American group guide us through 'Climb Up'

There's probably no more reviled term in modern music than 'alt rock'.

For a start, what exactly is it an alternative to? Most alt rock groups are scoring high on the Billboard charts these days, with British fans swarming to the likes of Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective for their thrills.

It takes groups such as Apse to remind us how illicit and thrilling rock music can be. Blending heavy metal with post rock, shoegaze with dream pop the band crash through barriers like a drunk man attempting the hurdles.

New album 'Climb Up' is Apse' first for ATP Recordings, and is perhaps their most complete document to date. By turns anthemic and intimidating it is truly alternative music - existing in its own universe it is an alternative to just about everything.

ClashMusic tracked down the band's Robert Toher for a track by track guide...

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Blown Doors

In many ways a bridge/connection between the worlds explored on Spirit and Climb Up. Rips through from the world of Spirit into something new but initially has traces of where it came from. Some earlier cuts of this track are 6 and 7 minutes long and there are tons of different versions. Lots of fun sounds and drum machine beats, I wanted it to be a bit clubby in places. My piano parts and Jed's horns really make the ending big for me. I love this as a fall tune and it's one of my favorite tracks on the record.


First demo I made upon returning from a 6 week European tour in 2008. I was tired of playing the material on Spirit and Eras and I wanted to write something totally visceral and to the point. The final cut is a lot more polished than the demo but it retains some of the original grittiness. Just at the end of each verse, low in the mix there's an effected sample Jed took of a motorcycle that acts as a grout to bring in the choruses.

All Mine

Originally written in a string of very different demos I was working on early upon relocating to cape cod. Together Michael and I we expanded on the demo again and again for over a year. Jed wrote a beautiful piano part and Brandon laid his drums over the existing netting of electronic and looped percussion. The song used to be almost twice as long and was hugely reliant on chance and experiment in the first year it was around.


Based off of Aaron's bass parts from some improvised live recordings we'd made, this song was originally a guitar song. Then I worked on an all electronic version of it for a few months and finally Brandon pushed for it to come back to it's original essence as a guitar song. Excited to play this one live and I'll probably post that electronic version of it as well as demos and alternate versions of the other songs on our C.R.A.F.T. blog ( sometime after the album is released.

In Gold

Michael penned this song originally and had been working on version after version on his own for a long time. I ended up doing a lot of the vocals - adding to what he already had in place and layering it. I am in the fore for most of the song but Michael's voice is pertinent and strong in the final section. Brandon did the drums and Jed added a lot of narrative with his manoeuvring bass and piano parts.

Michael: It grew out of a demo that was written months prior and redone into what it is now. After getting some of the structure down, the lyrics became about the need for help and being stuck in something you can't get out of. In it's initial demo stage it was titled 'Gallows' after the Leadbelly/Led Zepplin song and shared some of the lyrics. It has since mutated into something else and I like that it shares something with blues music but still has it's weird way.

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Apse - Wind Through The Walls

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The Age

This was one of the first tracks that I had sounding polished early on. I was housesitting in Connecticut for a while in December and I had reworked the beginning 1:30 dozens and dozens of times. I thought it might even be a single at first. It decidedly got shelved until about 4 months later when Jed took it and reordered the parts, adding and removing layers, in effect almost sort of remixing it. I really enjoyed arranging the violin / radio bits in the beginning and layering the baby grand at the end which is pastoral and reminds me of something that might be found on our first EP.


I had recorded layers of my voice into a loop station and one day in the spring of 08 - one of those spring days where it really feels like summer will come at last - Michael and I were screwing around with making drum samples. Michael took the vocal loop I had generated (for an entirely different song/idea) and played with the reverse button while I recorded it. We aligned the fucked up vocal sample with the drums and laid out a loop ad nauseam. Then we did dozens of simultaneous live overdubs improvising. Sometimes on hammond and wurlitzer at the same time, sometimes two guitars at the same time, sometimes mixing and matching or singing or just doing whatever with what we had around - but never rehearsing - all of the little melodies and things were by chance which was exciting. We layered and layered and then I spent a what added up to nearly triple-digit hours over the next few months mixing it, making hundreds of tiny node-adjustments across the duration of each of its working tracks. With submixing and all there must be around 45+ tracks in the song.

The Whip

Another song based off of Aaron's bass riffs and structured around a guitar riff I had played for the choruses but ultimately took out for the final version. In the final days of working on the song I had spent a lot of time in the same place not leaving the house listening to it over and over again and I must have been out of it because I put in a horrible 'calling out the bad dudes ' almost eminem style soliloquy in at the end that in my haze I thought was great and groundbreaking. A few days after giving a mix to the band with this new section Jed and Brandon confronted me and made me realize how terrible and cheesy and solipsistic the part was. Needless to say I'm grateful it didn't make the final cut. I'd be eating shit for a long time if it had.


Had been around for a long time as just a guitar/vocal thing and once we decided it was going to be on the album it needed richer instrumentation. We added mellotron choir, piano, live drumming, acoustic guitars, ebow, wah, harmonium and a clarinet section among other things. I'm really fond of the way it ends / final note that just holds until it dissipates. The song/lyrics are inspired by and borrow from a track by the band Frankie Sparo on their album 'Welcome Crummy Mystics' called 'This Lie'.

The Return

This was a demo that Jed presented in the spring of 08. It went through a lot of reworking between myself and Michael and Jed back and forth again and again. The track is more of a Jed track than anything else on the record and he plays a lot of the instruments and did a lot of the mixing. It features violin by violinist Sarah Parkington, a cape cod native and long time friend of Jed's. The lyrics, which were written by myself and Michael address one having self-identity issues in the midst of a relationship.

Climb Up

This was originally attached to the end of the working version of 'Lie' which made for too long a track. It is still however the same bpm as 'Lie' and features the core electronic drum part/meter at the bottom of the drum mix. When I was housesitting one night after creating the simple 4 chord progression it must have been 3 or 4 am and I started singing to the track...out came a mix between my own lyrics and part of the lyrics from the last song on Jonathan Fire Eater's 'Wolf Songs For Lambs' called 'Inpatient Talent Show'. Their song had always been of strong sentimental value to me and at that point in the early morning, by myself in this big house and after a lot to drink I recorded the first version of the it is about someone who I care for dearly I became emotional as I was recording and had to keep retaking the vocals. Every time I heard it for many days after I would become emotional and I didn't want to deal with that so I shelved it and revisited after a few months, adding more instrumentation, Jed added piano and harmonium, Michael added slide guitar and backing vox and eventually it was decided by the suggestion of Jed that the working title for the song 'Climb Up' could very well be the album title - which made perfect sense as this song in specific - and the entirety of the rest of the record is about recovery.


I'm nearly 28. It took me a long time to get a grip on the Beatles for whatever reason. And even when I did it took me a long time to catch on to Sgt. Pepper's. And when I did I immediately wanted to make something that had a pop feel to it in that vein. The first 0:37 of this song was part of the version of 'Closure' that was my attempt at making something like that. The rest of the song changed but still had a related overall idea. It would be the last song on an album. It would be a pop twist to finish things out...sort of like when you're really listening to a record - not sitting in front of your computer but really listening to something, maybe not paying too much attention to what track you're on or how many are left and you hear a song (in this case its climb up) that you think it's probably the last song on the album, but then just as you're about to get up and stop the turntable something starts up unexpectedly, uninvited but decidedly welcome. Something of a party at the end of a record, a positive note and a color that hasn't been shown on any other part of the album thus far, and with all that - a little bit of hope, even if it's a kind of wistful hope. In fact, I would say that the album in whole is about a kind of hope.

'Climb Up' is out now

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