NAME: The Apples In stereo
PROGRESS REPORT: Mixing their 7th studio album, Travellers In Space And Time at Trout Recording in Brooklyn. Co-produced by Bryce Goggin.
When I called the studios where The Apples In Stereo frontman Robert Schneider was mixing, I was asked to try back in ten minutes — Schneider was in the middle of recording another keyboard part for the record. He sounded nervously excited when I called back, like when you’ve just finished cleaning up before your first party guests arrive. But wasn’t the album already done? “There’s always ideas and things you can add on up to the last second. Really after the last second,” he explained. In fact, Schneider had moved to another room at the studio to set up a mini-studio so he could add in more sounds — vocoders, “blips and bleeps,” keyboards and Mellotrons, while Goggin mixed Travellers In Space And Time in the front. (Yes, that’s double-L Travellers.)
This is all part of Schneider’s goal to make a record “…ten times more poppy than all of our other stuff,” — that’s including New Magnetic Wonder, a record that seemed as full of sugary hooks as possible. But Schneider insists Travellers In Space And Time will be different, not just an extension of their previous album. “It’s sort of a soulful record. It’s not clever like indie rock. It’s not indie rock actually. It’s not really rock! I wouldn’t say it’s rock. It’s sort of … futuristic hyper-pop. But um … different.” Some changes were by accident. Normally Schneider writes songs on guitar, but he started on piano after he discovered that every guitar in his house had at least one broken string. He thought he was getting too good at guitar anyway. After playing for 25 years he found that when he wanted to “Syd Barrett it out,” he’d end up sounding more like Clapton: “I’ve been trying not to play too much because I don’t want to get too good. At some point you cross that line and you can’t become less slick. That’s another good reason to play piano a lot.” Trying to challenge himself seems to be a theme here: one of the tracks Schneider says he’s most excited about is called “Dream About The Future,” a song that will require him to sing in a high falsetto like “Carl Wilson on Wild Honey … In fact, take it out of the ‘excited’ column and put it in the ‘scared shitless’ column.”
Many of the keyboards and piano will come off as distinctly futuristic, or, retro-futuristic. It fits well with Schneider’s personality: endlessly positive, hopeful, and convinced of a future where his obsessions — music, math, science — help create a utopia. Sonically, he says that the new record will also come close to ’60s and ’70s R&B, which was his original goal for The Apples In Stereo. He had hoped, when The Apples In Stereo started, that they’d sound a bit like Parliament. One percussion template they’ve used is Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” “I think that you will be able to dance to [the album]. Well, I would put it very loosely in the roller skating category. Except it’s not disco. It’s like you were on a UFO, rollerskating,” Schneider says. Still, the album’s got a song called “The Dancefloor” on it. So his intensions are clear, or as clear as he can make them while still frantically mixing and recording. “It’s very in the genre of ELO or a little bit towards The Bee Gees or Kool & The Gang, Hall & Oates … But my main influence is imagining what pop will be in the future.”
Here’s a bit of video by David Gray capturing Robert working on Travellers’ “Dance Floor”:
[Left to right: Eric Allen, John Hill, Robert Schneider, John Ferguson, John Dufilho @ Trout Recording in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Adam Cantor.]
In other Robert Schneider news: His psychedelic garage pop project Thee American Revolution is noteworthy for a few reasons: Its album cover artwork is drawn by Will Cullen Hart, yes, but also it bears the E6 logo. Here’s a sample:
Thee American Revolution’s Buddah Electrostorm is out via Garden Gate Records/Elephant 6 Recording Co.
If there’s a band you want Progress Report to drag out of the studio, or bed, for an update, e-mail [email protected].