POSTED ON APRIL 21, 2010:
Getting Off of the Ground
Apagee emerges with a positive message and looks to direct hip hop and R&B scene
Ball and Chain. Married duo Sarah and AJ Sellers, along with drummer Logan Miller, take charge to make Apagee known in the R&B and hip hop scene with its self-titled debut album, Apagee.
There are many different approaches to launching a new band. More often than not, the group will start writing and rehearsing, then hit the stage to work out the kinks, allowing its first fans and audience members to witness the growth process.
Other bands will write and rehearse until they have their act down to a science, then hit the stage as tightly as possible. Then, there's the real exception to the rule: once in a rare while, a band will wait until they have the entire package put together -- songs, chemistry, performance, even a finished CD -- in order to debut as a fully polished artist.
This week we've got one of the latter making what is essentially its Tulsa debut with a CD release at The Marquee on Friday night. Apagee is a genre-crossing R&B act created around the husband-wife duo of AJ and Sarah Sellers.
Augmented with a live drummer, the act is delivering a sound and message that's a far cry from the commercial and indie rock that dominates most of our live club scene right now.
As opposed to the small but growing local hip-hop scene that has allowed artists like PDA, Kawnar, X-Cal, Infamous and Algebra to emerge with a decidedly rock influence and attitude, Apagee certainly incorporates hip-hop, but it goes in a more traditionally R&B direction.
Granted, we do a have a number of straight hip-hop/R&B artists developing in town, but you have to search to find them as most rarely play live shows in town or do so with little publicity. Even then, most of those artists are more rap-oriented, while Apagee's sound is more soul driven.
Granted, the opening track on the disc might make you expect another rock infused disc, as "L.I.V.E." features a huge guitar groove from Noah Henson of Pillar. In this instance, however, instead of the muscular hard-rock riff Henson is commonly known for, he hits a decidedly funk vibe and Sarah Seller's vocals draw everything back to a soul inspired center.
In discussing the band's sound and direction, Sarah explained that they prefer to call what they do "world music," because of the diverse influences incorporated. "Our goal was to hit as many genres as possible with this CD," she said.
While the pair did succeed in touching on a number of influences, the disc's consistency remains intact because it all revolves around hip hop and R&B.
A.J. Seller's rapping appears throughout the disc and stands out most predominantly in the hip-hop cut, "I'ma Do Me." More often, though, the rapping proves secondary to Sarah's stellar vocal chops. The vocal interplay between the two proves engaging and balances the disc as a whole, but Sarah's vocals are definitely the centerpiece.
Of course, an album can't stand without strong songwriting and that's where the group's six song EP stands apart from its peers. Although not a Christian act, per se, the positive messages incorporated into each of the songs definitely give that impression, yet could still fit on mainstream R&B radio. "The Call," in particular, shows promise for crossover success as a tribute to our military, relating the story of a soldier serving overseas and calling a loved one before returning home.
Perhaps "It's Not OK" is the most obviously message driven as Sarah Sellers said that the song was a matter of calling out what the group sees when looking at media and music and how lax it is in its morals and values.
"A lot of media and music now is very directive and the fans follow whatever the music says," AJ said in explaining the thought process that spawned a song that derides a society and media that sends the message: "It's OK to cheat, it's OK to steal, it's OK to say you won't, but you really will ... "
"We're not a religious band, but we do believe in doing the right thing," Sarah said. "We're just pulling from our personal experiences and the circumstances around us."
AJ then continued the thought by explaining, "We're not a Christian band, but our music and message is positive. We can play anywhere because out music is positive."
Friday night, Apagee will be performing at The Marquee to celebrate the release of the group's self-titled EP. Doors open at 6:30pm with the music beginning at 7pm, and DJ Civil Rights will be spinning cuts before the show with another DJ performing after.
Local rapper Des Starr will also make an appearance, filling his role in "I'ma Do Me" as well as performing a couple of his own tracks, while Apagee will headline the evening.
It's all-ages show and $15 cover includes admission and a copy of the new EP, with a couples' option of $25 (two tickets and one CD) and kids 10 and younger admitted free.
For an act that's only done two other live shows so far, the product of nearly two years writing together has paid off with an impressive, six-song debut EP. At this point, the group plans to start playing more live shows and building a following with the goal of returning in the studio in the fall to complete a full length disc. This is a great jumping off point and a strong start for the band's career.
