Skating rink soul from Erik Appelwick

by Lyndsey Thomas

There is plenty of the usual, boring background stuff that Erik Appelwick is sick of talking about. But there are also plenty of Minnesotans who don’t know his music. Once he was convinced that the basic essentials of his story are really essential, Appelwick divulged the following info about his one-man-jam.

Appelwick grew up in South Dakota where he started writing music as a teenager. He “studied” English at USD (“well, I was registeredĂ–”) and after graduating, sadly realized that he knew how to speak English in the first place. Noticing a lack of big, loud rock bands in South Dakota, he headed east to the big city. For the last two years, he’s performed with locals Kid Dakota, Camaro and Alva Star. By himself, he is now Vicious Vicious.

In June, he self-released Blood and Clover, a four-track ode to summer vacations spent chilling out and getting down. Describing his music as “white guy soul,” Appelwick likens it to something you might hear in a roller skating rink. It’s heavy on organ, which seems more at home in a church revival than a pop song, but in the tongue-in-cheek land of Vicious, it works. For example, take the mellow groove of “Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor.” There’s an instruction in the title, but it casually suggests rather than demands, and it even references ABBA.

“It’s an album for shaking ass and drinking malts. Good clean American fun,” Appelwick said. “Or smoking a bong, listening to headphones and sitting in one of those ’70s egg-shaped chairs.”

After one session of leaning back and nodding along to the hip-hop beats (with or without feeling the effects of a drug-induced stupor), it becomes obvious that there is nothing vicious about this music.

“One day I thought of Vicious Fishes and thought ‘That’s what I’ll call it!’ But then I found out some other jackass was already using it,” he said. “A girlfriend in college suggested Vicious Vicious and I thought it was the stupidest fucking idea but in the end it was the best name available. I mean, Hoobastank was already taken.”

Appelwick spent five months recording nearly every instrument on the album, but in his dreams, he’s not alone. His fantasy back-up band features Lenny Kravitz on guitar, Bootsy Collins on bass, Stevie Wonder on drums and Paul Schafer on keyboards. Vocals?

“Al Green would sing back-up. No, Al would sing lead and I would just lip sync,” he said. “That’s the line-up for the ‘I Think I’m Touring Japanese’ tour in Japan. For the Midwest tour, the Flying Burrito Brothers would back me up.”

Vicious Vicious does play live; Appelwick enlists the help of Lateduster’s Martin Dosh and Kid Dakota’s Darren Jackson. The exposure recently earned Blood and Clover a nomination for the Minnesota Music Awards’ Best Rock Album, landing Appelwick in some impressive company. Pitted against Ed Ackerson, Mark Mallman and legendary ex-Replacement Paul Westerburg, Appelwick isn’t getting his hopes up for a win.

Instead he’s focusing on his next album with the help of Alva Star frontman John Hermanson. And he still dreams of the fame that roller skating music could one day bring.

“I would love to do (the soundtrack for) Xanadu 2,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to make it but if they come knocking, I’m up for it.”