Indie rock duo Dear Apollo recently released their debut EP, but it's not your average project.
In fact, the self-titled collection was made entirely through digital file sharing on Dropbox. The New York-based musicians, childhood friends Anthony Dicembre and Ben Robinson, didn't work together in the studio at all during the recording process and didn't play live together until after they publicly shared the EP in January 2018.
"I had used Dropbox quite a bit to send/receive large files, so I understood pretty well how it worked," Dicembre said about the file sharing platform. "In theory, we could be working off of the same file (like we were sharing a hard drive), as long as we had a good naming system and weren't working on the same files at the exact same time. So, we set some simple rules and a naming system and it just worked perfectly."
Although the duo didn't exactly set out to create an album or EP at the start, they soon realized that the potential existed for a serious project and built nearly identical studios in their basements to help them pursue their ideas. "It wasn't long after we started recording that we started talking about the potential of releasing something," Robinson explained. "It was exciting because even though Anthony and I have played music together since we were kids we never really sat down with that goal in mind. The Dropbox process allowed us to keep track of our ideas and that is half the battle when you are writing!"
Using Dropbox allowed the two friends to work long distance out of necessity and convenience, but it also required them to adapt to the challenges of working virtually. "Part of this whole journey was developing a process that worked for us," Dicembre explained. "I wouldn't say it was easy because playing/writing in the same room was all we knew. What it did for us was create a process that catered to every little nuance/quirk in our writing styles. When you're writing together, usually one person has the overall vision and the other person will riff off of the vision. With our process, that letting go of control and being able to go down deep, deep rabbit holes was essential. Just as essential was being able to let go of something you invested a ton of time into. For instance, we might have a song that has 200 hours into it of us passing it back and forth adding little brush strokes. Then, one night Ben might have an idea that the instrumentation should totally change and he might start over recording it and pull in pieces from the old version and use them in wildly different ways or even steal from other songs we've recorded and build something completely new.
"The process itself is kind of like a series of forks in the road," Robinson added. "When you're writing a song by yourself, or in person with a band, there are a few forks/decisions to make that could take you in a different direction. With us, when either of us sit down to record, we either add a few brushstrokes to a song or there's a fork where we take the song in a completely new direction. The beauty of it is we archive everything, so we've worked on a version of a song for months, then went back to an old version because we decided that it was more going in the direction we wanted. So, we end up with hundreds, if not thousands of forks in the road while we're recording."
However, even though Dicembre and Robinson didn't work together in the same room while creating their debut release, they did not surrender the natural chemistry that exists between them, and that magic brilliantly shines through every track on the EP.
Out of 40 songs and ideas came the four final tracks of Dear Apollo. Emotional, natural, and lyrically captivating, they are the culmination of lots of hard work and determination to push the boundaries of music making in the 21st century while demonstrating the role of modern technology in the way we create art. The collection also marks the first step in what promises to be a promising career for the duo. "In a lot of ways releasing the EP meant letting go of something beautiful we cherished and loved working on," Dicembre said. "So, maybe the EP is a representation of that...it's dipping our songs in bronze and letting others appreciate that portrait of musical thoughts."
"It's something I am very proud of," Robinson added. "To me, it also represents a stepping stone. I am so excited to keep writing and see what comes out of it now that we have gotten our feet wet and have the process down. We have gotten a lot of positive press, which we have also enjoyed, and I am looking forward to putting that confidence boost to good use!"