For a band who once played a gig to three people in Tunbridge Wells, two of whom got removed for doing the worm in front of the stage, London wonky-pop duo APRE are doing gloriously well for themselves these days. In the wake of the scorching debut mini-album, the pair talked isolation songwriting and finding inspiration with Impact reporter Kess Leung.
Formed after Charlie Brown and and Jules Konieczny, both studying at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, were paired together at a chess club in Ealing, APRE had far from the most conventional of beginnings. But then again, the London duo have never been afraid to stray from the pack.
Consisting of Brown with vocals and Konieczny on the guitar, the pair were immediately bound by their love for creating music. Though they began producing and touring with a different band, they quickly found that their passion lay with writing original music, and started creating their own tracks. It was not until the release of the principal APRE track, Without Your Love, however, that the band woke up to the fact that they could pursue music full time.
“The record goes up-and-down but still sounds like APRE, which is something I’m quite proud of.”
Now, in the wake of the release of their debut mini-album, the cryptically titled Always in my Head, it is clear that the duo have evolved inconceivably since the release of their first track back in 2018. “I’d say it was kind of indie-pop, alternative vibes,” Konieczny mused when asked to define their sound on the latest album, “I really like them; I mean I’m obviously in the band and still I don’t really know what genre we are!”
Brown chimes, “I think the whole genre thing is just kind of bull***t anyway, especially as time has gone on. The record goes up-and-down – all over the place honestly – but it still sounds like APRE, which is something I’m quite proud of. He continues jovially: “I think it’s quite a hard thing to do, to explore lots of different genres and areas, but for it to still sound unique to us – I feel like we achieved that.”
Inspired by the trying current climate, lead singer Charlie Brown, was keen for the record to be an escape from all the negativity: “I think for a lot of people, it’s been a real dark time. And for me, the only way I can deal with things sometimes is to write them down or sing about them.” He takes a thoughtful breath before continuing, “it’s essentially a release of all the negative energy and thoughts that were going through my head during the start of lockdown.”
Though the record was born of a period of introspection and melancholy, its respective components are remarkably effusive, spanning countless genres with ease and poise. When asked about their respective favourites, Konieczny contemplates for a moment before settling on the 80’s-flecked retro ditty, Grab my Hand. “I’m really proud of it, that last song,” he begins, “It’s a bit weird and daring. It doesn’t really sound like anything else we’ve tried to do; the tempo increases throughout and it feels like a journey.” Brown chips in thoughtfully, “that is a pretty good song, the mix is brilliant on it. In this style of music, tempo increases aren’t really common.”
The band’s striking ability to self-produce and write all of their own music is at the heart of everything they do
In their combining of guitar-propelled riffs and silken-smooth vocals with the observational lyricism of band’s like Pet Shop Boys, the band have made their stance on traditional genre barriers indisputably clear. “With a traditional alternative-pop song, you probably wouldn’t have tempo increases and it’d feel almost like spoken word,” Brown continues, “instead we wanted that song to feel very dream-like, and luckily it turned out just right.”
Struggling to pin a favourite track, Brown settles for almost all of them: “I really like Bad Boys, Always in my Head, and Live it up,” he gushes, “Is That Really What You Live For is a special song for us too. It’s the oldest song on the record and has vocals that are over four years old, doubled up with ones I recorded six months ago. It’s a mixture of the old me and the new me, I quite like that – it’s a metaphor almost.”
Of course however, the making of Always in my Head wasn’t all plain sailing. “The title song was really hard to get right”, Brown admits. “Not from a songwriting point of view, but the actual mixing and getting the vocals to sit. Singing that chorus was a nightmare! You are just jumping from your head voice to the chest voice, and it was all over the place. So, that was quite tricky.”
But the recording process also came with its fair share of remarkable moments. “On the track I Know I’ll Find It, our record company sorted us out with an orchestra!” Konieczny chimes in glee. “We wrote the string sections for this amazing artist called Rosie Danvers, who was behind the arrangement of Adele’s song – Chasing Pavements. So, that was really cool.”
Though the bands sonic influences are far-reaching, their connection to home and honesty is palpable
For APRE, this striking ability to self-produce and write all of their music is at the heart of everything they do. So, it might come as a surprise to some that a studio version of the previously released Without your Love – Gran’s Front Room Version, features on the new record’s discography. “We always felt like there was more to have on it,” Konieczny explained, “so, for the first time ever, we took it to another producer, Mark Ralph, who works with bands like Clean Bandit. The track ended up sounding a little different from the others, and it was definitely a big learning process, going into the studio with someone else.”
Staying true to their roots embedded in self-production however, he continues: “I’m not sure we’d do it again, if I’m honest. It’s not because we didn’t get on or anything, the song itself just lost some of it’s DNA.” Brown chimed in agreement: “To me, the difference is that the old version of Without your Love sounds like APRE – our kind of wonky-pop. Whereas this new version sounds like a standard pop track.” He finishes thoughtfully, “if you stick to your own guns and the place you came from, it just works.”
Referencing their best streamed song, the magnetic alt-pop affair All Yours, and gesturing wildly to the room that the pair are currently sitting in, Brown continues: “We did that in this room, and we did every other song in this room. It connects with you because it’s real, and it sounds like APRE.” Though the bands sonic influences are far-reaching, their connection to home and honesty is palpable. “I think the moment you take the music out of this room and invite other people to be involved in it with different gear, you are just being completely different,” he explains, “it then doesn’t sound like APRE because we aren’t in our zone; we start sounding like other bands. It just isn’t my thing, in my opinion.”
For a band capable of producing music seeped in eccentricity and discovery however, their writing process is surprisingly unremarkable. “We don’t normally come into the studio with an agenda,” Konieczny admits. “Charlie and I often have ideas and riffs we like, and we would bounce them off each other for inspiration. We’re lucky because apart from my terrible singing, we both kind of play everything, so we aren’t pressured about who does which instrument!”
The world of live music may have come to a standstill, but the duo are holding out hope for the coming year
Gesturing wildly behind him again, he continues, “Charlie goes into that room, and writes the melodies and lyrics. Some of the things I’ve come up with, he [pointing to Brown] will be like ‘What the hell are you doing?’” The pair laugh fondly. “I love creating music. That’s the whole reason I’m doing it; because I like creating, more than anything. You are completely free to express yourself exactly how you want to.”
“That’s why we started making music in the first place,” Brown continues, his tone briefly switching to one of pensiveness, “because it allows us to shut off from everything for a few hours and be who we want to be.” “I could close the door and say ‘Today, I’d like to be Mariah Carey!’, and do what you want. That should be the metaphor for life, to be whatever you want to be. I think it’s hard in most other careers to do that, but that’s why I love music – for a few days or hours, you can bring yourself out of reality.”
Though the world of live music might have come to its own standstill, the duo are holding out hope for the coming year. “We’re always writing! We’ve got some new songs that we’re really excited to release soon. Hopefully, the debut album comes out next year but it’s all dependent on Covid.” “Though ideally, I’d love headline Glastonbury!” he finishes with an optimistic grin.
Brown, on the other hand, took a softer approach when asked about his future hopes for APRE: “To be having a great time, I’ve always said that I don’t really care what we do, as long as we can do what we’re doing at the moment, and that’s creating music.” He concludes with a soft smile, “as long as I can express myself through music, I am sorted. I’m really happy.”
With the recent mini-album Always in my Head released to a barrage of success and positivity, it would seem that the hard work of the London twosome is already paying off. And with more magnetic tracks in the pipeline, it is only the very beginning of APRE’s bid for world domination.
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