Arts & Culture

Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

WITF Music: Apes of the State

Written by Joe Ulrich, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Sep 27, 2016 9:45 AM
Apes of the State

Apes are considered to be animals that are extremely curious.

This is relevant because April Hartman and her band mates are drifting into the interview studio and examining things. And she discovers one of our little secrets in the world of radio. Just underneath all the mics in the studio is a cough button which shuts off your mic in case...

"Oh in case you have to cough?" April laughs. Her bandmate Mollie chimes in, "Oh so you don't want us to just..." as she pretends to hack something up.

April and her band mates are collectively called Apes of the State (Bandcamp, Facebook) and they're a cheery bunch.

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April, whose nickname is Apes, sings and plays guitar and is accompanied by Dan Ebersole on the mandolin, Mollie Swartz handles the violin and Colin Grandstaff is on the harmonica and sings. Looking at their instruments you might think they play bluegrass. That would be right. Sort of.

"We've been described as folk punk, folk music," says April. Dan adds, "I like to call it folk with a lot of attitude. Bluegrass. Pennsylvania bluegrass folk punk."

Their CD which is on iTunes is titled This City Isn't Big Enough. Eight of the 10 tracks have an explicit lyric warnings. They do however play various types of shows and venues and tailor their performance for the audience. So they have played in front kids and not offended anyone -- and that may apply for adult listeners too.

"Going forward I'm not writing music with curses in it anymore," April explains. "I think that's a maturity that going forward we'll see in the songwriting. There's a better word to fit there. I've been told that the only reason you'd curse is because you can't think of a better word. On the songs that I originally wrote I think they serve a very important purpose. I chose those words carefully for a reason and it was very emotional times. That's why they're there."

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April is the songwriter and focuses on things directly linked to why she started playing in the first place: to help her break free from addiction.

"I went into treatment for drug and alcohol in June of 2014. There I started playing guitar again. I hadn't done that in a number of years and I never wrote songs. Then when I got out, I got another guitar. It became my thing that I used to work through my emotions and to express all those feelings that I was going through," she says.

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And now they want to help others who are also fighting addiction.

"Second Chance to Play is our little start up," April explains. "[A] do-it-yourself non-profit that we started doing based on a lot of my experience and talking to other musicians that are in recovery from drugs and alcohol...A lot of people when they go through those kinds of experiences they end up pawning or getting rid, they just lose things they love. And music being one of those things, so we reach out to those people. We put guitars in rehab centers. We get them to individuals that reach out to us. Mostly through donation...With Second Chance to Play we try to reach out to people that might use music also as their avenue to see into themselves and be more introspective and figure out the reasons why in the first place they ended up where they were."

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These apes may be loud and boisterous and sometimes they swear, but underneath it, there's this dire curiosity about how to be happy, to be understood and to be loved. And what they discover, they share through their music and their outreach. Check out their performance in the WITF studio below. 

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