Omar Apollo wasn’t born as a natural performer, but it’s hard to believe the 24-year-old Indiana native ever made fun of the scene at an open mic party. Since then, thanks to a mixture of sheer determination and raw talent, the Mexican-American singer has had the final say in releasing two soft-boy heavy albums with thorny edges. Now he’s ready to beat his heart on his long-awaited third album. Between the studio sessions and the earthquakes, the young star found time to chat with Maintenance editor-in-chief Mel Ottenberg. – ERNESTO MACIAS
MEL OTTENBERG: Let’s talk about sweets. Do you like chewing gum?
OMAR APOLLO: I love chewing gum. It’s incredible.
OTTENBERG: What kind of eraser, Omar?
APOLLO: I like a mint. The thing about mint chewing gum is that once it’s chewing gum it starts to hurt my jaw and shit. So I keep it simple with two or three pieces max.
OTTENBERG: I think you told me before that you do two or three songs max and that you don’t type. You are elegant.
APOLLO: I’m pretty with that.
OTTENBERG: Can you tell me about your clothing line?
APOLLO: I started a clothing company with my friends called Sky Parlor and we are working on its release and all that.
OTTENBERG: What are you listening to? Is there something weird and random that you listen to all the time? What are your main influences?
APOLLO: I have just started in Cocteau Twins, which has been every day.
OTTENBERG: Hot. You should find “Garlands” by Cocteau Twins. It’s my favorite song from them. It’s really good, I don’t know what album it is on, but it’s streaming.
APOLLON: I found it.
OTTENBERG: It’s a deep cut. What else?
APOLLO: I love Radiohead and listen to Aretha Franklin a lot right now.
OTTENBERG: I’m in it. What type of car do you drive?
APOLLO: Am I driving?
OTTENBERG: You live in LA, don’t you?
APOLLON: I’m driving. Yes.
OTTENBERG: Is driving boring or fun?
APOLLO: I love to drive. It’s a nice escape, you know? This is how I consume music. I don’t really listen to music unless it’s in the car.
OTTENBERG: You like to play, don’t you? I just met you so I didn’t see you play, but I heard that you are really very interested and you look super happy on stage. Were you a born artist?
APOLLO: Born artist, no. I had some really weird experiences playing, especially at the start. I remember a time when there was an open mic and I wasn’t singing very well at the time because I was nervous. People were laughing and then I was like, “This sucks”, but I kept doing it and it went crazy.
OTTENBERG: Did you go out and all that? Or are you like a homebody? What pace for this fall? What do you think it will look like?
APOLLO: I used to go out very often with my friends. We were going to Malibu and staying there for the weekend. It’s mostly people I know, though. I’m not at the stage in my life of meeting new people and hanging out with them, but maybe next summer I will.
OTTENBERG: There’s always next summer baby. You’re from Indiana, aren’t you?
OTTENBERG: Where’s Indiana?
APOLLO: Indiana is right next to Illinois. It’s like a two hour flight from New York.
OTTENBERG: How is it going there?
APOLLON: It’s flat. There are a lot of parking lots.
OTTENBERG: Nobody’s ever been there, basically, has they? No one in New York and LA has ever been there.
APOLLO: I know Michael Jackson grew up on my street, then Freddie Gibbs and James Dean are from Indiana. But, people are leaving Indiana.
OTTENBERG: Do you think growing up in a place far removed from culture is actually really good to be someone who will create culture later?
APOLLO: That’s for sure.
OTTENBERG: Wow. And then when you got out of there, where did you go?
APOLLO: I moved straight to LA. I made music there for a second and did gigs at house parties for a while. And then I started to release music and people started hitting me to do concerts in different places. Then I went on tour and it snowballed from there.
OTTENBERG: You were just in Mexico, weren’t you?
OTTENBERG: Oh my god, wait. Did the earthquake happen while you were there?
APOLLON: I was there. It was fucking scary.
OTTENBERG: Where were you when it happened?
