Interview: Bad Apes

Superstars of the Brum Notes May Issue Launch Party, Bad Apes got quite thoroughly down and dirty (although not to the extent of others we could mention…) amongst frenetic fans and pizza. As they prepare to take to the stage again this weekend. we caught up with them this month to find out about urban decay, dreampunk and a plentiful supply of biscuits.

How did you all get to know each other and be in a band together?
Joe [Ondrack – lead singer]: We’ve been doing stuff as a band for ages. Jordan [Johnson – drums] and Richard [Banks – bass] knew each other from school, and I met Jord through a mutual friend about six years ago. We started off doing vaguely musical stuff, then Rich disappeared because of a girl, so we carried on as a two-piece, found a bassist… who disappeared because of a girl, then found Rich again and Bad Apes happened!

You’re from Wolverhampton – do you take influence from that and other bands there?
Jord: I think the landscape of the place has really shaped our sound – it’s just urban decay. As kids, we used to play in the old lock works and vacant tower blocks, smashing windows and being yobs… somehow that has something to do with our sound. As for the bands, when we started out, everyone was still trying to be Metallica or Arctic Monkeys. We were 16, but we just wanted to do something different.

Joe: We’re all poor as hell and it’s a bleak area that we come from, so there’s plenty of reason to get angry. Nobody was making properly angry music, so we figured we’d give it a bash. Then we found [fellow Wolverhampton band] God Damn, and bands like Women and Victor started to spring up – more people are starting to properly go for it now which is nice.

Rich: Them Wolves are ace too, we have a lot to thank Stu [Tovey – lead singer] for, he’s a good lad and they’re a good band.

Do you all have similar musical influences?
Jord: I’d say that we all have different musical influences. I love jungle, IDM and anything that uses a variation of the amen break, 808 drum machines and car crashes. I really don’t listen to any ‘guitar’ music these days.

Joe: With my guitar influence, it’s all the standard and obvious stuff – MBV, Sonic Youth, Medicine, that kind of thing, but I like all sorts. Weird three hour drone albums, IDM stuff like The Flashbulb and Evol Intent, early 2000’s garage, the sounds of whales being eaten by small sharks, and Nikki Minaj are all in how I play somewhere. I’m a really lazy lyricist and I studied English at uni, so I just rip lines from T.S Eliot and J.G Ballard to make us sound like we am all intellectual and shit.

Rich: I’m pretty much influenced by messy emo stuff from the 90’s: Cap’n Jazz, Bear Vs Shark etc. Throw in a bit of the Promise Ring, Glassjaw and Texas is the Reason and you’re about right.

Describe your creative process.
Joe: Accidental. Really – we don’t have one. None of us have any musical training – we just know how to make sounds, so we make them all together, and sometimes a song happens.

Jord: Seriously, we just fuck about until we keep playing the same thing over and over again. It turns into a song when we decide we actually like it.

Rich: It’s mostly me standing about looking confused until I panic and press things and it forms something. We also have a plentiful supply of biscuits.

What do you interpret your music as sounding like?
Joe: I think since our last EP, we really found ‘our sound’ so we’re keeping it within that kind of ballpark. Considering everything we do comes out of jams though, it could go anywhere… We just sort of know when it’s done – then I shout something vaguely like lyrics as I’m going along and eventually it becomes a whole thing.

Jord: It really depends what unnecessary pedal Joe’s bought that week or whatever we’re listening to before we get to the lockup. We’ll end up sounding like us after a little while, but it’ll always be something different.

Where do you fit into the current musical landscape? Do you?
Joe: It’s a weird one – the whole Birmingham scene blew up before we really knew anyone there, and the one in Wolves is practically non-existent. There are great bands here, just nowhere to play, so we all migrate. I think we’re kind of the middle-ground between the heavy-as-balls Wolvo bunch and the wooshy, kinda prettier Birmingham lot. I’ve taken to calling what we do ‘dreampunk’ – too heavy to be dreampop or shoegaze, and too much reverb to be punk.

Jord: I think we do fit on the landscape, but more with the Wolvo bands. It seems like a lot of the B-Town bands talk about escapism and going to the beach and getting away from how shit it is here, but we just revel in the misery and shout about it.

You have two EPs out. How have the reactions been to those?
Joe: Pretty much all positive, but we never got a lot of press. We all went into the whole band thing pretty naively, so when we recorded our EPs, we just got excited and threw it all out there rather than building some hype first.

Rich:  I think with both EP’s, we’ve gone about it the wrong way; we never knew what we were doing and looking back we’d probably have done it differently. Either way though, the reaction has been a positive one to everything we’ve released

How do people react to your chaotic live performance?
Joe: They either get it or they don’t. We’re pretty polarising, but I like that. I’d rather have people go “you were bloody great!” or “what the hell are you doing? Go away forever” over “eh, it was okay, I guess.” The way I see it, people come to see a show as well as hear music, and our sets are like half an hour of self-destruction. If people love it or hate it, that’s great, as long as they don’t think it’s just average.

You played our May Issue Launch Party last month. How was it for you?
Joe: Fantastic – one of the best sets we’ve played! Not only that, but there was pizza, Jord from Bad Moon throwing up, us and God Damn playing together for the first time in years, and properly nice weather. It was all dead lovely, I just wish we’d brought a barbecue. It was a perfect line-up if you ask me. Bad Moon are impossibly rad – we’ve been friends with Jordan Crawford since we played with his old band Harrows and it’s good to see that he’s not stopped being fucking mental. As for God Damn, they’re pretty much legendary now. The very first time we saw ’em, we thought ‘holy shit! This is what we need!’ and I still stand by that.

Jord: Nobody died. I’m quite happy with that. A puke on stage is a tough act to follow though…

What are your plans for the foreseeable future?
Joe: I think we’re going to get to work on some new material. I’ve been building effects pedals and hopefully some of the new toys can go towards some mad new sounds. We’ve got a few songs ready to record now – we’re just waiting until we’ve got some more treats.

Jord: I’ll carry on being alive and hitting shit with sticks. If that fails I’ll have to fall back on that plastering course my dad made me do.


Bad Apes play The Sunflower Lounge with Great Cynics on June 1, tickets here

Photo by Wolf With Camera.


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