Apartment Kids: Searching for sound

by Rodney Lotter

Last November, an album was quietly released online with little promotion. Merely a “sketchbook,” just some random “ideas” that he had, according to the artist, the album was more of a “recording project,” rather than a serious endeavor. Eventually, the album started finding its way into the hands of local Bellingham musicians and tastemakers, and the result has been widespread acclaim within the community, with some even referring to the album as possibly the best Bellingham recording released in years.
The album is Rusting Machines To Sleep. The band is Apartment Kids, and the man who made the album is Peter Hilleary.
Hilleary has played in Todos Somos Lee and Navigator/Communicator, has collaborated in numerous side projects (including the last Music Box performance at the Idiom), and has recorded numerous bands (such as Torrero and Wild Throne, the artist formerly known as Dog Shredder, among others.) No one is surprised that the album is good, but many have noted just how good the production quality and song writing are.
Anyone who is familiar with Hilleary’s other music knows that he is a talented musician. But, many of his bands tend to operate in the proggy instrumental realm, rather than the acoustic indie rock vibes heard with Apartment Kids (although it still has a math-rock edge to it.)
Hilleary will be releasing a new Apartment Kids EP this month titled Soft Gamma Repeater.
“The whole [Apartment Kids] project just started with me messing around on an acoustic guitar,” Hilleary said. “They were just some song ideas I had that really didn’t work with the bands I was in at the time, and really it was just an excuse for me to play around with recording techniques. At the time I was not even trying to make an album, it was more of a notepad for ideas, but then my friends started wanting to add parts to the songs, and then eventually it just turned into an album.”
Hilleary said the new album was much more deliberate and planned than the last one. He recorded most of the album on his own and played most of the instruments himself, with the exception of some parts played by his friends. Jason McGerr (Death Cab For Cutie’s drummer) plays drums on some of the tracks and mixed the entire album.
“Having [McGerr’s] help on the album was a really great experience,” Hilleary said. “He really helped shape the sound and taught me a lot during the mixing process especially.”
Hilleary said his favorite thing about working on the Soft Gamma Repeater EP was the creative freedom, since he is the only member of the band.
“It gives me a chance to really get into the details of the music,” Hilleary said. “I have the freedom to play around with textures and tones, and there isn’t any pressure to create something that can be played live because I’ve never played these songs live.”
While there are no shows planned for Apartment Kids, Hilleary did say that he has toyed with the idea of creating a live band to play the songs in front of a crowd.
“I really just started this project because of the inspiration I’ve drawn from my friends in bands like Falling Up Stairs, Ship To Ship, The Rooftops and Torrero,” Hilleary said. “I listen to their music and it makes me want to create something as awesome as their music.”
For more information abou tthe band, or to hear the Soft Gamma Repeater EP, visit apartmentkids.bandcamp.com.