Robert Lund - Man About Town
A Talk with Apocalypstik
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I met with the girls and guys of Apocalypstik in July on the roof top patio of the Delancey, before and after a gig they played that night. We spoke of many things, many of which might interest you.
RL: OK to start with, what are your names?
Steve: Steve Euge Johnson [drummer].
RL: Your middle name is "huge"?
Aria: His middle name's Eugene.
RL: Oh well, that's got a nice ring to it. And what other bands have you played in?
Steve: I've performed with groups along the lines of Clubbin Eddie and Eggplant Queens.
RL: Eggplant Queens! That's how I know you. And what's your name in Eggplant Queens?
Steve: Eggpants. I play guitar in that band.
RL: And who are you?
Lasse: Lasse [lah'-seh]. And I play the six-string guitar. No seven-string, four-string, none of that.
RL: And have you played in other bands?
Lasse: Small bands. I like to keep it small.
Aria: Yeah, but what about the band that you were gonna open for Nirvana?
Lasse: Yeah, but you know, that was in Finland. I used to play in a lotta bands in Finland. Not a lotta bands, but some big ones.
RL: How long've you been here?
Lasse: New York, seven years. Before that I lived in Austin. Used to play at Emo's.
RL: Yeah, Austin's great. My son lives there. I'll be spending a lot of time down there after February when I become a grandpa. Hey, don't you have a new band you're working with?
Lasse: Oh yeah, they're called Recovery Channel, but it's not quite ready to be talked about.
Aria: They're not recovering.
Lasse: That band's still in counseling.
Aria: We don't need counseling — we're a happy family.
RL: And Aria, can you tell me about yourself.
Aria: Aria — singer and sometimes guitarist; tambourine player, and flautist (coming soon!)
Lasse: Yeah, she plays the skin flute.
Aria: O-o-oh, Lasse!
RL: It wouldn't be an interview without some smut.
Aria: OK. And I've been in a band called Breakout Betty — that never broke out. I was in a band in Japan called the Tomato Clowns.
Aria: Yeah, I was traveling over there for five months.
RL: And that was long enough to be in a band?
Aria: Yeah. No tomatoes, some cherries...
RL: With other Americans or Japanese?
Aria: Canadians. I've been singing and playing my whole life. Grew up on a hippie farm.
RL: And you?
RL: You're a charter member. You've been in Apocalypstik since you got out of high school?
Liz: No, when I moved to NY about five years ago, that's when Apocalypstik came together.
RL: I remember earlier incarnations of the band.
Aria: I've been in it for 2-1/2 years.
RL: First time I saw Apocalypstik three years ago you had Amalia singing lead.
Liz: Yeah, we actually had a different lead singer before her, so it evolved over time.
RL: All female?
Liz: It was all female right at the beginning, but since then it's been mixed. Amalia was the singer for a while. She was really good, and she really helped get the name of the band out there.
RL: I have a picture of that band where Amalia's wearing a "Boy Bands Suck" T-shirt. And you had a female guitarist.
Liz: Yeah, Laura was the original guitarist, we started the band together a long time ago.
RL: Well you seem to have arrived at a magical combination now.
Liz: Yes, Aria auditioned for the band 2-1/2 years ago, and we were all over her, we just knew.
Aria: Oh, they didn't tell me for like a month-and-a-half. I was going to rehearsals every week, I had re-written all their songs, and they STILL didn't tell me. I was like "Am I in the band???" and they said "Of course", so we had a little celebration.
Lasse: When I came in almost a year ago, nothing changed, like I kinda slid in.
Aria: Yeah, he was second guitarist.
Lasse: I really wanted to be a second guitarist, but that wasn't meant to be.
Liz: Yeah, Laura wanted to leave.
Lasse: Laura left, so I became the 1-1/2 guitarist.
RL: SO, have you played out of town sometimes, gotten beyond the Northeast?
Lasse: A little bit up and down the East Coast, but not farther.
Aria: We've played some pretty bumfuck towns — and I can say that because they're my home town.
RL: So how's the bumfuck reaction to the band?
Aria: Oh, they love us!
Lasse: I dunno if you noticed, but we're a bar band.
Aria: It's always different. You never know how they're gonna react when we come into a town. But we come in with a postive attitude. We give them what they want, and we kick ass, you know! So they wind up throwing beer around, and..
Lasse: We might play some surprising covers, you know, get 'em going.
Liz: And we usually bring one or two people with us. Like we'll bring Amanda, and even one person to stand up front, sing along with the songs, help break in the crowd.
Steve: One person and a lot of rock!
