· By John Frazier
Allen Epley Talks His Unironic Love of AM Gold
Allen Epley is surrounded by music. The Chicago resident is a member of the Blue Moon Group, known for his work with Shiner and The Life and Times, as well as his music-centric podcast Third Gear Scratch. Not to be outdone, he found the time to cut a nine-song solo LP for Spartan called Everything.
We wanted to dive into the approach to this solo outing, especially given Epley’s love and admiration of the AM Gold he grew up on in the 1970s. From Bread to Carole King to James Taylor, what was cheese to angsty teenagers and 20-somethings at the time was a deep river of joy for him. You hear the influence strongly on Everything. To up the ante, we asked Allen to compile a list of some of his favorite songs from the era which we've included in a playlist below.
The son of college professors who went through his parents’ record collection, he didn’t have to answer to those who hated artists who were part of the “problem” with the music industry.
Epley notes a vast difference between people of his generation and the generation of his children. Thanks to Spotify’s recommendations, younger people have a broader range of music at an earlier age than previous generations.“With the younger generation, that stigma doesn’t exist,” he says. “For my generation, they’re much more likely to reject soft rock for the reasons [of] it’s schlocky. My kids – who just turned 19 – they think ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ is one of the best fucking songs, without any irony.”
No matter what kinds of music you get into later in life, melodic music is a great start. Musical training wheels, in a way. But once the wheels come off, people sing a different tune about their influences. “It’s a natural progression to reject them when you discover your own music,” Epley says. “You have to go away from it. Somewhere later down the road, it’s going to resonate.”
He understands how first-generation fans of punk rock fans openly hated John Denver, James Taylor, and the Eagles in the 1970s and they still hate it decades later. “Every generation is gonna have the stuff they have to go against,” he says. “But I would argue if you’re open to it . . . there’s a certain point in which you stop having biases against certain genres and you’re able to hear great musicians and great sounds. That’s really aided me, but your average civilian may not ever be able to go back and think John Denver as anything but pap trash.”
Granted, there was a portion of the population in the 1970s that didn’t think acoustic-tinged love songs were reflective of the time. “The 1970s were kind of sad,” Epley says. “It was post-war, but it wasn’t like post-World War II in the 1950s when everything sunny and bright and we’re building all these neighborhoods. We just barely escaped this quagmire. Everybody’s got drug addictions who came back. Everybody’s missing a limb. It was hard.”
With events like a gas shortage and hostages in Iran, Epley sees things with a balanced perspective.
“They [were] putting that aloe on their burns from the unrest of the Sixties.”
He knows he’s not alone in his love for this music. He was inspired by other artists that owed a debt to the AM Gold they loved, like Elliott Smith and Sea Change-era Beck. He even remembers back in the 90s, Epley had a mixtape called “The Comp That Shall Not Be Named” including Bread, Rush, and Joni Mitchell to take a break from all of the Steve Albini-recorded artists he and his bandmates listened to in the van.
Bringing together musicians he’s worked with in the past, Epley has a four-piece band to perform the songs from Everything. With keys and lap steel, it’s a different kind of thing, but it’s a great experience.
Everything is available everywhere now.