Next Big Thing
In case you haven't heard, there's another new band in town that will be making its live debut this weekend at Flytrap Event Center on Saturday night, April 24. Good Villains is the new project featuring Adam Tichenor, Ted Scott and Todd Shaver, all formerly of Congress of a Crow.
Even though Good Villains might include the core of Congress, don't expect more of the same. I got a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago, and this lineup is stellar. The grooves are heavy, but instead of defaulting into reggae and world beat rhythms, the current music relies on funk and blues and has a more soulful, organic feel to it. Think early Van Halen influenced rock riffs and prog-rock progressions with a funk-inspired undertone. Drummer Aaron Baker holds down the backbeat with Shaver to keep things rock solid, but the wild-card and secret to this line-up is vocalist Eric Himan.
Yes, I know. On paper, this doesn't seem like it would work. Himan's background is strictly in pop, both with his solo career and band time with Eric & the Adams. Himan's range and soulful delivery, however, are what polish the rough edges of the band's sound and give it a cross-demographic appeal.
The ABoT award nominations are coming in just a couple of weeks, and I fully expect this band to be Tulsa's next big thing. If Good Villains doesn't get nominated for and win "Best New Act" this year, it's only because the band is debuting so close to the voting that not enough people are aware of the band yet.
If you aren't in at Norman Music Festival on Saturday evening, this will definitely be the show to see. Headliner Fair to Midland is a local favorite and always puts on an eclectic and engaging show, but this is one of the strongest hard rock lineups we've seen in months.
Nothing More has been the buzz band in town during its past few visits and My Solstice is also on the bill, using the night to release the first single, "Will.Want.Need." from its forthcoming album, which comes out in June. Young act Epifade rounds out the bill as the evening's opener, so it's a full night of music, but Good Villains might very well steal the show.
Trust me, you don't want to miss this one. Doors open at 7pm for the 8pm show and tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.
Although the spring season has already seemed busy, it only gets crazier as the weather gets better. This is one of the busiest weeks yet, with a full string of shows at Cain's Ballroom and the local clubs as busy as ever. As always, we've got the highlights to get you pointed in the right direction.
On Thursday, April 22, Jack White returns to Tulsa with his current band, Dead Weather. This one is sold out, however, so you'll have to try your luck on the street. Over at Eclipse, Bassmeant drops a beat with Tulsa's most progressive Drums & Bass DJ outfit.
Of course, our pick of the week for Friday, April 23 is Urban Tulsa's NewVo Showcase at the IDL Complex with five bands, three acoustic acts and two cutting edge DJ's. Broncho and Native Lights cap off the live band portion of the evening, so it will be an incredible night and admission is free for this 21 and over event. Find more details, look on page 46.
Elsewhere around town on Friday, we've already told you about Apagee's CD release party, but Les Claypool headlines Cain's with Split Lip Rayfield opening, Ying Yang Twins play Flytrap Event Center, Alex and the Anders are at Mercury Lounge and GoGo Plumbay plays Eclipse with What's That?
Saturday, April 24 is another night for big shows with Nickelback returning to BOK Center with Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown and Sick Puppies and Tulsa legend Leon Russell returning for a hometown show at Osage Events Center.
Of course, there's always the Fair to Midland show at Flytrap, but if you're looking for your locals, Brandon Clark Band plays Hunt Club, DanceRobotsDance heads up the party at Soundpony and Tribe of Souls plays Eclipse with Chuk Cooley and the Demon Hammers.
Sunday night sees the Brady Theater light up with laughs as Gabriel Iglesias brings his Fluffy Shop Tour to Tulsa. Meanwhile, indie rock rules the Soundpony on April 25 with Shondes, Low Litas and Lunar City.
The week is rounded out with a string of high profile shows at Cain's Ballroom beginning with Bone Thugs N Harmony on Monday, April 26. The week rounds out with headliners Need to Breathe on Tuesday, Bassnectar on Wednesday and Blue October's return with the "Pick Up the Phone Tour" next Thursday night, April 29.
The show you can't overlook, however, is the one I've been looking forward to for months: legend, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and guitarist extraordinaire Jeff Beck plays the Brady on Tuesday night, April 27, with Gary Hoey opening. This will easily be the best display of guitar heroics of the spring if not all year. If you haven't seen him before, don't miss it: Beck is simply amazing!
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