Chess-loving London-based duo offer a dynamic, multi-instrumental take on pop-infused alternative catalogue
A hulking monolith brazen with fickleness and a lack of patience, the current music industry is ever-evolving, ploughing through artists who don’t carry the prowess or flexibility to manoeuvre an increasingly populated market. Whilst the industry has the capacity for making careers instantaneously, it happens also to be a stifling barrier for developing bands who require the time and dexterity to mould their unique sound core. It is a rarity for bands to find such a congenial sound immediately, yet for London-based duo APRE, the foundations of creativity seem to be firmly laid for what could be a vital year.
The alternative pop duo, consisting of Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny managed to manufacture almost sixty tracks within their first two years, and following significant label interest, signed to giants Polydor in the latter stages of 2018. Yet unlike the traditional tales of band formations, APRE’s coming-together was a product of unique circumstances. Avid chess players, the pair were introduced to each other at Ealing Chess Club by its owner, following Konieczny’s departure from Kent to the capital. Having been offered a back room at the club to practice in, the pair first bonded when ‘my gran needed the lawn mowing and Jules needed the extra cash,’ chuckles Brown. ‘He came around and mowed the lawn for her for £20 and while he was there I said do you want to play some stuff. I played him some stuff because I was doing some production work and then we tried writing a song.’
Having musical roots embedded within both families, it’s no surprise to see how the contrasting musical influences of their childhoods have permeated the music they are now producing. Whilst Konieczny looked back towards the 80s and the likes of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush; for Brown, a drummer since the age of three, John Bonham and Led Zeppelin soundtracked his early years before the mid-2000s indie rock scene of Foals and Bombay Bicycle Club acted as the catalyst for the young teenager to reach out towards production. ‘I actually thought production was going to be my main thing,’ he says. ‘I thought I was going to be a producer but the skills I learned from production actually helped me on this project. A lot of what we make is very production heavy. The APRE sound comes from the production.’
“If [songwriting’s] not easy then it’s probably not very good….If you spend hours and hours chiselling at an idea, maybe it’s just not a very good idea.” Brown
APRE (taken from the French for ‘after’), use time as a staple concept within their rich bed of music. With three EP’s rooted in the modern age, Brown explains how the EP titles link in with their chosen concept. ‘The Movement of Time is obviously to do with time,’ he says. ‘The second one, I did a dissertation called Drum Machines Kill Music and I went back to the time where drum machines kind of revolutionised the music which we listen to, the eighties and that so that was a movement through that time and the last EP, Everyone’s Commute, is all about the future and how we all commute through life but aren’t communicating with one another because we’re locked into our phones. Brown offers his explanation of the third EP with a dejected sigh. His dismay at the breakdown of conventional conversation is clear, and he projects that the cover for the third EP, in front of trains, highlights the unique location for viewing humanity 'locked into another universe.’
“When you’ve wanted something so much and then you actually get there, what happens next?” Konieczny
Despite Brown’s subtle animosity towards modernity’s relationship with technology, APRE’s current soundscape is an effervescent arrangement of technology-laden productions, making the London duo an enticing prospect moving forward. 2018’s debut EP The Movement of Time possesses the likes of All Yours, a gentle funk-infused single containing a melodic guitar and keys combination that slinks a slow-winding course, and Don’t You Feel Like Heaven, a lifting synth-pop single highlighting the melodic capabilities of the duo from the very beginning.
2018’s follow-up EP Drum Machines Killed Music furthers ambitions, with enticing synth-pop Without Your Love containing glowing similarities to The 1975’s extravagant and kooky brand of musical dynamism. The delirious, dreamlike riff on Everybody Loves You feels destined for hazy summer afternoons, chiming with a sense of relaxed beauty. Keen to simply float into the distance along a steady course of progression, the single filters through to EP closer U/Me, a heavy-hearted dose of synth-oriented melancholy in which Brown gives his most raw and emotive performance to date.
Despite their prowess across a range of instruments, the duo declares that their songwriting process, despite its technicality, only takes a few hours, with Brown stating that ‘if it’s not easy then it’s probably not very good.’ A firm believer that the best songs take the least amount of time to craft, Brown is at first reserved when speaking of the band’s dynamic, but slowly unravels as the time passes. ‘If you spend hours and hours chiselling at an idea, maybe it’s just not a very good idea,’ he says. ‘Many people might disagree with me on that but that seems to be our ethos that we have, we’re impatient and it works.’
‘APRE are a band capable of maintaining a presence in the mainstream market whilst offering enough diversification within the music to stay unpredictable and intoxicating.’
