You can hear the music from over a block away—the rumbling bass lines, beat of the drums, and scream of the guitar most prominent. Venture three stories into the Fall Creek house and you’ll find a band of young musicians jammed into a muggy attic studio: Cody Zusman on lead vocals and guitar, Wallace Alpern on bass, Roman Predmore on drums, Alec Simmons on keyboards, Felix Zifchock on washboard, and Luke Monaghan on trumpet.
Known as Wallace And The Apes, all recently attended or graduated from Lehman Alternative Community School. Their music and influences cannot be boxed into a single genre—when asked to summarize their style, the answers varied: punk jazz, jazz punk, indie rock, folk, funk, experimental. But the band’s focus has not been scattered: Since forming in October of 2017, they have released an album, EP, and two singles—all recorded in their home studio and available on Spotify and iTunes. Another album is set for the fall.
Wallace And The Apes will make their professional debut on Aug. 9 at the Sacred Root Kava Lounge & Tea Bar. The Ithaca Times sat down with the band to discuss their music, growth, and what’s next. The following Q&A has been shortened and edited for clarity.
What is your songwriting process, lyrically and musically?
Alpern: There’s not a whole lot of process. Cody writes most of the songs, but a lot of the songs we just have made up on the spot.
Zusman: A lot of the song will come together while we’re recording it. I’ll sit down to record a guitar track, not knowing fully the structure of the song that I’m about to record, and then whatever I lay down, if that track is good, that becomes the song right there forever.
You have a range of seriousness in your songs. Some of them are kind of comedic. That’s intentional, right?
Zusman: We really started as more of a comedic band. I remember we started with the idea that there were all these bands in Ithaca, and they were all really good, and we sucked at our instruments. I learned how to play guitar with this band. Wallace learned the bass with this band. Roman has gotten, like, a hundred million times better at drums. Luke is actually amazing at the trumpet. Luke just came in amazing. While we suck at our instruments, we’re going to make music that people like just as much as the bands that are really good at their instruments.
Do you put much thought into maintaining a style while also evolving musically?
Zifchock: Yeah, I think so. Over time, as our musical influences have kind of shifted, definitely we’ve kind of started to shift our mastering and … pushing into different styles of music and trying to evolve our sound as we get better at our interests.
Predmore: And with each project, we try and do something we haven’t done before, while still maintaining the heart of the band, which was to have fun and to create music that we maybe don’t think we’ve heard before, or just stuff that we enjoy and we think other people will enjoy.
What’s it like gaining traction as a young band in Ithaca’s diverse and bustling music scene?
Simmons: I very much like that we are in a different position now than we were in October of 2017, and thinking about how did not expect to be in this kind of a position now. Definitely, traction has been gained, and it’s cool that happened.
Zusman: I was not expecting things to be as big as they are now—even though they’re not that big—compared to what we started with.
Zifchock: We’re absolutely starting to push out of the high school scene, or starting to make the moves that will lead to that.
What are you most looking forward to about your professional debut?
Predmore: I think just being able to get out and play more shows to reach more people. A lot of the shows that we used to play were house shows, shows that were collaborating with other people like the [Trumansburg band] Vicious Fishes where they had a place we could go and they brought their audience together. But I think in the near future we are definitely trying to be more present in the community.
Zifchock: [We’re] really looking forward to playing with more new bands because we really haven’t played with a lot of different bands. But, it’s starting to expand. We’re meeting new people.
Zusman: People don’t really take you seriously unless they know exactly who you are. ... It just seems like we’re dodged a little bit.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Zusman: I don’t go a single day without thinking about Wallace And The Apes, and I haven’t in the past year and 10 months.
Predmore: And I think our mindset has relatively stayed the same. While we are trying to get our name out there to gain popularity and to get the gains of being known, we’re still just friends having fun making music that we like, that we think other people are gonna like. And that hasn’t gone away, and we don’t think it will anytime.
Zusman: I don’t foresee anything stopping us in the future.
Wallace And The Apes will make their professional debut Aug. 9 at the Sacred Root Kava Lounge & Tea Bar. The show is presented by the Newman Bros and also features the Alexander Bradshaw Band and Rena Guinn. All ages are welcome, tickets cost $6, and it runs from 8-11 p.m.