Flashback Friday Interview: Teen Funk Blues Band —Foxy Apollo— Talk Music, Mental Health & Ageism in the Seattle Music Scene

 

Teen Music & Radical Wellness (TMRW) kicked off a couple years ago with a chance encounter with the gents of teen funk blues band, Foxy Apollo.

I will forever be thankful to Sam Ashkenazy (lead singer, guitar) and Satchel Swartz (the drummer at the time) for being open to chatting with a random stranger as part of her par-baked teen advocacy project idea. They will always hold a special place in my teen music and radical wellness heart.

Foxy Apollo has been gigging at a steady clip in Seattle and Bellingham. After you read the interview, go check out their show info @foxyapollo on Instagram or Facebook.

Greenroom shot with the gents after their High Dive show.

 

A few shots from my first and second Foxy Apollo shows.

Foxy Apollo is a teen band. This is an important detail because teenagers are, so often, written off as overly emotional or are told things like, “you’ll understand when you’re an adult.” Fuck that, I say. You don’t need to be an adult to make great music that moves people.  – Odawni

A couple of months ago, I went to a show at The Rendevouz to see friends in two bands that opened for the headliner, Foxy Apollo. After the second band, my friends and I watched as five young musicians set up their equipment on stage. My friend and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows and wide-eyes. We mouthed to one another in unison, “How old are these guys?!”

Then, they started playing. I was blown away. We all were. They had great energy. There was an air of musical prowess about them. Their respect for the musical craft was palpable.

Their sound is funky and fun and sometimes gritty but always with heart. Guitarist and lead singer, Sam Ashkenazy, has a voice that carries raw, visceral emotion. Satchel Schwartz keeps the beat going on drums with such reverence and a confident coolness.

Their music has soul. It tugs at you.



I’ve mentioned before that I think teenagers are some of the most thoughtful, ingenious, inspiring, curious, adventurous, resilient, caring and highly creative people on this planet, and these two gents are no exception.

I wanted to know more about them, the band, their inspirations and aspirations. So, after the show, I hopped up on stage and asked if they’d be down for an interview. I was so excited that they obliged.

I’ve carved out some interview highlights below but you can read a more full version here.


Foxy Apollo Facts

As an introduction to the front men of Foxy Apollo, here are a few tidbits of info. Sam and Satchel:

Are 17 and grew up in Seattle.
Met at summer camp just before 6th grade.
They played in jazz band together at Roosevelt High School.
They reconnected last year, after Sam lived on Bainbridge Island for 1.5 years, and started playing music together again.
Sam started writing songs and playing live shows at Seattle venues since 13.
Are currently studying audio engineering at Edmonds Community College through the Running Start program.
Released their self-titled debut album in 2017.

Who’s in the band?

The band is still forming. A few people who started out in the band ended up having to leave but they made a big impact. Currently, Foxy Apollo is Sam, Satchel and Zachary Schmidt (Bassist).

What’s With the Band Name?

Sam (SA): It started with me and my cousin jamming a couple summers ago. It was kind of an inside joke. We thought it was funny. It was catchy. It didn’t really mean anything at the time…it got its meaning a lot later.

Satchel (SS): We’ve jokingly called ourselves Oxy Pollo. (Remove the first two letters.)

O (me!): Or you could be Foxy Pollo – Foxy Chicken.  (haha!)


Music Influences

O: I heard some Nirvana and Built to Spill in your music, and my friend said he heard 90’s and 70’s rock.

SA: I could see that. 70’s rock is huge. I grew up listening to Neil Young and classic rock, and I got into indie rock in high school.

SS: Definitely 70’s funk like The Brothers Johnson. That’s so tight. I love that stuff.



Music & Mental Health

Writing Your Emotions

SA: I’ve been writing songs for a while. I started out imitating a couple musicians – mainly Nirvana. I was in a couple bands that were basically a mirror-image of Nirvana.

In high school, I was really stressed out. I was a little down. I got really into writing songs, putting words to how I felt. It kind of just like spills out of you. But yeah, it kind of all builds up and you’re like, “Oh shit, now I have a bunch of songs. Now I can do something with these!”

O: I started writing when I was fifteen because of depression. I didn’t know what it was then but, for me, I started writing poetry to get through it – poetry is like lyrics. Eventually, it turned into making music so I totally get the importance of having that creative outlet.

SA: Yeah. And, definitely, as I’ve gotten older, too. We just started going to Edmonds Community College. They have an amazing music program and access to studios so we’ve been working a lot there. Every day we’ve been trying to spill a little bit out.



“I Think I’m Mad”

0: Part of why I’m talking to you guys is because I’m interested in mental health and depression, especially teenage depression. I don’t know what it’s like to be a teenager now. Music can be such a personal thing so I was wondering about “I Think I’m Mad”– can you tell me a bit about that song?

