The Apes are a 4-months-young octet featuring members of Magadog, Gwan Massive and Rude Squad. As most know, Magadog were a Florida ska institution for almost 20 years. When it came time to close shop, frontman Ed Lowery didn't monkey around when it came to forming a powerful new ensemble.
The Ape list: David Akright, bass; K. Paul Boyev, lead guitar; Monica Delgado keys and vocals; Dan Gravelle, guitar and vocals; Ed Lowery, vocals; Lee McElhaney, tenor sax; Carlos Velez, drums; and Bill Riemer, baritone sax. There's nothing primitive about this finely tuned group of simians; they lay down a solid hybrid of traditional ska, skinhead reggae and '60s soul.
Lowery and Akright chatted with us for a bit.
What prompted you to close the chapter on Magadog?
Lowery: Creative differences and proximity; everybody's friends. We ended the band on a good note; it seemed like it was a long time coming, so to speak.
Akright: There's no animosity.
How did you decide whom to enlist for the Apes?
Lowery: Well, we already had Dave, Carlos, myself, and K. Paul … a really good rhythm foundation. The rest of it really was a cross between Craigslist and referrals.
Craigslist? Did a bunch of oddballs reply?
Akright: Yeah. Not with this project, but I've joined, tried to join bands, and tried to start bands on Craigslist. Oh my God, flakes everywhere.
Lowery: We were fortunate; our main sax player, Lee, was in a band called Rude Squad who were real popular in the area for years. His bass player saw the ad and he knew me, knew what I was about, and Magadog and all that. He referred Lee to the ad, and Lee answered it right away. He's our age, he loves old ska, he loves soul, and he's just a perfect fit. You can't get any better than that.
How is the chemistry between the old members and new recruits?
Lowery: Surprisingly better, in many aspects.
Akright: Lots of positive energy.
Lowery: This project is like a rebirth for me. I think enthusiasm reflects. Positive energy with the music brings out positive work. … The horn section guys are both real schooled, they've played in a lot of projects. They're very enthusiastic, which makes it special.
What musically separates the Apes from Magadog?
Lowery: I would say that The Apes have a heavier emphasis on rocksteady reggae, along with traditional ska, but also a heavy influence of '60s soul.
Akright: The soul. That's it. Magadog didn't play anything like that.
How did the name the Apes come into being?
Lowery: We had so many different names tossing around …
Akright: It's the one no one rejected.
Lowery: It's the one that pretty much everyone kind of agreed on.
Akright: No, we didn't agree on it, we just didn't reject it. (everyone laughs) I've come to love it.
Do you sing about primates or any ape related material?
Akright: No, but we sling s---. (everyone laughs)
Lowery: We do. We have three songs on the upcoming album that are ape-related.
Akright: I think we should throw pudding at the crowd though, for sure: chocolate pudding.
Lowery: Oooh, that'd be good. And bananas.
Akright: Chocolate pudding and bananas.
Do you have anything you'd like to say about your upcoming release?
Akright: It's gonna stink.
Lowery: Noooo. I think that potentially we'll probably be doing some work with not only King Django, but hopefully, Brian Dixon from the Aggrolites. He's a producer in Los Angles, he does a lot of work for Epitath. … Hopefully work with some national or international reggae people as guest musicians. It all remains to be seen.
Beyond recording, do the Apes have other immediate goals?
Dave: The goal, which I think we will easily achieve, is when people see that we're playing somewhere, you know you're gonna have a good time, be able to dance, and it's gonna be rowdy. A rowdy good time. If that's what you want to do with your evening, come see The Apes.