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We Are Story Tellers

Our newest Spotlight – Apollo Suns. We got to check out some new music from Apollo Suns and talk to Ed Durocher about their music and the journey to get there. Check out the newest release Lake Country right now!

Today with us we have the fantastic jazz ensemble Apollo Suns! Thank you for answering some of our questions. Why don’t you introduce the group to our readers?

We are a 9-piece horn-fueled, psychedelic jazz/funk band from Winnipeg, MB. Our first show was on March 26th, 2016 and we released our first EP, Each Day a Different Sun, in April of 2017. Since then, we have toured Canada heavily, released a second EP, and now we’re getting ready to tour the US heavily in 2022.

How do you convey so much story and emotion in your songs while being purely instrumental?

It’s tricky to do because most people resonate with lyrics and vocals. But, we have found this great middle ground of making sure that our melodies/musical concepts are easy to digest and understood by our audience. I think a big part of that comes from the fact that we love all genres of music and we are influenced by film scores/soundtracks, which do a great job of conveying emotion/story through instrumental music. I think we also have a strong visual aesthetic within our album artwork and our visual projections at shows. We also have a strong sense of how we “brand” ourselves and the band.

The group excels in so many different types of Jazz, From the plaintive, melodic “Lake Country,” to the light and bouncy “Dark Night,” to a completely 360 with the fast, adventurous “An Iberian Peninsula.” Does the group favor a particular sound or do you love the variety?

I used to be so hung up about the genre/descriptors of our music and being able to clearly “define” ourselves to others. But, over the last couple of years, I have come to just view it as Apollo Suns. We just love a good song, a good album, a good tone, and we don’t want to worry about what ‘box’ it all fits into. Over the pandemic, we would do these listening sessions where we would take a song, dissect it, learn it on the fly, and figure it out on the fly over a ZOOM meeting. We did Beyonce, Katy Perry, Snarky Puppy, Polyrhythmics, BadBadNotGood, and more…I think that particular exercise pretty much reflects how we feel like a band and how we write songs – nothing is off-limits and we’re open to it all.

We want the albums/songs to represent moments of life and some moments are more aggressive (A Song For Sterling), others are quiet and soft (Rosie), adventurous (Passing By), bouncy (Dark Night), hopeful (A Lesson in Sharing), sweaty (Silver Gloves), etc. We just want to embrace that kind of conceptualization of music/albums to show that they are just expressions of all these moments in life.

Which of your works would you say is the riskiest or out there that you have done?

Being an instrumental band in Canada is already risky- especially since we get lumped into the jazz genre but we label ourselves as more jazz-adjacent. I think the riskiest project we’ve made is ‘A Lesson in Sharing’, but luckily, it has become a crowd favorite. Maybe ‘Sterling’ is risky. It’s kind of in that Progressive Rock category and that seems to be a dirty word these days.

Your single “Lake Country” is a love letter to B.C. How did you fabricate it to encapsulate the soul of B.C.?

It was all about capturing the warm tones, and lush horn lines/pads to emulate the grandness of the valley while being surrounded by the large and beautiful mountains. I think it was just making sure the song sounded like taking a breathe and opening your eyes to see that you are in the shadow of giants.

What specific parts of B.C. inspired the song?

Okanagan Valley. Right on the Lake.

How does this single foreshadow your upcoming EP?

I think it’s a solid first glimpse into the snapshots that make up this album. I think the EP is a wonderful snapshot of a band really defining its sound, evolving past its influences, and working as a unit.

Speaking of the EP, what is your composing process? Does everyone play an equal part in writing?

It has changed over the last couple of years from album to album as the band has expanded its numbers from a 4 piece to an 8/9 piece. At this time, we have a core writing group of about 5 people (Ed Durocher, Anatol Rennie, Aaron Bartel, Glenn Radley, Bryn Herperger) that gets together about 2 or 3 times a month to write. From there we will make demos, midi files, and charts to figure out which songs will make it.

 

Then after that, we bring it to the rest of the band and try everything out by workshopping the song to see what works and what doesn’t.

With 9 voices in the group, does it ever get hard to agree?

It’s up and down but we are all growing as individuals and getting better at communicating.

Any plans for another Canadian tour after the album’s release?

Yes! We’ve got a few dates in Western Canada in December and January, just to get back into it. But come March 2022, we will be doing about 150+ tour dates throughout Canada and the USA!

The group was still pretty young when the pandemic hit. How did it affect your music writing and dynamic as a group?

The pandemic was a weird situation and my feelings are conflicted. It was very traumatic and put everything to a standstill, but on the other hand, it allowed us to really dig into who/what we are and how we wanted to proceed. We lost a couple of members due to them moving away or following different life paths. But, we picked up some really talented players who are really hitting it hard. We took the time to really find, develop, and nurture our audience, especially in the USA and internationally. I guess with 150 cancelled tour dates in 2020,  it gave us a lot of time to look at all the things we may have been missing.

We did end up writing online via ZOOM meetings and actually doing a TON of pre-production on a new album that we will start recording in January 2022. It was a very different approach than I’m comfortable with, but it gave us a lot of space to really look at each song without bias. It also allowed us to feel connected to each other as a band as well, which was very important during the long, long lockdowns in Manitoba.

Who is the star of your social media? Instagram specifically is very color coordinated and active. Well done!

That’s me actually! I do/plan all of our socials. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been great and we have been seeing lots of engagement and an increase in enthusiasm over the last couple of years.

Do you guys ever do instrument swaps? I can’t imagine how lively it must be to have a group of pro musicians. You could all teach each other.

We all play multiple instruments and write for different ones, but I personally dislike it when bands switch instruments during a set.

What do you think about platforms like Spotify which hand music to those international reaches far beyond Canada?

I have a love/hate relationship with Spotify. It’s great for data, seeing where your fans are all over the world, and the element of discovery for artists is fantastic. The key wi\th Spotify is not to focus on the revenue streams, but how to convert those listeners into fans and active community members. Then, it has value. Vanity metrics don’t pay the bills, but it is a great platform to discover music on! When you find a new artist you love, go buy tickets, a shirt, or leave them a donation because that stream isn’t worth much at all.

Finally, before you leave, the group is very diverse in terms of its members. What does the world need to know about diversity in Canadian music?

Well, the musicians that form Apollo Suns are a diverse group, including some who are members who are non-binary, queer, and members of the LGBTQ2+ community. We all come from different backgrounds. It’s been a great learning experience and has been the source of a lot of growth from everyone. It encourages you to see things from others’ perspectives, reconsider the language you use, recognize the privileges you have, and understand how you can use that privilege to make situations/spaces more inclusive for others and the people around you.

 

Canada has a very diverse landscape when it comes to music.  Now, more musicians are able to share their unique stories through their platforms.

Our Spotlight – Apollo Suns is a wrap! Big thanks to Ed for taking the time to chat

Check out Lake Country right here

Keep up with everything Apollo Suns right here

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