Q&A with Apollo Sunshine's Sam Cohen

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Diverse, surprising albums and an explosive, inventive live show are the hallmarks of Apollo Sunshine, a trio of friends – Sam Cohen, Jesse Gallagher and Jeremy Black – who met at the Berklee College of Music the better part of a decade ago. The group’s three albums, including the brand-new Shall Noise Upon, have garnered critical acclaim and an enthusiast fan base. We caught up with Cohen between tour stops to talk about the band’s influences, live show and sound.

Westword (Cory Casciato): Let me throw out a few comparisons I’ve heard and get your reaction: The Flaming Lips, Dr. Dog and Beck. What do you think of those?

Sam Cohen: I’m happy with all those comparisons. I thought you were going to throw some stuff at me where it was like, “These guys have been brushing up on their blah blah blah records” that I’ve never, ever heard. “These guys have clearly been spending weeks on end on methamphetamines learning XTC records note for note,” and I’m like, “I think I once bought Lemons and Oranges [sic] and returned it the next day.”

WW: Are there any comparisons you have heard that you do find particularly loathsome?

SC:The worst one ever was … a kid comes up to me [after a show], and he’s got the big eyes and he’s kind of whacking his fingers on his temples like, “My mind is blown!”, right? And he’s like “Okay, that was amazing, and I don’t want to say you’re imitating, more like channeling. You’re channeling Tom Morello!” [laughs] It was just like, ooh, ouch.

WW: What do you consider your influences on this record?

SC:It’s kind of all over the place. I’ve gone through so many phases prior to making [this] record that it all sort of shows up in different ways: different Afrobeat and Tropicalia and psychedelic stuff, and rare funk cuts and Serge Gainsbourg and French singers. Hearing all that stuff and, a lot of the time, hearing it compiled into a mix. When something ties together a lot of diverse elements, you almost wish it was one band. In my head, that’s what I wanted to happen.

WW: I hope this isn’t a dirty word, but I understand you have a proclivity to “jam” live?

I think it’s safe to say we like to jam out on some stuff. It’s not a dirty word. As long as you’re not making stupid, pointless sounds for way too long and making idiotic faces while you do it, it’s a totally valid way of performing, you know? If we improvise, we’re not standing there on stage going like, “Are people going to take this like us being comparable to Phish or Widespread Panic?” It’s like, improvising? Come on, no one owns that. You can’t be like, “If you improvise, you have bad taste.”

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