Apology Wars is an indie-rock oriented group formed in 2017 in Bellingham, Washington. On their debut EP, The Best I Can Do Is Ruin a Party, lead songwriter, guitarist, and singer Kyle McAllister (formerly of Bellingham band The Masses) blends a variety of influences that may begin at rock, blues, and alternative, but simultaneously call upon funk and R&B to add a smooth charm to Apology Wars’ reliable rock vibes. Comprised of Ryan Rogers (guitar), Bryce Hamm (bass), Paul Stovall (keyboard), Asa Morris (drums), and McAllister, the band presents a solid grasp of their emerging sound on this vibrant, intricately arranged EP.
Of major note throughout the record is McAllister’s raspy-yet-silky voice. It may seem backhanded, improper, or just downright passé to draw a comparison to Jason Mraz here, but in truth – the soulful peaks and valleys that McAllister traverses when singing tend to match Mraz’ bouncy, almost scat-like cadence and rich timbre. However, a gruff, rugged sensibility seeps through McAllister’s vocal performances on this record, in contrast to the oft overly polished and unchallenging nature of Mraz. Overall, each of the musicians on this record show prowess and passion through various leads and fills, and not one of them can be overlooked in terms of their unique musicianship.
The record begins timidly with rim hits, piano, and full-bodied guitar chords on “NPC,” while bass carries a steady rhythm in the background. The listener is immediately introduced to McAllister’s vocal style, which takes center stage as the perceived focal point of the EP. Steadier backup vocals provide a delectable contrast to their lead, as the song sturdily presents its melody with layers of funk guitar-play and piano. There’s a lot of movement happening behind the vocals on this record, but most of the intricacy is well-placed and arranged to not overstimulate the listener. Still, as the band demonstrates a sharp pop sensibility, vocals and guitar prominently drive the melody throughout.
The Best I Can Do Is Ruin a Party continues forward as such with “Hush Money” – each song on the EP is usually centered around a lead guitar riff, while layers of bass, piano, and saxophone (courtesy of guest musician Conner Helms) rise and fall to create dynamic diversity. Apology Wars employ this tactic well. High points in the record include the sax solo found in “Teeth,” a song in which the speaker pitches woo towards someone of their affection. It’s interesting to note here that this EP rarely strays from a central lyrical concept of feeling self-conscious, questioning mortality, and lacking certainty of one’s purpose in life – even in “Teeth,” a love song, the chorus finds the speaker again in doubt of where they stand with their crush (“Check in on me/I don’t know right from wrong”). The title also posits this notion – The Best I Can Do Is Ruin a Party is a feeling that perhaps lives within the most self-doubtful, anxious part of the speaker’s own mind.
The combination of tight drums and acoustic guitar at the start of “Pretty in Flames” make up this writer’s favorite moment of the EP, and Morris’ delicate, nuanced drumming shines brightest on this track. The horn section in the song’s chorus brings about memories of Sufjan Stevens or Neutral Milk Hotel. These fleeting moments of comparison ground the band in their influences, but pass quickly, always reminding the listener that great bands pay tribute to their inspirations while also rising above them to explore new musical territory. The EP’s closer, “Lonely Together,” utilizes the horn section in a similarly nostalgic fashion, and provides enough momentum to finish out the release on a dramatically high note.
Apology Wars is found in a specific, quite vulnerable state on this EP: they’re jet-set on carving their own path but bring together enough context to make their record accessible. The Best I Can Do Is Ruin a Party introduces us to Apology Wars, yet simultaneously begs the question: where will they go from here? As they’ve now laid the foundation for their sonic presence in the world, one can imagine the next record will take any perceived limits or boundaries of genre and subvert them with glee. Apology Wars’ next show is on September 27th at The Shakedown in Bellingham, with Seattle neo-emo rockers Dearheart and Bellingham’s djent-prog outfit Tetrachromat. The band can also be found performing in the Seattle area occasionally, with upcoming dates to be announced. Stream The Best I Can Do Is Ruin a Party on Spotify below: