Mixing retro inspirations with modern innovations, APRE is a band defying the conventions of time by creating a new benchmark for early success. Multi-instrumentalists and co-vocalists Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny, both played in different bands before coming together. After meeting at Ealing Chess Club during their time at University, their new creative partnership was born.
You may question the spelling and styling of their band name, APRE. Originating from the French word, “Aprés”, they changed the spelling to keep it original. It was inspired by Brown’s time in Paris and his period of going out with a french girl.
It’s also rooted in the time references dotted throughout their music. Their first EP, The Movement of Time (2018) directly takes its name from the passing of time. Their second, Drum Machines Killed the Music (2018), is inspired by 80s drum machines. Everyone’s Commute (2019) tackles the future and the tragic disconnection of people from each other. Each body of work may feature a range of tracks, but they are bound together by the overarching theme of time.
APRE’s flawless production skills blend various genres, from catchy indie to upbeat pop to a venture into EDM. They’ve worked successfully from home during lockdown, fully utilising a DIY approach, which saw them release track ‘Go Somewhere’. It’s a positive reminder for our daily lives, dripping in synth-pop. Their remixes for other artists, such as Tom Grennan’s ‘Oh Please’, further support this and their talents are anything but limited. Earlier this year, they released their Mahogany Sessions tracks, which featured their songs, ‘All Yours’ and ‘Come Down’. This stripped-back approach enabled the duo to highlight their insightful lyricism and powerful vocals.
They’ve already supported the likes of the Brit award-winning Sam Fender and indie hit-makers Inhaler. The duo have also toured all over, including a performance on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury last year. They’re clearly showing no signs of slowing down.
aAh! Magazine catches up with Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny over Zoom to talk about their latest single, forthcoming mini-album and pigeonholing in the industry.
You describe your genre as ‘Alternative wonky indie Electronic pop’, how did you settle on your sound?
Charlie Brown: “I think we have too many genres in our music, basically. We tried to come up with something which sounded a little bit like it made sense.”
Jules Konieczny: “I think it came from all yours, ‘cause you put all of yours out. And, there’s like a synth-line that goes through the whole song that’s like… I don’t know. It makes me feel a bit… wonky. A bit like I’ve had a few drinks or something. And, it is pop music, and it is electronic in some areas, so those things just kind of fell into place. But, I guess it came from all yours. That’s where it started.”
You’ve just released your latest track ‘Live It Up’. How have you found the reaction to it?
Charlie: “It’s been good, it’s streamed really well.”
Jules: “It’s really hard to gauge the reaction because we can’t tour at the moment.”
Charlie: “That’s the best way to see if you’re building fans because you can see how many people are buying tickets. Obviously, we can’t do that at the moment, so it is difficult to see, but it’s been good and I’m very excited. We’re releasing a new single, ‘Without Your Love’. We feel really excited about that one, especially. So, hopefully, that’ll do well.”
Jules: “I think ‘Live It Up’ is a bit of a weird one because it’s not… it’s quite a left sounding tune and it’s a little bit… I don’t feel like it’s for everyone. So, whereas the single coming out tomorrow is kind of a bit more of a universal sound. I think people will get it a bit more, so ‘Live It Up’ was a bit of a risk. I think it sort of paid off, I don’t know.”
Charlie: “It’s like Jules says, it’s a bit hard to tell at the moment.”
As for your latest track, ‘Without Your Love’ what was the process like behind it?
Charlie: “That’s such an old track, it’s one of the first tracks we ever wrote together. But, we think it’s got so much potential and think it’s our best one that we’ve ever written. We’ve already released it, like a year and a half ago but we’ve revamped it and reproduced it. I think it’s even better now, even with some new sections. But, it still gets me excited after four years, so I think it must be alright.”
Definitely. Also, with a lot of your songs, you do remixes such as one of Tom Grennan’s tracks, is production your favourite aspect of creating a track?
