Apples in Stereo singer/songwriter Robert Schneider talks rapidly, as if he can't wait to get his ideas across. He stutters occasionally, but listening to him as he spoke in the band's Denver studio, it became obvious that the guy is not particularly modest.
"I have a firm conviction that one day the Beatles will be a footnote to us," Schneider said with a chuckle. "There's a lot of bands that are better than the Beatles, and, hell, we're one of them."
Not to discount the worldwide impact of the Beatles or the musical influence they've had on Apples in Stereo Schneider's comment was clearly meant in good fun.
Critics often compare Apples in Stereo vocalist/guitarist Schneider, drummer Hilarie Sidney, bassist Eric Allen and keyboardist Chris McDuffie to the Beatles. The Apples' music sounds a lot like outtakes from the Fab Four's more experimental late-'60s recording sessions. But Schneider seems to think the comparison lies in the similar way the two bands approach the recording process.
"[We're] really really inspired by [the Beatles], but what we're inspired by is more the spirit of invention and doing uncanny things or ... interesting things ... to entice the ears, but at the same time ... to make music that is almost visual, that's like a painting," Schneider said
Early on, Apples in Stereo were more influenced by the Beach Boys and Pink Floyd than the Beatles. Schneider said they also looked to lo-fi rockers Pavement for inspiration.
"[The Pavement album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain] was inspiring because it sounded crappy like our albums," Schneider said (RealAudio excerpt of interview).
Schneider is at work on the band's yet-to-be-titled fifth album, due in January. He also spends time playing in and producing other bands on the Elephant 6 label Dressy Bessy, the Minders, Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. Additionally, he plays solo acoustic gigs under the name the Marbles.
Martyn Leaper, singer/guitarist for the Minders, called working with Schneider who produced the band's 1998 debut album, Hooray for Tuesday "a pleasure."
"He has one of the best pairs of ears out there," Leaper said.
Elephant 6, the indie label born of early efforts by Schneider and his friends, is now at the forefront of the Denver music scene. Apples in Stereo frequently play in the area. "It's fun to see them, 'cause it's packed," said Georgina Guidotti, an employee at Denver's Twist and Shout records.
Asked about the Apples' forthcoming album, Schneider described it as "carrying on in the psychedelic tradition of [the band's recent EP, Her Wallpaper Reverie], not in the '60s concept-album kind of way, but ... more druggy, spaced-out and dreamy ... space rock"
According to Schneider, about a third of the new album will sound heavier than previous Apples releases, with "hard-rock numbers that sound like Cream or Black Sabbath." The rest of the tracks are "straight up, tripped-out rhythm and blues, like Sly and [the] Family Stone or something," he said.
Her Wallpaper Reverie, which includes the song "Strawberryfire" (RealAudio excerpt), received rave reviews when it was released in May, and the band's fanbase has been steadily increasing. But Schneider believes the Apples are still evolving.
"So far [the new album] is a s---load better than anything we've ever done," he said.
"I Can't Believe," "The Rainbow" and "The Bird You Can't See" are among the songs slated to appear. For now the band is keeping itself busy with a monthlong North American tour that kicked off July 4 in Irvine, Calif., and ends July 31 in Minneapolis.