The exploratory 1960s duo Silver Apples folded after releasing only a pair of influential albums. Synthesizer player Simeon Coxe III and drummer Dan Taylor moved on to other lives and other jobs.
But the band’s devotional following resurrected the whole thing during the ’90s, when a handful of German-pressed bootlegs surfaced, spurring Simeon to lurch back into music to control his catalog.
It’s something the New Orleans-raised oscillator wrangler hadn’t expected.
“I just gave up on it,” Simeon says of pursuing music. “I figured if I couldn’t be a Silver Apple, I didn’t want to be a musician.”
A few years before founding the band, Simeon — who goes only by his first name — wasn’t even considering wavering-electronic melodies. He started out wanting to be a painter, which is what originally took him to New York.
“The more I tried to get galleries to give me a break, the harder it seemed to get,” he recalls. “I began to realize there was little opportunity, but I did have a music background. … Gradually, it became apparent that I was going to be more able to pay my rent playing music.”
Simeon describes his artwork as large — large, like buses — semiabstract pop art. The smooth contours associated with Roy Lichtenstein weren’t necessarily a touchstone. But he did attain minor success with one proper gallery show, he says. It just wasn’t something he could count on. So, Simeon wound up singing with a few cover bands, eventually leading him to Taylor.
While together for about two years, churning out 1968’s jittery self-titled affair and the following year’s “Contact,” Silver Apples paralleled the decade’s boundless musical experimentation while developing lyrics that hinted at a back-to-the-land attitude.
Following a Pan Am lawsuit, arguing that the use of its logo on the cover of the group’s second album was detrimental to the airline’s image, Silver Apples were precluded from performing compositions they wrote for the album.
“We were the house band at Max’s Kansas City at that time. We had our equipment on the stage — it just always sat there,” Simeon says. “Somebody knew we were at Max’s and some marshals came around … made a notation of the songs we played, and many of them were on that record.”
The following evening, when Simeon and Taylor rolled into the New York club, yellow caution tape encircled the stage. In a panic, Simeon says, the pair hustled his electronic gear off the riser and down a fire escape. When they returned for Taylor’s drum set, it was gone.
Without loot for another kit, Silver Apples functionally ceased as a band, despite a third album, “The Garden,” being recorded and ready for release. The group didn’t play again for about 25 years.
Simeon says there were stints after Silver Apples initially disbanded when he and Taylor sought out session work. The return, regardless of remuneration, wasn’t enough to justify a full-tilt gig. Simeon decided to move back South and work in graphic design.
The impulse pushing Simeon’s art perhaps enabled his musicality to remain intact for a few decades. And with the band’s eventual renewal, despite Taylor’s 2005 death, he started composing again.
“Clinging to a Dream,” the first new full-length since 1998, had its start as a concept for an opera, but furthers an odd combination of electronic sounds, sometimes aping Philip K. Dick’s paranoia, paired with writing that occasionally lovingly eyeballs the world.
Beginning as the “freaky electronic experimenter” who tossed in flute or banjo alongside pulsing compositions and Taylor’s drumming, Simeon has taken more than 40 years to reach this point. Because each song is akin to traipsing through some new doorway, he says, a fresh set of his compositions is kind of like wandering some disused gothic mansion.
“I’ve changed. My times and influences have changed. It’s more polished,” he says about writing and recording a solo work. “If you look at the first record, ‘Contact’ and ‘The Garden,’ you can see a complexity growing. This is the next step.” S
Silver Apples, Father Sunflower and the Golden Rays, and Thumper play Gallery5 on Friday, May 20, at 8 p.m. $15-$18. Visit gallery5arts.org.