If you’re familiar with Australia’s heavy music scene, then you’ve probably heard of The Sweet Apes. The Sydney locals have been making firm footprints this year, having toured nationally on Loud Fest and as the direct support for The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus on their recent Australian tour. Killyourstereo.com got the chance to chat with the band’s frontwoman Ray Vavasis about the group’s experiences over the last year and what’s coming up in the future.
Hey Ray, how are you doing this morning?
I’m not too bad thanks, you?
I’m doing great. Alright, do you want to kick things off by describing The Sweet Apes in five words for anyone that isn’t familiar with you?
Five words, oh gosh. Borderline heavy, alternate rock, clean singing, female vocals (laughs). That’s more than five.
(laughs) That’s fine. Who would you say are some of the key influences for The Sweet Apes?
We all listen to a bit of different music, but I guess I could say on my behalf, Circa Survive, and I listen to Foals a lot. Antony [D’Alessandro] listens to a lot of bands like The Story So Far. Brandon [Robertson] listens to a lot of bands like We Came As Romans and Woe, Is Me. Miki [Rich] loves Fall Out Boy. Lots of stuff like that.
What can people expect going to see The Sweet Apes live?
They can expect a lot of energy. That’s one thing I really like about us, we’re incredibly pumped about playing shows, and that comes across visually, so you won’t be seeing anything boring there, and hopefully we can back it up with the music we play as well. There’s also some sort of a hint of heaviness I might add. It’s pretty cool. If you get into it, you’ll have a really good time.
On that note, you guys have just come off of the back of a tour with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Tell me a bit about how that was for you guys?
That was the best run we’ve had so far, and it was pretty awesome. Most of us listened to Red Jumpsuit growing up in high school every day, so it was really cool to play with this band that we all looked up to as kids. You never really expect that type of thing to happen to you, and it was a great experience. We got to talk a lot with them, and get to know them, and learn a lot from them, cause they’ve had about 10 years of international touring experience, so it was really great. It honestly couldn’t have been any better than it was.
I remember going to the Sydney show at UTS a couple of weeks ago and being absolutely blown away by the sheer number of people that came. Did you notice a positive turn out all around with the tour?
Yeah, there was. We had some sold out shows in Adelaide and Melbourne. The turn out at Coffs Harbour was a little bit less than some of the other shows, bt it was still actually really good. There wasn’t really anything to complain about. Every show was really special in its own way.
On top of that, earlier in the year you toured the country as part of the Loud Fest line-up. Tell me a bit about those shows?
Oh, Loud Fest, wow. That was actually really awesome. Most of the line-up for Loud Fest was heavy bands, like Atilla and Confession and lots of cool bands like that. For us to be on that kind of line-up, we actually felt pretty honoured. We weren’t really as heavy as any of the other bands on the line-up, so to be accepted in that kind of scene and environment and be put on that tour in the first place. You could tell the crowd weren’t really used to it, but it was still really, really enjoyable. We made a lot of new friends, and made some new ties. It was a really cool experience. If I could do Loud Fest again, I would do it in a heartbeat, it was awesome.
What were some of the highlights for you from both of those tours?
I think the highlights of most tours is being able to meet so many people. Like, you become really good friends with the people that you tour with, as well as all the people that come out at every show. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus put a lot of effort into that at every show, which was pretty great, and we got to know them really well and became pretty good friends with them.
Playing new venues is really exciting as well. I’m always keen to see new venues, and what they look like, and just sort of suss it out.
You guys have just released a new single called ‘Flight.’ What that song’s about in terms of themes?
‘Flight’ is a song that has a definite progression from the beginning to the end. It’s basically about how I wanted to move from something that I was involved in. It’s sort of like, “I don’t wanna just be stuck here in the one place for a particularly long time, especially if I’m not happy with where I am.”
It’s also about finding happiness. It marks sort of an epiphany for me in my life to be honest, where I was just like “hang on a second, I wanna do something else here and experience something else.” Verse one I’m sounding a bit panicky, but verse two I’m sounding a bit more brave, and it kind of builds up to the end where I just kind of say “I don’t want to know what happens in the future.” I don’t want to be pre-determining things I guess. So it’s all a neat little progression like that.
What are the plans for ‘Flight’? Is it a stand alone single, or is it part of an upcoming release?
