Is it Colorado’s elevation that makes Denver such a hotbed for innovative, genre-defying, envelope-pushing punk music? Is the Mile High City just building on its own exquisite culture of punk-outside-the-lines? While there is probably some totally logical, mundane explanation for the city’s steady output of excellence, there really seems to be something supernatural about this. This city, far from the coasts and disassociated with the more established scenes in New England and the Midwest, is changing everything, and Candy Apple is one of the greatest exemplars of everything that is right with Denver punk.
Candy Apple’s take on raw, jangly punk is refreshingly real in a musical landscape that asks bands to compete for “heaviest” and “hardest” accolades. Without sacrificing any of their aggression or power, the band doesn’t shy away from melody and never turns the gain to eleven to compensate for lack of instrumental innovation. The songwriting is brilliant and gives long-time listeners faith that there is still sneering, iconoclastic, no-fucks-given punk being written in a time when punk is more above ground than it has been in decades. Channeling the DIY, house-show realness of bands like Sex Vid, Glue, and Gay Kiss, as well as the attitude of Gag, Bib, and fellow Denverites Goon.
Following their fantastic Demo and Joyride, Candy Apple’s debut LP, Sweet Dreams of Violence, builds on the skillful blending of fierceness and catchiness from those earlier records. It is being released by the Denver-based Convulse Records, which is quickly becoming the newest tastemaker in punk, hardcore, and noise rock. The combination of the quality of their songcraft and the alliance with a label that has so many eyes on it means that Candy Apple should finally have the global listenership that it so richly deserves.
First, can you list the band members and any other projects they have going on?
I play guitar and sing in Candy Apple. Other bands I play in are The Consequence and more recently, Reality Complex. Preston plays drums in Candy Apple and Of Feather and Bone, while also running a noise cassette label called Trust Collective, including involvement with several projects on the label. Nick is on bass while also playing in Raw Breed, The Consequence, and No Roses.
Following your demo and Joyride, how did you approach planning for a debut full length?
Most of these songs were written during the midst of the pandemic, at a time when we didn’t know if or when we’d get the chance to play them live. We all felt that a big part of Candy Apple since the very beginning has been creating a loud and chaotic live atmosphere, so our main goal was trying to capture that feeling on a record. With that specifically in mind, everything after came very naturally.
Can you describe your writing process?
Either myself or Nick will come to practice with full or partial songs and then we all just work through them together. With Sweet Dreams of Violence being our third release together, the process is really comfortable. We’re always trying to build on top of what we’ve done before, writing sharper and tighter and faster songs, but we also don’t want to settle into a particularly identifiable sound. We try to pull in different influences and deviate from the formula when it feels right. All of that comes into play when we write new material.
What were your major musical influences for this release? Lyrical influences?
This band is heavily influenced by 80’s punk, garage rock, grunge. Lyrically, I wouldn’t say that I am pulling from a direct source intentionally. But I have taken a lot of influence from early punks like Rollins’ raw, jagged, and youthful anger, as well as artists like Lou Reed and Nick Cave with lyrics that convey a tangible, surreal kind of storytelling.
Can you describe the Denver music scene?
Denver’s music scene is incredible. In the months immediately before the pandemic, it was at the best I’ve seen it in a long time. So many great bands, venues that supported these shows, and kids that would get excited about an all-local show on a weeknight. The live component of that is currently resurrecting with some very cool shit on the horizon. And that says nothing about the number of new bands that started during the pandemic that absolutely rip. I’m excited to see what these next couple of years look like for Denver. It’s an impossibly inconclusive list, but some Denver bands you should be listening to:
Direct Threat, Asbestos, Faim, Goon, Blood Loss, Cadaver Dog, Culture Shock, Videodrome, Wide Man, Paul Maul, Raw Breed, Black Curse, Blood Incantation, Law of the Night, Volunteer Coroner, Of Feather and Bone, No Roses, and The Consequence.
