Interview: Apartment 3
In Fall 2014 Ivan Marrinson, James Tierney, Dylan Adair, Jon Kraus came together by happenstance. An apartment building on Burlington's North Winooski Avenue put them under the same roof + a common love for the same psychedelic, garage punk music & vinyl records quickly lead them to start a band. Trippy, psychedelic collages promoting bar & basement gigs for Apartment 3 started popping up on poster-boards & telephone poles in town shortly after. Within the next year or so, the noisy, fuzzed-out, booze-soaked psych punk quartet were playing sets at Otis Mountain Get Down, Waking Windows Festival & a plethora of local support slots booked through WW & Signal Kitchen. In only a short amount of time the band went from relatively unknown locally, to one of the more appreciated, closely followed bands in the region.
I had first heard Apartment 3's music in the summer of 2015. At the time, I was in-between apartments & basically laying my head wherever I could each night—plenty of these nights were spent on a close friend's sofa over on Decatur Street. Those nights I'd skate around town, bar hopping until the taps were dry. One night I cruised down N Winooski Avenue—past the now-notorious "Apartment 3"—& heard loud, fast, raw & fuzzy beach rock being practiced inside by who I had presumed to be a few UVM students. I slowed my roll & listened to the band practice for a moment or two. It was refreshing to hear young kids creating something outside of Burlington's funk-dominated Jam band scene. I skated onward. Every few nights I'd pass their apartment & these kids would either be practicing inside or drinking PBR's, heckling me to do a kickflip from their front porch.
All of my first Apartment 3 shows occurred in the same summer—which, in retrospect, was quite the doozy of a summer. It was a common phenomenon for me to attend one of their shows with some friends, enjoy their music thoroughly, but have no recollection of what they sounded like by the time morning came around. I brought this funny phenomenon up to one of our mutual friends & they reassured me that this was exactly what the guys in Apartment 3 aimed for with their live show. Apartment 3's music has never been about complexity or crystalline musicianship—though the band's members are all proficient songwriters & musicians—they've always been more interested in having a good time, putting on a raucous live show & goddamn rock n' rolling.
With this being said, everybody knows that the party must eventually come to an end. Each member has slowly trickled out of Burlington, but they've somehow managed to stay together for the past year to play shows whenever possible. However, due to one of the core songwriters shipping out to the opposite coast, they've been dealt the impossible task of remaining intact. Burlington's beloved, sweet-hearted slacker punks play their final show this Saturday, 10/28 in Winooski, VT & they were kind enough to hop on the phone to tell us the story behind Apartment 3, their future plans & what advice they'd like to give to young Burlington-based bands.
hope: Where are you from originally & what brought you to Burlington?
Dylan: I’m from New Jersey originally & I moved to Burlington when I was 20. It kind of just happened on a whim. I went to community college for a year & I was just itchin’ to get out of ‘Jersey. I just ended up in Burlington by chance. I left Burlington like 10 months ago. I was in Philly for like 6 months but now I’m actually headed out to Oregon in like a week or two. I’m with my parents right now in ‘Jersey.
Ivan: Originally, I’m from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I moved to Vermont in the year 2000 & I’ve lived in Burlington since 2009. I’m a Vermonter since the turn of the millennium. I was going to the now-deceased Burlington College. I was going for their film program—I knew that I wanted an arts degree of some sort & be involved in the arts in some way. Music has always been there.
James: I grew up in New Jersey, in a suburb outside of New York City & I went to college at UVM. After I graduated college I ended up staying in Burlington for another two years.
hope: How long did it take for you to break in?
Dylan: For me, it took kind of a while—a good 2 or 3 years really. It wasn’t until I met the guys in the band that I ever really broke through into any sort of scene.
Ivan: It was a slow & steady process—like most things in life are. At some point I realized that maybe film wasn’t something that I wanted to do so I took a semester off & did some soul-searching. That’s when I ran into the rest of the Apartment 3 guys. I tried to take one more semester of school & I just wasn’t feeling it at all. I ended up just working & paying rent while doing the band stuff. I was renting a two-bedroom apartment in Apartment 3 on North Winooski St across from P-Deli & I had that extra room hanging around—which created a bunch of possibilities.
James: I’d say that it maybe took like a full school year’s worth of time. We started in September, we didn’t even really know what “DIY music” was all about at this point in time, so we just tried to play every gig that we could. By the time that May rolled around we started making some friends—we met Mason & saw Sleeping In play for the first time at this show at Pine St Studios—I think that was the first time that we decided that we were going to play a show with Sleeping In. That’s the first time that I felt like we, as a band, had broken into a scene.
hope: How did you guys all meet each other?
