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Published: 2013/07/10
by Mike Greenhaus

The Apples in Stereo Share "Energy" with Phish

I want to talk a little bit about some of the projects that you’re up to now, but before we shift into that, for some readers who probably never heard “Energy” before, can you give us a little bit of background about when you recorded that song and where you guys were as a band at that point?

Yeah, totally. So the song is off of our album New Magnetic Wonder. It’s probably one of the poppiest songs on the record, and it was a song that I wrote for my son. One night I had put him to bed in his room and it was sunset and I went and sat out on the porch just outside his bedroom window and I was playing my guitar and I was watching the sunset in my backyard in Kentucky. I live in Georgia now but this was a few years ago. And it was just this beautiful moment. I felt all peaceful and happy, having put my kid to bed, and you have this sort of bonding right before bed and I felt all loving and the sun was setting. It was this beautiful orange light, kind of flowing through the leaves and permeating my yard, and I was playing my guitar and the song just sort of like instantly popped out of me. I kind of thought to myself… Well for one thing, I was aware that I was sitting outside of his window and that he could probably hear me if he just went off to sleep. And also the sunlight kind of shining across my backyard and also in addition to that, I’m into mathematics and physics, I thought, “I’m going to write a song about physics for my son.”

My take on mathematics and physics is fairly cosmic I would say and so I just felt like, “The world is made of energy,” kind of came out right away with the melody. I don’t know, really it came out kind of quickly. I was trying to write a song that would be like a big hug for my kid. So I had the kind of main part of the song which is the verse, that came out really quickly. I mean, the thing about the song is that sometimes you write a song to be poetry and sometimes you write a song to express raw emotions. And sometimes you write a song that is kind of an idea or a feeling, and this song was kind of like that. It’s not poetry, it’s an idea: The world is made of energy. That, and it’s going to be alright, those are the only things I wanted to say with that song.

You don’t want to clutter that up when you have a strong message like that. And so that’s kind of how the song came out. The next morning I was talking on the phone to one of my friends who’s also my manager, Dan, and when I got off the phone with him, this other part just came into my head about, “It’s going to be alright.” So the two pieces of the song happened very quickly but separated probably by about 12 hours from each other, the verse and the chorus.

New Magnetic Wonder was a very special album for us because it was an album where we had sort of set out to try to capture every aspiration that we had ever had as a band in one big album. It’s quite a long album and it covers a lot of ground, lots of sound collages. When we started our band, around the time of our first album, Fun Trick Noisemaker, I had this vision of this perfect psychedelic pop, indie rock album and this particular kind of sound. At that time, because I produced all of our records and we started out recording on 4-track and then moved on to 8-track for our first album, and then eventually I bought a 16-track analog tape machine. And then New Magnetic Wonder was a record that we recorded across different media – 8-track, 16-track, digital, some of it was recorded on a handheld recorder.

Our records are very different from each other. I would say that generally we finish an album and to move on to the next album we’re looking to do something very different from the previous album. So if you listen through the catalog of the Apples albums, every album is very, very different from the previous one because once we sort of wrapped something up, maybe there’s some loose ends that you want to pick up for the next album and maybe there’s some overarching stuff that you want to pick up in the future but not on the next album. You want your next album to be a surprise and you also want it to be an interesting experience where you’re really exploring yourself. You don’t want to just retread something that you already got good at.

So the point is that at the time of New Magnetic Wonder, we looked back over all of our albums and all of them felt like what the Apples feel like. None of them seemed to sum up everything. Like if you were going to say, “Here’s an album by my band. This is what we are.” We didn’t have an album like that. And so the point of that particular album was to be sort of a lengthy, psychedelic, indie rock pop album that could kind of cover all of our visions. And also that would kind of take the game plan of Fun Trick Noisemaker, our first album, and really expand on it. That being said, “Energy” is among the poppier and bigger productions on the album. There’s some stuff that’s super lo-fi on there, and it covers kind of a lot of ground. I think that in recording that song, I really wanted it to just feel like a big hug, a big warm arm of sunshine kind of wrapping around you and kind of encouraging the listener. Also in the production of the song, it starts off sparse and kind of folky, loose, kind of an R&B kind of feel, and then gets fairly orchestral from the middle through the end. It’s a song that really feels like a Phil Spector song or something. I really wanted to make a song that feels great. I mean, I think we have a lot of songs that feel great, at least I try to do that a lot, but with this particular song, I wanted it to be like perfect like sunshine bottled up into a little pop song. And something that like with headphones on for the listener who may be in another state of mind, that it could take them on a journey. And that’s particularly something that I think is very important to me as a producer, is that every song takes the listener on a journey.

It’s interesting, a lot of the hallmarks that you mentioned—whether it’s the orchestral arrangements or an exuberance that’s also tied to psychedelic music—are actually all reasons that I think Phish gravitated to that song. Those are also hallmarks of their music.

I totally see that. I totally agree.

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