Cole Wilson knows what you’re thinking, and, quite frankly, he’s getting kind of annoyed.
The North East School of the Arts grad is all too aware of the impression you get from his band Apple Miner Colony’s MySpace page — which boasts a 20-member band roster and sepia-toned group photos featuring the 20-some odd vintage-washed hipsters — before the embedded music player streams a single note of music.
“We get compared a lot to Polyphonic Spree and Arcade Fire,” said Wilson, whose band plays Friday at the Cove. “It’s become kind of a pet peeve for me.”
AMC’s sheer number (23 at last count) of earnest-expressioned band geeks practically screams the comparisons at you, but Wilson wishes you’d wait for a song to load before you write them off as one more cult disguised as an indie rock band.
“There is definitely a trend where there are bands popping up all over the place with huge numbers of people,” Wilson explains. “You wonder, ‘Are all these people absolutely necessary, or is it all for shock and awe, or is it something the band is doing to lean on for credibility?’”
Not surprisingly, Wilson contends the answer in AMC’s case is none of the above. “When you have everyone playing at the same time it’s easy for it to turn into this large, uninteresting drone,” Wilson said. “ `AMC guitarist and co-songwriter David Keeling` and I have actually gone to great lengths to get all the arrangements and parts just right. It’s very rare that we have people doubling up. A fourth of the time we’ll have every person playing, but it’s at a crucial point in the song.”
“A Heart So Swollen,“ for example, reaches the gloriously overblown orchestration you’d expect from two dozen idealistic college kids, but it takes more than five minutes to get there. Before it peaks it’s all hushed vocals and banjo plucking. The obvious Sufjan Stevens comparison is one favored by Wilson himself, and it’s appropriate but not really in any sort of flattering way. AMC’s more interesting work suggests that Wilson channels Stevens as a gateway to a more individualized weirdness. It’s a striking dynamic that forms the basis for several of the band’s songs. While Polyphonic Spree’s robed chanting kicks into Valium overdose mode sometime during mic check, AMC’s songs proceed like an orgy you have to sit through an awkward blind date to be invited to, and the emotional payoff is greater because of it. I’m curious to see what all the other members of the band do onstage during these mumble-folk interludes.
Wilson said the Cove, is an old high-school hangout, but AMC’s gig there Friday will be his first SA appearance since he graduated from NESA in 2004. Originally, Wilson said, he’d planned to drop out of high school and move to Austin to join a rock band, but his stepmother convinced him to apply and eventually enroll at the College of Santa Fe, where he formed the Colony. “I had these songs that I knew needed classical instruments, like an orchestra, in order to be what it was I needed it to be,” Wilson said. “So I basically walked all around campus and asked everyone I ran into if they played classical music or knew anyone that did. I went around with my ears open and collected this group of musicians.”
The college, where Keeling now teaches, Wilson recently graduated, and several of the other Apple Miners currently attend, may soon be shutting down due to about $40 million in unpaid debt. A recent $11-million pledge from New Mexico governor Bill Richardson may yet keep the doors open, but the current incarnation of AMC is set to separate this summer. Wilson, who plans to continue working under the Apple Miner name, will be relocating to Austin. Out-of-work trumpeters might want to give him a call.
The Apple Dumpling Gang has set out on a final cross-country tour, which began Monday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and ends June 27 in Santa Fe after stops across the South, the East Coast and the Midwest. The title for the tour and the documentary, currently being filmed by some fellow CSF alumni, named after it come from an AMC song lyric: Home Is Wherever You Are. “The College of Santa Fe was our home, and our home is being blown apart,” Wilson explains. “It’s forced us to reconsider what it is to have a home. Love is home. If we can go all over the country and share love and our art and what we’ve gained from this college with other people all over the nation, we get to share what CSF is with the rest of the world by association.”
The college, Wilson said, has been not only home to the band, but a hub for the close-knit artistic community in the smallish New Mexico city.
“This college is all about teaching people what it means to be a community oriented, globally conscious artist,” Wilson said. “I’ve never seen people more giving, tender, intelligent and willing and able to make awesome shit happen.”