Dylan: My friend, Ivan, that had just gotten this place in the North End. We were kind of playing as a two piece for a little bit & he had seen James at The Olde North Ender & we just sort of thought that he’d be a good fit with us. He also had just happened to take the apartment underneath Ivan’s. Once James saw Ivan’s record collection it was game over. We became homies. It was sort of a match made in heaven.
Ivan: When I moved into Apartment 3 I was in a transitionary period of my life in terms of not knowing if I was going to go back to school or not. I knew that I’d have to find someone else for the second room in my apartment, but I decided that for a couple months at least I’d just have my music equipment in there & just jam out. As I was bringing my drum set in, my downstairs neighbor—who had freshly moved in—popped his head out & just wanted to say “hi”. I gave him a little spiel like “If I’m ever making too much noise upstairs just let me know”. His reaction was the best possible one: “Well, actually I’d like to make some noise with you as well.” That was Tierney [James] our bassist who lived downstairs.
James: I met Dylan & Ivan right after I graduated from college. I moved into a new apartment & I was expecting to only stay for the summer because my original plan was to go to Thailand to teach english as a second language post-college. Then I ended up meeting & jamming with Dylan & Ivan for the first time the day before I got the acceptance email into the ‘Teach English’ program. I decided to stay in Burlington to pursue the band instead of going to Thailand because I figured that you only meet people that are down to be in a band once & you can go teach English in Thailand at any time. I met some people that I felt I had some true chemistry with. I’m still not in Thailand teaching English. I kind of realized after a year of doing the band that I was glad that I didn’t do that. I don’t think that I’d be a very good teacher.
Ivan: It’s weird, actually a year before this happened I lived in a place on Pine Street with Dylan. We had a similar taste in music so we sort of tried, in vain, to form a two-piece. We called ourselves a bunch of different names & played open mic nights at Manhattan’s Pizza & it was going alright. When I met Tierney, he was like “I’m really into music too, you should come to The Olde Northender to see me & my friend play—we play in this project called Dirty Jim.” I went to check it out & it was really fun, interesting & creative. He played a lot of things in the rock genre that I really liked & I really liked the drummer, Jon Kraus, too. We realized pretty quickly just from hanging out with each other & the music that we were into that we should all four get together & do something a little bit bigger than just a little two-piece thing. It all fell into place really—the right time & the right place.
hope: You make a different type of music compared to many of the bands at the forefront of Burlington's local music scene. Do you think that it’s important for other local bands to push the envelope & not just dive into what's popular locally?
Dylan: Yeah, totally. I thought that at times it was kind of daunting to get involved with the scene for that reason. But then I kind of also felt like this land of opportunity because there weren’t as many structures for Garage Rock & there wasn’t much to be compared to in Burlington.
Ivan: I think that it’s really important in any music scene to create something that’s sort of outside of the norm. I’ve since moved to Portland, Maine & the equivalent to Burlington’s jam band scene in Portland, Maine is soft-rock. I think it’s really important to shy away—and I don’t mean to shit talk an entire genre of music—but I think that there’s a lot of problematic genre-borrowing in Jam music. It’s really awesome to be really good & proficient at an instrument, but at some point I would take simplicity & creative originality over complexity & something that I’ve heard one hundred times before.
James: I think that it’s probably the most important thing to the wellbeing of the city. Looking back on my whole thing when I moved to Burlington, I was kind of one of the more punk-y, alternative kids, I felt like because I had grown up going to all of these punk shows in Brooklyn. Then when I went to UVM the first group of friends that I ended up making were like Jam Band kind of kids. I was super open-minded so I said “Alright, I’ll give it the time of day.” So I like, did that, for a little bit. But the whole time I was pretending to be somebody that I wasn’t. Then when I discovered that there wasn’t just jam music & that there were people that weren’t into Jam bands is when I really felt I found my place—not only in Burlington—I felt like a really came into myself.
hope: What was your favorite show that you played in Burlington?
Dylan: I’d say when we played The Attic. It was Apartment 3, Sleeping In, Trunkweed—a band from Baltimore, Maryland. That show was really great. It was one of the first shows where we actually felt like we had people coming to our shows that weren’t just our buddies. It was just a really big show & it was really fun. It was crazy.
James: This show at The Attic. It was my birthday & Trunkweed played that show. That was the first time that Apartment 3 & Sleeping In played a show together. It was my birthday & we all wore sunglasses—we had this stupid schtick—I feel like that was the first show where it was like “Wow. There are people like us in this town.” Every show that we played at Handsome House was dope too, but those all kind of blend together.
