It seems impossible for a music group to create an entire album without spending a second of time together, but Dear Apollo, a central New York outfit, did just that.
“Recording separately gave us complete creative freedom to explore ideas that, honestly, sometimes didn’t pan out,” BU alumnus Ben Robinson, ‘11, wrote in an email. “But when they did, they propelled the song to the next level.”
The band features Robinson and Anthony Dicembre, who both contribute guitar, vocals and bass, while Robinson adds piano and banjo as well. The two grew up in Owego, New York, but haven’t lived in the same city since college. Robinson graduated from Binghamton University in fall 2011 with a master’s of public administration.
With Dicembre in Buffalo and Robinson in Binghamton, they recorded their self-titled debut extended play, or EP, — which was released in November 2017 — by using the same recording software as each other and sharing their work via Dropbox.
The two artists have been collaborating since their early teen years, and the fact that their musical aspirations have gone from drawing band logos during study hall to releasing an EP is a testament to their connection.
“Because of our history together we have a lot of trust in each other’s vision,” Robinson wrote. “We are comfortable enough telling each other when something isn’t working.”
The internet has changed the music recording game and, according to Robinson, you no longer need to catch the ear of a big-name music producer to achieve renown.
“Anyone with the desire to make music can have an outlet,” Robinson wrote.
Still, the technology that provided for the band’s collaboration, Dropbox, came with its own challenges.
“Our files would get so big that our computers would choke on them and run slow, or we would lose saved work,” Robinson wrote.
“One of our fears, procedurally, was that the process would be too far removed and we would have trouble relating the emotion to the tracks,” Dicembre wrote in an email.
The program worked well for most of the production, and when it didn’t, Robinson and Dicembre practiced to overcome those moments.
Dear Apollo’s music is smooth and melodic, calling on a ‘90s grunge influence while replacing muddy power chords with synth and electric piano.
“We appreciate good lyrics and harmonies from bands like The Shins and The Avett Brothers,” Robinson wrote. “You can also see some of the mood and sound being pulled from two of our favorite bands, The National and Radiohead.”
The authenticity in their songwriting is palpable, and beautifully layered vocals on tracks like “Parachute” and “Your Way” make it hard to believe they weren’t together when recording. Upbeat percussion and catchy riffs combine with emotional lyrics on the song “Indestructible,” displaying an impressive duality in Dear Apollo’s sound.
Dear Apollo has gained traction locally with a feature on Ithaca.com and a segment for The Ithaca Voice’s Bedhead Sessions — a series dedicated to highlighting Ithaca’s thriving alternative scene. The indie band has also garnered attention from journalists in places as far away as the U.K. and Spain.
“We put a lot of time into creating our first EP and it is something we are very excited to share now that it’s complete,” Robinson wrote. “But in a lot of ways we are already looking to the future and looking to build on what we have created.”