting and going through shit, but is dressed up, showing everyone that they’re ‘fine.’ They’re not, they’re hurting.
Image credit: Chuff Media
Forming the band in 2018, you have already received fantastic reviews and big support from the likes of BBC Radio 1. No-one could have foreseen the pandemic, but how have you found creating and navigating the music industry currently? Are you enjoying the challenges or are you unaware of it and just focusing on the music?
Jules: I think we’re trying to live with what we have right now and live in the present completely, day-by-day.
Charles: Being unaware is a good thing. I can’t even listen to the news anymore, it’s terrible but it’s just going to fill me with more shit, so I don’t listen anymore.
Jules: I think creatively at first we struggled because we weren’t together but now, creatively, lockdown does suit us. We obviously miss live a heck of a lot – that’s where you get the payoff. You write the song, you release the song, you work the song, you do the interviews for the song, but you never have an interaction actually with the people but when you play live, you see their faces and see whether they like the stuff. We haven’t got that payoff and that’s quite frustrating, and it’s not coming back soon.
You also have a re-routed touring schedule for 2021 – is live music something you’re excited to get back to? Is there any venue that is the goal, that you’ve always wanted to play?
Jules: Oh yeah, we definitely miss playing live. Our songs are translated best playing live. Venue-wise, the plan is Heaven, London next, which would be wonderful.
Hopefully touring in 2021, I’m quite confident in the fact that we’ll be able to do the end of the year.
You have been described as melding the likes of Tears for Fears and Foals – with that kind of range, what three albums would you take with you to a desert island?
Charles: Jesus Christ (Laughs) Abbey Road by the Beatles, Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay and Always in my Head by APRE, that is a banger. (Laughs)
Jules: I’d take In Rainbows by Radiohead and a pillow. (Laughs)
Charles: Shut up, I knew you were going to say that. (Laughs)
Jules: So by Peter Gabriel and – this is so tough. How do you play it? Is there a record player on the island?
Whatever your favourite format is, I’d probably take a vinyl player and plug it into a tree.
Charles: Jules, just take your extension lead.
Jules: (Laughs) Then I’d have 5 to 5 by APRE.
Edited by Emma Short, Music Editor