Teen Music & Radical Wellness (TMRW) kicked off a couple years ago with a chance encounter with the gents of teen funk blues band, Foxy Apollo.
I will forever be thankful to Sam Ashkenazy (lead singer, guitar) and Satchel Swartz (the drummer at the time) for being open to chatting with a random stranger as part of her par-baked teen advocacy project idea. They will always hold a special place in my teen music and radical wellness heart.
A few shots from my first and second Foxy Apollo shows.
Foxy Apollo is a teen band. This is an important detail because teenagers are, so often, written off as overly emotional or are told things like, “you’ll understand when you’re an adult.” Fuck that, I say. You don’t need to be an adult to make great music that moves people. – Odawni
A couple of months ago, I went to a show at The Rendevouz to see friends in two bands that opened for the headliner, Foxy Apollo. After the second band, my friends and I watched as five young musicians set up their equipment on stage. My friend and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows and wide-eyes. We mouthed to one another in unison, “How old are these guys?!”
Then, they started playing. I was blown away. We all were. They had great energy. There was an air of musical prowess about them. Their respect for the musical craft was palpable.
Their sound is funky and fun and sometimes gritty but always with heart. Guitarist and lead singer, Sam Ashkenazy, has a voice that carries raw, visceral emotion. Satchel Schwartz keeps the beat going on drums with such reverence and a confident coolness.
Their music has soul. It tugs at you.
I’ve mentioned before that I think teenagers are some of the most thoughtful, ingenious, inspiring, curious, adventurous, resilient, caring and highly creative people on this planet, and these two gents are no exception.
I wanted to know more about them, the band, their inspirations and aspirations. So, after the show, I hopped up on stage and asked if they’d be down for an interview. I was so excited that they obliged.
I’ve carved out some interview highlights below but you can read a more full version here.
Foxy Apollo Facts
As an introduction to the front men of Foxy Apollo, here are a few tidbits of info. Sam and Satchel:
Are 17 and grew up in Seattle.
Met at summer camp just before 6th grade.
They played in jazz band together at Roosevelt High School.
They reconnected last year, after Sam lived on Bainbridge Island for 1.5 years, and started playing music together again.
Sam started writing songs and playing live shows at Seattle venues since 13.
Are currently studying audio engineering at Edmonds Community College through the Running Start program.
Released their self-titled debut album in 2017.
Who’s in the band?
The band is still forming. A few people who started out in the band ended up having to leave but they made a big impact. Currently, Foxy Apollo is Sam, Satchel and Zachary Schmidt (Bassist).
What’s With the Band Name?
Sam (SA): It started with me and my cousin jamming a couple summers ago. It was kind of an inside joke. We thought it was funny. It was catchy. It didn’t really mean anything at the time…it got its meaning a lot later.
Satchel (SS): We’ve jokingly called ourselves Oxy Pollo. (Remove the first two letters.)
O (me!): Or you could be Foxy Pollo – Foxy Chicken. (haha!)
O: I heard some Nirvana and Built to Spill in your music, and my friend said he heard 90’s and 70’s rock.
SA: I could see that. 70’s rock is huge. I grew up listening to Neil Young and classic rock, and I got into indie rock in high school.
SS: Definitely 70’s funk like The Brothers Johnson. That’s so tight. I love that stuff.
Music & Mental Health
Writing Your Emotions
SA: I’ve been writing songs for a while. I started out imitating a couple musicians – mainly Nirvana. I was in a couple bands that were basically a mirror-image of Nirvana.
In high school, I was really stressed out. I was a little down. I got really into writing songs, putting words to how I felt. It kind of just like spills out of you. But yeah, it kind of all builds up and you’re like, “Oh shit, now I have a bunch of songs. Now I can do something with these!”
O: I started writing when I was fifteen because of depression. I didn’t know what it was then but, for me, I started writing poetry to get through it – poetry is like lyrics. Eventually, it turned into making music so I totally get the importance of having that creative outlet.
SA: Yeah. And, definitely, as I’ve gotten older, too. We just started going to Edmonds Community College. They have an amazing music program and access to studios so we’ve been working a lot there. Every day we’ve been trying to spill a little bit out.
