No D.C. band ever sounded like Apes. From its founding in 1999, the local psych-rock ensemble—-with its lumbering, distorted organ freakouts—-seemed to exist in a world remote from whatever one the rest of the scene was chillin’ in at the time. Apes didn’t sound like a serious post-Dischord band. It didn’t really mimic the experimental post-punk thing or the dance-punk thing or the post-emo thing D.C. bands were doing in the early aughts. They wore camo, kooky costumes, and masks, and singer Paul Weil—-who sort of looked like Andrew W.K.—-liked to grind up on his bandmates onstage.
The only D.C. band that’s come close to the Apes sound is basically its fraternal twin: Heavy Breathing, the electro-rock group founded by three of the same people who started Apes, Amanda Kleinman, Erick Jackson, and Jeff Schmid. Heavy Breathing has never had a vocalist, and it never really wanted one. Perhaps that’s partly because Apes cycled through three of them, from Paul Weil to Joe Halladay to Breck Brunson. Brunson would turn out to be the last frontman—-after 2008’s Ghost Games, Apes slowed down, and Heavy Breathing emerged.
Apes never officially broke up, though, according to keys player Kleinman. So when Windian Records‘ Travis Jackson approached the band about recording some new tracks for the label, Apes signed up, along with original vocalist Weil. “I approached them in December of last year right before the impending doomsday and asked them if they could all get back together and record us a new single before the end of the world,” Jackson writes in an email. “I wanted The Apes to be the last band we signed before the planet exploded.”
The band regrouped, jammed, and put some new tracks on tape—-the first the outfit recorded since 2008, and the first with the original lineup since 2005’s Baba’s Mountain. On Jan. 7, Windian will release the new Apes songs—-“Bodies” and “Ooop Ahhh”—-as part of the local label’s second subscription series box set. (The Apes recordings will be available as a standalone 7-inch, too.)
It was a happy reunion, Kleinman says, and an unencumbered one, with no expectations of what follows. “I personally have no attachment to any possible outcome of making music,” she writes in an email. “That freedom allows one to simply enjoy sounds, making sounds, and doing it with your gang. The feeling never left, so in some way, we will always be together.”
Listen to one of the new Apes tracks, “Bodies,” below.
Photo of the original Apes lineup by Jayme McLellan