Whilst the writing process might be straightforward for the duo, Brown explains his desire for masking the music for the listeners. ‘Our music is quite masked, I don’t try and make it easy to understand because I feel people need to interpret it in the way they want to so I try and be a bit more vague with it,’ he confesses. ‘I think the biggest hint of what we think of the world is in a song we play at the end of our set called Dream World which definitely has some tips on our views of the government and all that stuff.’
Despite masking their true lyrical intentions, the duo have already begun the year with a statement of intent. Arguably their most impressive and statesmanlike offering to date, Everybody’s Commute is both a firm showcase of the diversification that APRE are capable of inducing into their music and also a perfect culmination of the band’s releases so far. A sonically charged offering with confrontational vocals to match, Backstreet breaks into a delightful percussion-dominated arrangement with a low-key, funk-infused core lying deep underneath the track. Gap Year 2008’s intricate acoustic arrangement is bolstered by spaciously cagey electronic percussion and a rousing chorus, whilst an insurgent riff leads an impressive instrumental break down. EP closer Falling Apart Like captures the haunting beauty of Bon Iver within Brown’s sublimely pure falsetto, whilst a picturesque landscape is painted as gentle waves of instrumentation ebb and flow to a natural conclusion.
Following three impressive EP releases, you might expect APRE to be winding down before festival season and their headline UK tour towards the latter stages of the year, yet new single Come Down acts as a testament to the duo’s multi-instrumental talents and lyrical depth. An uplifting message of love, hope and camaraderie, the single breathes life, meandering on a lush but steady path and emanating the subtle musings of Foals and Primal Scream. Intriguing flutterings of guitar melodically process throughout, whilst off-beat staccato-ed horns add a surprising depth and richness to a single permeated with colour.
Speaking of the track, the singer declares ‘It was mainly just about getting lost in life, whether it’s through relationships or alcohol, things that can kind of pull you away from reality and it’s kind of talking from the perspective of having a friend that’s going through that and you’re trying to pull them back down to earth. It definitely comes from some experiences I’ve had over the last few years.’
“Our music is quite masked, I don’t try and make it easy to understand because I feel people need to interpret it in the way they want to." Brown
Reflecting on the new single and their experience so far, APRE are perspicuous with how time has shaped the music of today. ‘When you’re going from being a teenager to your early 20s, it’s a very weird time, especially if you’re coming out of university and stuff,’ reflects Brown, with Konieczny adding ‘it’s a weird thing because we signed so quickly, everything happened so quickly, it was a lot for our brains to understand. You go from nothing to being a full-time musician, something that you’ve always wanted to do. When you get there, when you’ve wanted something so much and then you actually get there, what happens next? You lose perspective and the fact that you should be grateful for what you’ve got.’
Despite the personal hardships that both individuals have faced, a beacon of light lies on the horizon. Both Brown and Konieczny possess a quick-witted charm that infects immediately, whilst their goal and drive for the coming year is apparent. Whilst keen to let nature run its course and transport the duo wherever they need to be, they are methodical in linking their sound and brand together. All three EP’s open with ambient soundscapes (After Me, After You and After Us all tie in with the APRE translation of ‘after’). ‘We’ve always respected and been into people like Sigur Rós who are very ambient and we’ve always liked the idea of an intro to introduce the EP,’ explains Konieczny. ‘The names all tie into the APRE translation as well. For us, it’s the best way to set the tone and draw people in before you drop a single or the actual body of work. It sets the tone for what’s to come.’
‘Come Down acts as a testament to the duo’s multi-instrumental talents and lyrical depth.’
What is to come from the band is a perplexing question that will only be answered as the months roll on towards their headline tour. What is more opaque at the moment is that APRE are a band capable of maintaining a presence in the mainstream market whilst offering enough diversification within the music to stay unpredictable and intoxicating. The sublime amalgamation between the conventional, slightly pop-orchestrated choruses and the intricate, bipolarity within the percussion arrangements make APRE a band destined for soaring heights, possessing a sound so desirable to the masses, one that provides a sense of mystery alongside a familiar comfort.
Analytical, calculated and strategical, the world of chess is a stark contrast to the musical process that APRE have undergone over the last two years, yet without the iconic board game, they would merely be two separate entities, busily zipping around various projects and bands. The saying that opposites attract might be stereotypical and a touch blasé, but the welding of chess and music has created a band ready for anything. A fearless, ever-creative dynamic washes over APRE and their transgressive sound looks to hold them in good stead for the coming months.