Ivan: Probably when the band & I sort of realized that I was going to Portland, Maine we had sort of a ‘going away party’ for me. It was at Handsome House & Vinny Marksohn and Louie Kiley from AF tapes recorded the set on Reel-to-Reel—that made it pretty special. It was also just a really good group of people. It was also the the first time that I’d done LSD before a show & it was the first time that I had ever played on psychedelics before. It was surprisingly easier than I thought & really rewarding. It was especially rewarding to listen to the recordings afterwards & realized that it wasn’t as crazy & weird as I thought at it was at the time. There were a bunch of cool aspects of that show. We covered a song by The Oh Sees called “Enemy Destruct” that I sort of shared a memory with a friend who had died that year over that song—it was very emotional when we covered it & it sort of felt like a send-off for him.
hope: I was at that show. It was a lot of fuckin’ fun. It was so hot down there.
Ivan: It’s sort of become a standard for us to tell if a show is going well when the audience is enjoying the show to the point where the pipes above start to drip. Vinny & Louie had to stop the recording early because their equipment was getting dripped on. We played at SideBar recently & the same thing happened there. It’s a good feeling when you can alter the natural environment of a room with your music.
hope: What was your favorite show that you played outside of Burlington?
Dylan: I would probably say Waking Windows Portland ‘16. Doing the WW thing in Burlington was cool—but doing it in another city was really awesome being able to bop around from venue to venue. It was cool for an exposure perspective too, I guess.
James: I think the best show that we ever played outside of Burlington was in this town called Fitchburg, Massachusetts & it’s funny story how we ended up playing that show. Ivan & I went to that Wilco Solid Sound Festival & it was such a weird festival—it was like a ‘family scene’ & we were like “This kind of sucks…” But there was this one group of kids that were at the campsite & they were like listening to The Black Lips & The Oh Sees & drinking beers. We went & talked to them & we kind of became friendly with them. They were like “We have this house in the middle-of-nowhere-Massachusetts & you guys should come play some time.” We were into it, but we never really exchanged contacts. Randomly, a year later we ended up playing a show with those guys in New Hampshire—they’re called The Rough Cuts. It was really cool because everyone there was down to just rock out. It was an early show, it ended by 10pm, but it didn’t effect the show & they also filmed us. We got a cool video out of it.
Ivan: One of my favorite shows was at this now-deceased venue in Manchester, New Hampshire called the Fuzz Hut & it was just a really cool show with a lot of camaraderie. We had been playing a series of shows with this band called Trunkweed from Baltimore & they were just really nice to us. I accidentally left my guitar at a gig in Amherst, MA & Trunkweed’s guitarist let me borrow his guitar to play the set because I didn’t even realize that it was missing until we were loading in for the show. That was one of my favorites because of camaraderie & everyone was kind of patting each others backs.
hope: What was working with Britt Shorter // Section Sign Records like?
Dylan: It was great. We still have records—so if anyone needs a record, we got em! But yeah, it was great. I talked to Britt after a show one time & we had talked about doing something & we didn’t really know what we were doing with these recordings that we had done ourselves, but we were trying to get them out one way or another. He was just like “Yeah, I’ll press it! You don’t have to pay anything, just like, here ya go!”. It was awesome. It was like a dream come true.
James: It was really cool & it was weird because it felt like we had made it—in a very unofficial way. It was like “Ok. Now we’re going to put out records & now we have this professional obligation.” It was perfect because we were all kind of at this crossroads—Ivan was moving to Portland & I was moving to Philly—but it gave us an incentive to stay together, despite the moves. Britt was like super cool about the whole thing. We decided that it was happening one night at The OP over beers & I think that it was everybody in the bands’ dream to be on vinyl.
Ivan: It was interesting because he was very upfront about the process. He totally financed the record. We did our own research & found out how much it would cost to get the vinyl pressed & it would’ve been like $2000. It was a good learning experience because we got to see the ins & outs of what someone at a record label could & could not do for you. I’d say it was a really positive experience for us all. When Britt ended up closing the label he just gifted the vinyl to us. I really hand it to him for being a man of his word & supplying us with what we thought was worth it. I wish him the best in veterinary school. I really liked all of the projects on the label & it felt really good to be somewhat of an outstanding genre on his label.
hope: You guys are all over the map at this point—you’re living in different states, but you’ve stayed together & played some shows here & there over the past year. What’s that been like for you?
Dylan: It’s been better than I thought that it would be. We had been inspired by a band called B-Boys that had a similar situation. At this point we’ve played all of our songs so many times & we just practice so well together that when we do practice, it’s just like second nature. It’s definitely been crazy driving everywhere but we make it work. It’s all for the love of it. It’s not really a pain in the ass ever.
James: It’s been hard for sure in a lot of ways. But it’s also been comforting because I’ve increasingly felt like the people in Burlington—Dylan, Ivan & Jon, Mason Dixon & whoever else—are really my true best friends that I’ll always be friends with. It’s cool that Apartment 3 has been able to see all of these people on a pretty regular basis. As hard & somewhat stressful as it has been—the band has really has been my priority. It’s hard when we’re all apart, but when we do manage to make it work, it’s always fun. There’s not any bullshit anymore. When you’re all together everyday, it’s inevitable that you start butting heads. But when you only see each other once a month or once every two months it’s nothing but good times.
