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Ape School

September 2012
Ape School
"Junior Violence

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

Weekend Warrior, August 17 - 19

Michael Johnson’s Ape School will be celebrating the release of his latest glimmering psych-pop LP Junior Violence (Hometapes) tonight at Johnny Brenda’s. It’s going to be a packed house of local music community favorites. Johnson will have his most excellent backing band, which is made up of members from Philly acts like Dr. Dog and The Extraordinaires. Joining him on the bill will be fellow maestro at the boards Jeff Zeigler building soundscapes with harpist Mary Lattimore, the dynamic duo of Norwegian Arms (our featured Choice/Cuts artists), and the delightfully oddball outfit Laser Background. You'll also be treated to tunes being spun throughout the evening by Adam Granduciel and Dave Hartley from The War on Drugs with help from special guest friends. Sounds like a local music family affair that you don’t want to miss! Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N Frankford Ave., 9pm, $10, 21+ - Q.D. Tran

Other things to do this weekend as summer slowly fades away…
Johnny Brenda’s (1201 N. Frankford Ave.) SAT This is Jazz, Surgeon
Kung Fu Necktie (1250 N. Front St.) SAT Lockets, Attic Dancers, Language Problem
PhilaMOCA (531 N. 12th St. Philadelphia) FRI Archives of Oblivion
North Star Bar (2639 Poplar St.) FRI The Danger O's, Polar Ice Caps, Ton-Taun, SAT Hellstroms, Welter, Strawman, SUN Harsh Vibes, Spotted Atrocious
The Fire (412 W. Girard Ave.) FRI (All Ages) Panic Years, (Late) Behind the Grandstand, Friendly Lounge, SAT (All Ages) Kick Back Tomorrow, The Static Locals, Brundle Fly, Stranglehold, (Late) Flat Mary Road, Mat Burke, SUN Two Cities, This Temper, The Thick
M Room (15 W. Girard Ave.) FRI Chris Vance
Tin Angel (20 S. 2nd St.) FRI Gina Sicilia, Andrea Carlson, Elizabeth Pugh, SAT Alec Stewart, Meghan Carey
TLA (334 South St.) SAT mewithoutYou, Buried Beds
The Trocadero (1003 Arch St.) SAT (Early) Last Brain Cells, (Late) Confused Disciples, The Bad Tequila Experience, Uncle Pockets, Spoken Life
Fergie’s (1214 Sansom St.) FRI The Heat Run, SAT Sunshine Superman, SUN Rustic Music
The Legendary Dobbs (304 South St.) Liberty Music Fest FRI Glim Dropper, Close to Good, The Way Home, John & Brittany, Red Letter Life, SAT Mach 22, The Parsnip Revolt, The Standing Cinema, Nomad Clientele, Stolen Rhodes, Cold Roses, Ross Bellenoit, SUN Black Stars, Pet Clinic, Give Me Gravity, Marc Lancaster, Paradox Please, Venice Sunlight, Last Scene In Reno
Triumph Brewery (117 Chestnut St.) FRI Chris Are, Josh Hay
The Barbary (951 N. Frankford St.) SAT Young Statues
Ortlieb’s (847 N. 3rd St.) FRI Schoolly D & Maxx, SAT Archives of Oblivion
Morgan's Pier (221 N. Columbus Blvd.) SAT Trouble Everyday
Milkboy Philly (1100 Chestnut St.) FRI Chill Moody, The Lawsuits, Gang, Johnny Showcase, SAT Modern Colour, The Jackson Rider, SUN Sharon Little, Aiden James, The Fleeting Ends, The Bailey Hounds
First Unitarian Church (2125 Chestnut St.) FRI Algernon Cadwallader, Kite Party
Union Transfer (1024 Spring Garden St.) SUN Black Landlord, Curse of Samsara, The High Five, Goddamnit, Hang-Up to Flat
Rebel Rock Bar (100 Spring Garden St.) FRI Starving the Tsunami, Behind the Ghost
The Grape Room (105 Grape St.) FRI Supreem and the New Experience, ILL Doots, The Burgeoning, SAT Philadelphia Slick, Mr. 8.5
Little Berlin (2430 Coral St.) SAT Juston Stens & The Get Real Gang
Pilam (3914 Spruce St.) SAT Bubonic Bear, Heavy Medical
Torrent Collective (938 S. 8th St.) SAT Discorporate, Kenn Kweder
House of the Rise Up Singing (Please contact one of the acts or the venue for more info.) FRI Younglionapprentice, Julie Beth, Drew
Glitorium (Please contact one of the acts or the venue for more info.) SAT Sleepies, Slutever, Oh Bree, Top of Tola

New Ape School Album Out Today & Available for Streaming

Michael Johnson’s Ape School just released its new album Junior Violence today via Portland indie label Hometapes. You can stream the full-length in its entirety below. The extremely-talented primates will be celebrating its release on August 17 at Johnny Brenda’s.


Free Download: “Marijuana’s on the Phone” - Ape School

Ape School (a.k.a. Michael Johnson) has found a home for his upcoming album Junior Violence at indie label Hometapes, which harbors such acts as fellow Philadelphians Pattern Is Movement and Brooklyn-based Bear in Heaven. His first release with his new label will be a 7” single for “Marijuana’s on the Phone” (which features Dr. Dog’s Eric Slick on the skins) due out June 26. It should go without saying that we need to take this call so while we do, you can listen to and download the track for free below. Enjoy!


Ape School & The Homophones Opening for Caveman at MilkBoy Philly May 4

A peaceful yet post apocalyptical ambiance is the scene Ape School paints in Michael Johnson’s latest creation. Before the vocals enter the picture, futuristic echoes set the stage and the coast appears to be clear. Then a smooth even-keeled voice arrives bringing with it a sense of relief like a cool mist hitting your face. Slowly the instrumental layers build as life naturally reemerges from every corner and crevice of protection and so begins the new age. When you scan the surroundings, The Homophones fronted by Jason Ferraro might catch your eye. Ferraro’s rich baritone vocals give him the heir of a wise man, and his songs read like an oral history bridging the gap between the not so distant past with the uncertain future. As your mind fights to figure out the next step, relax and recover to let the fire burn while the humorously deviant shaman eases your mind. It’s a sweet lineup with the two acts opening for The Deli NYC’s Best Emerging Artist(s) of 2011 Caveman, who will provide dense vocal harmonies and sophisticated instrumentation to some seriously captivating indie pop to win the locals over. Milkboy Philly, 1100 Chestnut St., 8:30pm, $12, 21+ (Photos by Q.D. Tran) - Michael Colavita


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