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Apollonia and the return of the Groove

A lunchtime chat with everyone's favourite frenchies...

With a marked resurgence of grooving house music and vinyl appreciation, and back-to-back sets so Hansel-Hot-Right-Now on the clubbing circuit, it's small wonder Apollonia's charismatic grooves and enviable camaraderie have shot them to the top of the pack. Officially united by the beat in 2012, Apollonia's components - Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorum and Shonky - bring years of experience to the table, their paths first overlapping in the local clubs of Paris and their subsequent transformation into a DJing trio smooth to the point of inevitable. Though perfectly vocal about the inner machinations of their music-making and the current issues of the clubbing scene, in meeting the boys for a pre-game lunch by Talamanca beach it's their now famous ‘bond' - exclusive yet incredibly welcoming - which gives the first and lasting impression of the Apollonia trio we've so quickly accepted as an essential part of the house music and Ibiza scene.

Like every other day for the last month in Ibiza, it's hot. The sun is crashing down the back of my neck like a dragon burp so I dart into a shaded Talamanca beachfront restaurant terrace with relief, flopping onto a seat at the table to greet Dan, Dyed and Shonky with a slippery handshake and croaky gasp for iced water. We get the important stuff out the way first, dealing with the pastas, pizzas and parmigianas before us, catching up on where we've all been clubbing lately and googling the history of the Pina Colada, (the national and preferred drink of Puerto Rico and Shonky). All is explained with the guys' (very) french accent flourishes, which could give the most plastic of couch covers a touch of class. Eventually sitting down in a separate corner of the restaurant to commence the interview proper, the extent to which their three lives are intertwined is immediately apparent.

“When we're not spending time together in the club we are spending time listening to music together, or making music together, or sharing music…” explains Shonky. “We like to do these things all together, to share these things and that's why we have this kind of alchemy behind the decks, because we are living the whole DJ life together.”

Most reading this will know already what all that time together has done for Dyed, Dan and Shonky's musical synergy, but I was amused to find that their synchronised thinking doesn't begin and end with music, the boys constantly finishing each other's sentences, or coming out with the same comment simultaneously. For the most part they interview like they play, finishing each other's ideas and almost always on the same wave length, speaking as one. If you had to typecast, you could give Dan the most responsible and directorial, Shonky the most playful and animated and Dyed more quiet and thoughtful… but it would be doing all three a disservice to pigeonhole them so, as at different times they all take the lead and put themselves forward, they all have their quiet introspective moments and they definitely, definitely all love to have a laugh.

Hanging out and touring as a trio seems like a lot of fun. “Laughing and good times - it's important,” says Shonky. “When we go to the gig we have less stress because of this, and I think that's good for the people too.”

“We DJ for the music but basically we are still entertainers,” adds Dan. “[Being a trio] really helps to be in the party mood. You're travelling, you have a ten hour flight and the flight is delayed, you're kind of depressed at some points but you have to be really strong and positive to deliver the best. When you are with your two best friends, it's very easy.”

The energy they bounce off each other isn't always party-friendly, however. Dan recounts a time when lack of sleep made Sylvester Stalone's almighty boxing comeback at the end of Rocky simply too much for their tender hearts to bear…

“We were almost at the end of our world tour and we were really tired before the last gig of the summer in Brazil. (“ahhh Brazil…” the others chime in, remembering the story). We had like two hours to kill before the show and Dyed just turned on a movie and chose Rocky.” For some people it's when Bambi's mother dies, for others it's when Jack Dawson sinks into the Atlantic, frozen, dead and in direct defiance of physics. For the over-tired Apollonia trio, Rocky getting his groove back was just too overwhelming. “When he won finally… and then with his wife... we all had the tears! (All chuckle heartily) And we didn't want to cry so we replayed the scene but then we cried altogether again!”

