APPLES IN STEREO with the High Water Marks at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Monday (May 3). $10.50. 416-598-4753, 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Ever since the apples in stereo changed their mailing address from Denver, Colorado, to Lexington, Kentucky, following the 2002 release of their charmingly raucous Velocity Of Sound (spinART) disc, there's been talk of rough times for the Elephant 6 flagship act. Apples main man Robert Schneider was forced to dismantle his famed Pet Sounds studio - the mecca for Elephant 6 bands - when the building that housed it was sold to developers, leaving Schneider to rebuild it as best he could in his Lexington garage.
What started rumours of the group's imminent split was word of the breakup of Schneider's marriage to Apples drummer/vocalist Hilarie Sidney. That, combined with the subsequent announcement that each would be starting new solo side projects (Schneider's is Ulysses, while Sidney now fronts the High Water Marks), was confirmation enough for many that the Apples' days were numbered.
Yet since the Apples are currently touring with both Schneider and Sidney in the band, rumours of the group's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
"The reason we're doing this tour is to show people that we haven't broken up," explains Sidney from a tour stop in Raleigh, North Carolina.
"We're still playing shows together and we're going to be recording another Apples in Stereo album. All the songs have been written, they just need to be arranged. So we'll probably go into the studio this summer."
The Apples will need to squeeze in some quality recording time in Lexington between the release of Schneider's forthcoming album with his Marbles project - for which he plans to tour - and the September street date of Sidney's High Water Marks disc Songs About The Ocean (Eeny Meenie), currently at the pressing plant.
Since Sidney would typically write many more songs than the two songs or less featured on any given Apples in Stereo disc, collaborating with guitarist Per Ole Bratset (of Norwegian band Palermo) in the High Water Marks has been a liberating experience.
"I definitely felt like I wasn't getting enough of my songs out through Apples in Stereo. Even though we all contribute to the group, it is mostly Robert's band, so I needed to have another outlet for my songs.
"But actually, the songs on the High Water Marks album aren't things I had intended for the Apples. They're all songs Per and I wrote together and recorded together - Per played guitar and bass and I played guitar and drums. It worked out really well."
The current lineup of the High Water Marks, which includes charismatic drummer Jim Lindsey (on loan from Oranger) and their bassist buddy Mike Snowden from Lexington's Von Hemmling, didn't come together until after the songs were cut. If that seems like a novel way of working, consider that eight of the album's 13 tracks were recorded on a laptop in a hotel room in Oslo. No, really.
"When I travel, I prefer staying in hotel rooms rather than with friends. It just allows you to be more independent. My hotel room in Oslo had such a nice feel, with its hardwood floors and stuff, I said to Per, 'Let's just set up and record right here.'
"I never got any noise complaints from anyone the whole time. But I think the maids thought I was really weird. Every day there would be a huge pile of patch-cords in the middle of the room along with microphone stands and guitars everywhere. I don't think they were too happy."
Keeping two working bands on the go can be very taxing - especially when playing two full sets a night and sharing a stage with your ex - but Sidney seems to be holding up remarkably well.
"Under the circumstances, we're getting along just fine," she allows. "We're really having a great time playing a lot of our early material from Fun Trick Noisemaker and Tone Soul Evolution - some of which we haven't played in, like, eight years."