We Got the Beat

Written by Christine Werthman on . Posted in Posts.

Apache Beat’s drummer, Neil Westgate, and bassist, Michael Dossantos, are from Staten Island. Siblings Christina and Phillip Aceto, on synth and guitar respectively, grew up in the Bronx. And then there’s Ilirjana Alushaj. Though the dark-haired, throaty vocalist now lives in Brooklyn, she only defected from Sydney, Australia, in 2004, meaning she’s relatively fresh off the boat. “We’re one of the most New York bands,” Alushaj says, “if you don’t count me.”

The gloomy post-punk band’s magnetic frontwoman carries a reputation of being a fearsome live performer. But to talk to her, Alushaj is laidback and personable, the kind of woman who can even explain her experience as a print model with a bit of charming selfdeprecation. “I guess I have an interesting look about me,” she laughs. Her down-to-earth attitude is perhaps a credit to her having spent most of her life outside of New York City. Back in Sydney, Alushaj learned to play piano and bass guitar as a kid, but her interests moved more toward music production as a teen. She spent time tinkering with her own songs on Pro Tools and sharing the results with friends, but the idea of being in a legitimate band was never in her mind until she left Australia.

Alushaj moved to New York to take a job as an international fashion and music correspondent for Vice Australia. After relocating, most of her initial involvement with the music scene centered more on writing about it than on being a part of it. She and a friend began their own quarterly Web zine called The Pop Manifesto, with the intention of “writing about artists who are usually considered too small to cover.” But Alushaj’s role in music would soon change thanks to her newfound friendship with Phillip Aceto.

Aceto and Alushaj met through mutual friends and bonded over a shared love of the bands Suede and Pulp. “We both realized we were into the same music when we were kids,” Alushaj says. The two began playing music together, and it was during these jam sessions that Alushaj got the idea to move from being a bassist to a vocalist. “[Aceto] was the one who said, ‘You know, you can actually sing,’” she says. The duo eventually decided to flesh out its lineup by adding Dossantos, Westgate and Aceto’s sister, Christina, a classically trained pianist.

The five bandmembers had no grand thematic plan in mind for their music, but they did want to create something darker and “heavier in style” that emphasized the sounds of drum and bass. With the sound solidified, and a debut show at Cake Shop in the works, it was time to choose a name. They settled on

Apache Beat, which was the title of a song written by Aceto and Dossantos for their former band. The moniker might have been speedily selected out of necessity, but it has become a fitting name for a group that prides itself on a beefy rhythm section.

In the two-and-a-half years since Apache Beat played its first live performance, the band has already gone on tour in the U.K. with School of Seven Bells, in the States with The Gossip and released a few singles. And in the last year, the band logged time recording its first full-length album, Last Chants, due out Oct. 5. The album contains 12 tracks written with the intention of pairing pop vocals with an interesting instrumental underbelly, explains Alushaj. “We tried to make it both intricate and simple.” The band cut five songs originally recorded for the LP, and Alushaj says that she and the rest of Apache Beat might turn those leftovers into an EP at a later date. Until then, listeners can check out Last Chants and get their live fix of the group when the band plays two CMJ shows later this month.

>> Apache Beat Oct. 16, Cameo Gallery, 93 N. 6th St. (betw. Berry St. & Wythe Ave.), Brooklyn, no phone; 8, $TBA.