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Wings of Apollo Fly High

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Who doesn’t love a good power trio?  We at xxvii4ever have a special fondness for those bands keeping alive the sound of bass, guitar, and drums.  One such group is the talented Wings of Apollo, who are based in Nashville, Tennessee.  After we heard their debut album, Wings of Apollo, we decided we wanted to know more about them, and they generously and thoughtfully responded to all our questions.  Read on to hear all about Jesse Korby (vocals, guitar), Pat Graves (bass), and David Martin (drums).

How did Hendrix become such a major part of your sound and repertoire?

Jesse: Jimi Hendrix was more or less the catalyst to start my obsession with guitar.  I was at a close friend’s house in the Virginia neighborhood I grew up in, and his dad suggested one day that we check out the Jimi Hendrix: Live at Berkeley DVD.  I was so floored that I ended up getting a job at a local bagel shop to be able to buy a proper instrument.  From there, guitar began to dominate my life - where before, I pictured myself much more as just a singer.  

Now I look at his music as something that deserves to live on, and something that is really valuable to learn from no matter what instrument you play.  The most important realization to come to as a growing musician is that Hendrix wasn’t a deity, just someone who had an incredible love for music, and worked extremely hard to get the best out of himself.  I believe it’s the duty of this generation of young musicians to take what he gave us and continue to push forward.  Showcasing his material is one little way that we can show the next wave of players that it can be done, and only the limits you place on yourself can prevent you from getting to a high level.

We won’t be playing those songs forever, so enjoy them while you can!

David: I grew up listening to classic rock and jazz…when I first started hearing Mitch Mitchell’s drumming style, it blew my mind! It was a combination of both rock AND jazz that blended together so nicely. Usually I can “picture” in my head what a drummer is playing on their set, but when I first heard Mitch a while ago, I couldn’t follow it. It was so improvised, fast, and eclectic compared to most of my favorite drummers at the time. It encouraged me to dive more in depth into the Jimi Hendrix Experience, resulting in a love for Jimi’s guitar playing. Then a number of years later I met Jesse and Pat to form Wings of Apollo, and both of them were HUGE into Jimi Hendrix. We started jamming on some of his songs like “Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile”, and it sort of just developed over the years into something that molded our sound.

Pat:  I started listening to Jimi Hendrix sometime during my freshman or sophomore year of high school.  I’d heard the big hits like “Purple Haze”, “Fire”, “Hey Joe”, etc., and loved them, but didn’t know much else by him.  I dove deeper into his little magical world and became enthralled.  The soundscapes he painted just came off as so beautiful to me.  “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)”, “Machine Gun”, “Hear My Train A Comin’”—they were all just so colorful and vibrant.  The more I learned about him, the more I loved his honesty.  All of those wailing and screaming sounds from his guitar came from a real place within him.  The emotion seemed tangible.  At that point, I hadn’t heard anything that could exude those same feelings, so I became a die-hard fan.  So, to bring it back to our band, that kind of thing seems to naturally flow through us when we play. 

 What other influences are there in your sound?

Jesse: Aside from the obvious answer of all of the great bands that really left a mark on pop culture, I’ve found a lot of value in learning from world music as well as other forms of expression.  Reading inspiring literature or taking the time to enjoy visual art can really broaden you as a creative person.  Whenever you experience any kind of enjoyment from the creative output of others, the feelings you get will compile in your subconscious, which allows you to surprise yourself when you least expect it.  There have been many times when I’ve sat down to write and realize that the music reminds me of a Norval Morrisseau painting, or even a big Hollywood movie.  As strange as it sounds, some of the biggest influences on your “sound” can come from places that aren’t even related to music.  

David: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and basically anything that we listened to growing up that really wowed us. Music that is honest and real influences us, no matter what genre it is! We love everything from classical music to hip hop.

Pat:  All three of us can draw influence from almost any kind of music.  If it’s something that we can connect with, it’ll seep into our subconscious and come out through our playing one way or another.  For me, some big ones are Jaco Pastorius, Rage Against The Machine, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eminem, Esperanza Spalding…the list goes on and on.

