Black Apples March to the Beat of Double Drummers
Before Campbell Scarborough was a drummer—and also a guitarist and a singer, or rather, a singing drummer who figured out exactly how to secure a mic stand after various unpleasant incidents—he was an actor. Although he wasn’t in anything especially monumental after auditioning for “cheesy parts on bad shows,” he says, being an actor helped him become a musician. How?
“Because of how to accept rejection,” he says, laughing. “You learn how to deal with putting everything you have into something . . . and then people don’t care! That’s probably why I stopped. In music nowadays, you have control. It’s almost like an indie film for every album or song you write.”
Scarborough does double, sometimes triple duty in LA’s Black Apples, along with his brother, guitarist/singer Drew, plus LA bassist/singer Jason Debo and drummer Nick Murray. It’s part of the Jail Weddings/Growlers/the Like cohort often brought to Long Beach by promoter Frankie Alvaro. The Scarboroughs met their new rhythm section in 2008 after dismantling an earlier Black Apples in Colorado and moving to a city they’d once derided in a song called “L.A. Moustache.”
Now he’s in love with LA again, Scarborough says. He’s inspired to write every day, and he’s proud of his very own LA moustache. And now that he’s putting everything he has into the band, he’s happy to find that people actually do care. He grew up on his musician father’s stories of playing the Sunset Strip in ’66 alongside the Doors and Davie Allan, but now he has his own Sunset ’66-esque band. And it doesn’t feel too different in 2010.
“Here in Echo Park, we’ve got cool shows at the Echo, and all our friends in different bands are very supportive and all that fun stuff,” he says. “The only difference is we’re not rolling in cash.”
So they’ve got the golden-era feel, if not the golden-era finances. It’s the hard psyche of bands such as 13th Floor Elevators, the Litter or the Pretty Things (whose S.F. Sorrow LP is one every member of Black Apples owns, Scarborough says) captured, expertly analyzed and released back into the wild. With Black Apples, three or four chords sprout feathers and spikes and spots and stingers, thanks to the successfully processed lessons of bed-rockers such as Hendrix, the Beatles and the post-Altamont Stones, who ably demonstrated just how far out a band could go.
They’ve resurrected several earlier tracks to fill out what will be a new LP for LA’s independent label Albino Crow—half new songs written and recorded at Echo Park’s Bedrock with the four-piece lineup, and half their favorite old songs revamped by Debo and Murray. They tracked everything live in a single day, Scarborough says, so fans who’ve seen the double-drummer Black Apples flatten out a rowdy crowd will know just what to expect: the third and most electric revivication yet of the psych punk born in the ’60s and shaken into action by seminal record label Bomp! and friends in the early ’80s. “Where the Wild Things Go” is a weird, noisy backwoods roarer like the Nashville Teens’ “Widdicombe Fair”; “Buffalo” bounces off the beginning of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” into the kind of ragged semi-sane rock & roll that took years off the life of DMZ.
“We met Jason and Nick when we were really down and out,” Scarborough says. “Having their abilities helped us write more because our two new players were really good. Now we’re all best friends, and we’re all multi-instrumental. We’ll be sitting around with beers, playing guitars, and there’s not a drum set in the room, so it’s whatever we can tap on. Jason will pick a guitar—Nick will dance!”
The toughest part now is keeping all the machinery together, he says. Like Mick Collins’ Dirtbombs, maintaining discipline in a band with two drummers firing at will takes a lot of concentration. But the concussive power live is unforgettable, even if Scarborough’s putting up with some battle damage. At his last show at Silver Lake’s Spaceland, both he and his brother caught microphones in the mouth, and they finished their set with matching bloody smiles. But it was actually kinda nice, Scarborough says now—“and that’s about the worst thing that’s happened.”
Black Apples perform with Living Sickness and Blood Bath at Alex’s Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. Thurs., May 13, 9 p.m. $5. 21+.
This article appeared in print as "Marching to the Beat of Double Drummers: Black Apples inherited a golden-era psych-pop sound that they’ve made their own."
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