By Alan Sculley
Up to now, music and Disney have been synonymous for teen pop stars like Britney Spears (a former Mousketeer), Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.
Now it appears that Lexington’s own Robert Schneider and his band, the Apples In Stereo(iTunes), will be linked with the famous television network and its theme parks.
It was at Disney World where Schneider was first inspired to take a sharp turn away from the Apples In Stereo’s familiar rocking pop sound.
“I had gone to Disney World a couple of times as a kid in the ’70s, and it was when they were still building Epcot (Center) when I went,” Schneider said in a recent interview. “And Tomorrowland, and also sort of their advertising campaign for the coming Epcot Center, like the whole thing was so futuristic. It was so
much about like the promise of the future. That made a big impression on me as a kid.”
A couple of years ago, Schneider returned to Disney World, this time with his wife, mother and young son. He was visiting Tomorrowland when inspiration struck.
“The whole thing was just so beautiful and retro-futuristic,” he said. “It made me remember so strongly being a little kid and the feelings about the future and stuff, and also just the architecture. It just kind of came to me in a wave that I want to make a record that feels like this, that is hopeful and futuristic.”
That goal of making an album that sounds like the pop music of the not-so-very-distant future has come to fruition in the form of the new Apples In Stereo CD, Travellers in Time and Space (in stores April 20).
And for fans accustomed to the high-energy, super catchy yet definitely rocking sound of previous Apples CDs (think 2000’s The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone or especially the stripped back guitar-centric rock of 2002’s Velocity of Sound), Travellers may come as a bit of a shock.
Songs like “Dance Floor” and “Hey Elevator” are built around multiple synthesizer lines, electronic tones and effects, and processed sounding dance beats. Even tracks like “Dream About The Future” and “Told You Once,” in which piano is a key instrument, are laden with silky synthesizers and even the occasional effect-laden vocal part.
This may not be the sound fans expect from the group, but after talking with Schneider at length about the new CD, it is clearly the kind of music he intended to make.
And happily, there is one major element that ties Travellers in Space and Time to the six previous Apples In Stereo albums – melody. Few bands can match the Apples when it comes to packing hooks into songs. Schneider (who as the group’s leader and predominant songwriter sets the musical direction for the group) has even been quoted recently as feeling the new CD is the group’s catchiest album yet.
In this interview, he put that statement into context.
“I’m contrasting the poppiness with the rockness,” Schneider said. “And this record, it’s like you’re turning the knob all the way toward the pop.
“On most Apples songs, there are sections or parts where I intended to rock or feel snotty,” he said. “On this record, it’s more like about feeling soulful than snotty. There’s some snottiness, on the rock songs. But I think that it’s about how many edges you put on the songs compared to how much sweetness. In this case, we chose more electronic sounds for the edges, sort of sci-fi sounds. And I think we pulled back in the recording on kind of the fuzz tones and the rock things.”
Now singer/ guitarist Schneider and his bandmates (bassist Eric Allen, guitarist John Hill, keyboardists Bill Doss and John Ferguson and drummer John Dufilho) are extending the futuristic concept of the new release into their live show.
For starters, the group will be outfitted in silver space suits. But some further elements – such as a laser light show and a 3-D backdrop – were still being explored to see if they were do-able.
With the opening night of the tour—April 16 at Cosmic Charlie’s in Lexington—rapidly approaching, Schneider was hedging his bets on how elaborate the stage show will be.
“I think that we have in place the space suits and I think the backdrop – but I’m not sure about that,” he said. “I am sure about the space suits – and they’re awesome. We look like we’re a crew from a time machine, a rock band that walked straight out of a time machine.”
According to Schneider, Cosmic Charlie’s is a venue that seems perfect for the occasion.
“Cosmic Charlie’s is cool because it has space art on the walls,” Schneider commented with enthusiasm. “It’s got a sort of fun, futuristic, hippie-ish, kind of like metaphysical, sort of like, it has an astronomy vibe.
“I can’t wait,” he said, an appropriate sentiment from a musician whose new CD essentially says the future of pop is now.
Apples in Stereo plays April 16 at Cosmic Charlie’s.