Cross Henry Fonda in the Grapes of Wrath with rockin' Roddy McDowall in full Planet of the Apes regalia, and what do you get? A really stupid movie about dirt-poor monkeys, OR San Diego's own Apes of Wrath.
Favorites of Anti-Monday night at the Casbah and Fridays at the Ken Club, the Apes of Wrath fill out San Diego’s alternative-indie scene with much-needed fat rock riffs and girthy bass lines, laid down by Jake Bankhead of Bankhead Press fame.
Bankhead was a junior high science teacher in Georgia before moving to San Diego to pursue his rock and roll dreams. Drummer Dustin Elliott arrived all the way from Austria, homeland of the Governator, by way of Alabama, land of the inbreds. Guitarist Andrew Geldmeier is a reformed Texan, while singer only had to move from Irvine, where he tore up the clubs in a series of short-lived punk bands.
The Apes keep it edgy, with down-tempo, moody sections to each of their songs, but they also play heavy, approachable, and danceworthy, driving rhythms (not usually favored by indie groups). Rob Kent’s vocals add a hint of garage with a dash of Franz Ferdinand without all the pretentiousness and prog-rocky flailing of Franz.
The group appeared at the March 2008 South by Southwest (SXSW) music convention in Austin, Texas, earning rave-up reviews. Their EP Plastic, Fake, and Frozen garnered a SD Music Award nomination as well as attention from Transfer's Matt Molarius, who purposely and portentiously left some Apes music in the car of Louis XIV guitarist Brian Karscig.
When it came time to record the Apes' debut full-length at Louis' Pineapple Recording Group studio, Karscig was there to lend a hand. In September 2009, the band won Best Alternative at the San Diego Music Awards. Guitarist Andrew Geldmeier left the band in late 2009, to play organ with Little Fowl.
2010 saw the group returning to SXSW. “This last period of change for the Apes has been really emotional and exciting,” said Jake Bankhead on their return to San Diego. “We have embraced a simplified songwriting approach yet kept our energy…The new sound is more concise and has a strong punk energy, but the melodies and dynamics are still there.”
Robert Kent elaborated. “Less is more has been the mantra for a while now,” continues Kent, “but it is definitely not how we started out. It is fun to challenge ourselves to write tricky arrangements and extensive riffage, but we’ve all come to agree that there is something special about bands who can quell the fire of technical ability with tasteful restraint and stick to themes in a song. We are still learning how to do this and find it much more challenging, but progress is being made.”
“All in all, the new sound of Apes of Wrath is not drastically changing again, but we are definitely exploring new territory constantly to keep things fresh.”
That exploration included a name change in summer 2010, to New Mexico.