|heroes of harmony
Meijin Bruttomesso - January 28, 2011
It’s hard work being in New York’s Apollo Run. The trio draws from a multitude of genres, fashioning its own category of — what one could call — classical pop rock. John McGrew (vocals, piano, trumpet, guitar), Jeff Kerestes (bass, vocals) and Graham Fisk (drums, vocals) showcase multitasking abilities that harmoniously combine to achieve a resounding orchestral rock aura on their recent release, “Here Be Dragons Vol. 1.” The album offers a sample of the band’s ethereal sound, one that is even more impressive live and highlights each musician’s virtuosic contributions. Openers “Nightingale” and “Love Song” intertwine sonata piano arpeggios, fervent call and response falsetto, and bass-driven reggae rhythms, while seductive, jazzy keys, trumpet and basslines surge with impassioned vocals on “That's How It Felt.” Sweetly melodic “Stars,” which has a new video to accompany it, is followed by rock opera-esque “Myography,” and romantic and climactic “Wide Eyes,” which poignantly completes the EP. Apollo Run’s current record and live gigs generate high anticipation for “Volume 2.”
Where did you get the name Apollo Run? What other names were considered?
John: A crazy dream of a huge electronic generator in the center of my chest — I panicked. I started to beat my chest, but now it wasn't a generator. It was one of those old shiny spaceships with the word “Apollo” written along the side. When I turned away from the mirror, there was a classroom full of children yelling, "Run, Apollo. Run!”
Graham: The band was originally John McGrew and The Sitbacks, but we decided to change it out of fear of growing too successful. Apollo Run is actually a reference to “Rocky IV.” Apollo Creed was getting his ass kicked by Dolph Lundgren. [We] were watching it one night Jeff was concerned for Apollo's safety, and [he] sat up and yelled, "Apollo, run!" Of course, he didn't run (spoiler alert: he died), but the name stuck. We also considered Jesus Ponies, Tea (Bag) Party and Led Zeppelin, but none of them seemed right.
Jeff: There is this Arabian Gelding, a type of horse, named Apollo. He likes to run a lot. Other band name ideas were Majestic Steed, Poor Gelding, The Apollo Trot, Bare Back Apollo, and my personal favorite, Damn Sexy Horse.
What are the benefits/challenges of being a trio? I, for one, am a fan of atypical numbers in bands.
John: There is something extremely raw about playing with only two other people. The essence can be exposed pretty clearly. [However] I often think of lofty trumpet parts that would sound great with some melodies that I sing. Luckily, we have started to play out with a horn section on occasion.
Graham: Benefits: less mouths to feed, more room in the tour van and a self-imposed need to do more with less. We're also brothers. [But] over the course of a show, John plays piano, guitar, trumpet, and not to mention, lead vocals. I always walk away impressed, and he always walks away exhausted.
Jeff: We have a great way of solving problems the majority wins the challenge when you’re the minority, you’re S.O.L. Musically, we are all relied on to bring a lot to the table, be better musicians and composers. It would be easier to have another guy to cover all the auxiliary parts, but what would be the fun in that? Plus, I am a fan of atypical numbers in bands.
When did each of you discover music and decide you wanted to pursue it seriously?
John: My parents met in a choir, so I was singing out the gate. It used to be a running joke in my hometown that the McGrews might break out in song, and to be honest, it is kind of true. In fifth grade, when I told my parents I wanted to play the drums, they bought me a trumpet instead. I decided about halfway through college that music was the path for me, and I haven't looked back.
Graham: My dad was an audiophile, even built his own speakers. My mom insisted I take piano lessons, which in hindsight was a tremendous gift. It was really when I met John and Jeff that I knew this was more than a recreational interest.
Jeff: I discovered music from my dad, who taught me how to close my eyes and feel it. Once I found out that I could get paid to play it, I never seriously thought of doing anything else.
What other artists would you like to collaborate with in the future?
John: Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes, The Roots and Janelle Monáe. I definitely want to hop on the road with fellow NYers, Black Taxi. That would be a damn fun bill.
Graham: Muse – are they available?
Jeff: Muse, Kings of Leon and Silversun Pickups. I also really love Drive Shaft.
Funniest tour story? If you could add anything to your live show, what would it be?
Jeff: I don’t want to talk about it. Add pyrotechnics!
John: It involves Jeff and Justin Timberlake. Graham tells it well. Add live animals to our stage show. Not sure how that would fly.
Graham: Back in January, we did a few shows out in L.A. Matt Morris, who is signed to Justin Timberlake's label, had his CD release party. There were rumors floating around that J.T. might be at the show, turned out the rumors were true. Jeff decided to introduce himself to J.T. After telling J.T. how much he enjoyed his music, J.T. thanked Jeff and asked for his name, to which Jeff replied, "My name's Jeff. What's your name?" A classic celebrity meeting fail. After, we joked how our next song would be called, "What's your name, Justin Timberlake?" If I could add anything, it would be Justin Timberlake.
" There is something extremely raw about playing with only two other people. The essence can be exposed pretty clearly. "
"Here Be Dragons "
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Indie rock trio heavy on harmonies manic highs and gut-wrenching lows. For those who like: Queen, Muse, Jeff Buckley