James Trejo is a Denver legend. What was it like working with him for this release?
James’ past projects have played a huge part in making Denver what it is today. Working with him on this was really easy. James plays bass with Nick and me in The Consequence, and we had just recorded our debut cassette with him a few months prior. Hearing how that came out as well knowing how the process went, James felt like the right choice for the sound we wanted to get across on Sweet Dreams of Violence. We recorded live, directly to tape at Blood Lust and then shipped it off to Will for mixing (literally shipped the tape because we couldn’t get the tracks to export correctly).
Will Killingsworth is also a legendary musician and producer. How did you get connected with him, and how was that collaboration?
We reached out to Will via email and he agreed to mix and master the record. We had worked with him previously on Joyride and have also worked with him on some of our other projects. Everything he touches sounds absolutely incredible. He’s just a true master in the field and really nice guy that’s easy to work with so it was an obvious choice from our perspective. As I mentioned in the last answer, James had to actually send the tape to Will in the mail because we could not get it to export to digital correctly. We put our faith in Will that he could work some magic on it and of course he did. We couldn’t be happier with how the record sounds.
What do you love about hardcore now? What should change?
To me, hardcore feels self-sustaining. New generations come in and build on what came before and you have this ongoing duality of new bands referencing old traditions or adding something new. There’s something really special about that mix of perspectives.
What should change? I don’t know. Fewer perverts. More gatekeeping.
How did you get connected with Convulse Records? How has working with them been?
Adam has supported the band in the past by booking us on shows in Denver when we were really fresh. Our demo and Joyride were self-released with limited quantities and initially, the idea with the new songs we were writing was going to be the same. We didn’t have a plan of how many songs we would do but it was the pandemic and we were just happy enough to write and play. If I remember correctly, I tweeted something about Candy Apple writing new songs, and Adam asked what our plans were for them. Interestingly, Candy Apple had talked internally about wanting to do something with Convulse but hadn’t actually made any movements towards that. Adam offered to do a record for us, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity so we agreed and that’s where the idea of doing a 12″ began. Convulse is the coolest label and a real Denver staple right now. He’s a great person, cares about the bands he works with and is super down to earth. We’re really excited about being included on the roster alongside bands like Cell Rot, Goon, and Militarie Gun.
Both are friends of the band and that was really important to us when thinking about who we wanted to work with creatively. Another thing in common is they both have a killer, distinct visual style that we felt could play on the ideas we put into the record. I love everything the two of them created for us. The video and shirt design Pete made are awesome. We sent him some lyrics and the songs and he just ran with it, coming back with a very vibrant visual accompaniment to the songs. I love watching that video loop. Shout out to Worn, badass band.
Working with Cain was a little more direct, with him also being located in Denver. He’s a day one for Candy Apple, being the person who duplicated our run of demo tapes in 2018, so we knew we wanted him to be involved in some way. We went over to his place and listened to music while trying different ideas for the cover photos. There’s a whole roll of ideas we didn’t end up using, maybe they’ll surface someday. The end result is exactly what we expected from an artist of Cain’s caliber. It really captures the spirit of the record. I also have to shout him out for being the most patient person ever while we completely made a mess of fake blood in his place. There was blood everywhere and he was totally cool about it. Sorry Cain!
What should people know about Candy Apple? About Sweet Dreams of Violence?
We’re not done, there’s more in store, and we’re going to do whatever we want. Catch us on the Convulse Records weekend/fest in October. That show is absolutely stacked with heavy hitters and you will feel like a damn fool not being there.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for the interview! Thanks to everyone who worked on this record/release somehow – Preston, Nick, Adam, James, Will, Cain, and Pete. Thanks to anyone who listened to the record or bought something from us. Shout out to everyone who didn’t lose their mind last year. Shout out to everyone who did. Nirvana is good. Committing crimes is cool. Recycling is a scam.
Pick up Sweet Dreams of Violence and Candy Apple merch at Convulse Records.