Robert Schneider is a gifted writer of upbeat, melodic guitar pop. With his long-running band the Apples in Stereo (or, as they prefer it, the Apples in stereo, with a lowercase s), his songs are catchy and creatively arranged, even when he’s tossing off a novelty number for an episode of The Colbert Report (“Stephen, Stephen”). He pulled off the same feat on his children’s-music album, Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine. This is a guy who can invent his own musical scale — the non-Pythagorean scale, based on some obscure and possibly imaginary mathematical arrangement — and use it to write a song (“Energy”) peppy enough for the contestants on American Idol to sing. But his first claim to fame wasn’t his songwriting, it was his studio work.
With his simple home-recording equipment, Schneider recorded the Apples’ early work and helped out on early albums by his school friends in Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. The three bands began releasing their records under the banner of the Elephant 6 Collective, a group that would eventually include the likes of Elf Power, the Minders, Dressy Bessy, and Of Montreal. Ultimately, Elephant 6 was little more than a group of friends who shared a fondness for the Beach Boys’ psychedelic period, but Schneider’s recording work gave them an identifiable sound.
All this said, the Apples’ greatest strength is as a live band. I saw them this summer, touring behind their latest record, Travellers in Space and Time — an album I don’t particularly like — and they were just as goofy, charming, exuberant, and talented as ever.
APPLES IN STEREO: The Casbah, Tuesday, November 2, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12 advance; $14 door.