Tropical Depression: I recorded a bunch of songs because I was on a yacht


When you hear the name Tropical Depression, it may not sound like something joyful to let loose on your ears, but in all honesty, the Minneapolis band's self-titled debut is a wonderful treat. Their sound is sunny, blissed-out guitar synth-pop that has plenty of neat, slo-mo hooks. The album and band don't seem to take themselves too seriously either, which is such a rarity nowadays. 

The new project is something hatched from Vicious Vicious' Erik Appelwick with the help of Martin Dosh, James Buckley, and Adam Krinsky and tells of Applewick's adventures recording on a yacht. Via his Facebook page he shares, "The album is mostly an autobiographical account of the travels and tribulations, wanderings and meanderings, islands and beaches, party people, and paparazzi I encountered along the way from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Cape of Good Hope, Straits of Magellan to Micronesia."

Before the band's album release at Icehouse on Saturday, we caught up with Erik to chat about his adventures on the water and what influenced the sound on this album.

Band Members: Erik Appelwick, Martin Dosh, James Buckley, Adam Krinsky

Gimme Noise: How did this project come about? Was it something you had been planning, or did you all talk about it one night and think, "This would be something fun to do."

Erik Appelwick: Tropical Depression wasn't necessarily preconceived like, "I'm going to record an album and it will be this or that." It was more like I recorded a bunch of songs because I was on a yacht. Some of them had a vaguely -- in some cases overtly -- nautical theme. It seemed kind of left field to release an album with that kind of content as Vicious Vicious, so I came up with Tropical Depression instead. I think to a certain degree people had considered VV to be "summer time music," but Trop Dep is full blown yachts and palm trees and shit.

It's a laugh at wealth culture. It's hedonistic spray-tan absurdism. It's the antithesis of a polar vortex. After I had most of the songs finished, I played them for James and Marty and they said, "Ok, yes, we are absolutely doing this." So in a sense, yes, we did talk about it one night and thought, "This would be something fun to do."

You all are so busy with other projects. What was it about Tropical Depression that you felt you wanted to devote time to?

Mostly it was the idea of devoting time to playing music with each other. We are all busy enough that it'd be easy to just never see each other, but we make time to get together and hang out and play because we're good friends and the songs are fun. The only real downside I can envision is that we wouldn't be able to tour in the yacht. 

How do you think all of your other projects influenced the sound on this album? 

Our other projects have some influence on the Trop D songs, but to be honest, everything I hear is an influence, positive or negative. I hear songs on TV or radio or however and they'll squish around in my mind grapes, and I'll think to myself, "That's a fantastic use of samples," or, "That's a terrible vocal affectation," and I'll tip my hat or borrow or pay homage to the moments that really resonate with me. The stuff I don't like, I learn what not to do...


"How It Feelz" is pretty groovy, but you describe it as something you can dance and cry to at the same time. Can you tell me the story behind it? 

I was anchored off the coast of Tulum, just sort of hanging around. I went and saw some ruins and hung out on the beach, the usual fare. Honestly, I was pretty lonesome after a while. Being at sea is beautiful and there's some powerful catharsis in the solitude, but after a point you need to see some other humans and interact with your own species if for no other reason than to maintain some sanity and sense of groundedness. It's not that much different from being in a log cabin on a remote mountain. Well, it's very different in lots of ways, but I think you understand what I'm saying here.

Anyway, I was kicking around the beach and I started talking to a woman who turned out to be from Minneapolis, too. She and I hit it off rather quickly. We hung out for a time on the yacht, and I played her some of the songs I had been working on. One of which was the instrumental track of "How it Feelz." I had some vocal ideas and a couple lyrics but there was something missing so the song really was never going to get finished. Lisa [McGuire] spent about ten minutes listening to the track and then recorded her vocals in just a couple takes, and I was kind of blown away. It was like, "Pow! There we go." In reference to the cry-dancing, that was the way she said the song made her feel. I think there's a palpable yearning in the lyrics and vocals, then underneath there is this dancey layer of post disco gravitas.

Tell me about the AVTOMATIK. Is this yacht real? How do you -- and why did you -- record on a yacht?

The AVTOMATIK is a yacht. I got to use it on a "friend of the family" premise -- I'm not a billionaire yet. With technology nowadays you don't really need to have an enormous amount of square footage to record an album. I had everything setup in the belly of the ship with all my keyboards, guitars, microphones and stuff. It's really pretty easy. People have recorded songs in cars, and I'm sure that someone has recorded an album in a bathtub or a refrigerator box by now, so I don't think the idea of recording on a yacht is wildly outlandish. Honestly, I'm surprised more albums aren't made that way. Free from distractions. You have everything you need right there. It's very efficient. I recommend it. If there was a Yelp for it, I'd give it 6 stars.

What's the goal with this album? Are you looking to tour?

Our goal for Tropical Depression is to have as much fun as possible, play a lot of shows, star in a made for daytime TV special on a cable channel, win a handful of Grammy's and have our names in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Those of us that aren't yet married are hoping to find trophy wives based on the merits and successes of this album. We will undoubtedly battle addiction to various pharmaceuticals only to find redemption years later with the help of a Peruvian new age healing guru. We intend to play tours -- national and international. We want to play local shows, too. We want to play your yacht on Lake Minnetonka. We want to play Mound. We want to play all of White Bear Lake.

What can we expect to see at the album release show?

We're importing 2,000 gallons of ocean water and 7 tons of Tulum beach sand and dumping it all into the Icehouse. People are encouraged to wear beach appropriate attire. I'd bring the yacht, but I doubt it'd fit.

Tropical Depression will release their self-titled album at Icehouse on Saturday, July 19, 2014 with Phantom Tails.

21+, $5, 10 pm

Purchase tickets here.