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Ape School

Nightlands Supported by Ape School & Our Griffins at JB’s May 31

This upcoming Nightlands show should require a pillow to enter. The multi-talented Dave Hartley transports listeners to the place just between dreams and sleep with free-flowing choral effects with ambient noise. In fact, that’s where he came up with most of the ideas for Nightlands’ tracks: recording inspiration that came to him in REM cycle. However, his most recent release Oak Island finds him wandering a poppier side of music, but it still feels like poppy fields are scattered throughout the landscape. (BTW: I heard that there might be some live choral arrangements this evening.) Opening for Nightlands is Ape School, a solo(ish)-project from Michael Johnson. The band gives an oft tongue-in-cheek experiment in lyricism, resulting in a truly fun musical experience. Also taking the stage is Our Griffins, fronted by Dennis Joseph “DJ” Brown, who provides a gentle and soft-spoken sound that packs an emotional punch.  Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., $12, 8pm, 21+ - Shaylin O’Connell

New Track: "Idiot's Grin, President's Chin" - Ape School

Multi-instrumentalist and production wiz Michael Johnson, a.k.a. Ape School, recently shared a couple of new songs from his upcoming album currently scheduled for release in 2014 that you can download and "name your price." The new record seems to be titled Quitting Time, and below is the track "Idiot's Grin, President's Chin."


KidRockers w/Ape School at WCL March 9

Since its launch in 2007, KidRockers has spanned through 4 cities, providing a platform where families could be exposed to original indie music in an all-ages setting. And since then it has managed to bring in big name acts like Silversun Pickups, Datarock, Nada Surf, and locals like Bleeding Rainbow and The Spinto Band. And now Ape School is set to join that list of storied artists as multi-instrumentalist Michael Johnson carries on the series tradition of providing old music heads and new music heads some much-needed bonding time. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 11:30am, $12, All Ages - Bill McThrill


Ape School in Session at JB’s Feb. 9

The term “bandleader,” with its sheen of the olden days, is used way too seldom, even with the jazz age wildly back in vogue (thanks a lot, Baz Luhrmann). But then again, you can't name many who actually deserve that label. Ape School might be our city's most deserving of that title. Michael Johnson, the man behind this colorfully-named outfit, has worked with everyone from Kurt Vile to the Lilys, and his career as a solo artist has been supported by a host of local luminaries. He's joined at Johnny Brenda’s tonight by The Interest Group, an art-minded ensemble who give major credence to Philly’s utter disdain for convention. Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave., 8pm, $12, 21+ - Alyssa Greenberg 


The Deli Philly’s September Album of the Month: Junior Violence - Ape School

Ape School’s Junior Violence can’t decide what album it’s going to be. It takes on several different genres during its eleven tracks. At first, it’s a bit Apple-ad hipster - the deeply ironic sense of jubilance on opener “A New Low! It Sucks Itself!” would fit well next to The Envy Corps and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on a Fuck Yeah, Denim! playlist - but then grows into this gorgeous sort of acid-beach record - what Surfer Blood might have made with a bit more adventurousness and lot more pot. Also, it’s briefly as unabashedly direct as an old Wilco b-side before things start getting distinctly darker, and then it’s bright once more for a last hurrah. Junior Violence sounds like it could hang with different, albeit pretty elite peers at various times, and for good reason. It is this way because mastermind Michael Johnson knows what he wants it to be.
With about decade of music making, a rotating door of collaborators, and a list of influences that covers everything from Prefab Sprout to Van Halen to Scott Walker, it seems Johnson’s project has resulted in a band less dedicated towards a singular artistic vision so much as they’re dedicated to the integrity of their songs. When Junior Violence switches up on a dime, it admittedly jars momentum, but in the act, Ape School chooses to not be pigeonholed, and a vision begins to form a picture of a band that would not have their songs any other way. It’s easy to imagine how another act might have just clothed everything in warm reverb to make the album feel more continuous, but with the way these songs are, such a choice would’ve been superfluous and distracting. It’s enough that a track like “Ready For Duty” owns what it’s doing - a decidedly open folk-twang - that it needs not sonically connect to the drug haze of its preceding front-side.
Johnson consistently evokes a sense of weight, lending it to foggy fuzz, synth-phase Bowie homage, and British-schoolboy sneer-punk alike. This means that Junior Violence, even if it calls up a variety of references, never feels like a compilation of several bands. It is by Ape School, a band whose deep love of music and the ability to evoke unease, tension, and heart ties the whole smorgasbord together. You can purchase Junior Violence via Hometapes Records. - Adam Downer

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