Germany’s Guano Apes “Open” American Eyes

If you’re German and your band name is as eyebrow-raising as Guano Apes, then your music better be pretty damn good if you hope to break big in America.

Luckily for the Apes, who formed in Göttingen, Germany back in 1994, Americans appear to be catching on to the band’s New Wave-meets-rip rock sound. “Open Your Eyes,” the band’s first domestic single, has already climbed its way through the urban jungles known as the U.S. singles charts and landed in the Alternative Rock Top 20.

Not bad for a quartet that made a name for itself in Deutschland by beating out over 1,000 other music acts during a national battle of the bands competition staged by German music broadcaster VIVA-TV back in 1996.

By the time they took home the award, the Apes — composed of guitarist Henning Ruemenapp, bassist Stefan Ude, drummer Dennis Poschwatta, and singer Sandra Nasic — had been gigging in and around their university hometown for almost two years.

As Ruemenapp recently told
MTV News while phoning in from a studio in Belgium, the key to creating the Guano Apes sound came when Nasic, the last to join the band, agreed to take up the mic — a change from the male voices that dominated the early stages of the Apes’ evolution.

“We tried out, I think, two guys before that,” he said, “and we were always searching for a singer, but no one could really be found. Then Sandra turned up and it was like the perfect combination, and it still is.”

After winning the contest, the Apes took the prize money and spent it to record “Proud Like A God,” their debut album, in 1997. The band also bankrolled a concert-based video for “Open Your Eyes,” a song which Ruemenapp believes was one of the first written as a four-piece.

“[Americans]
were really open to the music and the people,”
Ruemenapp said of the last tour. “In Europe, especially in Germany, the people are not so fast to give compliments. But Americans, if they really like a show, they’ll come up to you and want to shake your hands and say, ‘I really like your show, and I dig your music and it’s fantastic.’”

The Apes will seek out such adulation during an opening stint on the Creed-Sevendust tour in early April and may take their musical affinity for the half-pipe on the road for this summer’s Warped Tour.

But once the band sees its name attached to more concert bills and marquees, it may have a little more explaining to do about its bilingually questionable moniker, as “guano” is a Spanish epithet for, well, excrement.

While admitting that the band’s name draws part of its inspiration from a character in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 anti-war flick,
“Dr. Strangelove,”
Ruemenapp confesses that he is also partly responsible for the fecal handle.

“[Guano Apes] was my idea,” he said. “It was a strange combination of words… we were thinking of a band name for about a year, and we couldn’t agree on one. I finally [annoyed] them so long with just the simple combination of ‘Guano Apes,’ because I thought it sounded a bit weird, and people could think of it whatever they liked.” [RealVideo]

The Guano Apes will issue its “Lord Of The Boards” single in the U.S. in late March.