We had the opportunity to speak with Apes, a folk musician from Lancaster, Pennsylvania who recently started her own non-profit organization, Second Chance to Play, which helps musicians who struggle with addiction. Apes chats with us about her band, why she started Second Chance to Play, and shares her own story of addiction.
Punk Out: Sooooo. Who are you?
Apes: Hey guys ! My name is April but I usually go by Apes. I grew up in Staten Island, NY, lived all over New Jersey for a few years and now currently live in Lancaster, PA where I got started up with music and my nonprofit work.
PO: Tell us a little bit about your band and about your new record.
Apes: We are a 5 piece folk band from Lancaster, PA with a punk rock attitude and lots of fun to bring. Our members are Apes-guitar/vocals, Dan-mandolin, Charlie- upright bass, Mollie-violin, and Colin-harmonica/vocals. We started playing music together this past fall and jumped right into getting out and playing shows almost every weekend. Our record dropped on Friday Mach 11, 2016. It's a 10 track album called, This City Isn't Big Enough, that was recorded live over one weekend in two 12-hours studio sessions at FLUX=RAD in Coplay, PA. The sound is a good mix of straight ahead punk and emotional folk music with songwriting and instrumentation that take both genres down completely unpaved roads. We put our everything into working the songs out and laying the tracks down in such a short time, which was of course incredibly stressful, but we believe the resulting record truly captures the magic of our live performance - something that can be lost when you bring a band like ours into a studio. We also just began a month long tour that's going to span across the U.S. from Lancaster, PA to California and back. It's going to be our first experience touring and we are super excited to bring our sounds to a whole bunch of new places and meet new friends everywhere we go.
PO: What inspires you most - both musically and generally?
Apes: Anything that makes me feel things is inspiration. I'm fueled by my emotions whether they be good, bad, or in between. Folk music is storytelling so any life experiences that are worth talking about are material for songs. Inspiration for music, and in general, also comes from the realization and recognition that my favorite musicians who are out there doing stuff are just people like me, that chose a path and made a decision to put their everything into it despite any fear. Being a musician is by no means easy. Living your dream is not easy! But it is possible. It means making a decision to take a harder path in life, one of financial uncertainty, instability, and facing criticism from society and people on a daily basis, but it is well worth it. Playing with my band is the most fun I have ever had in my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
PO: How did you get started in the music scene? What are your musical roots like? How long have you been playing and performing?
Apes: I played guitar when I was younger, maybe 10, 11, 12 years old. I had a really band punk band that never practiced and we played one show in my basement. Then I put down my guitar and pretty much gave up playing music or even trying for over 10 years. I got clean from drugs and alcohol in June 2014 and while I was in treatment I picked up a guitar again. There were a couple of people there in treatment with me, other musicians, that were very encouraging and told me that I wasn't as bad as I thought I was. I realized the reason I gave up playing in the first place was because I couldn't see past my self-criticism. When I got clean was the first time I realized that I could truly do anything I ever wanted to with my life. Getting clean and staying clean was the hardest thing I ever did, but I did it! And if I could do that, I could do anything I set my mind to. I stopped being afraid. Music became my way to cope with my feelings in my recovery. I wrote my first song and haven't stopped since. The other musicians in the band like Mollie, Dan, and Charlie have been playing music for a way longer time than me, and are involved in other musical projects. Colin is like me with no musical background. The band got together in November 2015. It's an interesting mix of abilities and we make it work.
PO: Your Facebook page describes your band as "lesbian folk pop denim jacket nightmare-punk." Can you expand on that description a little bit?
Apes: Ha, I forgot that description was still on the page and I am going to change it now that you brought it up. That was honestly just a joke my friend had come up with back when I was still doing my stuff solo as Apes. She was joking around and comparing me to Tegan & Sara, and came up with that genre description for me.
PO: What are your thoughts on LGBT+ inclusion in the music scene?
Apes: I feel like the punk scene has always been very progressive and inclusive of all kinds of people. Being openly gender queer and bisexual, I of course want to feel comfortable when I am playing and attending shows, and am fortunate enough to have never had any kind of discrimination against me for these things. But I know that I am lucky because of this, and that a lot of people do not share that story. That's why it's so important for musicians who are openly out to support movements to raise awareness about these kinds of issues, in the music scene and in society in general. Personally, I have always believed that gender identity and sexuality are such poor ways to define who a person is. There is so much more to who a person is than these surface level things that society likes to pinpoint and amplify. They want to make everything about that instead of about who a person really is and the art they are making. True equality is seeing past that and appreciating human beings as fellow human beings. Music knows no boundaries and borders and I fully support working towards a scene that reflects this in entirety.
PO: What is your involvement with Second Chance to Play? Can you tell us a little about the organization and how it got its start?
Apes: Second Chance to play is a startup non-profit based in Lancaster, PA with plans to expand to any area it is needed. We are a group of musicians, people recovering from addiction, and their allies working to provide opportunity and support to other musicians in recovery. We do this by collecting and fixing up instruments and getting them into the hands of people recovering from addiction, into rehab centers, and related facilities. We are also working to establish safe and supportive community for these musicians by hosting open mics, concerts, jam sessions, and meetups in drug and alcohol free spaces.
The organization started as an idea in my head over this past winter. Being a musician I had a bunch of guitars laying around my apartment, some of them I barely played. I got the idea to start giving some of them away to people that might benefit from them. As my story of recovery from addiction has been heavily influenced by playing music, I decided to start gifting them to other people going through the same thing. I talked to a couple of people about my idea and it took off from there. We got a board together of a few awesome people in Lancaster, my band mate Dan and our friend Carter, and we started meeting weekly and getting stuff done to make this an official non-profit organization so we can apply for grants and funding, and hopefully work for this full time as a career. It is a ton of work and we admittedly don't know what we are doing ! We are just a bunch of young people like everyone else that want to help others, so we are learning along the way and making it work. So far we have given away 2 guitars and have a bunch more donations that are being worked on that will be gifted soon. The amount of support that has been coming our way since I started talking about this a few months ago has been overwhelming. We have had so many people reach out to us with their personal stories and to offer their help and support of our mission.
PO: Anything else you'd like to add?
Apes: If you'd like to hear the tunes or buy the album you can find it on our Bandcamp.
We are also on Facebook, on YouTube (@ApesoftheState), and Instagram (@ApesoftheState). You can find all of our tour dates on Facebook and on our website.
If you want to learn more about Second Chance to Play and support our mission, you can visit our website at Secondchancetoplay.org, follow us on Facebook, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are actively searching for volunteers and also musicians recovering from addiction that we can help out.
Apes is a musician and non-profit founder from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Apes started Second Change to Play, a non-profit organization that helps musicians who struggle with addiction.
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