Although Indiana’s Omar Apollo is only 21, he already has his own headlining tour. Apollo, who has several songs that have well over a million plays each, has found success alongside artists like Boy Pablo and Rex Orange County as part of this new wave of lo-fi, slacker and bedroom rock. Apollo’s debut record, Stereo, which came out this year, has boosted him more than most bands with a more lengthy catalog. Ahead of his show at White Oak Music Hall tonight, FPH got the chance to speak with Apollo about Camp Rock, what it’s like getting married in your 20’s, and stans on Instagram.
Free Press Houston: Growing up in Indiana you said there wasn’t much going on musically, especially for the kind of music you play. Where was it that you found new bands and new sounds?
Omar Apollo: Yeah, it was almost word-of-mouth from friends, because my friends liked listening to crazy stuff. Also, when I got my iPod, and when I had WiFi, I would go around looking for new music. You start to get into different genres and look up stuff in those genres. You just start going down the rabbit hole of suggested things.
FPH: On your press release it says you first gave up the guitar when you were 12, after playing in various church bands. When you picked it up again, did you really want to do anything except church music?
OA: Yeah. Actually, I started at 12 and gave up at, like, 14. It was just boring. The church stuff — not shitting on it — but it was just the same thing, the same chords, every time. My senior year of high school I started listening to a whole bunch of new stuff and got a new guitar from a pawn shop. Then, I started learning jazz chords and getting into jazz music, stuff like that. I fell in love with it again and went “damn! No wonder I fell in love with this as a kid.” I knew a lot at first, but it just got boring and repetitive, and there was no one in my world playing it around me. I just didn’t pursue it, I just felt kind of lonely.
FPH: I hear, besides just church music, Joe Jonas also had a big influence on a younger Omar Apollo; can you explain?
OA: Yo, Camp Rock! Alright, one time I cried because I couldn’t play as well as him. I had like a mad fit about it. Definitely I owe a lot to Camp Rock. I mean, that’s a cool idea: going to camp for music. Are you kidding me? That’s sick! It’s the same thing with that show Victorious, going to a music high school. That’s what I wanted, I belonged there.
FPH: You and I are almost the same age, so in regards to these shows, and how the disney stars we grew up watching are now starting to get married, do you feel like we are finally starting to get “old”?
OA: Yeah, dude. Everyone is getting married. I’m not even thinking about that. I got so much shit to do. Like, I’m not shitting on people that get married too early, but some are getting married a year out of high school; I’m like, “What the fuck, bro?” Like, I get it, you’re in love, but are you really? You don’t even know yourself. I know I didn’t know myself when I was 19 or 20 (I’m 21). I still don’t really know myself. I feel like I’m talking shit, but I’m not. It just so early. It’s a cool feeling, I guess, to chill out with that shit. We’re so young, bro, why worry about that?
FPH: I hear that you worked at Guitar Center. What was that like? Are there any songs you now loathe because of so many bad covers you heard there
OA: Oh, dude. I went there one day and this guy was like, “You look like an ethnic John Mayer.” I was like, “Alright, what do you mean?” He was like, “What are you?” and I was like, “Dude, this is not cool!” They always bring up tacos or some shit. Do they really think that when they look at me? It was cool, but some customers were just rude as fuck. Me and my homie were the only Mexicans there. People would be like — they were the customers, the crew was cool — “Oh, we got the drug cartel working here!” But it was cool; I had some people come up to be like, “Can I get a picture?” I just played guitar, bullshitting. I would go in the back if there was enough people up front and not do shit, play a game on my phone or something.
And yeah, like hella Metallica songs. Dude, it’s so bad! Also “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” bro. And they can’t play it right, they always fuck it up. And like “Stairway to Heaven,” of course. That shit is annoying. Sometimes they would play something cool like Fleetwood Mac.
FPH: From an insider’s perspective, do you feel like you’re part of this changing of the guard, so to speak? To me, at least, it seems like Mac DeMarco set up this sound to the mainstream and now there are groups like yours, Boy Pablo, and Rex Orange County doing something similar and are all blowing up.
OA: I don’t really listen to Mac like that, but I love his music. I definitely think he inspires a lot of people, the people that make their own music. I know, like, two songs I really like about him. What he did, he did a lot for kids like me. I’m more of a John Mayer guy. I love John Mayer.
FPH: Do you follow Mayer on Instagram? He has a pretty good social media presence.
OA: Dude, yeah. I watch everything he posts. I wanna be one of those people.
FPH: You also have a cool profile. How important is Jimmy Fallon to you?
OA: Yeah, Jimmy Fallon is dope. Like, he’s inspired me way more than most artists. I wake up and be like, “Damn, this is what I want to do.” He motivates me so much. He’s really cool, he’s like one of my favorite humans.
FPH: What is it like having not just one, but multiple stan accounts on Instagram?
OA: Oh, yeah, that’s funny. I follow some of them. They’re cool, but I don’t know where they’re getting some of these photos; they’re like Nardwuar. Someone got my uncle and I when I played baseball when I was, like, 8. How the fuck did they get that? It’s whatever. I messaged one of them and told them I would get them on the list to a show, but they already bought their tickets