RL: Do you have any funny road stories?
Lasse: Look, this band operates like a well-oiled machine, like clockwork; there's like no surprises. Apocalypstik is like a German-built car. (hysterical guffawing all around)
Aria: We're always late, we never know how we're getting there, we never know what equipment we're gonna bring.
Liz: We do have some funny stories — like Amanda flashing truckers on the way upstate.
Lasse: When I do it they usually drive off the road — I have to hold back a little.
RL: So what about the future? I heard you've been talking to people out West — can you tell us about that?
Lasse: Ooh, that's the Final Frontier for us.
RL: The West is The Best!
Liz: We were actually offered some big shows out west, and we decided not to go yet. We wanted to wait till we had our CD ready and printed, so we could feel confident that we had a product to sell there.
Aria: Actually we've been offered a benefit show with a band called Metal School that they do on Monday nights at the Roxy. You would LOVE them — they really pack the place every Monday.
RL: A benefit for what?
Aria: Ummm, I dunno yet.
RL: What was this you were telling me about record companies?
Aria: Omigod, record companies!
Liz: Everybody seems to have their own opinion about everything. We've got record people, booking people, telling us we should change our name, change the way we look..
Aria: So we just have to go with what we feel, stick to our guns, and just have fun, and not take it so seriously. I mean, even though we all have aspirations, you can't put all your eggs in one basket. But if you just have fun with it, then people see that and they want a part of it, they wanna BE a part of it.
Lasse: We just play our music, and we have a blast.
RL: That's one of the great things about your band — you're all obviously so happy to be playing together.
Aria: Almost all fun, almost all the time!
Steve: Yeah — just yesterday I was like half and hour late for practice. And we had a good rehearsal, and Aria apologized to me, "I'm sorry for being such a bitch"; and I said "Don't worry, you were fine". And five mintues later again, "I'm sorry for being so bitchy"; and I told her "You're NOT being a bitch." And again when I dropped her off, "I'm sorry", and I said "Aria, c'mon now, now you're being silly." It was only after I left her and listened to my voice-mail, that I heard her message: "Where the fuck are you? I dunno what the fuck your story is! I changed my plans to get here, you better show up!"
RL: You pressed the SAVE button right?
Steve: Nah, I don't do that.
RL: Oh, that would've made a great bonus track for the CD.
Steve: I understand, of course, she went out of her way, and then no one was there. But now I see what all the apologizing was about.
Aria: I felt bad. I got stressed out, you know, took a bus and all to get there.
Lasse: Hey, we're not as bad as Metallica, you know. We don't need any counseling. But that documentary's great.
Aria: Oh, we saw that last night, and came out so pumped up. Roaming the streets at 1 AM, like "what are we gonna do, we gotta play a gig or hear some bands or something!"
Lasse: Their new bass player kicks ass. I just met them on the way back from Iceland. They had just played the biggest show ever there — 18,000 people, big for Iceland. And there they were on the plane, all sober and good-looking, surrounded by pretty women... Oh you ARE a pretty woman, Aria.
Aria: And you're a pretty man.
Lasse: Oh, I try.
Aria: Whaddaya say we continue this after we play downstairs.
RL: OK, let's go.
After a better-than-ever set, covered with sweat, a little bit drunker, Apocalypstik reconvenes for the post-gig de-briefing. As we gather around a table, Aria's ranting about some photographer who handed her his business card with a picture of HER on it! Never asked permission, nothing.
RL: Yeah, that sucks. I get emails at Don Hill's from people asking if it's alright to photograph bands there, and I say it's usually OK. But people have to know what they can and can't do with photos. This is more intimate, taking your image for his own purposes.
Lasse: When we've got a lot of people right up front, I'd rather see them diggin’ the music, not moving in for a closeup.
RL: Right. Down in Austin this year, I went to see Little Richard for the first time. And all these guys with cameras were trying push past me right up front, and I was turning around telling them to try rocking out instaed. And a couple of songs in, Richard stood up and told them all the get away — "I'm not giving this away for free!"
Aria: Yeah, it just gets to be too much sometimes.
RL: SO, how do you all feel about the set? Was it a successful mission.
(The whole band was excited, talking all at once about how much fun it was, how well it went.)
Lasse: Tonight was a great show. This is a great place — we can have like 20 people and it feels full.
Steve: And DJ Strip did great sound.
Liz: Someone told me that when Jon arrived he came up and gave me the finger [I saw it — RL].
RL: Yeah, what was that about? That's how you guys say hello?
