Two nights in Mac with You Me & Apollo
Brent Cowles is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover — or, in this case, a singer by his picture.
Unlikely as it seems, the lead singer of You Me & Apollo is on the verge of becoming indie rock’s answer to Sam Cooke.
Cowles’ you-gotta-hear-it-to-believe-it sound is the opener to any discussion about the group he started as a solo project in his hometown of Colorado Springs.
“I really just started singing with headphones on in the car with my parents. I’d be screaming my lungs out,” the 23-year-old said. “It turned into me trying to sound like the people I enjoyed listening to. It eventually developed into my own sound.”
You Me & Apollo will play Friday and Saturday night at McMenamins Hotel Oregon.
Cowles’ released a 2009 EP, “How to Swim, How to Rot,” and a 2011 full-length album, “Cards with Cheats” under the You Me & Apollo name. Then old friend Tyler Kellogg sold Cowles on the idea of making a band of it. Kellogg signed on as drummer, and they eventually tapped Morgan Travis (guitar), Seth Schaeffer (keys) and Dave Cole (bass) to fill out the current lineup.
In short order, You Me & Apollo has become the pride of the Fort Collins, Colo., music scene, where the band is based. They celebrated the release of their six-song album, “The EP,” with hometown fans last week, then drove to Los Angeles for a show at the buzzworthy Hotel Cafe before heading north on I-5 for an eight-day McMenamins Great Northwest Music Tour.
In Los Angeles, the group stayed in a house under the Hollywood sign with the band Churchill, which is recording a new album after hitting it big last year. It was a surreal experience for Cowles’ own up-and-coming band, he said. He can’t help thinking about the band’s future and possible success, but he jokes the main goal at the moment is “just trying to play our music and not look like a fool.”
“As long as we’re having fun,” he added. “We’re just kinda doing our thing.”
You Me & Apollo’s sound encourages fun. On “Before I Die” and “Opener,” Cowles’ Motown-inspired wails and the band’s tight, rising melodies get the blood pumping whiles leaving the body frozen in awe. On bright-tempo songs like “Oh, My Molly” and “Little Bird,” the band evokes an ‘80s pop-rock outfit paying homage to ‘50s rhythm and blues acts.
It makes for an emotional tug of war. As the band puts it: “They’re in the woods and they’re on the strip. They are heartache and they are vengeance. They are swagger and stomp.”
Cowles said the switch to writing as a band, as opposed to a solo project, went smoother than he could have a imagined.
“Before, I would bring a skeleton of a song to the band and they write around it,” Cowles said. “It’s naturally become where everyone contributes in all kinds of ways. It’s become more, ‘How do we make this sound more like a band?’”
And that band is turning heads with each successive show. Cowles said he is most excited about introducing their music to new ears in upcoming tours. After the Oregon tour, the band will play at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, followed by an East Coast tour with Nicki Bluhm and the Gamblers.
You Me & Apollo plays at 7 p.m. Friday in Mattie’s Room at Hotel Oregon, and the same time Saturday in the Paragon Room.
Ossie Bladine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.