Formed in 2007 in Irvine, California, the indie rock band now known as Island Apollo quickly established themselves as one of the hottest musical acts on the west coast, earning airtime on KROQ, winning Orange County’s “Best Pop Artist” at the OC Music Awards, performing at legendary venues such as The Roxy and The Troubadour, and opening for Capital Cities and Third Eye Blind. Their songs appeared on FOX Sports, CBS and VH-1, and in national marketing campaigns for Sobe Drinks and Sprint.
Then, in the summer of 2014, the band underwent a bold transformation. Changing their name to Island Apollo, the band has also embraced a new musical direction, one that blends the old with the new, displaying hints of Arcade Fire, Weezer, Queen and Billy Joel. On their debut EP, lead vocalist Ryan Kilpatrick’s soaring vocals explore themes of age, love, trust and perseverence while guitarist Heath Farmer, bassist Addam Farmer, keyboardist Austin Farmer and drummer Matt Champagne craft slickly precise rock melodies that are fun, playful and danceable.
Island Apollo will soon be going into the studio to record their first full-length album, which is scheduled for release in 2016. To learn more about the band, follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or visit www.islandapollo.com.
Most bands don’t change their name or musical direction after seven years together. What inspired you to do so?
Matt: We were inspired by the new music we were writing at the time. We have all played for various artists and projects heavily involved in the music business, but we felt the records we were writing together had a fresh new sound we truly believed in.
Were you at all fearful that, in changing your name to Island Apollo, you’d lose some of the fan support and traction you’d built as your previous band?
Matt: I think that when you make big decisions with your art, it usually translates properly to the fans when it’s done truthfully and has a natural consistency to it. Over time, our sound and aesthetic morphed into what is now Island Apollo. We’re really thankful for fans who stuck by us and are helping us gain momentum over new ground.
How have you guys evolved musically since you first started playing together?
Matt: We keep developing in every way possible. From creating a unique sound to honing in on our live show and stage production. When we started playing music together, Austin and I were 16 and in high school, so we have literally grown up playing music together. We now have a better understanding of how to make songs that bring out the best of us musically.
What is your songwriting process? Has it changed over the years?
Matt: Songwriting for us started out the traditional way, with all five band members in a rehearsal space developing an idea that turns into a song, but I’m pretty sure we’ve tried every process that’s possible. For example, Ryan and Heath wrote the verse of “Lion Eyes” on a boat near Newport Beach on acoustic guitars. Recently we all moved into an old historic 1800s house about two minutes from Downtown San Diego to focus on writing the rest of our full-length album over the summer.
Inspiration and location is big for us when we write together. Sometimes we’ll wake up and start with a beat in the studio room then work on a melody with a chord progression. Other times, each of us will write song ideas on our laptops while traveling or backstage, then we present them at a rehearsal to combine the different ideas into one song. It’s more about picking and choosing what we like about each individual idea so that we can use them as inspiration when we conceptualize the foundation of our songs.
We communicate. We talk a lot before we even strike a note. We always talk about the vibe of the song we are aiming for. There are dozens of songs we set aside and never use or play live. I think that it’s important as artists to know what songs work for you and what songs are a stretch in the wrong direction for you. This has been the biggest learning process for us, and I truly believe we have found a proper sound we are confident in.
Which venues have you most enjoyed performing at?
Matt: Our EP release show was held at the Constellation room (Observatory) in Orange County about a year ago. That place meant a lot to us because it’s considered our hometown venue, I guess you’d say. They treat us well and are always accommodating to our fans. We just played a show at Mrs. Fish in Downtown LA with the band Hunny and it’s one of our favorite new L.A. venues. It’s intimate, sounds great, and has a great vibe to it.
What goes through your head in the moments before you walk out on stage? And how do you unwind after a show?
Matt: Right now, the five of us are usually preoccupied with a million things to do when making the live show run smooth. We are very hands-on behind the scenes and really care about the live show aesthetic. For the most part, we’re usually in a focused state of mind and always trying to feel out the vibe of the audience before we even hit the stage. It’s our job to read the room and predict how the audience will react to our music, so we’re always thinking about critical decisions that help make the live show epic regardless of how big or small the venue is.
After a show, I know I personally need some time alone or with friends in town. I’m usually the one you’ll find taking a walk away from the venue or exploring the city after the show. That’s just how I recalibrate after being on any stage… plus most venues smell. Hah!
Growing up, who were your biggest musical influences?
Matt: I think it’s safe to say that we all agree on The Killers from a rock band perspective and The Beach Boys from a songwriting perspective. The Farmer brothers grew up listening to The Beach Boys their whole life, mainly because their uncle was the touring bassist/music director. I know everyone in the band respects Brian Wilson’s creativity on a lot of those records. We enjoy their harmonies too… I mean, who doesn’t? Ryan and Heath also get a ton of inspiration from Arcade Fire.
Do you recall the first song you learned to play? If so, what was it?
Matt: When I was four, it was definitely “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on the trumpet. When I picked up drums at age 11, I think it was “Take On Me” by A-Ha.
What’s the best song or album you’ve heard recently?
Matt: Foster The People and The 1975’s latest records were pretty cool. I know it’s old, but I recently rediscovered “Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown and started to nerd out on how funky the drums are. Can’t go wrong with that.