“I Think I’m Mad”
0: Part of why I’m talking to you guys is because I’m interested in mental health and depression, especially teenage depression. I don’t know what it’s like to be a teenager now. Music can be such a personal thing so I was wondering about “I Think I’m Mad”– can you tell me a bit about that song?
SA: I started writing the song about drug addiction and a lot of self-analysis; it was more of a bond I shared with my cousin. We were talking about a lot of deep things but writing these really silly songs, covering it up with happy melodies but really kind of writing about more deep things that we couldn’t really completely comprehend.
O: That’s awesome. It’s awesome how music does that.
SS: Like Sam was saying, self-analysis has always been a big thing. I think with being a musician sometimes…if you’re like me, I like to practice a lot and you could go six hours and feel like you’ve gotten nothing done and you’re really hard on yourself.
It’s gotten to a point sometimes with me, where I won’t have any friends at the time, except for Sam, because I’ll shelter myself and then you realize everybody’s out and you’re like. Oh, alright I guess I’m here alone with a pad..messing around.
O: Right, and is that hard sometimes because you don’t have that social interaction with more people?
SS: Yeah, but I just put it back into music though. You go and listen to an album so it’s both a good and bad…
“I’m always gonna be making music. It’s kind of inevitable. It’s not a sacrifice for me because it’s something I’ll always do. Even if this [Foxy Apollo], specifically, doesn’t work out at some point, I’d still keep making stuff and sharing.”– Sam Ashkenazy, Lead Guitarist and Vocalist
“[W]e both want to become professional musicians or people who work with audio. Even if it’s just becoming an audio engineer or something, doing that kind of business, but I think it’s just about the love of music. Both of us wouldn’t care living in a shithole for like..I don’t know, 40 years.”
– Satchel Schwarts, Drummer
Would You Ever Work a Desk Job?
SA: We’ve been studying a lot of stuff around the music itself, too. We’ve been studying sound engineering and visiting studios and hearing a lot of audio engineering stories. I still wanna tackle the music industry and see what else you can do around it.
Obviously, there’s a chance I might end up with another job around it but I think it’d be cool to learn about all the other stuff instead of just coming [at music] from one direction.
SS: Do you think you could ever see yourself in a desk job?
SA: Fuck no.
SS: That’s a big “no.”
Facing Ageism in the Seattle Music Scene
O: There are a couple of things in your band description on FaceBook that I’m curious about, especially regarding the lack of respect you’ve experienced at live music venues in Seattle.
SA: We’ve been playing at some bars and people see these kids playing –and I’ve experienced this a lot cause I’ve been playing since I was really young– and they kind of just like…
O: …write you off?
SA: Yeah. They’re kinda like, “Play your show and get the fuck outta here.” I mean, they don’t really treat you with the same respect [as adults.]
SS: We’ve played shows where I’ve literally had to set up my drum kit outside the venue and carry it in onto the stage and, right after, immediately leave.
SA: ..and get escorts to the bathroom. I mean, I get it. They’re cracking down…but it’s less about the concerns of underage drinking and more about how people view young musicians, their perspective of them.
SS: We’re like free entertainment to them and they can just treat us like crap.
O: That’s messed up. It sounds like you’ve found some places that are better about that?
Both: Oh yeah. Those are only a select few.
SA: It’s really opened our eyes and it made us realize that we really want to be doing this ourselves; not relying on others to promote us cause a lot of promoters aren’t doing their part…
O: That’s frustrating.
SS: It makes it fun though.
O: You also wrote that you have a “meticulous approach to playing” – What do you mean? Meticulous in what way?
SS: We both play in a very distinct style and they’re both very exact in their own ways, that together makes a whole new sound..it’s different.
SA: Also, aside from the style, we connect a lot to it. Each part of it is telling its own story in a way.
SS: It’s definitely a very thoughtful process…
And these are very thoughtful guys. I’m inspired by their conviction, dedication, commitment and passion to create and share their music. I have no doubt that they’ll do and become whatever it is they aspire to be, musically or otherwise.
Foxy Apollo recently released a few new tracks!
My favorite are Boat Plane/Dolphin. Listen to their new and old stuff on Soundcloud.
Follow @foxyapollo on INstagram, Facebook & Twitter!
Note: Some portions of the interview were omitted to respect confidentiality and privacy. Additionally, some portions of the interview were slightly edited for clarity and brevity.
This interview was originally posted here.