We decided that ‘Flight’ was going to be part of an upcoming EP, which is actually being written at the moment. Hopefully we should release that in the next couple of months. You can expect it early next year, and ‘Flight’ will be on it.
What is it that sets ‘Flight,’ or some of the other songs you’re writing at the moment apart from your EP or ‘Perfect Hearts, Finding Thoughts?’
Our debut EP was sort of like, these are the first songs we ever wrote as a band, and before we even released it, there was about a year and a half of changes that those songs went through, and at some points, they were just shocking tracks, but it’s cool to see how we developed.
Now, writing this EP, we’ve developed a bit more as a band, and so ‘Flight’ and the other new songs from us, I think you can expect it to be a lot more dynamic. Already, ‘Flight’ has lots of dynamics that weren’t really there before that you can hear. The new EP, we’re going to be putting so much more thought into it, and we’re going to work really hard on it. An EP doesn’t have many tracks, so we’re going to take what we have and produce some really solid tracks to show everything we’ve got in five or six songs.
Personally, I’m really enjoying experimenting with my voice as well. Our EP, I only really had all of that belting in my chest voice, but now I’ve really grown as a vocalist, and I’ve really enjoyed just exploring my vocal ability. I don’t think I’m a pro or anything, but it’s been really cool to just experiment with my voice, and so I reckon there’ll be a bit of that on the EP.
When you recorded your last single before this, ‘Perfect Hearts, Finding Thoughts,’ you guys enlisted the help of Hance Aligood who was the vocalist for Woe, Is Me. What was it like working with him?
Well, I couldn’t say too much about it, because it was done over the internet, since Hance was overseas, and we’re here in Australia. We exchanged emails, and some mp3’s and stuff, so we did some collaborating over that and sent what we wanted and so he changed it up a bit so it sounded more like something he would sing, and it was pretty cool to have his input, and he definitely added his own mark there. I really wish we could have worked with him in person, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
Why the choice to work with Hance over anyone else?
We had a number of people that we wanted to go with, and he was one of our selections. We asked if he was interested, and he said yes and was keen to work on it with us, and it just sort of went from there.
Hypothetical situation. It’s 10 years from now, and The Sweet Apes are one of the biggest bands in the world, and you literally have your choice of who to collaborate with. Who would it be?
Chester from Linkin Park. (laughs) I don’t even need to think of that. I didn’t mention that in one of my influences earlier. How could I forget Linkin Park? I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to work with Chester.
Do you have a favourite Australian release from 2013?
I couldn’t think of one now. I’m trying here, but I really don’t know. I’ve got nothing off the top of my head (laughs).
All good! If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Jesus that’s hard. I know I won’t ever be in that situation, but here goes. I’d listen to Eiffel 65’s Europop album. I would take Meteora by Linkin Park, and I would listen to Foals – Total Life Forever.
Aside from the obvious items (instruments, gear, and all of that), what do you always take with you on tour?
Hardly anything. I always make sure we have food. I know Miki our bassist, he always brings stuff like hair straighteners, and shampoo, and toothpaste. I never bring any of that stuff because he’s already got it (laughs). He always brings about 10 bags on tour, and I’ll bring one that isn’t even full. I’ll bring like, two shirts, and 50 gallons of food. (laughs)
Although, I finally have some gear, which are my in-ear monitors, which is just the size of a lunchbox. I never really bring a great deal of stuff, and nothing out of the ordinary. But with tour, I guess you always wanna pack lightly anyway.
Where do you see The Sweet Apes in five years time?
I realy am passionate about The Sweet Apes, and I really hope everything goes well, and I can see us having released an album or two. I’d really love to play Soundwave again,a lthough I’d like to do the whole tour. Bigger shows, bigger festivals, you know. Touring with international bands. I’d really love to have reached that stage in the next 5 years, which I guess is just going to happen if we keep writing and keep playing and keep working really hard.
I’d also really like to tour on an international scale, I definitely think we could do that in five years. I don’t doubt it, because I do have quite a bit of confidence in our music. I actually love The Sweet Apes.
Any final words for your fans?
Check out our new single ‘Flight,’ and keep your eyes peeled for our new EP. Come check us out at shows, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, all of that, we love keeping in touch over social networks. We’ve got some stuff on youtube if you want to suss it out. Stick around and we’ll have some new stuff for you soon.