An Interview with True Apothecary

Words by Nick Hodgins

Assembling a band isn’t necessarily an easy task. Sure, if you take a few musicians and throw them in a room together, chances are they’ll be able to create some music, but to find a group of like-minded people with similar goals can prove to be a challenge. It didn’t start off smooth for Westchester rockers True Apothecary — but after countless drummers, bass players, fill-ins and temps, the foursome is ready to hit 2015 in full force.

The story begins with Dave Brooks (vocals/guitar) and his solo work, and Jared Garcin (lead guitar) and his indie rock band back in college. When each of their respective projects seemed to be fizzling out, the two decided to team up, jam and see what could come of it.

“Singer/songwriter music wasn’t really my thing at the time,” Garcin remembered over a phone call during one of their practices last week. “But it just evolved into this huge project.”

From there, the duo cycled through an array of members — a drummer from a previous band, a drummer from a metal band, a friend to fill in on bass and yet another drummer — but the chemistry never felt right.

Brooks added, “There just wasn’t enough overlap musically between us and previous members. 2010 is about when Jared and I started working together as True Apothecary. It became less of my music and more of ours.”

Since last winter’s addition of Justin Ross on bass (Tommy Paradise joined on drums the previous winter) the band agrees that the current roster is the final lineup. With all the members coming from bands which didn’t work out, the four agree it’s something special to be in a band with like-minded people.

“When you have a room of musicians, there’s going to be complications and there’s going to be disagreements,” explained Brooks. “It’s very rare that you find yourself in a position where you can look around and think, ‘This is a lot of fun. This sounds really good.’ It’s nice to look around and go, ‘This is cool, these guys are all super talented. Let’s do something.’ ”

With tours, day jobs and writing in the mix, the band is keeping busy, but they have their eyes set on spring, when they plan to release their first EP since solidifying the lineup. While writing together has been going smoothly, it wasn’t until the input of esteemed musician and producer Carlos Alomar that True Apothecary began approaching songwriting from a more methodical standpoint.

Alomar is a composer and arranger best known for his work with David Bowie and collaborations with musicians ranging from Iggy Pop to Paul McCartney. He has played on 32 platinum albums and teaches as an adjunct professor at Stevens Institute in the Music & Technology department. There, he met True Apothecary.

“We asked him to listen to some of our music and it piqued his interest enough for him to actually come to our practice and even offer to produce some songs for us,” Brooks recalled. Bringing such an experienced musician on board was a bit of a wake-up call for the band.

“It was a nice hard dose of reality that we needed,” Brooks said. “Y’know, you build these songs, and in your world nothing could be better — they’re perfect. But when you have an outside factor come in, especially somebody that has that extensive of a music background … it kind of forced us to take a step back and readjust, to take a look at our songs and how we build songs a little differently.”

Keeping this in mind as they continue work on the new EP, deciding which songs to develop has become a more calculated process for True Apothecary. After fleshing songs out during practice, the band decides which songs are record and show-worthy.

“We’ll have educated conversations about how the song works, what elements put it apart from others and just be a little more calculated about what’s going into our lineup,” Brooks explained. “Because as much as we love music, some of the songs don’t really translate and it’s nice having four guys in the room who are all of a similar mindset and realize that some songs are for us and some songs aren’t.”

Reluctant to pigeonhole their sound, Dave boiled it down to “an indie-rock pop scenario edging towards a slightly darker sound.” With dissonant chord structures, melodic tapping and driving choruses, True Apothecary continue to discover exactly who they are, and will become, as they progress further along with their upcoming EP.

The band will be playing The Bitter End in New York City on February 21, where they plan to premier several songs off the new EP. After that it’ll be nonstop studio work until the record release date, which is expected to be sometime in the spring. “We’re going to be really busy,” Brooks said, “But it’ll be worth it. We’re planning some cool stuff for the spring.” | Westchester