APOLLO: I was at the hotel relaxing with Dylan, my manager, and we were watching YouTube videos. We had just been smoking and shitting so we were in this vibe and then all of a sudden the earth started shaking. I didn’t know what to do because I don’t have any experience with the earth, so I stood up and thought to myself, âAre you feeling this? He’s like, “Yeah, I can feel it.” And I was like, “What are we doing?” and then he said to me: “We have to get out.” We started running down the halls and then the lights flicker, shit shakes, it’s fucking scary. It was as if a ship was sinking. We go out and there are people outside without their shoes and people with towels. I don’t know how long it lasted, but I felt like it was forever.
OTTENBERG: It’s so scary. I’ve been in two and they were both dramatic, but not like real danger. I was in Tokyo once and was on the 47th floor of my hotel, but the hotel was designed on ball bearings so that the whole hotel would go back and forth. You are literally on a roller coaster. It is designed like this so that it does not fall. I was one in September in LA and it was so depressing. I was like, fuck me out of LA right now. You know the Big One is supposed to arrive in LA in October and I’ve heard that all the people who are deep into astrology and shit are leaving LA in early October. Maybe October 8th was what I was told, I don’t remember.
APOLLO: Brother, I certainly won’t be here on October 8th. I guess in Mexico there was an earthquake on the same day last year. It’s always September in Mexico for some reason.
OTTENBERG: It’s so scary. Before that happened, was Mexico City great? I really want to hang out there.
APOLLO: It was great, it was cool.
OTTENBERG: Cool. What are you doing today?
APOLLO: I’m just at the nursery. I’m about to go to a studio in a little while, I just ate.
OTTENBERG: Is there an abstract feeling about what you want to do with your album that you can share with me?
APOLLO: Abstract feeling?
OTTENBERG: What is the atmosphere like? Because we see you early.
APOLLO: I sing on every song, but I feel like I’m singing on this album. When I do these shows, I’m going to have to really do vocal warm-ups. I am really in that bitch, singing to these songs. I belt.
OTTENBERG: Wow, okay. Is it happy to belt? Does it cry? Is it joy?
APOLLON: It cries. It’s the classic nostalgia whine thatâ¦ I don’t know how to explain shit. I’m not good in general, I’m better at being successful.
OTTENBERG: I don’t want to explain the shit that I do, I just want to do it and let people see it, and then if they like it, they like it, and if they don’t, they don’t. do not. I’m on the next thing anyway.
APOLLO: I swear, this is the way to go. This is how you should live. It’s like you know, you know.
OTTENBERG: I think it’s really good to be really respectful of other people, but also of yourself and doing what you think is the right thing instead of saying, ‘Oh, is everyone gonna like it? Or “Oh, is that going to land really well on social media or whatever?” It’s just not that.
APOLLO: People love me for the authenticity, more than “Is it over time?” ” I do not know.
OTTENBERG: You have to create the times. What are you doing tonight?
APOLLO: After the session, I’ll probably do some organizing at home because I just got back from Mexico yesterday. Then work, maybe get some referrals, that’s boring crap. I’m probably watching a movie that I haven’t seen, like The wedding of my best friend, which I rejected.
OTTENBERG: Wait, The wedding of my best friend is the one with Julia Roberts?
OTTENBERG: Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz. I watched him recently in bed on a Dated and it went well.
APOLLO: Should I watch it or not? Am I wasting my time?
OTTENBERG: I mean, it’s stupid. Wait, you didn’t tell me that you love The Godfather?
APOLLO: I love this movie, yeah.
OTTENBERG: The Godfather 2 is the best movie, you should see it.
APOLLO: Did you say the second was the best?
OTTENBERG: Yes, Godfather 2 is the biggest sequel of all time, undisputed.
APOLLO: Okay, I’ll watch it. Because I watched one and it was awesome, but if it’s going to be better I’m with it.
OTTENBERG: Do you sing in the shower?
APOLLO: I used to.
OTTENBERG: Do you do karaoke?
APOLLO: Yes, yes.
OTTENBERG: Do you have any essentials?
APOLLO: I did a few Selena songs, âAmor Prohibidoâ (vocals), that one. And then, the last time I did karaoke, I did “California Dreaming”.
OTTENBERG: Very well. Alright, listen well, good luck, good luck with your album. Have no more earthquakes and we’ll see what happens in October.
APOLLO: Alright, cool. I’m leaving on October 8.
OTTENBERG: Get out there, man, get out there.
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