SA: I started writing the song about drug addiction and a lot of self-analysis; it was more of a bond I shared with my cousin. We were talking about a lot of deep things but writing these really silly songs, covering it up with happy melodies but really kind of writing about more deep things that we couldn’t really completely comprehend.

O: That’s awesome. It’s awesome how music does that.

SS: Like Sam was saying, self-analysis has always been a big thing. I think with being a musician sometimes…if you’re like me, I like to practice a lot and you could go six hours and feel like you’ve gotten nothing done and you’re really hard on yourself.

It’s gotten to a point sometimes with me, where I won’t have any friends at the time, except for Sam, because I’ll shelter myself and then you realize everybody’s out and you’re like. Oh, alright I guess I’m here alone with a pad..messing around.

O: Right, and is that hard sometimes because you don’t have that social interaction with more people?

SS: Yeah, but I just put it back into music though. You go and listen to an album so it’s both a good and bad…


IMG_2772
Sam Ashkenazy

“I’m always gonna be making music. It’s kind of inevitable. It’s not a sacrifice for me because it’s something I’ll always do. Even if this [Foxy Apollo], specifically, doesn’t work out at some point, I’d still keep making stuff and sharing.”– Sam Ashkenazy, Lead Guitarist and Vocalist

IMG_2775
Satchel Schmidt

“[W]e both want to become professional musicians or people who work with audio. Even if it’s just becoming an audio engineer or something, doing that kind of business, but I think it’s just about the love of music. Both of us wouldn’t care living in a shithole for like..I don’t know, 40 years.”

– Satchel Schwarts, Drummer



Would You Ever Work a Desk Job?

SA: We’ve been studying a lot of stuff around the music itself, too. We’ve been studying sound engineering and visiting studios and hearing a lot of audio engineering stories. I still wanna tackle the music industry and see what else you can do around it.

Obviously, there’s a chance I might end up with another job around it but I think it’d be cool to learn about all the other stuff instead of just coming [at music] from one direction.

SS: Do you think you could ever see yourself in a desk job?

SA: Fuck no.

[Laughter ensues.]

SS: That’s a big “no.”

Facing Ageism in the Seattle Music Scene

O: There are a couple of things in your band description on FaceBook that I’m curious about, especially regarding the lack of respect you’ve experienced at live music venues in Seattle.
SA: We’ve been playing at some bars and people see these kids playing –and I’ve experienced this a lot cause I’ve been playing since I was really young– and they kind of just like…

O: …write you off?

SS: Exactly.

SA: Yeah. They’re kinda like, “Play your show and get the fuck outta here.” I mean, they don’t really treat you with the same respect [as adults.]

SS: We’ve played shows where I’ve literally had to set up my drum kit outside the venue and carry it in onto the stage and, right after, immediately leave.

SA: ..and get escorts to the bathroom. I mean, I get it. They’re cracking down…but it’s less about the concerns of underage drinking and more about how people view young musicians, their perspective of them.

SS: We’re like free entertainment to them and they can just treat us like crap.

O: That’s messed up. It sounds like you’ve found some places that are better about that?

Both: Oh yeah. Those are only a select few.

SA: It’s really opened our eyes and it made us realize that we really want to be doing this ourselves; not relying on others to promote us cause a lot of promoters aren’t doing their part…

O: That’s frustrating.

SS: It makes it fun though.

O: You also wrote that you have a “meticulous approach to playing” – What do you mean? Meticulous in what way?

SS: We both play in a very distinct style and they’re both very exact in their own ways, that together makes a whole new sound..it’s different.

SA: Also, aside from the style, we connect a lot to it. Each part of it is telling its own story in a way.

SS: It’s definitely a very thoughtful process…


And these are very thoughtful guys. I’m inspired by their conviction, dedication, commitment and passion to create and share their music. I have no doubt that they’ll do and become whatever it is they aspire to be, musically or otherwise.

Foxy Apollo recently released a few new tracks!

My favorite are Boat Plane/Dolphin. Listen to their new and old stuff on Soundcloud.

Follow @foxyapollo on INstagram, Facebook & Twitter!

Note: Some portions of the interview were omitted to respect confidentiality and privacy. Additionally, some portions of the interview were slightly edited for clarity and brevity.

This interview was originally posted here.


Interview: Seattle emo edm musician, wilsonlikethevolleyball (Part 2)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

[Photos taken at the Gypsy Temple “Pick a Number” video and single release show at Seatle all-ages venue, The Vera Project. Pictured L-R: Cameron Lavi-Jones and Wilson Rahn, AKA wilsonlikethevolleyball]
…continued from Part 1 where wilsonlikethevolleyball shares his history with music, thoughts about how music connects with mind wellness, and he delves into the meaning of my favorite song, “Tell Me I’ll Be Fine.” Read Part 1 and listen to the song! Or read Part 2 first. That’s cool, too.


