For Apples in Stereo bassist Eric Allen, his interest in R.E.M. began when he first heard “Begin the Begin” from the Georgia-bred band’s 1986 album, Lifes Rich Pageant.
On March 11, Apples in Stereo — along with Bob Mould, The dB’s, Marshall Crenshaw, Patti Smith, Guster and others — will pay tribute to R.E.M. during a fundraiser at Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall.
“R.E.M. has been a huge influence on me personally and an influence on every member of [my band],” Allen says. “Even though we didn’t know each other in high school, we all were exposed to R.E.M. at about age 15 and have the similar experience of flipping out and loving them.”
What makes R.E.M. special in Allen’s mind is the band’s ability to “create a sound that seems so much bigger than their individual parts.”
“Peter [Buck]’s guitar covers so much sonic and melodic space,” Allen adds. “None of my friends could ever figure out how he did what did. We were just hacking away like Johnny Ramone, trying to figure out how Peter always made one Rickenbacker sound like 10 guitars.
“On top of that, Mike Mills plays these driving, melodic bass lines that at times are as strong as vocal melody and at other times fill in the way a second guitarist might. Then Michael Stipe comes along with these mysterious, sometimes buried and ominous vocals. All of these idiosyncrasies somehow fit together perfectly and naturally.”
Apples in Stereo will perform R.E.M.’s “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” at the Carnegie Hall show, which will benefit the music education programs American Symphony Orchestra, Church Street School of Music and Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.
“We’ll try to be faithful,” Allen says, “but anytime we cover another band’s song, it ends up sounding like The Apples!”
— By Chris M. Junior