Leeds indie rock band Apollo Junction 'owe it to their fans' to keep releasing anthems ahead of second album
They've had a tour postponed, shows cancelled and had to record an album while social-distancing in the studio.
But Leeds indie-rock band Apollo Junction said they "owed it to their fans" to keep releasing music through the pandemic and their efforts have paid off - their fan base has expanded beyond their expectations.
The anthemic, guitar-heavy singles they've released this year, January's On The Ropes and April's Light Up The Sky, have propelled Apollo Junction's ever-growing momentum.
It's a taster of their second album, due out later this year, which they're looking forward to playing in front of the fans that have got behind them during the pandemic.
The band, made up of lead singer Jamie Williamson, guitarist Matt Wilson, Ben Hope on bass, drummer Jonathan Thorton and Sam Potter on keys, started out as a "bit of fun" around seven years ago.
Jonathan told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “We all knew each other from the Leeds music scene - as most bands do - and some of us were friends. We were in different bands at the time and those naturally came to an end.
"We had similar influences and styles, so one day we agreed to get together in a room and jam. It came together really well and we got on like a house on fire.
"We had no intention of it being anything other than a bit of fun.”
After the band's early demo was played by Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio Six, they were flooded with messages of support and their fan base quickly grew.
"Before we knew it we were starting to get a bit of momentum," Jonathan added.
"People were messaging us saying they heard us on the radio, loved our music and wanted to come and see us live.
"From that point, it started to grow and after a few years of doing the Leeds scene and local gigs, it evolved into where we are today. But we’re still on that journey.”
Apollo Junction signed a record deal with Leeds-based Shed Load Records in the summer of 2020.
The man behind the label is Mick Carter, who has branched out after starting Shed Load Vinyl, a pop-up record store based at his Guiseley home.
For a band big on championing Leeds, it was important to find a label that understood their roots in the city.
Jonathan said: “We made it clear we only wanted to work with people who really love the band and are in it for the long haul.
“We could see Mick’s love for our music and it just felt right."
After the success of their debut album Mystery, released just months before the pandemic hit, the band are in talks with the label to release their second record - due out later this year.
"It follows a similar feel to Light up the Sky and On The Ropes," Jonathan added.
"There’s been a real buzz around those songs so we’ve kept the vibe going. It’s a little bit heavier, rockier, and more guitar-driven which I think people really love."
The band have felt the pressures of releasing music during the pandemic, but they used the break from touring to interact with their fans on a deeper level.
They've drawn in new ears over the last 12 months, scooping more than half a million streams, as well as having their tunes included in Spotify’s ‘It’s Alt Good’ and ‘New Noise’ playlists.
Jonathan said: "We released the first record in October 2019 and we had this crazy schedule planned for last year, which all fell apart. We had to stay proactive, we had too much momentum just to stop.
"We recorded our second album and had to work really differently - social distancing and recording things separately, with ideas flying around over emails. We still haven’t played the last two singles in a room together.
"We also used the time to really engage with our fans, who were telling us how much the music had supported them through lockdown.
"We owed it to them to engage as much as possible - we did online sessions, Q and As, a few acoustic gigs and stripped back songs."
Apollo Junction's uplifting messages and Leeds-centric videos have struck a chord with people in the city, including Leeds United skipper Liam Cooper who endorsed the band on Twitter.
A memorable moment for the band was receiving a letter of praise from Marcelo Bielsa who wished them "many successes in the future."
"We’re all big Leeds fans and there have been a few highlights over the years, but that was really special," Jonathan added.
“I’m from London originally but I’ve lived in Leeds for 15 years. I came here for uni and decided to make it ‘my place’.
"We love Leeds, we have lots of social circles and deep rooted histories in the city. Those surroundings influence our music.
"Leeds is a special place for many different reasons, but for music - people come together and support one another, especially the unsigned bands.
"We had so much support from people getting behind us in the early days and we’ve got to pay that back by making sure we champion where we’re from, not being a band that suddenly disappears, doing photo shoots in LA.
"If that happens one day, then that's great, but we’re very grounded and we remember where we’re from. I think that’s what people love about us."
What's next for Apollo Junction?
Apollo Junction had a "crazy" touring schedule planned for 2020 which was put on hold during the pandemic.
As the live music industry waits to get the green light to restart gigs and festivals from June 21, the band are looking forward to getting back in front of fans.
Jonathan said: "Ironically, our fan base grew massively in lockdown - more than before, which was great.
"People weren’t going to gigs and were looking for new music and we were ready to speak to them and sell them our songs."
The band have a jam-packed schedule of shows this summer, including CarFest in July and the Bingley Weekender in August.
They will support Leeds legends The Kaiser Chiefs at Halifax's Piece Hall in September, before wrapping up the year with their own tour in November and December.
Their Leeds show at The Warehouse, which was postponed to November 27, is almost sold out.
Jonathan added: “We had a bit of a reality check when we were going through our tour schedule for the end of the year - we’re going to be absolutely knackered by the end of it.
“But it’s great for us after 18 months out. We’re looking forward to it.”
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