What would you tell teens who currently struggle with mental health issues, or who struggle with negative feelings, like feeling invisible, unloved, not good enough etc.? 

Well, the first and most frustrating piece of advice I think I can give is that loving yourself is more important than anything else. Something I currently struggle with is that I never want to be alone because I don’t like hanging out with myself. This is destructive and it will tear you apart.

Try to find something you have in common with your negative self, and for me its 100% music. Both happy Wil and sad Wil can get down to some djent metal, so I listen to djent metal — helps me love myself just a bit more each time.

Also, just know that what you put out into the world will circle back to you; it can be really hard to hear when you feel awful and you don’t know how to be happy in the moment, but people will definitely be more excited when you are excited.

If you can find that one thing that pulls you even just a bit out of whatever hole you are currently climbing out of, do it. Feeling better weirdly and frustratingly begins with simply feeling better. Whatever stimulus you need to kick-start that, find it.

TMRW aims to dispel the ageist perspective of teens as being “lazy,” “dramatic,” “overly-sensitive” etc. Do you have any words to counter this pervasive perspective? 

Oh yeah, 100%. We wouldn’t be “lazy,” “dramatic,” or “overly-sensitive” if we weren’t taught by everything around us that we weren’t worthy of love, praise, or acceptance if we didn’t completely overwork ourselves.

Modern capitalism and consumerism force our parents to overwork themselves makes our teachers tired, tells us that we have to start thinking about college as 15-year-olds, and all the while telling us we’re lucky to live in America. Growth doesn’t occur in a pressure chamber.

What do you think teens have to offer the community?

Teens of 2018 are doing their best to learn how to live from each other because the models we were given are broken and depressing. Its hard but, hopefully, we can be a model for future generations that strength is not in the knowing, it’s in the finding.

Describe your music and/or musical identity with 3 words and 2 emojis.

Emo
Passion
Digital
pink rose emojiblue butterfly emoji


This is my second favorite wilsonlikethevolleyball song. You should listen to it.


Check out more music by wilsonlikethevolleyball: wilsonlikethevolleyball.weebly.com 


Tell Me I’ll Be Fine :: Lyrics

Sleep takes me slowly from my toxic energy
Cleanses me
Fall through the frequencies till muscle lethargy
I’m ready

I felt so balanced and so clear
These past two weeks I didn’t fear
My demons thirsty
It’s so easy to explore your soul
When you don’t care about the answers
And so, begins the cancer

And I’m improving all the time
Could someone please inform my mind
Cause all it points out are my failures

And when I’m begging to unwind
And empty bottles seem too kind
I have to ask of you one favor
Tell me I’ll be fine

Desperately clinging to my last epiphany
Feel it escape me
Descending swiftly through my caustic symphony
My burning building

I felt so balanced and so clear

Don’t let me slip back into fear

My demons thirsty
It’s so easy to ignore your soul
When you are riddled with distractions
And so, begins inaction

And I’m improving all the time
Could someone please inform my mind
Cause all it points out are my failures

And when I’m begging to unwind
And empty bottles seem too kind
I have to ask of you one favor
Tell me I’ll be fine
Tell me I’ll be fine
Tell me I’ll be fine


Do you want to be featured on TMRW?

Interview: Seattle emo edm musician, wilsonlikethevolleyball (Part 1)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

[Photos courtesy of @wilsonlikethevolleyball_]

My introduction to Seattle musician, wilsonlikethevolleyball (Wilson Rahn), was a few weeks ago at a live performance, Gypsy Temple‘s “Pick a Number” single and video release show at Seattle’s all-ages venue, The Vera Project.

I’ve been a fan of Gypsy Temple for a year, so I’ve known Wilson as a guitarist and vocalist in Gypsy Temple; when I saw him take the stage as an opener, I was stoked.

I was entranced by his music, his voice, his stage presence and the way you can see each beat pulsate throughout his body. His set made it one of my top shows this year. I had to reach out and ask for an interview.

First! Play his song, “Tell Me I’ll Be Fine,” my favorite wilsonlikethevolleyball song, –I’ve listened to it a LOT– and read on.



Tell me a bit about your history with music and creating music.
When did your interest in music (listening and creating) begin? 

I don’t actually remember beginning to like music. It feels like its always been something that captured me. I remember when my family started to notice that I could sing tho! I used to come out of movies as a five- or six-year-old singing the main theme to the movie.

What was your first favorite song or album?

My first favorite song was probably “Good Riddance (Time of your Life)” by Green Day.

What was the impetus to start writing music? 

I started writing music almost as soon as I got a guitar. My sister was five years older than me so I was always listening to what she was, and at the time, I was really inspired, actually, by Avril Lavigne. We had this DVD called the “My World Tour” and I just remember watching her and her band rocking out and skateboarding, and I just wanted to emulate that.

