One-stop world tour: An interview with Apricot Blush
Friday, September 7, Clemson-based band Apricot Blush came down to Charleston to perform at a local house show venue. The name might sound familiar due a video posted to their Twitter account that recently went viral, but the band and the larger musical collective The Pablo Generation have been garnering attention in the South Carolina music scene for a few years now. The Rival at CofC had the chance to sit down with a few members of Apricot Blush, including trombonist Timothy McFall (also of Gardeners and Mall Goth), sometimes-saw-player Molly Druga, guitarist and violinist Dan Fetterolf (also of J. S. Terry), and frontman Jackson Wise.
Apricot Blush describes themselves as a “Surreal Indie Folk Project led by Jackson Wise, accompanied by several lovely people who come and go.” The Charleston show came just after the release of their second full-length album, “Where Blew a Flower, May a Flower No More.”
Emma: Can you tell us a little bit [about the new album]? It’s a concept album; can you tell us more about the myth that inspired it?
Jackson: The album has a lot of double meanings... The actual concept follows a mythological story that the Inuit tribe told… I’ll, like, summarize it. There’s the goddess of the sea and the underworld, [which is the same in] Eskimo mythology, and pretty much, whenever there’s no harvest or hunt within the tribes, they’ll send someone - they’ll send a shaman - down to the underworld to talk to the sea goddess, named Sedna, and comb her hair because she doesn’t have fingers, and that’s another story… So anyway… through doing that, everyone on the earth, like, confesses their wrong-doings. I don’t wanna say “sins,” ‘cause that’s not like what they really do. They confess everything they’ve done and something they’ve kept secret - stuff like that - and then everything goes back to normal, and it’s chill, and, long story short, I got a lot of messages from that. A lot of it I related to with addiction recovery, and specifically going through the twelve steps of AA. I got sober when I was 16, and... I’m five years sober now, and, strangely enough, I resonated a lot with that story. The story isn’t about addiction recovery, but it makes sense to me. So, there’s a meaning on my own half, and… then there’s the actual story-telling, and I really liked that ‘cause it was a hard thing to do. It was a challenge. I liked doing it.
Emma: … What made you want to do a concept album instead of just one song? Was it just the songs kept coming?
Jackson: F*** singles… I don’t get the point of writing single songs, personally... I’m much more of an album person than a song person, if that makes any sense.
Emma: It does! There’s like this theory in one of the… In my English 299, we talked about literature theory, and one of the main ones was New Criticism, which looks at a piece as a whole rather than at parts, and you can’t take away a single part of it.
Jackson: That’s exactly how I look at music as well, especially- specifically with albums... I got into writing music - or playing music really… [through] concept albums… specifically The Mars Volta: De-Loused in the Comatorium. That album is an album. Those aren’t just songs, you know? And it tells a really good story, and I fell in love with that, and I fell in love with other writers who do the same thing, like Jordaan Mason... and Neutral Milk Hotel, The Microphones. So, that’s why I learned how to write music in a way, and that’s why I do the concept stuff. That’s just what I know, and it’s what I like, personally.
Emma: Were you the only one who participated in writing on this album, or did everyone contribute?
Jackson: This time, everyone did a little something. I did most of the lyrical writing and the… the guitar and stuff like that. Wesley wrote the tune, and I would say like half the lyrics for “Baro(Trauma).” Wesley Heaton, he’s not here.
Emma: But we have this [Minna] Heaton.
Jackson: Yeah, do you wanna speak for Wesley?
Minna: Yes, as Wesley’s representative, I would like to say that it’s been a great experience working with Apricot Blush. They’re all wonderful people who work very hard, and working with them has been a pleasure. Writing with them has also been a pleasure. Back to you, Jackson.
Jackson: Thanks, Wesley.
Emma: You also mentioned Neutral Milk Hotel. I’ve definitely heard Apricot Blush compared to Neutral Milk Hotel, one of those people being me; I heard my own voice say it one time. Do you hear that often or what bands do you get compared to the most?
Jackson: Definitely get compared to Neutral Milk Hotel, mainly due to the saw. The way I write- The way I try and write is... I try and pull influences from people just like everyone, and… It’s hard to- hard question. Whenever people relate us to someone they like, it’s usually ‘cause they’ve been listening to that person, and they really like it, and they’re like, “Oh, you sound like this because I like y’all.” I’ve never heard of a band besides… I don’t even know what to- I don’t even know what to relate us to.
Dan: I don’t know. I haven’t heard very many comparisons, honestly...
