If an unsigned band from Leeds were to make it on to the national stage by persistence alone the chances are it’ll be Apollo Junction.
Since their formation in 2011 the five-piece have gigged consistently all over the country while honing their persuasive brand of melodic, danceable pop/rock.
Their graft has earned them airplay on BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music, and praise from DJs Graham Norton and Janice Long plus a congratulatory message from Real Madrid and Wales footballer Gareth Bale. They recently played at the Isle of Wight Festival for the second time, as well as twice last season at Elland Road, and now finally they have found a manager and a publishing deal.
Next week they play their biggest home city headline show to date, at The Wardrobe in St Peter’s Square.
All this has been achieved while members of the band hold down day jobs. “The unspoken side of the band is we all have jobs,” says singer Jamie Williamson, one of three teachers in the Apollo Junction. “It works really well because it means we can pursue our whole Batman persona of being in a band and we can all afford to actually be in a band.
“It’s amazing how many bands you bump into and they all have to have normal jobs,” he adds. “Half of Shed Seven now do other things as well, Embrace as well. They actually work in web design or Paul Banks, the guitarist in Shed Seven, has his own video production company and he’s out filming. There’s obviously a lot less money in music nowadays, but it’s interesting.”
We played Andy Hawkins some of our other recordings and he just went ‘They sound like a mixture of U2 and New Order’ and we went ‘that’s it’. He’s the first person who’s ever described the sound that we can hear in a song because they’re two of our biggest influences.Jamie Williamson
Paul Smith, Apollo Junction’s new manager, came on board after they supported another band he looks after, Sex P***ed Dolls, at shows in Leeds and Nottingham. So impressed was he, he arranged for Apollo Junction to support 90s chart stars Space. “It’s built from there,” says Williamson. “He’s taken us under his wing and he has really good connections with festivals and it’s a really good step for us. We sort of held back from management before. We had a few managers interested and we’ve always gone ‘Do you know what? We like doing it ourselves’ – we’ve done really well as a DIY-ing band – but this is the first person who’s come along and we’ve gone ‘They’re really nice and they know what they’re doing and they talk in a way that means we can take those next steps, he’s really good’.”
The publishing deal with Wipeout Music came about when they met its boss, John Esplen, at Apollo Festival in York. “We absolutely blew the roof off it and had the whole place dancing and afterwards he said he hadn’t seen anything like it in a long time and pretty much signed us there and then. He’s got Sleaford Mods and The Rifles and a few other ones as well. We wanted to find someone who had a few other bands but also somebody who we could speak to on the phone or actually answers an email and says ‘I can do that’ or ‘I can help you with this’. We feel we’ve found the perfect person and he’s done a great job so far. We’ve had things that we didn’t expect to get.
“We’ve been placed on MTV in America, he put us on This Morning on ITV, places we hadn’t really considered. We’ve been in a big Mexican film, just doors we wouldn’t have opened ourselves and he is continuously pushing us forward for other things and it’s just the start, really, because it’s all quite new. We’re actually getting paid for stuff a little bit more now, which is nice.”
Apollo Junction are also “90 per cent done” recording their debut album. “We’ve always been very much a singles band and we like to write just big, huge songs and we realised we’d knocked out 20 different songs all written over the last two to three years but they’ve all been recorded in different places,” says Williamson. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we take the best ones that have been the staples of the live set for the last couple of years now and write a few more as well and go and record them all in the same place?’
“We went into Nave Studios with a guy called Andy Hawkins, who’s done some really good stuff. He’s connected to the Pigeon Detectives and Maximo Park, he’s their tour manager, he’s recorded some brilliant things as well and the studio is owned by one of the Kaiser Chiefs. It feels like a who’s who of Leeds and we went in there and went ‘He gets our sound’. We played him some of our other recordings and he just went ‘They sound like a mixture of U2 and New Order’ and we went ‘that’s it’. He’s the first person who’s ever described the sound that we can hear in a song because they’re two of our biggest influences, the dance element of New Order but also the melodic chiming guitars of U2. Throw in a bit of Pulp and all sorts of other things, he got what we see ourselves as.
“We’ve got nine or two songs that we’ve recorded and we’ve got a bit more to do. This is where Paul Smith, the manager, comes in really well because we were like ‘We’ve got this album, what are we going to do?’ He said ‘We’ll keep putting out a few songs, we’ll keep releasing bits then when it’s time we’ll go for it’. That’s the sort of expertise we were hoping he’d bring to the band.”
The band are toying with unveiling a couple of new songs to coincide with the gig at The Wardrobe. “We like the idea of them spontaneously just appearing, not a big two month or three month wait for a single. We’ve had a new song for a while and we pulled it apart. We decided to write it for festival crowds, for people who might be walking past and going ‘Where shall we go now?’ We thought ‘Let’s have something that really hits them in the face. It’s called In Your Arms and it really encapsulates the sound that we’re moving towards.”
Having purposefully shied away from playing headline shows in Leeds until now – “It’s all about building up a fan base,” Williamson explains – this one promises to be an interesting step for Apollo Junction. “Futuresound got in touch and said ‘Do you fancy this?’ and we thought ‘Let’s do it and see how it goes’. Since then we’ve started talking about some other shows in Leeds.”
One of which is set to be a support slot at the Brudenell Social Club in September with Bright Light Bright Light, with a major end of year show to be confirmed too.
Apollo Junction play at The Wardrobe on July 29. www.apollojunction.com