Were you in a teen band?

I have been in a number of bands, the first of which was called Tropical Penguins basically through elementary school. Then, in middle school, I was in two bands called Blame the Average and, subsequently, Black Gingham which continued on through high school.

For the most part, these three bands were what really shaped my early songwriting, especially in the rock world. When I got out of the bands is when I began experimenting with solo acoustic work and electronic music, as they could be done with no other members.

How does your craft of music creation relate to your sense of well-being; particularly your mind wellness? What does making music give you? 

Music, for me, is the weirdest brand of poisonous cure. I don’t think music has ever calmed me down without first wringing me out, but I suppose that’s why I like it so much.

When I am in a bad state, if I watch TV or something, I am probably just gonna push down whatever I was feeling. But when I listen to music, I face it head on and deal with it in that moment and come out the other side with less on my chest.

As for making music, it’s kind of a similar process – just drawing out the poison in me and using music as a tool to shape it into something useful instead of destructive. I feel that lyric writing, especially, can really help externalize inner turmoil.

Photos and video taken at The Vera Project; GIF created by Liv Rougier.


It seems your song, “Tell Me I’ll be Fine,” addresses addiction and
negative automatic thinking – a symptom of mind wellness issues. Please share a bit about the song.

What’s the inspiration? When did you write it? 

Yeah, so “Tell Me I’ll Be Fine”, I wrote it in October/November-ish era of 2016 right when I had just started university. The first couple weeks of school, I was the most zen I had ever been in my entire life. I wasn’t happy or sad or anything, just super accepting of anything and everything that came my way.

When I wrote “Tell Me I’ll Be Fine”, I was starting to come down off of that and I really was just sad that I was gonna start acting like a human again instead of like a contemporary monk.

As for inspiration, I literally was just having an average-bad night and I decided to walk home and start writing, and the next day I reproduced the whole track and that’s the final that I published!

Who are you talking to in the song — who are you asking to tell you that you’ll be fine? 

I am definitely talking to myself. I had a conversation with an excellent lyricist friend, Paul, and he told me that his biggest criticism of my lyrics at the time was my overuse of the ambiguous “you.”

“Tell Me I’ll Be Fine” marked the beginning of an important step in my lyricism where I began to consider words as a paintbrush for a scene and a story instead of just a conversation.

Tell me about your experience as a teenager. Did you experience any mind wellness issues as a teen (e.g. depression, anxiety) — first- or second-hand? If so, how did you deal with them? How do you feel mind wellness issues impacted you as a teen? How does it impact you now?

Honestly, I was an excessively privileged teenager. I really had no issues with mental health until last November when I first began to experience what it meant to be suicidal. I utilized the University of Washington’s Counseling Center and began to work through some of my depression and anxiety.

Since then, I have been working to find a system that works for me. I am lucky to have an incredible support system and I am continually working on myself to hopefully one day master my mind.

What were the main issues you experienced or observed as a teen? (e.g. bullying via social media, lack of support at home.) What do you think are the causes of these issues? 

Honestly, I was a relatively disengaged teenager. I found a friend group that I really enjoyed really quickly and then did Running Start to escape what I felt at the time were the trivialities of high school.

Something that continues to bother me to this day though is the hive-minded culture of growing up. I feel like it’s so easy to be the collective bully. While I am certain I never directly contributed to the hurt of another student, something that really bothers me about high school is how easy it is to make people feel alone simply by avoiding eye contact or not saying “Hi”.

Any thoughts or ideas on how to address these issues?

As for how to address them, I honestly think it just starts with recognizing that, while you may be the main character in your story, you’re just a cinematic object in another person’s.

Try to be a positive supporting character in other people’s stories as much as possible because something as simple as remembering someone’s name and saying “whats up” when you pass them in the hall, that can go miles.

 

[I call this diptych, “Wilson’s Hair” – Photos taken at Gypsy Temple’s “Pick a Number” single and video release party, 2018]

The rest of the interview will be in a separate post!

These are the questions for part deux:

What would you tell teens who currently struggle with mental health issues, or who struggle with negative  feelings, like feeling invisible, unloved, not good enough etc.? 

TMRW aims to dispel the ageist perspective of teens as being “lazy,” “dramatic,” “overly-sensitive” etc. Do you have any words to counter this pervasive perspective? 

What do you think teens have to offer the community?

Describe your music and/or musical identity with 3 words and 2 emojis.

Stay tuned for wilsonlikethevolley’s responses and lyrics for “Tell Me I’ll Be Fine.”  !!


Check out more music by wilsonlikethevolleyball: wilsonlikethevolleyball.weebly.com 
Follow his Instagram: @wilsonlikethevolleyball_


Do you want to be featured on TMRW? LMK!