Jackson: Yeah, no one has shot out a band that makes sense to me, but, due to the saw, we get a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel stuff, and I get it. They’re great; I love them. They’re one of my heroes, but yeah. I would say Neutral Milk Hotel, and we’ve gotten related to… The closest one besides Neutral Milk Hotel was Titus Andronicus. Yeah. Yeah, and that makes a lot of sense. I didn’t even know who they were until someone told me about it, and then, that makes a lot of sense...
Dan: Modest Mouse.
Jackson: Yeah, we’ve been compared- not compared, “Y’all sound like Modest Mouse,” and that makes sense too.
Emma: [I don’t want to ask now, but] what are your favorite [tracks]?
Emma: Does anyone else have [any favorite tracks]?
Dan: Is it off the new album?
Dan: I really like “This House Still Sings...” I just love the song structure on that. It goes from minor to major at the very end, and that’s really nice... I like when that happens. It also has a violin solo, which is big for me...
Tim: The title track, which is a long masterpiece. I love it. I love the way the bass hits so hard and everything comes in...
Jackson: They do be hitting sometimes.
Tim: Sometimes it do be hitting, and... on that song, it do be hitting.
Jackson: It do be hitting.
Tim: And yeah, that song has so many dynamic levels and-
Jackson: Thank you for mentioning that.
Tim: Goes- Goes between them so smoothly, and it comes all together at the end with the riff, with the same, like, tune from the beginning. It’s very nice... That’s my top track.
Jackson: Thank you…
Emma: Alright, so you guys are also not just a band but a collective. First off: how many people are in this? ‘Cause I have no clue.
Jackson: The band or the collective?
Emma: The collective. The Pablo Gen.
Tim: … [laughing] How many people are in the groupchat?
Jackson: Well, I mean, to be honest…
Dan: Not all these people are in this.
Jackson: Well… We have a groupchat. And this, I’m just gonna base… We consider everyone in the collective everyone who comes to shows… But I would say there’s a central 25 members
Jackson: I think. I’m gonna make it- I’m gonna do it safe and say 33… I don’t know.
Emma: Anywhere between 25 and 33.
Emma: But you said, sort of like, everyone who comes to the show you consider part of the collective, so is the show more like- It’s an interactive experience.
Jackson: Yeah.. The reason why we consider everyone a part of the collective who comes to shows is because you know, bands can play to their friends and stuff like that, and everyone can just watch each other, but that’s not what makes The Pablo Generation special to me is that. It just, it seems like a DIY scene done right. Everyone supports morally, financially, everyone. Everyone supports each other, and if... people come to a show and they don’t have money, that’s like okay, you know. We let people in, but we do... Everyone gives touring bands money. Everyone cares about that stuff. Usually, when people come to Pablo, it’s not- The focus isn’t to get f*cked up like most house venues are. The actual music and... listening to music, and what’s the huge thing why I think, why we believe that everyone who comes to shows are a part of the collective is because - I don’t know how this happened - but mostly everyone who comes to these shows at Pablo, they see the poster online and for the show, and they listen to the bands before, which is something I’ve never seen any other DIY place do. And I’m not talking about the musicians that are playing that night; I’m talking about the people who aren’t even in bands but just love coming. So, yeah.
Emma: [How many] people switch between the bands? A lot, right?
Emma: Do you think that helps more in, like, the process of growing together as a collective in bands, like not just- like with individual sounds as well?
Dan: ...Yeah, me and Jonah, we’re in the most bands. I think like one, two, three, four, five? I used to be in five, collectively, and that was- Yeah, it like, it really did help, like, when you- when you’re playing in a bunch of different bands, it’s like kind of a challenge to go from one style of music to another, and, when you have like a lot of practices in a row, and you have to play with one band and then play a show, and then maybe you have like another show like [a] couple nights later with another band, you kind of just have to like switch gears really quickly, especially like I played drums and violin. So like I played drums in Daddy’s Beemer and violin, and that was- that was interesting, ‘cause I got to experience both sides of like the music that I like, so. And it’s, like, yeah, it’s just fun to- It makes it more interesting for everybody, ‘cause you’re not like stuck in a rut, basically.
Jackson: That’s a good one…
Tim: ...Yeah, I found that when you play with just one... constant group of people, you can kind of get into a creative rut, and you’re missing some of the inspiration that can be gained from other musicians by just sticking with the same [ones], so, as someone who’s in multiple bands, I know that like it’s helped me grow not just in skill and proficiency, but like as an artist myself being able to play with different groups of people, kind of experience different, like, extremely different types of music on a day-to-day basis, like, definitely helps you contribute to each group more, in my experience...
