The Apples In Stereo - Biography
The Apples in Stereo is an American indie rock band noted for their sunny, ‘60s-influenced pop/rock sound and catchy, literate lyrics. They are also part of The Elephant 6 Collective, a group of old friends who formed a label and often guest on each other’s releases. The Elephant 6 Collective is also associated with bands Neutral Milk Hotel, The Olivia Tremor Control, and Secret Square.
The Apples in Stereo and The Elephant 6 Collective got their start while Robert Schneider was a boy in rural Ruston, Louisiana. Schneider found a musical kinship with fellow schoolmates Jeff Mangum, William Cullen Hart, and Bill Doss. The four friends were intensely interested in music and taught themselves how to play various instruments. They would often would play with each other’s bands, even though the four were never in a band together at the same time. After graduating from high school, the four moved away from Ruston and scattered across the United States to attend college. Schneider moved to Denver where his father lived and attended the nearby University of Colorado at Boulder. He soon joined a local band. When that band folded, he and the band’s guitarist Chris Parfitt started writing songs together on Schneider’s four-track recorder. On one of his long bus rides to school, Schneider met bassist Jim McIntyre and, after having a long discussion about their mutual love for The Beach Boys, invited McIntyre to join his fledgling band. McIntyre’s roommate was drummer Hilarie Sidney, and she not only became the drummer in the band, but also Schneider’s girlfriend. Schneider and Sidney would later marry, have a child together in 2001, and then divorce in 2004.
The group first called themselves The Apples and began to play shows in the Denver area in late 1992. Before the band really got going, Schneider had made a trip back east to Athens, Georgia to visit his old friends Mangum, Hart, and Doss. The four had stayed in touch and agreed that they should form their own small record company called The Elephant 6 Recording Company to release any projects they were working on. When Schneider returned to Denver, he set up his four track and recorded The Apples debut 7” EP, Tidal Wave, released in June of 1993 as the first release on Elephant 6. Guitarist Chris Parfitt left the band in early 1994 and was replaced by John Hill, who had formerly been in a band with McIntyre. With good reviews for their debut EP, the band set out to record a debut album. Instead they whittled their songs down to another EP called Hypnotic Suggestion (Elephant 6), released in 1994.
With the underground success of the two EPs, The Apples were contacted by the upstart indie label SpinART Records who offered the band the unique deal of buying them an 8-track recorder. Before the band could start working on a new album, McIntyre left the band and they went without a bass player for a period of time. The group toured across the US in late 1994, with a rotating roster of bass players that included Jeff Mangum, Kurt Heasley, Kyle Jones, and Joel Evans. While on tour, the band made some recordings and upon their return to Denver, they set up their studio (dubbed Pet Sounds Studio) at Jones’s house and finished recording their debut album, Fun Trick Noisemaker (SpinART), which was released in May of 1995. By this time, the group called themselves The Apples in Stereo to avoid confusion with other bands called The Apples. Though recorded on the road in various locations, Fun Trick Noisemaker has a lush expansiveness to it, thanks to Schneider’s knowledge of records by The Beach Boys and Phil Spector. Bassist/guitarist Eric Allen joined the band to hold down the permanent bass position and the band headed back out on the road in support of their new album.
The group continued touring into 1996, even playing in Japan for the first time, and returned to Denver to record a second album at the new home of Pet Sounds Studio – former member Jim McIntyre’s house. The band wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the recordings, so they relocated to the East Coast to record at a studio in Hartford, Connecticut. Tone Soul Evolution (SpinART), released in 1997, expands on the band’s psychedelic pop sound with even better sound quality. The band was also aided in a distribution deal that SpinART had set up with Sire Records. The following year, the group gained keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Chris McDuffie. After Tone Soul Evolution, the group released Her Wallpaper Reverie (1999 SpinART) – a wall-of-sound psychedelic pop album mixed with interludes rotating around a common musical motif. Going about as far as they could with their more-is-more recording technique, the group decided to scale back their sound for their next release, 2000’s The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone (SpinART). As well as scaling back the sound, Schneider and company also started bringing in other influences besides the ‘60’s pop and psychedelia they loved so much; The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone introduces a subtle Motown/R&B influence. Apples in Stereo also contributed a song to the soundtrack for the cartoon The Powerpuff Girls in 2000, and released that song along with a cover of their beloved Beach Boys classic “Heroes & Villains” on the 2001 EP Let’s Go! (SpinART). After the EP's release, Chris McDuffie left the band. Now scaled down to a four-piece group, Schneider and company further emphasized a stripped-down, live feel for their next album, Velocity of Sound (SpinART), which was released in 2002.
The members of The Apples in Stereo took a break from the band in 2004. Schneider started the band Ulysses and Sidney formed the band The High Water Marks. In 2006, Sidney announced that she was leaving The Apples in Stereo after the group performed at Athens Popfest in Athens, Georgia. She was soon replaced by drummer/multi-instrumentalist John Dufilho, who had previously served as the singer in The Deathray Davies. The group also added Schneider’s old friend Bill Doss on keyboards in 2006 and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist John Ferguson the following year. The new six-piece configuration of The Apples in Stereo went back into the studio and recorded New Magnetic Wonder (2007), the first release on the Simian Records – a label formed by actor Elijah Wood and distributed through indie label Yep Roc. New Magnetic Wonder was something of a return to the band’s fuller sound, though it leaned more in the direction of such ‘70’s bands as the Electric Light Orchestra rather than ‘60’s era pop. In 2008, the band’s former label SpinART went out of business and the rights for re-releasing the group’s back catalog have been acquired by the One Little Indian label.