By Joseph Mazzola
Applesauce Tears is an instrumental band formed in Athens by a self described “collection of talented/unemployable friends and acquaintances.” When trying to describe their sound, I usually default to “just listen to it, I can’t explain it super well,” but the home page on their website describes them as “a collective producing instrumental atmospheric, cinematic indie psych-rock.”
I got a chance to talk to Craig Bennett of Applesauce Tears recently about their new album, Encounters.
Hello! This is Joseph with WUOG. I am here with Applesauce Tears, we are here to talk about their new album Encounters. I’m stoked. But before we get into that, could you tell us a little bit about your band, and when and where you started.
Well, Applesauce Tears actually started in Athens. It was kind of a little side-project of mine when I played in other groups here. When I moved to Atlanta, I continued to play under that name and brought in other people to play with me. The idea: it is an instrumental band. I always liked the breaks of songs. You know—verse, chorus, and the breaks always fascinated me, where a song could go off onto a tangent. And so I thought, “Why not build a band just on that tangent, on that aesthetic?” That’s kind of how it started. And after a while, I realized I sort of missed the verse and the chorus that I removed when songwriting. So I had to work those back in to make the breaks sound interesting. And that’s kind of how the project began.
Nice! So you said you started in Athens. When did you move to Atlanta?
Oh, many lifetimes ago. I played in a couple of bands here. We did Live in the Lobby and all that stuff. Moved over to Atlanta . . . It was some time ago. It was a different scene over there. Coming from Athens, which always felt . . . I always say Athens was like a sweater that you get at a thrift store. And Atlanta was more like a leather jacket. At least with booking shows and playing with other bands and stuff. But yeah, playing in an instrumental band, you’ve got to look for your places to play. It can be a little tricky sometimes. Certain people don’t know what to make of an instrumental group. And then, if we add vocals, I think it would upset people too. So we’ve stayed true to our initial plan.
Sweet! So before we talk about Encounters, I do want to talk about how past albums have been received. We talked a little bit earlier about NACC charts. Can you tell us about how people have been receiving Applesauce Tears projects in the past?
Yeah, when it first started, we sent our record out to some promotional companies, and didn’t hear from anybody in 3 weeks. And feelings were hurt, and thought, “Oh well, to hell with everybody.” And then a company came to us and said, “Oh we love it!” And we said, “Okay let’s do it!” Then after that, a bunch of other companies started coming in saying, “We’ll do it, we’ll promote it!” So, we were happy with this one company, and they said they could get it charted, and we didn’t know what that meant—or at least we couldn’t imagine it. And it did chart on the national chart, for one week, our Damages record. And that was really exciting to see us, our name, with other bands. And then the next record came out and we charted for 4 weeks and made it into the Top 100. And then the next one charted, broke the top 50—this was the College Music Journal at the time. And each record has done better until the last one was one spot ahead of Belle & Sebastian for a week—which I thought was really cool, ’cause I love Belle & Sebastian. So yeah, we really stuck it to them that one week! And of course, Belle & Sebastian took off. And again, this is mostly just kind of fun things we see on the charts. I don’t get too hung up on them—although I do seem to know a lot about each chart position. It’s fun! But it does validate what you’re doing in a way. And also just to see you’re charting in individual stations. Like in Austin, the station there. Or Radio K in Minneapolis, which is a big one. Of course, WUOG is great. I mean, these are the top stations in the country to me—they ARE to anybody who knows what’s going on. Berklee is another good station. When you see your band up there with those other acts, it’s pretty cool! So with each release, we have a good relationship with our promoter, and with each one we seem to be making a little dent in the world. So hopefully this new one will stick around and stay around on the chart and linger throughout the year. We still see stations are playing our records even after the album is out. The catalog—each time we release a record, it seems to stimulate the catalog. The next thing you know, these earlier albums, a song will be discovered and played. And that is really cool.
That’s a long answer to a short question.
No, that’s a good one!
So with this new album, Encounters, how does this differ from past Applesauce Tears releases in the past?
