Photo by Alex Fischer
Apollo Run writes mountain-conquering songs. They’re not trying to earn a wink from some gal, they’re taking over the world, so it helps that their big-hearted myth rock is crafted by three dudes who don’t mind getting sweaty out there. In fact, for the release of their debut LP, Here Be Dragons Vol. III, John, Jeff and Graham trained hard on fundamentals. That’s right, nuts and bolts, bread and butter.
For John, it was a little like Rocky IV, “We did a crazy amount of vocal drills and rhythm exercises. Imagine one of those awesome 80′s sports movie montages where the athlete is getting back into shape for the big game/fight/race. That was us, and it worked.”
It’s weird to think about these guys humbling down with routine exercises. They are drowning in talent. Graham brings Bonham’s “Hammer of the Gods” attitude to every thump on the kick, crash or snare. Jeff takes over songs at a time with wiggly-worm bass and effortless Zelda arpeggios. John conjures Buckley in one moment, and then rages in the next with old-school showman pomp. It’s a puzzle that they’d opt to shoot free throws all day. Maybe after intro EPs Here Be Dragons Vols. I & II, the band hit a tipping point that charged their cause with urgency. ”For VIII, we had all this great new material and a sense of purpose heading into the studio. A do or die mentality,” says Graham.
The result, full length Here Be Dragons Vol. III, is an hour of sweeping epic. Lush harmonies and cascades of keys crowd around the chamber of “Autumn Song.” Swagger reigns in “Bending The Light,” riding on sinewy rhythms and salty disco bass. The chattery vocal effects in “The Inevitable Small Rebellions” mark an unmistakable new authority in the AR sound. The crown jewel might be “Sirens,” a picture-perfect ballad that constitutes the first instance of the band writing a song all together, from the ground up.
“Jeff started playing a couple of chords on his ukulele while we were driving a long cold road in Ohio,” remembers John. “It was late at night, hours away from our destination, and we found ourselves in a 20 minute vocal/ukulele musical dialogue that probably only made sense to us.” A ferocious tribal build ensues, “From a peaceful beginning into something beautiful and terrible to behold,” as Graham tells it.
In our recession-ravaged, pirate bay of a music industry, cajones are key and HBVIII takes witness to the scope of material produced by just three guys. It suddenly makes sense that they’d adhere to a strict training regimen; their intricate tunes demand it. So forgive Apollo Run for sweating it out on stage every night. All John, Jeff and Graham know is to earn your attention straight up, Rocky style.
John McGrew – Lead vocals, piano, guitar, trumpet
Jeff Kerestes – Bass, guitar, backing vocals
Graham Fisk – Drums, backing vocals
Apollo Run lead singer John McGrew sounds uncannily like Jeff Buckley with some Freddie Mercury-worthy grandstanding thrown in. One moment he offers a quiet little lament, the next he falls to the floor and abuses his guitar in an epileptic fit. Throughout his raucousness, the band sustains a record-perfect clarity in performance, often wrapping up shows with an unplugged hootenanny in the middle of the crowd.- The Village Voice
Led by the genre-hopping intensity of multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano and trumpet) John McGrew, the band’s sound falls somewhere between a stripped down, recession-era form of Queen or Muse, (sans all the cosmic (and keyboard-y) spiritual references) or even Beirut, with McGrew and (professionally-trained) bassist Jeff Kerestes at the helm dripping with the swagger of stars from the arena rock days, as drummer Graham Fisk rolled right along as every song proved an encore-worthy thrill with jumping, screaming, swaying, instrument hugging, table-dancing and a set-closing a cappella stomp-along. A sweaty, saloon-rocking gospel jam along if I’ve ever seen it.- Future Sounds
Apollo Run is a puzzle: Emo Rock? Horn-laden jam? Sweaty gospel pop? But it’s all played with impressive assuredness bolstered by John McGrew’s Buckley-ite vocal passion.- Time Out New York
The group merits far more widespread attention than it’s received thus far; how many others can fashion compelling entertainment out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?- NPR.org’s Song of the Day
