Los Angeles-based band Island Apollo made their return last month with the brand new single "Hold It Down,' their first music release since 2015. After having a string of success with their debut EP, from their songs being used on major television networks to winning an OC Music Award, the band have recorded an entire new EP in Seattle with producer Eric Lilavois. While we eagerly await the release of this new music, get to know even more about the guys behind these infectious and unique indie tunes. We chatted with guitarist Heath Farmer to get the scoop on everything from their recording process up in Seattle to Mickey Mouse and his take on the LA music scene. Tune in now...
The Band Took Their First Guitar Lesson Together
Taking it was back to his days as a 10 year old, Heath Farmer kicks off with some backstory of the band's formation. "I started playing guitar for the first time probably when I was around 10 years old. My brothers and I, who are in the band, and Ryan our lead vocalist...all four of us took our first guitar lesson together. So there’s like a long history and connection between when we first started playing music and our band that we have today," Farmer recalls.
Shifting towards his journey into creating his own music with the band, Farmer gives some insight on his influences, continuing, "I don’t think I really got interested in making music until I entered middle school. Once you become a teenager, music becomes like the most important thing in the world to you. I went through a couple different stages of musical epiphanies I guess. The first song that I heard that made me go 'wow, I didn’t know you could do that with music' was 'Clint Eastwood' by The Gorillaz. I remember hearing that and going 'I had no idea that you could work a beat like that along with a melody and still have a story that’s really relatable.' Then I went to Blink 182 then to Thrice. Then threw it way back to The Beach Boys... and then Muse. I had another big one when I discovered Arcade Fire. That’s kind of where I’m at right now." He and the band have pulled from this wide range of influences to craft their own refreshing sound.
Missing a Flight Took a Positive Spin During Recording
While the band were recording the brand new and still unreleased EP up in Seattle with Eric Lilavois, Farmer says the band explored a new sound by stepping out of their comfort zone. "It seemed like an opportunity that would help inspire us. We went up there and spent a whole week recording these songs and living together in Seattle. Really going from one end of The US West Coast to the other. It’s funny, it’s almost like a parallel dimension from Southern California because it’s got a lot of the same cultural vibes, but in a completely different setting. Everything is just a little bit different. Enough to where it’s a completely different experience. I think that helped us explore things musically that I don’t know if we would have necessarily done had we been in our comfort zone. So I think it was a good opportunity that we seized. There’s a very big possibility that we might do something like that again," he mused.
Speaking of being out of their comfort zone, Farmer recalls one particular experience that caused some mayhem during their final day of recording. "There was one moment where I actually had to leave earlier than the rest of the band to go back to Southern California, and I missed my plane. So they came back to pick me up, and drove me back to the studio. There was this weird sense of confusion and frustration from me. Because it was the last day, we split everybody up in the studio so we had a couple different stations. We had the control room as the main recording live room, where we had people doing various different parts. We had another station set up in the lounge where we were recording a lot of the extra instruments, whether it was percussion or some synth lines. So just because my mind was completely scrambled at that point, I started hearing things in the music that everybody else wasn’t hearing. Sometimes that ended up being a good thing and sometimes that ended up being a really really bad thing. To the point where I honestly think I was having auditory delusions. Everything was just so frantic for me that day. Initially it was very--inefficient. As the day went on and I started to calm down, I had this creative perspective that I don’t think I would have had had I not gone through such a weird day. That translated to a lot of different ideas with the unreleased songs. It was a really, really weird experience," Farmed recalled. "For the record, completely sober. I think as a musician I should make that clear. It was this frenzy that I was in that really lead to that," he immediately followed up.
Although it seemed like a stressful experience, Farmer put an optimistic spin on the story, concluding with, "It was amazing what that amounted to at the end of the day, and it was a very a positive experience."
They're Big Disney Fans, Especially Mickey Mouse
As mentioned, Island Apollo have had their music featured on major TV networks from VH1 to CBS and used in ads for the likes of Sprint and SoBe. So with new music on the horizon, what product would the band like to associate their music to? "That’s a great question. I saw that Mickey Mouse had a summer playlist this year on Spotify, which is hilarious. That would be pretty cool if we were listed as one of Mickey’s summer jams," Farmer revealed. Wise move on his choice, since Disney opens such a huge door to other opportunities.
Elaborating further on the new music and when fans can expect to hear it, Farmer continued, "We should have a new song coming out within the next couple weeks. It’s a total dance party song. Not in the sense that it’s EDM. This is actually like---the best way I can describe it is Surf Funk. There’s a lot of stuff in the song and instrumentation that we’ve never tried before." Stay tuned for news on this unchartered territory with Island Apollo!
They Care About Their Live Show
As far as an upcoming tour to pair with the new music, Farmer says, "We’re in talks about a few different things regarding touring. We just want to make sure it’s done in the right way for us. We’re not exactly sure where we’ll end up, but we’re hoping to be on the road soon." He does promise that when they do tour, he and his bandmates will give their all for the live show.
Talking more on being a part of the live music scene in LA, Farmer shares his insight on the oversaturated market. "To tell you the truth I’m kind of--" he begins before pausing. "I want to say the right thing, but at the same time I want to say the truth," he continued. "I’m pretty disappointed with what a lot of new artists are doing today. We’ve played shows with guys who will straight up just push a button on their keyboard and then hold one guitar to play one line in the song, and then sing everything else over their pre-recorded tracks. I greatly appreciate the music, but it’s a pretty boring thing to watch. That’s my unadulterated observation on that. Especially in the local music scene where there aren’t big budgets to have sets and and lights. I feel like that’s watered down the rest of the scene. Because people look at that and go ‘wow that’s all I have to do?’ And then some people get inspired by that and then everyone’s just half-assing that...to put it bluntly."
Farmer concludes his take on the LA scene with a very important point about live performances, saying, "I look at that and just think wow, you guys wrote a lot of great songs, why are you half-assing your live show? That’s the difference between going to the show and listening to the recording. There’s this intimate experience of watching the creator create. If they’re not doing that for you, you kind of think like what’s the point? That’s not to say that the community that’s at a live concert scene is not important. That’s very important to it all. But at the same time you have to give a reason for why the community wants to come and see you. You still have to put on a show. There are a lot of great bands that we’re friends with that we love, but at the same time, there’s a lot of people not impressing anybody."
There's An Unbreakable Bond Between The Band
Playing on the bands name, I wrapped up the interview asking Farmer if he could be trapped on an island with one member of the band, who would be pick and why. After pondering briefly, Farmer confirmed the tight-knit nature of the group by answering, "I don’t know if I can answer that question to be honest. I don’t find anybody in the band to be dispensable. I’m not saying that to be politically correct-- I mean it," he says. "Everybody in the band is incredibly integral to what we have been able to manifest, and I would never take anybody’s contribution for granted. I would just be like alright well if I have to be stranded on a deserted island, then I’ll swim to shore to be with everybody. I’ll probably die along the way," Farmer concluded.