Aria: Well, we had a little fight beforehand. I said "I'm not goin' on till Jon Lennon gets here." [Promoter Jon had put Apocalypstik on at 9 PM, but his band The Resistants wasn't scheduled till 11 — RL]
RL: Oh! I was outside smoking earlier, and Strip was on the phone with Lennon, saying "C'mon, where are you. She's saying 'I'm not going on till Jon gets here' I can't hold 'em off much longer."
Aria: Yeah, and I called Jon on his other line saying the same thing.
RL: Well, what I liked about tonight's show was that you improvised more than usual.
Lasse: Yeah, every once in a while we let her have a few more measures.
Aria: You know why that was? Cuz I could hardly breathe tonight, cuz I've been smoking so much, and I couldhardly sing some of these new songs. And if I don't quit smoking all these cigarettes, I can't sing any more, I'm just gonna DIE!
Lasse: You can just start drinkin more whiskey.
Steve: I had a great time. And I love those two-minute solos!
Lasse: I thought the second song was a bit too long. The first song is real peppy, then The Plan starts out like blues, and then it picks up and people are like "what the fuck is going on?"
Steve: I think the eight-minute song is great, people don't know what to expect.
RL: There are lots of changes, it doesn't feel that long.
Lasse: Then the third song is kind of peppy, and we go into that mellow San Francisco number.
Aria: You wanna know what felt really good. I wasn't sure I'd be able to pull that song off tonight cuz I've been smoking so many FUCKING CIGARETTES. But I did it, it worked.
Lasse: That was really a great point, people have no idea what to expect after that.
RL: I think as more time goes by since the story of that song, you can afford to go back and relive those emotions. Cuz you were so much more emotionally expressive on that song tonight. I mean tonight, you looked like it had just happened.
Steve: You bring in the acting.
Aria: Yeah. And you know, I really like the new song.
RL: I didn't catch the lyrics.
Aria: Well, you know, I don't ever wanna be insolent or put my point of view upon you. I mean, people get pissed when you do that, like "Who are you to tell me what to think?" But I was simply trying to turn it into a "C'mon guys, get out and vote. I don't care how you do it, just make your voice heard."
RL: It might be a good idea to put the lyrics on your web site. Then once people see them once, it would be easier to understand everything you say when you're singing.
Aria: We're gonna include the lyrics on the CD. The good part about us, I think, we all have a bit of A.D.D. We get bored, and we're constantly changing, exploring new ideas and rewriting songs.
Lasse: Yeah, from the beginning I think we've come a long way towards figuring out what works for us. It's quite a range.
RL: You have a great chemistry. I was really happy to have that one opportunity to rehearse with you that time. I brought in that Big Boys CD, and although you'd only heard Baby Let's Play God one or two times, it felt like you'd always known the song!
Steve: Yeah, as soon as I heard that rhythm I loved it!
Lasse: You know what we're trying to get, is that rock-n-roll ending.
Lasse: Well you'd better be. I mean, we've gotten comfortable in the bedroom.
Aria: We can learn a new song and then perform it like two weeks later. Pretty much every new song we learn we always have a gig coming up and we always do a new song. We challenge ourselves in that way. And maybe we don't have it down 100%, but fuck that, it's rock-n-roll.
RL: In lots of the songs tonight, there were extra measures here and there.
Liz: We have to give Aria room to talk to the crowd, and dance or whatever.
Aria: Yeah, tonight I was riled up!
Steve: You know, one thing I like about working with you guys is this. We can come up with something new, and right away someone'll say "You know what, this SUCKS." In a lotta bands everybody's afraid to hurt someone's feelings, and you wind up a lots of terrible songs.
Liz: Usually, when we play something that somebody loves, we all love it. Like we just know right away.
Lasse: Yeah, I'll work on something for like two weeks, bring it in, and then well, that's the end of that.
Steve: Yeah, I think this is a crucial element, otherwise you waste too much time going off in different directions. This is a way to keep if focused.
Lasse: We could write 50 songs and try to decide which 10 make it to the album. We're trying to funnel the good stuff early, before we have to actually work on 50 songs.
Aria: Ultimately we only wanna play stuff we all love. We have great chemistry. We're two girls and two guys — that's my favorite part of Apocalypstik.
Lasse: And the funny thing is, the girls talk so much dirtier than the guys.
RL: Sure, they know you're not offendable.
Lasse: I mean we see Aria's panties on a day-to-day basis.
Steve: We were getting ready for a gig a while ago, and Aria says "OK, nobody look!" And as soon as she says that, of course, all eyes were on her. And there were mirrors all over the place too.