Emma: One of your signatures is also the use of very interesting instruments that one might not expect. There’s the saw. We also don’t hear about violins in a rock band a bunch. I’ve also heard talk of bagpipes. If you’d like to talk about how- more about how you guys got into those… And also, how do you start playing the saw? How do you just like pick that up?
Molly: ...So, I learned really quickly how to play the saw, but I think it takes a lot of time to master it, like I think Jackson’s really got it. I think Cindy really has it.
Emma: Do you think [the use of interesting instruments] creates like- what kind of effect do you think it creates compared to bands that don’t use [them], like what do you think it brings?
Jackson: ...The saw was an important part in writing the self-titled album. That’s when I was learning to play the saw, and, when played with reverb, or just in general, it’s very eerie and creepy, and it sounds very ghost-like, and that’s what I want my music to be like. I want it to feel like there’s some type of ghost, whether that be your subconscious or something kind of- some issue haunting you that just follows around, and it’s always, it’s not usually up front in the music, so that gives it like a… somewhat of a haunting vibe.
Emma: I know like with “Bad, Bad Dream,” I feel like I’m gonna die.
Emma: It could be the middle of the day, [but] someone’s gonna murder me.
Jackson: Yeah, definitely.
Emma: But that’s fun. It also kind of reminds - this is a side note - but it reminds me of like “Hey You” by Pink Floyd.
Jackson: Yeah, a little bit, yeah. It’s been… Someone said it sounded like an orca singing.
Tim: Orca. Whale noises.
Jackson: Yeah, I like that, and that fits really well with this recent album ‘cause it’s mostly set underwater.
Dan: I didn’t think about that.
Jackson: Yeah, I almost put the original album art... I found some really cool art by this guy, and it’s basically pictures of... just driving on the road in some mountains, but it’s edited to make [it look] like it’s underwater, and there’s like a whale like swimming... in the air. It was awesome.
Emma: Also going back to [the Inuit tribe], you said before that 25 percent of the proceeds from this album goes to an organization that benefits the Inuit people. What made you make that decision, and what organization is it?
Jackson: … I learned about this story through a Native American religion and culture class, and we learned a little bit about the Inuits, basically the Eskimos, and I looked them up today, ‘cause I was wondering like how and they’re doing and stuff, and they’re doing fairly well, but they’re still - similar to American, to Native American… reservations... There’s still like some... funky sh*t going on, you know? And… [The] story’s not mine. Obviously, creative credit where the credit is, and, with them, there is still a little bit of stuff. I think it was mainly due to education. There’s not a lot of education- or not good education programs with the Inuit tribes, apparently, so I looked up what was going on to see if I could help out in any way… They have- there’s this website [the Early Childhood Education Inuit Language and Culture Funding]... They have a PayPal. I send money over there.
Emma: … Is anyone here still in college? Or has everyone graduated?
Emma: Okay. But you guys started this and the collective and the DIY stuff while you were in college. How has it changed now that you’re in the post-grad world?... Has anything changed?
Dan: Well, I live in another town.
Jackson: It’s a long answer… Yes and no, I mean the original tenants of Pablo moved out, moved to Charlotte. There’s new people in. We’re still figuring it out. It’s different… We’ve had one show… with the new tenants, and it was chill.
Dan: … It’s a lot of balancing work and life because, personally, when I graduated a year ago, there was a lot of balancing, you know, needing to live as an adult and make money and pay bills, but also, [I] wanna keep playing music and doing what you love, so, and that’s been fun and interesting to like try and find that balance, and I think that goes for like a lot of people. Like Jackson’s got a full-time job, and... we both work King of Pops together, and that’s really fun. So, yeah. Just finding that balance, basically, is what’s different when you graduate, and it’s fun and interesting and definitely worth the struggle.
Emma: This is towards the last section, so we’re getting there... You guys obviously go on tour a lot. You’re on tour right now, or at least, doing shows in other cities... It’s like a mini-tour.
Jackson: One-stop tour, baby! World tour...
Emma: One of the things you guys do a lot on your instagrams and all that are post like these video diaries of fun things that happen on tour. What have been like you favorite incidents or happenings on tour?... It can be everyone give their own.
Jackson: [Tim] didn’t tour with us.
Tim: No, but I’ve watched those videos-
Jackson: You will soon, man… The hotel story!
Dan: Yeah, one time, we rolled up, we rolled up with a van of how many people?
Molly: Was it eight?