Ivan: I think that we have it a lot easier than a lot of bands in this situation. Our song structures are really simple at times & also having Apartment 3 to practice in for two years when I was there. It made it so we could get back together and have one hour-long practice & pretty much be right back where we were when we last saw each other. Some of it is the genre of music that is lent to it & then also just the fact that we were all such good friends & able to practice as much as we did. At the end of the day we have close to a second album’s worth of material that someday might get recorded. I’d like to think of this whole thing as an extended hiatus or an indefinite hiatus because I still feel like we have another album in us, but it’s just something that our personal lives would have to work out in order for it to happen.
hope: What other projects have you been working on?
Dylan: I played in the band Paper Castles a little bit last year. It was super fun. I had never really played the whole 'Session Guitarist' role before, so that was cool. Since then I’ve kind of been compiling some 4-track recordings that I plan to do something with. It’ll probably be a solo thing—maybe a band eventually, but for now just a solo thing.
Ivan: Not really. I’ve been fooling around with some computer music & stuff. I’m sort of thinking of a solo project of computer beats & instrumentals with guitar over it. Some of it is triggered by me attempting to make covers of Apartment 3 songs in Garageband—but making them very techno or new wave. It’s very genre-adjacent but different at times. There’s that stuff & there’s sort of a stoner/doom metal band that invited me to audition for their band. It’s a really weird situation because they are a really proficient guitarist, bassist & drummer coming up with all of these really cool riffs & they don’t even have a name yet. Little things on the horizon—nothing major.
James: Dirty Jim was what existed before Apartment 3. It was the musical endeavor keeping me sane. I still play solo Dirty Jim shows every now & then, sometimes I get a backing band to play. I’m trying to make it into a real production—I guess my dream for Dirty Jim is to have it be like a broadway musical with lights & a pit band & all of these crazy stage props, but I’m not motivated enough to make it work—it’s really just a dream of mine. I’m also in this band in Philly called Qwark—which is not as crazy fuzzy as Apartment 3 but it definitely has similar influences: Garage-y, indie, ya know? It’s pretty cool. We’re finishing up a little record pretty soon & I think that once we put that record out we’ll probably start gigging around Philly a lot.
hope: What are your plans?
Dylan: Just get settled. Play some music. I don’t have much planned.
Ivan: The woman that I’m dating is from Maine & she basically stayed in Vermont an extra year to be with me, so I kind of felt like I owed it to her to go to Portland with her. I really like it from the perspective that it’s a lot like Burlington, maybe less prevalent of the college scene, but more prevalent of the tourist scene. It feels good to be starting from scratch & making new friends. I feel like only now I’m starting to form friend groups after living here for two years. I’m just putting myself in a new situation & riding it out. No real plans—just whatever pops up, I guess.
James: I don’t know. I’ve been living in Philly for a year now & it definitely feels like home. I feel comfortable living here—but at the same time I don’t see myself living in Philly for the rest of my life so it’s kind of like “When’s the next time to move on & what am I going to do?”. Now that Apartment 3 is done I feel somewhat unchained in a way. So I might do something crazy like go backpacking through South America or something. I don’t know. Philly is cool—it’s been a growing experience.
hope: What's the best advice that you could give to any younger bands in Burlington?
Dylan: Just do it. Practice. Write songs. Do it. Don’t sit around thinking about. If you don’t have a show—go get a show. Talk to somebody, because usually it’s just right there & you’re just afraid to whatever, ya know?
Ivan: Play a lot of shows. Nothing makes you want to be better than when you mess something up in front of a crowd that you’ve been getting right in the practice room all week. Play lots of shows because that’s the only way that you’re going to get fans. Recorded music is great, but if you’re playing an existing genre of music—there’s not a huge presence for straight away rock music from the digital listening platform. It’s becoming more & more about the live show. Play as much as possible, in front of more people.
James: I would say that you just have to be after it. You have to know that you wanna achieve something, then you gotta make some recordings & send out emails. Email everywhere. Email every venue in town. Play a bunch of gigs. Make a bunch of friends. Most importantly though: Play other places besides Burlington. The first step is to definitely email as many people as possible & play as many shows as possible—just so you can get used to being a band & playing shows. You only really start to feel like a band when you’re gigging on a regular basis or else it just feels like a little hobby that you do in your spare time. But if you’re gigging regularly you begin to make friends & build connections. Only through gigging.
Apartment 3 play their final show in Winooski, VT, on Saturday, October 28th with Sleeping In & Clever Girls at The Monkey House. Entry to the event is $5 [21+] or $10 [18+] // RSVP to the event here.
- hope all is well