Band of the Day

2014.06.08

James Apollo

Roots rock swagger led by a voice that's like well-oiled leather
What's another round, there's a lotta lost souls out there, you're the only one I've found.
lyrics from Spinnin

“I’m not angry” screams a raging Elvis Costello on the 1977 classic My Aim is True. It is in fact the simplest way to put the sentiment behind “Angelorum” the third record from James Apollo. This is not the Apollo that MOJO heralded with “charming fragility” and Uncut called “instrinsicaly beautiful.” This man does not want to make you sit down and cry. This man wants you on your feet. He wants you watching your back. He wants you moving.

“I got tired of pretty,” says Apollo, “Pretty is a lonely man on a stool. Pretty is sad and stark. I wasn’t sad. I was angry.”

And not without reason. The initial sessions for the record “Angelorum” were lost in the fire that took Minneapolis’s Underwood Studios, and the home of producer Mark Stockert. It was a harsh blow with even harsher timing. The band could not have been more excited about the material, or more devastated by its loss. But old friends and bandmates Noah Strom, Matt Palin and Ben Nordeen had been making music together since they were nine. And were hard to put down.

The troupe licked their wounds and moved west to Tucker Martine’s Flora Recorders in Portland, Oregon (Decembersts, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case.) Apollo added a few members of his road band and hunkered down with producer Stockert, now homeless.

The mood necessitated escape.

“I surrounded the band with Martin Denny and Les Baxter records” recalls Apollo,”and a lot of that weird Indian-style Rolling Stones stuff. It was all so far out that I knew we’d get something interesting just by picking it apart."

And they did. “Angelorum” is an exotic rock and roll record. Vibraphones and flutes dance intermittently with Apollo’s raspy cry on the big-beated track “White Lines.” And what could easily be a soft bossa nova rallies to anthemic levels on the single “Spinnin.” It's a big, bold, new sound for the artist, but Apollo is not all shout and swagger. The record’s title track, “Angelorum” was just a sign he saw painted on the side of a building in Mexico.

“I liked the sound of it. Later our piano player told me what it meant and I couldn’t have been more elated.”

It's a lot of strange sentiment, and it fits. “Angelorum” is indicative of Apollo’s distinctive talent, and with its catharsis of fiery anthems and cool, cool delivery, James Apollo is not angry, anymore.

Apollo will be touring with his band The James Apollo Five worldwide throughout 2014.