College rock types got a special pre-holiday treat if they happened to tune in to the Dec. 20 episode of The Colbert Report. Not only did Stephen Colbert face Decemberists' guitarist Chris Funk in a solo riff-off (a.k.a. The Rock And Awe Countdown To Guitarmageddon), but the host treated his audience to a warm-up performance by Robert Schneider of The Apples In Stereo.
Schneider, known for his skill at writing sunny pop tunes, performed a tune called "Stephen, Stephen" in homage to Colbert. The timing couldn't have been better for Schneider. Though he's been busy releasing albums by his other band Ulysses and his solo project The Marbles, it's been five years since The Apples In Stereo released a new album.
The Colbert Report appearance gave The Apples a nice profile boost just in time for the release of their New Magnetic Wonder album that hit stores earlier this month. While Schneider was happy to receive the attention, the exuberant frontman says that the TV appearance wasn't exactly a calculated publicity stunt. "It was gigantic good fortune," Schneider says over the phone from his home in Lexington, Kentucky. "I love that show, it's my favourite show."
I wrote the song a few months ago. I don't know what enticed me to do it. It seems like a lot of bands in the '60s, like The Kinks, recorded songs for TV personalities. So I thought it would be a fun, kind of cute, thing to do. I thought maybe, in a best case scenario, he'd mention it on the show because his character is so self-obsessed."
In a ridiculously simple series of events, Schneider got the song to Colbert the same day that he finished mixing it. By the next morning, Colbert had apparently memorized the words and melody and was singing it to his staffers. When Schneider was invited on the show, he couldn't believe his good luck. But once he arrived on set, things got pretty surreal. Not only did he get to meet Peter Frampton and Henry Kissinger ("My pop song brought me in the path of the background of world politics."), but he got to jam with one of his all-time music idols.
"I went to the dressing room and lying on the couch was Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick," he says. "And he's one of my heroes — he's written more great songs of anyone who's still alive besides maybe Paul McCartney. "In fifth grade I went to see Cheap Trick play with my friend Jeff Mangum, who was in Neutral Milk Hotel. And we stayed up all night after that air-guitaring to 'Dream Police.' Jeff was playing a baseball bat and I was playing a tennis racquet. That night when I was holding the tennis racquet, I thought, 'You know, I'm pretty comfortable holding a tennis racquet — I bet I could play guitar.'
"I met Will Hart [of Olivia Tremor Control], who I formed Elephant Six with at that same concert, so it was really a seminal point in my life. I got to be in an all-star jam with Rick Nielsen. It felt like such a weird full-circle thing."
The Apples In Stereo will play Montreal's Main Hall on Feb. 19 and Toronto's Lee's Palace on Feb. 20.