There’s a looseness to all the records. I like studio banter, I like that you can hear some voices, especially when the players are a little lost in the song. I don’t like to remove that. It captures something that’s real. Early days of my recording, I did everything I could to get rid of tape hiss, and get rid of the crickets outside, and someone running an air conditioner, whatever. Car going by. And then, once I got rid of all that stuff, I missed it. I was like, “I kind of wish we still, you know, I wish I had these things.” So now we find ourselves actively putting artifacts back into our records. That’s why that record is called Artifacts. To just let things be. Especially in this digital world of ours and everything, I want to get back to something a little more real. So this new record is a lot of that. There’s acoustic guitar, live mics, technical things no one would really care about that much, I guess. But it feels a little more live, I think, is how I would describe it. And there’s a real ’60s rock band influence. It’s a little more upbeat than we’re used to being. Straightforward, in a way, but it’s also done with, there’s a lot of wobbly modulation, which is a big part of our sound. We never let that go. We like things that are off. We create this sonic mess, and then try to carve a song out of it.
Sweet! When you were recording Encounters, what were some stand-out moments, stand-out bits of tracks that you like, or just stand-out tracks in general that you think are interesting that you want to share.
Well, it started out to be a record of maybe five long pieces. Maybe one or two short tunes and the rest REALLY long. That was the idea. And I thought, “Well, if we do a 10 minute song, how many people are gonna be able to hear it? And, I’ve got this nice little bit tucked into a song, but 10 minutes is an investment.” So next thing I knew, everything started getting carved out and those long pieces turned into individual songs. We were able to do one tune, “The Docks at Bootle,” that managed to be 7.5 minutes long. That’s our long one. But they were supposed to all be long like that, and it’s got a number of movements in it. So instead of letting the long piece happen, we just took those movements and turned them into songs. That’s kind of what happened. I just, I lost my nerve. I thought, “I don’t know if I can do the really super long songs.” So these are some of the shortest songs we’ve done, actually. So my stand-out tunes are a tune called “Three Sweets,” which has a pretty heavy Smiths influence. Johnny Marr, the guitar player from The Smiths is a favorite of mine. So that has that kind of sound. So that might be a stand-out. I do hear almost a kind of a garage band kind of going for it in a couple of places, which is kind of unique for us.
I know that one of your inspirations or influences is film score soundtracks.
Could you talk a little bit about that? Because when I was listening to your work, I was taken aback by it. I was like, “This should be in a movie!” So, why did that influence come into this project, and how do you think it makes Applesauce Tears special?
I don’t know. I think it was back in the days of really trying hard to learn how to write a song. Finally, I thought I was there in a way. I’m a huge Bowie fan. He’s theatrical, he’s everything. I love his work. I was really trying to write verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and then that break. And I think the break, I would notice these breaks would go somewhere else, and that kind of became that film score vibe or sound. And, just, maybe the music goes some place and never comes back to something familiar. It just keeps going and then it turns into something else. Roxy Music is another old band that I love. It starts out one way—could be a real straight rock and roll, almost a ’50s romp—and then it turns into something totally different. And that is a huge influence to me. I love that, when you’re taken somewhere else inside of a song.
I would love for these to play. If the next Fargo series wants to put these behind some credits, that would be really great. Do you know anybody who can do that?
I can make some calls! I’ll see what I can do.
Lastly—I’ve got 2 more questions—what have you been listening to recently?
I like the Lil Yachty record. More than his hip-hop or rap records, I like this record he came out with! I thought it was incredible. He’s got a single now that I listen to a lot. I love his sounds! I listen to that a lot. I tend to go back, I listen to Ennio Morricone, the Italian soundtrack guy. He’s known for his Westerns, but 90% of his material is not Westerns. And it’s great. I’m always telling people to look him up. I love Burt Bacharach, who just passed away. I love melody. And so, I go after these guys. Some of this stuff might seem a little corny to people, but I love melody, and Burt Bacharach was all about that.
What puts me in the 21st century is Lil Yachty, I guess. [laughter] We could go on and on, ’cause I love talking about music. Oh, the new Slowdive record! That’s something I like! I was a fan of theirs when they came out, and Spotify tells me I listened to them quite a bit. So that’s another band for sure.
And, where can we find you and your music?
Well, we’re at applesaucetears.com, we’re everywhere you stream. The new record is out now, available to stream. You can buy it, vinyl or compact disk, from our website. Our label is blackcottagerecords.com, you can find us there. And you should find us at the downtown Athens record stores, and if you don’t you should complain. But they should be at those stores too. Vinyl and, I don’t know about CDs. They may have CDs there. Just, anywhere you get your music, there’s a good chance you’ll find us.
Encounters by Applesauce Tears is out now on Black Cottage Records.