Lexington, Kentucky, is a smallish city smack dab in the middle of the South. It is home to the University of Kentucky, several Civil War museums and a whole lot of horses, hence its nickname: The Horse Capital of the World. At last count, the population was 260,512.
Get ready to make that 260,515. Lexington will soon become the home of Robert Schneider and Hilarie Sidney, the husband/wife combo that serves as the core of the Apples in Stereo. After years of leading the most successful independent Denver band that many Denverites have never heard of, Schneider and Sidney -- along with their still very small first child, Max -- are planning to get out of D-Town and head for Dixie.
Does this mean that Denver's cool quotient just went down a point or two? Possibly. Since forming in 1993, the Apples have become one of indie pop's more enduring -- and endearing -- bands, a point of pride for locals who don't relish Colorado's reputation as a bastion of hippie rock and jam-band music. The fruity outfit has done more than its share to bolster our underground cred, even garnering acclaim in cartoonland via last year's contribution to Heroes & Villains, the soundtrack for the Powerpuff Girls series. Large numbers of European youths, who turn up to pack venues when the band plays across the water, know Denver because of the Apples' supermelodic psychapop. That sound is captured on the band's three studio albums (beginning with 1995's Fun Trick Noisemaker) and one live effort (last year's Live in Chicago).
"There's a small group of fans, friends and supporters who will miss us, but I think the general music scene won't miss us at all, because we never had any impact on it whatsoever," Schneider says. "Denver has been great, we love it here, but we have always been a band that was kind of like 'fuck you' -- not to the town or the people, but just to any kind of mainstream ambition. A lot of the bands here come out really sounding like they are trying to be this big band, and we early on rejected the idea of 'Okay, let's get some big amps and girls and a major-label contract.'"
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Maybe the question is not why the big Apples are leaving, but why they stuck around so long in the first place. The band sells out shows in major cities around the country, often in venues whose capacity far exceeds that of the 15th Street Tavern (where infrequent Apples shows usually take place). The Apples' popularity outside of Denver supports Backwash's Theory of the Ignored Local Natural Wonder (whereby, for example, Arizona natives never visit the Grand Canyon because, after all, it is always right there): Artists who make a name for themselves usually have the hardest time winning the attention of the people with whom they share a zip code.
"I think this happens in every city, that the local bands are just sort of taken for granted," Schneider says. "The music scene centers a lot around bar patrons and drinking rather than actual music. People who are into music are more likely to go see a touring band than someone who's here, because it's more of a limited commodity. They just think because we are here, they could see us all the time. It's funny, because what the Apples are outside of Denver is totally different from what we are here."
That said, Schneider, a native of South Africa who has lived in both Louisiana and Kentucky, explains that the move is motivated by reasons far more practical than any measure of hometown love. For one, Sidney has family there. Equally important, Lexington is cheaper than Denver, an appealing quality no matter who you are, but especially if you are a couple of indie artists raising a child. And considering the nature of the Apples' organization -- which revolves around recording and touring -- the base location doesn't seem to matter that much. Busy Schneider, a producer-for-hire and compulsive collaborator, wasn't really around all that much, anyway. (Did you ever see the guy at the grocery store? At the movies? Me either.) Working out of Lexington, with its proximity to larger cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston -- as well as to the Georgia-based Elephant 6 Collective, which Schneider helped found -- actually makes plenty of sense.
"We make all of our money off of record sales and touring," Schneider says. "We literally make $1,000 a year in Denver. So I can't think of any one way that this move will change anything. I'm sure people who hear we are moving will assume it's so that we can try to make it somewhere other than here. But we're actually moving to a place that is less successful or associated with music than here."
What may be harder to figure out are the logistics of keeping the Apples going with their current lineup, since Schneider and Sidney will be so many miles away from guitarist John Hill, who is also a member of Dressy Bessy, the poptet that seems most poised to assume the Apples' throne. Let's not forget what happened when Slim Cessna's Auto Club tried to keep the transcontinental-band thing on cruise control after Cessna moved to Rhode Island a couple of years ago. It didn't work, and the new Auto incarnation is a decidedly non-Denver affair. (Is anyone else noticing a pattern here? We request a mandate requiring all successful bands to stay here.)
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The Apples won't repeat the Cessna scenario, Schneider insists. Distance be damned, the band will continue more or less as it has been.
"We never really practice as a band that much anyway, unless we are getting ready to record or tour," he says. "We will keep a practice space here, and we'll drive back and forth to rehearse and record, and so will John. The Apples will still be based here; our post office box will still be here. I doubt anyone will really notice that we are even gone, aside from our friends and family."
And Schneider and Sidney will be so busy, they won't have time to miss the scene they've left behind. SpinART Records will release the Apples' next full-length, a "fuzzed-out rock record" tentatively titled The Apples, in the late summer. Schneider is working on a solo album, and he and Sidney are also getting ready to record an album with Andy Partridge of XTC in England this summer; that effort will be released under the name Trombone Or. ("In French it means 'golden paper clip,'" Schneider adds mysteriously.) The two also plan to take classes at the University of Kentucky and to make records in the house basement studio. And they'll soon be back on a Denver stage, Schneider promises.
"We will probably play here more than we ever did before," he says. "People might not even believe we moved."