Apollo Heights

by Michael Powell

Dubbed the "best live band in New York" by FADER magazine, Apollo Heights is an unorthodox set-up: three guitarists and a bassist, backed up by modern hip-hop style drum beats. At the core of the band are Danny and Daniel Chavis, two brothers who spearheaded the creation of the band, Honeychild Coleman and guitarist Monk Washington. I was able to talk with Daniel, singer and guitarist, and Honey, rhythm guitarist, on the eve of their January 4 show in San Francisco.

When and how did Apollo Heights come together?

Daniel: We actually came together in the early part of 03' 04' as a legitimate lineup.

Honey: I've known these guys since '93 but when I saw The Veldt Reunion show at CBGB's in 2002 I felt a kindred spirit musically. After that Danny started asking me to play, talking about Lush and Swervedriver and what not. Eventually I got bored (just singing) in my other band and said yes!

Why the name?

Daniel: It was the name of our neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, where we are from. It was built around the time of the Apollo Jupiter missions in the late 60's

Why the album title, White Music for Black People?

Daniel: It's kind of a hats off to the criticism we have been receiving from everybody since we started playing music. So people don't ask us if we rap or play reggae music. We figured we could win that way.

How did you end up working with Mos Def?

Daniel: It was by default actually. That track was a throw away track and somehow a copy of the instrumental got over from Paris and he spat on it unbeknownst to us. He's actually a big fan of ours.

How was it working with him?

Daniel: We didn't actually do it in the studio with him. But we talked several times and he was OK.

How has being a black rock band affected the process of marketing your music?

Daniel: Dunno. As of late there are not many of us so I guess it's kinda hard but the reception has been good.

What drew you to the "shoegaze" style?

Daniel: Well that came along in the early 90's, and at the time we were already looking at the floor while we played so when that came along they just put a name on it. We were in a band at the time called The Veldt.

Honey: Shoegaze hit me out west when the Madchester explosion happened. I was living in the Bay Area and all that music was so psychedelic for us - hip-hop beats and jangly guitars - it was electrifying. I went to raves where I would be dancing to "The Strawberry Alarm Clock" one minute and "Ride" the next. My friends and I started our own little wannabe Happy Mondays band but only two of us could sing and it wasn't quite strong enough with just bass and drum machine. Then my roommate gave me a guitar and it was pretty much over.

Apollo Heights has a somewhat unorthodox setup, with three guitarists and no drummer. What brought this about?

Daniel: Well, during our transition into Apollo Heights from The Veldt, we couldn't find a reliable drummer. So we couldn't be arsed up until now. We have a drummer when necessary. Marvin Levi has always been the real drummer though. The three guitars is a play on sound and we just said why not. There are actually 4 guitars. I also play on some tunes just to add insult to injury. The basis is the guitar played by my brother. I don't really know what kind of effects he uses or care for that matter, because I have to scream over all this noise but his would be the dominant sound. Then there is Monk not similar but just as noisy to be on the bottom while Honeychild's sound is the tomato lettuce. Mine is just random jackoffery.

How do you approach bootlegging and filesharing of your music?

Daniel: GREAT!! It's the 21st century, what do people expect? Just pay to get in the show. I mean if you look at it look what it did for the Grateful Dead. I love what fans we have.

Honey: Hmm. Thats's tricky. I don't really practice file-sharing or downloading music I don't pay for. Back in the day the music industry was in an uproar over cassette tapes. Italy is pretty famous for bootlegging and people even came to shows of my old band and told us they were going to bootleg every album of ours that they'd bought that night. On one hand as far as file-sharing goes, it's flattering that someone loves your music so much they want to share it with their friends. But on the other hand, if you're on a little label that's barely surviving it can be a major blow.

What's it like being in a band with your brother?

Daniel: He's OK, sometimes he can be a bit of a knob head.

With a heavy electronic feel on the new album, could we see a remix album or something similiar in the future?

Daniel: Yeah, there is it was a significant influence to that sound after we toured with TV on the Radio in 2004. After that I was listening to alot of Joy Division that summer.

Thanks a lot.

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