By Brendan O’Brien, Nada Mucho Content Editor
Recently, Hilarie from The Apples in Stereo was kind enough to answer some of my dopey questions via email.
Who is Hilarie? She is the wife of lead singer/songwriter Robert Schneider, and recently became mother to their child – just to get that connection out of the way – but she is also one of the most kick-ass of modern indie-pop drummers around. She hails more from the Mo Tucker (Velvet Underground) school of less-is-more rather than the Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi) “I will eat your bass lines” fill/beat/fill method. This means that she refrains from making all kinds of noise, and imbues every last swing of her stick with heart and soul. Her style is absolutely integral to The Apples sound.
On top of that, she’s as nice as can be.
Nada Mucho: Does it annoy you that people tend to lump the Apples and so many other varying bands – the Minders, Olivia Tremor Control, etc. – in as part of some all-encompassing “Elephant 6 sound”? How did the E6 collective idea come to be – are you all friends?
Hilarie Schneider: Yeah, it bugs me sometimes. I think that people tend to judge you based on what the other bands are doing a lot of the time, instead of trying to understand what you are about as an individual band. The whole E6 collective thing started a long time ago. E6 started as a label back in ‘92 or ‘93 as a vehicle to put out the first Apples 7″, and tapes and singles by our friends’ bands. We are friends with some of the bands; some of the bands, we barely know. We Apples have not been a part of E6 for a year or so now. We never lived in Athens, GA, so we never really became a part of the scene that Elephant 6 became, or is now.
NM: How did you hook up with Wil Vinton’s studio for the “Signal in the Sky” video? How did you hook up with Rhino for the Powerpuff Girls soundtrack in the first place? (Ed. note: Wil Vinton is most famous for having cursed the world with the “California Raisins” in the ‘80s; his studio also animated The PJs on Fox.)
HS: I think the cartoon network set that all up. We didn’t have anything to do with it really. We just showed up and did what they told us to do. Rhino was hired to do the record through the Cartoon Network, I think. Craig McCracken, the guy who created the Powerpuffs, picked all of the bands himself, I believe.
NM: What records do you think laid the blueprint in your head for the sort of sound you wanted to have on your records, production-wise?
HS: That varies greatly with each album. It’s where our heads are at the time.
NM: What are you working on right now?
HS: Robert is recording a solo record of songs he wrote, and songs he wrote with Andy Partridge of XTC. It will be called Robert Schneider and his Orchestre Fantastique. We have been learning new Apples songs for our next record, and we are actually getting ready to leave on tour.
NM: What is the writing/recording process like for the band? What are the steps?
HS: Robert writes most of the songs. I write the other ones I suppose. We play some of them live and at practice, and others we don’t learn until we are ready to record them. Robert almost always knows right from the start as soon as he’s written something what it will sound like on the record, and what sort of feel he wants. The rest of us just play off of his ideas, and tell him if we think something sucks…especially me, I’m super critical.
NM: Does the fact that you and Robert are married have any effect on intra-band dynamics?
HS: I’m sure it does. No one’s ever said anything, but I’m sure it can be pretty tense sometimes. We try to behave though. I think the dynamics are worse when we record than when we tour. When we tour we all have a pretty good time. Recording can just be so intense, and when we are running on little sleep Robert and I tend to get pissy with each other about the recordings. Nothing major though. It’s stuff we usually laugh about later.
NM: Where do you see the Apples musically in five years? Your sound has changed from album to album: …Noisemaker was a more noisy strain of psychedelia, …Evolution had a fairly refined pop sound, …Reverie was the refined pop sound on acid, and …Inside the Moone had quite a bit more soul than I think anyone expected. What’s next?
HS: Robert’s got some amazing new songs that we’ve been working on. I’m not really sure where we will go. It’s somewhere inside Robert’s head. He always has it mapped out way before the rest of us have any idea. It’s all in his production in the end. I truly can’t wait to hear it myself.
NM: Could you BE any cooler on the drums?
HS: Aw shucks, I’m blushing!
M: Seen any good movies lately?
HS: I wish. You see a lot less movies when you have a baby. At least in our case.
NM: Do you think anyone has actually ever put an apple in their stereo?
HS: I sure hope not!
If you do, in fact, like them Apples
It’s apple crisp season