Aria: You know, it's that hippie farm thing. The other day I was shopping with my mom, I did the same thing in a parking lot, and she freaked out. I'm like, "Mom, where are your hippie roots? Don't worry, I'm good at this. You're not gonna see anything." And next thing you know, you see everything. I love freaking out my mother.
Lasse: She loves the band though. I mean, you can't freak her out on stage.
Aria: I try.
Lasse: She'll talk about sex, everything.
Aria: Sometimes she's crying, sometimes she's laughing, or dancing. You gotta meet my parents.
Lasse: I love her mom, and I love very few people in the world.
RL: Is she with your dad?
Aria: No. My dad's an old hippie-dippie-doo. He's crazy. You'd like my dad. You and my dad would actually get along really well.
RL: I'd love to meet him. Of course, I have mixed feelings about meeting the parents of people I know. I mean, he's probably younger than me. Sometimes talking to my friend's parents reinforces the generation gap.
Lasse: Well, rock-n-roll glues the whole thing together. I once dated a girl whose mom really liked me.
RL: Oh, that's nice, to get a girlfriend with backup.
Aria: Alright, let's talk about a few things coming up that we're gonna be doing. We're going to be doing a couple of videos, and my idea is... Wait, maybe I don't wanna talk about the idea yet.
RL: Alright, never mind. Folks, you heard it first here.
Liz: OK. We have two shows coming up October 1st and 15th, both at the Continental and both with Banana Fish Zero.
Lasse: We love those boys!
RL: Everybody's favorite band. I mean, when I see you, you're my favorite band, and when I see them, they are.
Lasse: That's OK, we're not the jealous type.
Aria: They actually have been like mentors to us. When we needed help, John Law emailed me telling me where to get the best T-shirts and things.
Liz: They've really helped us so much, they're so nice.
Aria: The other night, I was going into Three of Cups, and Texas was running up the stairs and whipping out his dick. And all of a sudden you see a beer bottle flying up at him. I said "Texs!" and he was like "Wha-a-a-ah!!!" and runs off. And inside there were these two girls yelling "I'm gonna kill you!" and John was trying to talk to them "C'mon, is it really worth it?". And Prince Hal was trying to talk the owner into letting this guy back in, and he was saying "No, Hal, can't do it tonight, TOO rowdy it's too much, don't ask me again, Hal." That was the last time I saw them.
RL: Have you been kicked out of bars?
Lasse: Oh yeah, I have. Once I whipped out my dick for a cup of ice cream. My brother dared me to walk across the market square and put my dick on the counter of this ice cream shop. I didn't have any money, so I did it. And he bought me the ice cream.
RL: Was that here or over there?
Lasse: That was in Finland.
RL: You don't do that in New York!
Lasse: Yeah, I'm not going to jail if I do it over there — here you might.
Aria: OK, here's one thing that I am gonna do. As soon as we have a video that is really fuckin kick-ass, I'm gonna march in front of Fuze Television [not Hughes as printed in the paper], which is like the new MTV-2, and I'm gonna camp out until they play our video. Right across from Madison Square Garden, I'll definitely get some coverage for that. It'll be me alone to start out with.
Lasse: We'll probably bring her some food.
RL: I'll bring you fresh panties.
Lasse: She might be there four or five days.
RL: I don't think it'll take very long.
Steve: It should take about three minutes.
Lasse: You're not gonna actually do anything there, are you?
Aria: I'm gonna have a megaphone. I think it should take a full business week.
RL: One thing: Are you gonna actually walk in and ask them to play it first? I mean, someone might come out and say "What are you doing here, just come in and give it to us!"
Aria: Oh yeah, I'll ask them first.
RL: They might just play it, you know. What song are you gonna do for the video?
Aria: Actually, either Freakshow or San Francisco.
Lasse: Freakshow would be cool.
Aria: Guys love Freakshow!
RL: San Francisco would be a great video.
Aria: I wanna do something really pretty. The challenge is, I've been looking for scenery that looks like Mexico in upstate New York; it's a problem.
Lasse: Maybe we need a little trip to Arizona. I smell a field trip.
RL: Yeah, this has to be a remote shoot.
Steve: I spent most of the day singing that song in my head.
RL: Well, I told you, I had You Are Here playing in a loop on my iBook on the way home one night, got home and plugged it in and continued over and over.
Aria: Everyone loves that song!
Lasse: It doesn't work as well live, that song.
RL: Yeah, you change it a lot when you play it live. You could take it down a bit, like on the CD where it's just voice and guitar.
Lasse: Yeah, well we have a tough time keeping things under control live.
RL: Well, I think we've got more than enough here. Thanks for talking with us.