Eccentric pop brilliance…Brooklyn three-piece Apollo Run is that band you’ve been searching for. Intricate, packed with infectious melodies and bracingly original, their latest release, Here Be Dragons Vol. 1, is the first in a planned series of three showcasing their varied songwriting — from rough, bluesy tunes to Police-tight pop, all of it topped off with John McGrew’s acrobatic vocals.- Unveiled Arts
Supporting their new release, “Here Be Dragons Vol. 1,” AR sprinted through an impressive selection of songs, highlighting “Nightingale” and “Love Song,” which melded sonata piano arpeggios, fervent call and response falsetto, and bass-driven reggae rhythms. Seductive, jazzy keys, trumpet, and bass lines surged with impassioned vocals on “That’s How It Felt,” while the audience basked in the warmth of Broadway-quality, three-part harmonies on “Wide Eyes” and (my) favorite, “Myography.”- The Deli Magazine, NYC
Some things are just too good to pass up. Brooklyn-based band, Apollo Run, just released a lovely ballad with lyrics straight from the Sheen himself. Listen, learn, love…- The Huffington Post
The group not only play their own instruments but also harmonise impressively…- The Sun (UK)
I went to a Lower East Side venue a few months ago to see my friend’s band play, but a singer named John McGrew that came on later upstaged them and everyone else on the bill that night. Brooklyn singer-songwriter McGrew’s fearless vocals and showmanship won me over immediately, as did his (band Apollo Run’s) spontaneous brand of indie-folk and pop-gospel…Singer/guitarist/pianist/trumpeter McGrew has an almost innate gift for melodies…- Crawdaddy!
Apollo Run sounded fantastic…The piano and McGrews vocals filled the small venue with crisp, clean sound. The bass and drums, which could easily overpower the piano if not played properly, blended in perfectly…I really enjoyed seeing Apollo Run live and I think you will too.- IHeardTheySuckLive.com
Admittedly, when Apollo Run stands out the most, it is when they are playing time-tested material. Riffs coded genetically as the DNA of arena rock music a la Queen, minus the machismo. Their music takes you through a collage study of rock music’s history: from loose cabaret, to tight Journey-style anthems, to horn lines straight from Cetera-era Chicago, all channeled through fairly intimate lyrics for such a large sound…- Bowery Boogie
The three band members—multi-instrumentalists John McGrew, Graham Fisk and Jeff Kerestes—have developed a sound you can’t help but share with others. Each show is full of surprises and their tight playing reflects a natural precision most often found in bands comprised of siblings. Plus the guys know how to have a good time. Whether it’s through an old-fashioned stomp, robust harmonies, or a show-stopping trumpet solo, the audience is taken in by the music and the charisma…
The group’s music was so good that at times it was hard to differentiate their original stuff from the standards, and songs included folk, funk, a cappella, gospel and rock components. At various points during the set, McGrew’s bandmates would yell, laugh and “ooh” to emphasize a facet of the song, and their performance created something akin to the atmosphere of a Prohibition-era speakeasy (I imagine)…- Michele Reverte, The LAist.com
Apollo Run, also can run wildly from one genre to the next while keeping it rocking.- The Roanoke Times
Amelie Poulin would have loved this band. So would Jeff Buckley. John McGrew makes songs for mix tapes, red wine, and skeletons. Live, (Apollo Run) bring the dark carnival. A soundtrack to a life. This book, that film. Trumpets, guitars, piano. And a voice that will break hearts and start fires.- The Deli Music Blog, submitted by Anonymous
…The handsome group of guys definitely impressed me with their catchy, dramatic rock tunes, as well as their CatchPhrase abilities (yes, I mean the game CatchPhrase).- Guilt Free Pleasures
John McGrew and his band have managed to put together a sound that is one part Rock, one part Ska, one part Gospel and one part Jam. Is this possible? It is and it’s good, better than good. You feel like you know these songs, like you are familiar with them. They make you feel that way right away. They suck you in and take you on a journey, a journey you don’t want to end. A cornucopia of sound, made even more spectacular by the energetic and vibrant stage delivery. John is someone who quite clearly has spent time honing his craft. A talented vocalist and musician in his own right John has clearly taken steps and made efforts to have only the best people around him musically as well. From guitars to horns, it’s all there blended together quite nicely…- Dana Costantino, Evil Seed Entertainment