What are your immediate plans for recording and work?

Jesse:  The next album will be called The Universal, and we’re shooting to record sometime this fall.  Now that we’ve matured, we’re looking to step up every aspect of what someone may expect from a great album.  I don’t want to plant too much of a pre-conceived notion for anyone who gives it a listen, but I can say that it will be both organic and futuristic.  Anyone who liked our first album will love The Universal when we release it for free. 

David: Right now the band is busier than ever before! We are currently writing our next album, The Universal, while also working out multiple professional deals that will keep us moving forward! We are also starting to travel a lot more and play shows outside of our hometown. It is really exciting meeting different types of people around the U.S.

Pat:  Like David said, we’re playing a lot of shows and are starting to do some touring.  It has definitely been very exciting for us because traveling as a band is still a new thing for us.  We’re really anxious to continue writing for our second album so we can get back in the studio.  All of us have that itch to record something new.

Do you consider yourselves a "jam band"?

Jesse:  There are definitely elements of that idea in what we do, but I couldn’t lock us down into that one category.  One of the best parts of being a rock band now is that you have so much of the past to draw from.  We love bands that can just let it rip for fifteen minutes though.  We also love bands that write great songs, and we also love music by groups that aren’t necessarily considered bands at all.  There was a week where all three of us only wanted to listen to Wiz Khalifa!  Don’t ask for too many details though, because I’m not sure any of us really remember what actually happened.

David: I do not consider us a jam band because we pride ourselves on our songs. Jesse is an amazing songwriter and produces some incredible forward-thinking ideas. We already have plans for the next two albums and cannot wait to expand our catalog! Don’t get me wrong, though; we love to jam! But most of our jams are extended versions of our favorite songs that we’ve already written.

Pat:  In a sense we are a jam band—our sound comes from the way we play together which was built off jamming with no structure or constraints, sometimes for hours on end.  That’s where a lot of the ideas for songs have come from.  Jesse will get some wild idea and run with it.  He has the ability to take something as simple as a riff or a chord progression and turn it into some magical, musical Narnia.  It’s a blast to witness his wizardry at work.  As far as being labeled a “jam band” like Phish or something like that, I wouldn’t put ourselves into that category.  We have many different facets and strengths within our band.  If we could be labeled as anything, I’d put us down as a more “album oriented” band.  But then again, our live show is a massive identifying factor of what Wings of Apollo is as well….

How do you approach your live shows -- do you try to reproduce your recorded songs, or is improvisation important to you?

Jesse:  Lately we haven’t even been writing a set list if that lends any insight.  Whenever you play live, the best thing to hope for is that the song feels like the first time you played it.  With that in mind, I can say that I like to be locked into the present moment.  If that means I hit something new that I haven’t explored before, then great!  I always enjoyed live shows that brought something new to the table when I was a young music fan.   

David: Every show is completely different. I never play the exact same drum parts or fills throughout a song as I did on the recordings. Sometimes we jam on songs, sometimes we break them down… it is all dictated by whatever is in the air at that particular moment. If Jesse’s riding a guitar solo, we keep it going longer, or if we want to quiet it down, we communicate visually with each other and just play! We have a very organic and relaxed approach to our shows…it makes them a lot more fun!

Pat:  Improvisation is the name of the game.  If we recreated every single song note-for-note at every show, it would become stale very quickly.  It would be boring just running through the motions like that.  By not having any limitations or walls put up when we play live, it keeps us locked in and on our toes.  Plus, the spontaneity of it all boils over into the crowd and creates this wild, living bubble of energy that everyone can be enveloped in.  It’s a very connective way of sharing your music with people.  It makes every show a unique experience for us as well as anyone who’s watching.

Many thanks to Wings of Apollo for their thoughtful answers.  I can’t imagine that, after reading this interview, you won’t want to check out this exciting young band.  Go to their website for a free download of their first album, and watch out for The Universal– it will undoubtedly be worth waiting for!