Following the release of their latest and final album as a band, the superb project that is The Mild Mild West, we were blessed with an interview with Austin’s AP Mode to find out more about their journey and what they hope the future holds. Here’s the conversation in full.
* * *
Hi guys – thanks for the interview, hope you’re all doing OK where you are! For those who don’t know, what are AP Mode all about?
Vetter: We’re a band originally from the small city of Midland, TX now (mostly) based in Austin. Lewis and I first started playing together in 2011 when we were in 9th grade and over the years we added our bassist Peyton and second guitarist Colin. A couple of albums and shows along the way and here we are.
Congrats on the new album, enjoying this one a lot. What can you tell us about The Mild Mild West – what does the title represent, and why the change in direction for this project?
Vetter: I came up with the name a couple years back when we were still in the early stages of the album. In the time since we decided on that name I went back and forth to Japan for a while and now live here so the title has taken on a new meaning for me personally which I think is pretty interesting.
As far as the change in musical direction, I think we would all probably say that this is the music we’ve always wanted to make. We’ve been interested in electronic music and the like from the very beginning, since we first started in high school, so I think it’s a natural progression.
Grimes: I think Joey got it right with this answer. And I would even say that Joey’s time in Japan changed the name for me as well.
The Mild Mild West, to me, is referring to our music. It has some mild “soft rock” qualities to it, always has. And now with Joey around the other side of the world, AP Mode and its music has a location, the album name solidifies that.
Which of the songs on the album means the most to you, and why?
Vetter: Maybe Chemicals since that was one of the earliest tracks we worked on for the album and it’s come a long way. The Miles Between was also a special one cause we did that one over in Tokyo and I had a Japanese friend of mine come along and play keyboards with us.
Grimes: For me it’s The Miles Between for similar reasons to Joey. Another Thought also has significant meaning attached to it because of its signaling of a change in direction when it was released as a single. Finish Me already feels like a quintessential AP Mode track so that one holds meaning as well.
Harrington: I’d have to say that Meet You There and C’mon Girl mean the most to me personally. Meet You There was a concept that Lewis sent over about two years ago that hit me at an interesting time. Lewis didn’t seem too sold on it but I was a fan so I jumped in on sort of forming this story line of growth that I had seen in my own life.
C’mon Girl was another song that, to me, couldn’t not be on this album. I fought harder than I have for pretty much anything having to do with AP Mode to make sure it was heard. The frustration and disagreements we had over this song made me very critical about the final result, but after some compromise I think we are all happy with the way it turned out.
Where do you imagine is the best setting in which for people to experience The Mild Mild West?
Grimes: With some good friends and good times.
Harrington: Yeah I agree with Lewis. As long as you’re outside or inside I’d say you’re in an alright listening location.
Where do you get your songwriting style and your sound from in general – any unexpected influences?
Grimes: The influences vary song to song, and it’s sort of hard to pinpoint which songs were influenced by which artists/genres/tracks, but there are some constants. Shoegaze is one that is always in the back of Joey and I’s minds. The shoegaze influence accounts for a lot of moments throughout our discography. A lot of the music me and Joey agree on is sort of atypical hits such as Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem, Blur, and Pinback. Aside from that, I have always liked catchy hooks and pop/rock from the 60s/70s.
Vetter: Every album has had differences in style which is part of why I love this band so much. There’s a very natural creative freedom that flows in our writing process which I think is hard to come by in a lot of bands. We don’t think in terms of genre at all and we draw on a lot of different inspirations when we work together.
How important has live performance been to you as a band over the years, and how have you adapted to the impact of the global health crisis on the live music industry?
Vetter: I wouldn’t really say it’s been hugely important, but we enjoy doing it. I think in general we’ve always been a band that’s focused more on the studio side of things. But we’ve been able to have some great experiences live, playing in some awesome venues that we used to dream about playing in as kids and stuff like that.
As far as the current pandemic, to be honest it doesn’t really affect us much as a band since we already had all of our plans in place to release the album (digital distribution is a wonderful thing) and had already played our last show and everything before things got bad.
Rumour has it this may be the last album from you guys for a while. What’s the story there, and is there a potential for things to continue online, or for a new line-up to emerge?
Vetter: Over the past couple years I’ve gone back and forth to Japan and it became a goal of mine to live there for a prolonged period of time at some point in life. Recently I was also fortunate enough to get accepted to grad school over here with a generous scholarship and so I felt it was the right time for me to come back to Japan. It was an immensely difficult decision to make, probably the most difficult of my life thus far. But I think we all believe that AP Mode will exist again at some point, it’s just a question of when exactly that will be.
Grimes: AP Mode will always exist.
Harrington: If AP Mode doesn’t exist then at least two of us have died but even then it’s up for debate.
What’s been the best thing about making music with AP Mode in recent years – what will you miss the most?
Vetter: Seeing it become what it is has been a joy. It really just started as Lewis and I getting to know each other and trying to play covers in our high school’s band hall during lunch break, almost ten years ago. So to be able to achieve some success with that same project that’s been going for so long is really satisfying.
Everybody in this band is so talented in their own ways as well, and everyone’s grown a lot musically over the years. I’m excited to see what everybody does in their time away from AP Mode. Lastly, I think Lewis and I have a certain amount of musical chemistry which is not common, and I’m grateful that we were able to find each other and work together.
If you could perform one last show together, at any event or venue in the world, which would you choose, and why?
Grimes: Stubb’s Bar-B-Q outdoor amphitheater.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be, and why?
Vetter: The obvious answer is “allow artists to actually profit off their work” There’s just no way for artists to win. It’s really discouraging how even on platforms that are intended to give artists maximum control and freedom like Bandcamp, you can still make a sale and make literally nothing off of it.
How that would actually be accomplished is a different question since the trade-offs are probably more numerous and complex than most people realize, but that would definitely be the thing I’d use a magic wand for.
Secondarily, I’d like to see the album format make a strong comeback instead of streaming narrowing attention to individual tracks.
What’s next for you?
Vetter: I’ll of course be studying over the next two years but there’s a lot more I want to do in Japan beyond that, including musically. I just love music, and I especially love the process of creating an artistic project so I don’t see that ending for me at any point, even if I just end up doing it myself. Time will tell I guess.
Grimes: Continue to write, always keep writing.
Harrington: I’m finishing up school in May then as soon as everything gets sorted out and people are safe I’ll be touring with Dayglow for the foreseeable future.
Is there anything else we should know?
Vetter: I think we can all genuinely say that this album was a labor of love and we’re really happy to finally have gotten this out for people to listen to.
People might think “Why did it take three years to finish a 30 minute album?” But the truth is that the short runtime was a deliberate decision. There were so many tracks we worked on over the past three years which either got cut or never got finished. I think this is a fitting chapter to end AP Mode on for now, but I believe we’ll be back someday.
Grimes: Joey’s answer is perfect.
* * *