Charlie: “Definitely! I think the production is our writing process because we never sit down with a guitar and write a song, well very rarely, it’s always loops or it’s always sounds that get us excited and get us inspired on the computer. So, production is so much, it’s probably our favourite bit in the studio.”
So, when you did the Mahogany Sessions, was that very different for you, as it was a lot more stripped back?
Charlie: “Yeah, that was really nice, ‘Come Down’ especially came out really nice in that one. It is often interesting, stripping everything back to acoustic, as you can really see if they’re good songs or not. So, I feel quite proud that those worked because it means they’re probably quite good songs.”
Also, when you do the music videos for your tracks, do you ever have an idea before or does it just come together afterwards, like with the ‘Live It Up’ video?
Charlie: “It really depends on… as we work with so many directors on our videos. ‘Live It Up’ was a really odd one as it was in lockdown, obviously. We had to do it completely remotely, so we had the concept but it meant that normally we’ve got a director and a whole team filming. But, we had to be separated and had the director on FaceTime while we were recording. Our camera and camera angles had to be exactly the same, so it was a massive nightmare. But, it came out pretty good.”
You’ve got a new mini-album coming out in November, Always In My Head, how long have you been working towards it?
Jules: “The songs have been around for ages. I think with the mini-album, we wanted to do it because this year has been so bad for things like, touring and everything. I think putting a debut record out this year doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. But, I still wanted to put a body of work out. I think a mini album was probably the best way to do it. It’s kind of an album, but with fewer songs, so you can call it a mini-album and it’s not a debut record. But, I think all the songs have been around for a while, they just felt like the right kind of… they’re all songs about escaping and being free and moving away. It felt funny juxtaposing it against this lockdown crap, which we’ve all been in. But, I think when we write music, there’s a real sense of freedom. I think that’s what this record is. It makes me feel like, it takes you to another place. I think it’s quite positive and quite uplifting in many ways and there are some down moments and stuff. But, it’s quite thoughtful and yeah, quite positive really.”
You’ve said that you’re looking forward to planning a tour, which track from your forthcoming mini-album are you most looking forward to sharing with people live?
Charlie: “‘Our Boys’ which is going to be the first track on the mini-album. We played that live once in France, for some reason our manager told us it was sh**, but…”
Jules: “No it wasn’t him, it was the label.”
Charlie: “Oh okay, but I beg to differ.”
Jules: “It’s a good settling in one, it’s very heavy and quite rocky actually.”
Charlie: “We’ve got another track on the mini-album that has a whole string section on it. If there’s ever a special gig where we can whip out the string section, that might be quite fun.”
All of your tracks seem to sound so different from each other, is this an organic or conscious process?
Jules: “It’s very…”
Charlie: “It’s very organic.”
Jules: “It’s very… like we’d never sit down and be like, today let’s write a song that sounds like a pop song. If you did that, it’d just sound sh**. As it’s like if you’re forcing it, whereas if you like it get to where it needs to be, you get much more of a natural, realistic, honest vibe across. Even lyrically, like when you don’t expect or try to write lyrics, your words just mean more because they’re coming from inside you, rather than you’re just copying something that you’ve heard. I don’t know, It’s just a bit more truthful.”
Charlie: “I also think we’re really impatient too. So, we really like having songs from different places, so that we’re constantly interested. It’s like if we have a dancey song and have a very indie sounding song, I don’t like being… we like so much music, that it wouldn’t make sense to us, to just sound the same.”
Jules: It’s definitely like shooting yourself in the foot because it’s harder for people to understand what you are, especially if you’re a duo, right. A lot of duos, I feel like they make a very specific genre of music, whether it’s like EDM or something. Whereas because we’re all over the map, it’s just a bit, I find that sometimes people get confused, especially in the industry, like radio and all that. Sometimes everyone’s a bit like, ‘you’ve come with a big pop tune, then you’ve come back with like a ballad, or you’ve come back with like more of an electronic thing, or rock. But, in the grand scheme of things, I think having a really diverse, eclectic collection of songs, I think means there’s something for everyone. And, that’s the kind of thing with this, like when we do gigs and stuff, I feel that it’s for everyone, and it’s for everyone of all ages and everything like that. It’s an all-inclusive kind of thing, rather than this exclusive like, ‘we’re too cool, we make indie electronic music.’ I want it to be this big thing for everyone, you know. So, I feel like having lots of genres is a very good way of incorporating that.
