Initially conceived as a side project, Stockholm Syndrome is the living, breathing collaborative alliance of two gifted musicians, Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools and singer/songwriter Jerry Joseph. Apollo – the band’s years-in-the-making second album – sees Stockholm Syndrome building upon its initial outing by distilling a distinctive sound fueled by freewheeling creativity and incendiary rock power. Songs like “Finding” and the epic title track showcase the band’s virtuosic interplay and genre-blurring ingenuity, all grounded by the Portland, Oregon-based Joseph’s creative, cathartic lyricism. The Schools-produced Apollo places Joseph’s soulful vocals and songwriting gifts at the forefront, all the while confirming Stockholm Syndrome’s remarkable ability to bridge sonic styles spanning pop, psychedelia, and full-on rock ‘n roll.
“We spend a lot of time saying we’re not a side project, we’re a band,” says Joseph. “So it needs to sound like that. And I think it does. There’s a cohesiveness to this record that really sounds like a band.”
“It’s very song-oriented, very melody-oriented,” Schools says. “There’s some heaviness to it, and some feel to it as well. It’s a rock band, really.” Schools and Joseph first met back in the late 1980s when Widespread Panic opened for Joseph’s then-band, Little Women. A fast friendship was formed, developing into a professional association when Schools produced Conscious Contact, the 2002 album by Joseph and his band, The Jackmormons. Realizing they worked well together, Schools and Joseph teamed up to tour Europe as a double act, playing smoky dives and writing songs in hotel rooms. Upon their return, the duo performed together a friend’s wedding party, accompanied by drummer extraordinaire Wally Ingram (Sheryl Crow, Crowded House, David Lindley & El Rayo-X).
“That’s when we realized, hey, we could have a band,” Schools recalls.
A “dream team” was assembled, featuring Ingram, guitarist Eric McFadden (Keb Mo’, Les Claypool, Jackson Browne, George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars), and Berlin-based keyboardist Danny Dziuk. After just a few days rehearsal, the band jetted down to the famed Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas where they recorded their 2004 debut, Holy Happy Hour. The album earned immediate critical acclaim for its inventive sonics and aggressive political bent and was quickly followed by a series of tours that saw Stockholm Syndrome morph from extracurricular studio project into a truly eclectic and electrifying live act. “We learned how to be a band on the road,” Schools says, “the way you’re supposed to.”
Nevertheless, Schools and Joseph both soon returned to their own outfits, as well as to various new collaborations. While both musicians assumed they would reunite as Stockholm Syndrome, their hiatus took far longer than either had anticipated. Perhaps the most difficult obstacle the band faced over the next few years was Ingram’s battle with stage IV throat and neck cancer. Fortunately, the drummer fought back hard and survived to continue his amazing career (including a 2010 collaboration with Joseph entitled Civility).
“We watched Wally almost get crushed and then miraculously come back,” Schools says. “It’s very scary to watch someone you love go through that, but he came back from it great. There was no way he was going to let it beat him.”
In 2008, Schools and Joseph finally got together at the bassist’s new Northern California home to begin writing material for the long-awaited second Stockholm Syndrome album.
“There’s a trick to it,” Joseph says. “You’re writing not for yourself, but for a band. It’s like some high maintenance girlfriend where the sex is awesome but you only see her once a year. It makes it very intense. It certainly makes it very volatile.”
Stockholm Syndrome – now featuring keyboardist Danny Louis (Gov’t Mule, Cheap Trick) – came together in a converted chicken coop at Cotatai, California’s Prairie Sun Recording with Schools’ “favorite engineer,” John Keane (Widespread Panic, R.E.M., Vic Chesnutt), behind the board. From there, the band returned to Compass Point to finish up with Schools’ “other favorite engineer,” the legendary Terry Manning (Big Star, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top).
The goal from the get-go was to place the focus firmly upon Joseph’s songcraft. Where his solo recordings lean more towards traditional singer/songwriter structures, Apollo places his deeply heartfelt lyricism – spanning injustice, sadness, murder, religion, love, and death – in a truly dynamic setting that shines new light on their visceral artistry and power.
“We’re able to flesh out Jerry’s songs differently,” Schools says. “I don’t think he’s ever been in a band that has this much sonic versatility and it’s all at his disposal. And it gives me a chance to play differently. I get to play much more traditional, I get to sing a lot of back-up. That’s the thing – everybody gets something special and different out of it. That’s why it’s worth being a part of.”
Despite the musicians’ extraordinary pedigrees, Apollo is most definitely not a “chops” record. The band’s sheer power is obvious on the chooglin’ blues-rocker, “Emma’s Pissed” and the ambitious title track – described by Joseph as “’Tonight’s The Night’”- meets- Survival-era Wailers-meets Animals by Pink Floyd” – but the heart of Apollo lies in such intimate and inviting tracks as the bucolic “Town and Country” or the broken-hearted ballad, “Cool, Cool, Cool.” “Stockholm Syndrome is about the songs,” Joseph says. “There’s enough talent in this band at any point to jam this thing into the dirt – in a good way – but for me, it’s all about the songs. If not, it’s not worth it. I’m just not that into guitar solos.”
With Apollo finally set for lift-off, Stockholm Syndrome has already begun looking towards the future. The band intends to tour as much as schedules allow and are already anticipating moving forward with another album.
“The best thing I can say about Apollo is that it really bodes well for a third record,” Joseph says. “Like, it makes sense. This is worth pursuing. A lot of times, even on my own records, I’m like, I don’t even know what path this is that I’m going down. But Apollo makes me excited for the next round of songwriting and recording.”
“Jerry and I have been through plenty together,” Schools adds. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to write together, rather than just trying to scramble through life. To have the time to get together with a good friend and hang out and write some music that can then be taken to a whole ‘nother level, it’s a real treat.”