An interview with Purple Apple’s lead signer Olivia Eigel.
Chicago has produced its share of talented rock musicians, but few could say they headlined the Metro when they were still in middle school. That distinctive honor belongs to Purple Apple, an all girl band in which three of the four members — lead singer and guitarist Olivia Eigel, bassist Madi O’Brien and guitarist Nonie Anderson — weren’t alive when legendary Chicago group Smashing Pumpkins released their seminal double album Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. (We should note that group’s average age is propped up slightly by their 20-something drummer Devin Ulery, not that this makes us feel any less old.) The three girls are freshmen at Glenbrook South High School, and are getting ready to release their sophomore album.
The age angle is difficult to ignore when discussing Purple Apple, but no one would be discussing them at all if the group wasn’t so talented. Admittedly, we were hesitant to give them a chance. Pop rock performed by teenagers isn’t exactly the genre of music we’re often drawn to. But then we heard Purple Apple’s “Who’s That Girl,” which sounds like it could have appeared on an album by Sweedish group The Sounds. At that point, we were sold. All of Purple Apple’s music is crisp and precise, and features lyrics that are strong enough to stand against songs written by much older artists. Basically, if you didn’t know Purple Apple was composed of mostly teenagers, you’d assume you were listening to a group entirely made up of 20-somethings.
This Saturday Purple Apple will be performing at the Beat Kitchen in Roscoe Village (tickets still available, $10). We were able to catch up with the group’s lead singer, Olivia Eigel, and ask her about influences, future plans, and getting older audiences to take the group seriously.
Man Up Chicago: Who are some of your musical influences?
Olivia Eigel: We all listen to so many different bands…everything from Tom Petty to The Velvet Underground. We’re around some great Chicago musicians too like Scott Lucas, Jason Batchko, Peter Muschong, Blake Smith and Mike Willison. The classic bands like The Who, U2, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Joan Jett are influential as are Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, Coldplay, Cage the Elephant. Throw a little country in there too and we listen to almost everything! Devin loves 50s and 60s girl singers and that’s a part of us too.
MUCh: Your lyrics don’t seem very age-specific — which we think is a good thing — so when you’re writing songs, do you consciously try to make sure the lyrics are relatable to people of all ages?
OE: We don’t really think about the audience too much when we write — I mostly write what my mood brings and what works musically. We’re fortunate that we have a broad audience and our music is liked by all ages.
MUCh: What’s your favorite song that you’ve recorded?
OE: That’s a hard one. We put so much effort into every song I really don’t have a favorite. I really love all of our songs but if we had to pick: “Maybe I’m Right,” “Lay Here” or “Bullets.”
MUCh: How did Devin end up getting involved the band?
OE: Devin is the sitter for my sister and brother and we needed a drummer in 2009. [She] is a drummer and spends a lot of time at our house so I asked if she would be interested in joining us. It worked out perfectly.
MUCh: Have you met fans that didn’t realize how young all of you are? If so, what’s been their reaction?
OE: For any shows where we are the opening band, very often they assume we’re older. Once we’re done and talking to people, they’re very surprised we’re 14. People have really gotten past our age and just like our music.
MUCh: I’m sure there are some people who are older who will just assume your music is not for them because of your ages. So what would you say to convince people in their 20s, 30s or older to come to one of your shows?
OE: Fortunately, for the most part, once people hear our music or see us perform, they don’t really care about our age. We used to hear, “they’re really good for being so young.” Now, we just hear, “they’re great musicians.” The age thing is out. If people are turned off by our age, maybe they’ll take a listen once we’re old enough for them. If you hear a song you like, does the age of the band really matter?
MUCh: Do you have any desire to play shows outside of Chicago and tour the U.S., or tour other countries? If so, is it frustrating that things like school obligations might prevent you from doing such things for a few years?
OE: If we earn the opportunity to tour the US or overseas, I imagine we can work out a situation where school will be managed. Touring the world is an education too for sure, it’s just not within the walls of our school. That’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
MUCh: What can people expect from Purple Apple this coming year, and long term, what are the plans for Purple Apple?
OE: Well, we will have a new EP coming out in the coming months and long term, we will be around for a while. We love what we do so we’ll keep writing and playing.
Purple Apple will be performing this Saturday the Beat Kitchen (2100 W Belmont Ave * Roscoe Village) this Saturday. Doors open at 5:30, tickets $10. They’ll also be appearing on WGN’s morning show on Friday, January 6th. You can hear songs by Purple Apple on their website.