Upstate band The Apartment Club releases the second of three related EPs
As a 20-something, Acen Herron, the singer, guitarist, and main songwriter for the Upstate band The Apartment Club, is all too familiar with the brevity of our modern attention spans when it comes to listening to music. So when he and his band — drummer Geoffrey Kelly, bassist Nate Kelly, and guitarist Jake Bagwell — were figuring out how they wanted to release a batch of recently recorded songs, they kept the average listener in mind.
“We needed to decide whether we wanted to do one release or spread it out,” Herron says. “And I thought about the way I digest new music. I realized that if it’s an entire album, I’ll listen to it nonstop for like a week and then that’s it; I’m done. And that seems to be the way people take in music now. So we chose to put our songs out two at a time to let them sit a little bit in people’s minds. That way, maybe people will go back and relisten when the new songs come out to see how they compare to the old ones. We wanted to get a foothold in people’s minds.”
So late last year, the band put out the first volume of a three-release series under the name “Doubt.” Volume 1’s songs, “Bad/New” and “Doubt,” were atmospheric, intense, midtempo workouts that took their time, unfurling waves of guitars and steady, heartbeat rhythms underneath a massive-sounding production.
The just-released second volume, recorded at Anchor & Pine studios in Charleston, is heavier and more immediate; the production is cut a lot closer to the bone, and the tempos on its two songs, “Red Eye” and “Walnut St. Bridge,” are both faster and more complex.
Herron says the releases will eventually form a thematically linked trilogy, with the second volume representing the climactic musical moments before a calmer conclusion.
“We wanted to start with an eerie, spacey feel on the first release,” he says, “and on this most recent release it’s faster, more uptempo songs. There’s more of an ambient feel on the first one, and that was a good fit; it was the way we wanted that story arc to start.”
The story arc is largely about insecurity and confusion, whether through heartbreak or simply experience. The “Doubt” title proves apt as Herron seems to question everything around him, whether it’s love and spirituality (volume 1) or his own sanity (volume 2). The band seems to instinctively respond to the ebbs and flows in Herron’s lyrics, either buoying him up with heavy full-band rock or falling away to leave him alone but for a skeletal guitar line.
It’s remarkably intuitive playing, especially for a band that didn’t exist when Herron wrote most of these songs in his bedroom while in college.
“As cliched as it sounds, having this band almost doesn’t feel real,” he says. “I wrote these songs in a bedroom after teaching myself guitar and singing to myself. I reached out to my best friends because I booked a show and I needed help because I didn’t have a band. To go from that to all of us writing songs and playing shows together is a dream come true.”
The longer the band has been together, the more the other three musicians have influenced both Herron’s writing and the general stylistic direction of the music.
“I originally wanted to go with a poppier feel, but I enjoy this direction so much more than the one I thought I wanted,” Herron says. “Each member of the band has their own skill set and their own preferences, and the music has come out a lot heavier than I ever imagined. And I love it.”
Herron also loves the reaction that his bedroom songs have gotten from Upstate music fans and other musicians.
“That’s been the craziest part to me,” he says. “When I was in high school, starting to write my own songs, I never thought what I was writing was good enough for anyone else; I was writing for me. Now, people, especially other bands, are telling me that our songs really hit them hard or they’re going through the same things. It feels great.”