Definitely. Would you say it’s quite hard in the modern music industry, trying to make sure that you’re not just pigeonholed?
Charlie: “I mean, it’s really tough. It’s easier for people to understand when you get pigeonholed. I understand that.”
Jules: “Your career will be shorter, I think if you’re pigeonholed. Because, you’ll just be this one thing, you know. Even like indie bands, like how many indie bands are there? There are loads and it’s all the same stuff. The same ‘oh my girlfriend left me, oh I feel sad, oh here’s a chorus, I’ll do a chorus now, oh back to a verse.’ Just do ten of those songs and put out an album. It’ll probably get decent positioning in the charts because no one buys albums anyways, so if you sold 5000 records you’d get in the charts, and then that’s it. How long are you going to be around for? Do you know what I mean? Whereas if you’ve got this big collection of stuff I feel like you maybe can last a bit longer, I don’t know. ‘Cause, you’ve got more stuff, you’ve got more waves to ride.”
Charlie: “Constantly interesting.”
Jules: “Yeah, that’s what we are. Constantly interesting.”
What are your next goals for the band?
Charlie: I think, it’s really hard to tell at the moment, obviously, because we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we both miss touring a lot.”
What do you miss most about touring?
Jules: “I miss the people, just like when you’re on tour, there’s a real sense of family and like, I’m terrible at being alone. I always have to have people around me, and when you’re on tour, you have your tour manager, and your band, and your manager as well. You might spend most of a year doing that, so there’s this real sense of, like a community. You’ll never learn more about a person, than if you go and sit in a van with them for the best part of a year. I feel like you really get to know everyone, and there’s something about that, which is really fun. It’s just quite freeing and if you’re on a tour bus, in the middle of Europe, and it’s like your phone doesn’t work and it’s dark. But, you’re with your mates and something is freeing about it. All the sh** in your personal life and at home, and crap- like school friends you don’t speak to anymore, and you see them in the pub and you pretend you like them. All that shit, that’s all gone and there’s something quite freeing about it, that I really love. I love gigs as well but that would be the main thing for me.”
What cities are you most looking forward to touring when you can?
Charlie: “I miss Manchester, it’s always a good gig but Europe is so much more fun than the UK. No offence to the UK because it feels new, it feels interesting.”
Jules: “Yeah, playing in the UK, I mean, the people are great and like, but if you’re playing relatively smallish venues around the UK…”
Charlie: It’s a real slog.”
Jules: “It can be a bit, ‘cause also like- wait, where are you from?
I’m from Cumbria but I go to University in Manchester.
Charlie: ”Oh really? I’ve done Manchester. That makes sense.”
Jules: No, but say you arrive in Sheffield and you’ve got the day off and you’ve got to kill 24 hours in Sheffield.
Charlie: “There’s only so many Greggs you can go to.”
Jules: It’s not that fun but if you were in Berlin, then you could have 24 hours…”
Charlie: “We had four days off in Berlin once.”
Jules: “It was great!”
Charlie: “So sick!”
Jules: “Just cut shapes.”
You’ve supported the likes of Sam Fender and Inhaler. Who would you like to support you, if you could have anybody?
Charlie: “Sam Fender.”
Jules: “I think Sam Fender should support us, we’ve really helped his career.”
Charlie: “Yeah, he’s not doing very well at all is he?”
What final message would you like others to take away from your music?
Charlie: “Ooh, listen to our new single, we know you’ll love it, comes out tomorrow. That’s what we need to plug.”
Jules: “Don’t be a dick. Not you, just saying that’s my message for anyone who listens to our songs. Just don’t be a dick.”