Dan: It was a total of eight....
Molly: It was 3:00 a.m. in New Jersey.
Jackson: There was a situation…
Dan: Anyway, so we rolled up with a van of - it was eight people...
Molly: It was 10 people, but two- you two got out, so it was eight people in a van.
Dan: There were eight people in the van, plus two. Me and Wesley got out and went into the hotel. The plan… The plan was to sneak all 10 of us into one hotel room, and it was gonna be me and Wesley went in there and talked to the guy, and, at some point… He looked a little like Mario, which was fun. It made it a little easier to lie to him. So, meanwhile, while we’re in there talking to him, getting the room, everything’s going fine, Taylor, who’s driving the van, pulls it around to the right side - van still on. So, he offers to show us the door where we can bring our luggage in, and at that point, I’m like, “Oh no.” I wanted this man to stay behind the desk, where he could be less likely to see 10 people. So, he comes out and shows us the door, and we’re like, “Okay, thanks!” In clear line of the door is the 10-person van, which he can... see is still running, and Taylor has the window down and is just staring out of the window at the door - at all of us - and just watching this whole thing, and we’re pretending like we don’t know them. So, we walk away, and he sees the van, and he’s like, “Okay.” And then he comes back out, and he’s like, “Is this your vehicle?” And Wesley said no. I said yes.
Dan: And he said, “How many people are in the van?” And I said, “Eleven,” which wasn’t even the correct amount of people in the van, but I panicked, and I thought, “Maybe this man would have some heart and let us live in the hotel for a night.” Turns out, he does not have a heart, and he was very mean, and he told us to go away. And, basically, we found another place, but that was just a fun, wacky experience...
Jackson: On our most recent tour, we went up north, and our drummer, Brandon Gallagher... got married about a year ago. We had two days off, so he was going to fly back home to surprise his wife for their one-year anniversary, which is adorable. However, he’s basically our dad on tour. He keeps us sane and controlled, so, as soon as he left, pretty much all mayhem broke. Dan’s story happened immediately after... We went to New York, and pretty much lost each other for a while. We morally-
Dan: We devolved...
Molly: Can you tell the story about how we were squatting?
Jackson: We squatted. Yeah, okay that’s a good one. Cancel this story. That was the sweet thing about Brandon, but scratch the record. In New York, we were staying at a friend’s dorm for some college in... downtown Brooklyn. These dorms happened to be like sky-rise.
Dan: We were on like the 27th floor...
Jackson: It was like a high-rise, and there was, you know, the apartment was big enough for all of us to sleep there, very cramped though, but the two apartments right next to it were empty, so we squatted, and the next morning they came in with like, I think six people lying on the ground, and he was like- I wasn’t there. Were you in the room?
Dan: Yeah, we were all in our boxers, and someone, oh, I think it was Nicolette came inside and said, “There’s a guy outside, and he says this is his place,” and we were still in bed and had been awake for maybe five minutes, and we said, “Oh, okay.” And then we were like, “Give us a couple minutes,” and she went out and like told the guy, she was like, “Hey, there’s a like a couple people in there,” and he was really chill about it, but then we just like, we hauled, we had mattresses in there that we took from the other rooms, so we had all of our like suitcases and mattresses, and I think it was like, I think it was like five people in the room just start like coming out, and this guy’s just standing there like watching us, and he eventually was just like, went into his room, and that was it. He was really cool. He’s a nice guy.
Emma: What is your go-to tour playlist in the car? ‘Cause you’re all in there for a while.
Jackson: I have a playlist that contains multiple repeats of “Funkytown,” and “Swing” by Savage..: And Johnny Horton, “The Battle of New Orleans.”
Emma: And we’re gonna finish this up with one last fun thing. Each of you give a fun fact about yourself.
Tim: I have nine siblings.
Jackson: I’ve recently been diagnosed with Ligma.
Dan: Both of my parents have PhD’s in chemistry because they’re big ole nerds.
Molly: My mom named me after a scientific element: Molybdenum, element 42.
Minna: My real name isn’t Wesley; it’s John.
Emma: Any closing comments, anything else you’d like to say?
Dan: One, two, three, four, Go, Tigers, Go!
Jackson: “CA-CAW!” That’s relevant to my experience.
Article by Managing Editor Emma Grabowski, @emwhitney
Photos by Alex Mielcarek, @can.us
Disclaimer: The Rival at CofC does not promote the use of cigarettes or nicotine or tobacco products. The use of cigarettes has been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, and other health risks.
This article has been lightly edited for length.