When the chortles over the pre-game tear-jerker subside, we move away from the dynamic within the group and onto the changing dynamics of the clubbing scene. One need only glance at the Ibiza clubbing calendar this summer to see that back-to-back is officially the new black. Line-up announcement season was dominated with DJ pairings, from the awesome to the downright awkward. Whilst some of these have and will be incredible musical collaborations, others have felt like attention-grabbing bookings. Having reinvented their careers in this collaborative format, I wondered what the Apollonia boys thought about the new trend and the answers come tumbling out at once, all keen to acknowledge the unpredictability of the style whilst also slightly distancing their own performances from it.

“Personally I don't like to do back-to-back with someone I don't know,” admits Dan. “If it works, it's the best thing, but…" Dan trails off… "it doesn't work all the time,” finishes Dyed. “The three of us know each other really well and love to surprise each other,” continues Dan. “It's very easy to do it, very natural; we are trying to be like one DJ in the end, not doing a back-to-back.”

“With back-to-back, certain DJs can let their ego get in the way.” Dyed explains. “We don't have this problem obviously, but it can affect the set a lot. If you are sharing a moment together it's about making each other comfortable with the records you play, surprising each other but still…"

“Stay united,” interjects Shonky. “Because having your track standout doesn't serve the back-to-back, it serves yourself.”

It's not only the playing format which is subject to the changing nature of trends, but the music itself. For several years now Ibiza and the global clubbing circuit has been dominated by the melodramatic synths and inexorable hi hat parade of Italian-led tech house. In the last few years however - much to the delight of those weary of the lacklustre techno two-step - a warm, funky, old school house sound is staging a solid comeback, propelled by a renewed global interest in vinyl and bringing some much needed groove and playfulness back onto our dance floors. Amnesia opening this summer was a clear example of shifting trends, with Apollonia's second-to-last terrace set sending the dance floor swinging, with smiles at strangers and knowing winks par for the course. The dark and epic growls dominating Beatport techno charts just don't have the same effect on a floor as the sunny smoothness of the analogue world. Apollonia woke us all up, and we needed it.

“I'm sure there is a need for that,” says Dan, “and that three or four years ago this wouldn't happen with the same success. People are more open to the groove again. You know, it cycles - it used to be the same fifteen years ago I would say, but now it's like there is this comeback of a lot of people buying vinyl, the music is not only online anymore and in the club - ”

“ - the music is put in front more,” finishes Shonky.

“Yes, we are not educating anymore, the crowd is educated. And this is really good.”

The returning interest in vinyl culture and the music that comes with it has cast light on a frustrating issue for vinyl DJs, however. “In Ibiza it works, in Berlin it works, most of the time, but massive festivals with big organisations, I would say only 50% of the time the vinyl decks work.” Considering how paramount vinyl is to house music culture, it's high time promoters catch up to demand and sort this out.

“It happens a lot of the time.” says Dyed. “Any gig we go to we can't just show up with a bag of vinyl and not bring any cd and expect everything's going to work… we just have to have a back up.”

“The solution we have today is we record 90% of our music," explains Shonky. “We buy the vinyl and rip it straight away.”

“The best music is still on vinyl, so we don't want to give that up.” Dan assures me. “I don't want to be always on a platform that will take up my time and be polluted by music I don't like. So vinyl is still very important but it's not as stable as it should be - especially in America and South America - forget it. It's very frustrating but compared to four years ago it's getting better and better. We should rate the clubs on their set up (all agree), but then we could lose half the jobs (all agree).”

“Being completely underground and playing vinyl only, if you're on the big stage and your vinyl isn't working, it's a disaster. We are in a very lucky position at the moment that we still play for the underground crowd, but have enough experience to do the job for the big festivals. Like recently we played Awakenings on the Joris Voorn stage for thousands in the afternoon, and then we did a ten-hour set in Club de Visionäre in Berlin, vinyl only. That was... the oxygen! It's good to do both actually, it's all about the balance.” Here follows a spate of tongue-in-cheek ‘yin and yang' spirituality banter, which brings the interview to an amiable close.

Apollonia play Music On at Amnesia this Friday and Circo Loco at DC10, well, all the time.


WORDS | Jordan Smith PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman, Tasya Menaker

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