Kid Apollo
Wrong Foot Forward

Wrong Foot Forward

The day after the release of his new single, Minm joins Kid Apollo (A.K.A Rory Mullan) and his adorable Husky-Collie, Amy.

In his home in a quiet suburb of Derry, we talk about the purpose of songwriting, lockdown burnout, and what success means to him.

From your music production to the lyricism and storytelling, there’s clearly a lot that goes into your songs. Which aspect of songwriting do you get the most out of?

I love the feeling when something’s actually done. I had that song, Wrong Foot Forward, sent away to the distributors like two weeks ago, but you’re just sitting waiting for it to come out. Then yesterday, when I finally posted, it’s like 'there we go, it’s finally out there', and people listen to it. Is it what giving birth is like? I don’t know (laughs).

There are things it’s easier (and more fun) to just say through a song, and then it’s done.

But also when you’re making it, it’s kind of therapeutic. If you’re just pissed off about something or there’s something you can’t be arsed talking about, you can put it in a song. I remember Paul McCartney said something about that one time. You can just put something down in a song and then you don’t care about it anymore. It’s free therapy. There are things it’s easier (and more fun) to just say through a song, and then it’s done.

Can you tell us what Wrong Foot Forward is about?

I started writing it at the start of August, after the bars had reopened around May or June. Like most people, I was making the most of that, and there were weeks or months of just constantly putting drinking first. I was like, 'Hmmm… I have to face life and finances and stuff when I stop... so I don’t want to stop.' But I realized I had to.

So it’s one of those songs about not being happy with where you’re at or just feeling like everything’s a wee bit fucked. That’s the first part of the song, but then as it speeds up near the end, it’s about being more optimistic and telling yourself, 'Well, stop overthinking, let’s just see what happens.'

That’s a line I repeat so many times at the end of it, basically saying just give yourself a break. That’s why I call it Wrong Foot Forward. What’s that phrase, hit the ground running? It’s like the opposite of that.

Wrong Foot Forward seems like it could be signalling a change in your approach to music or recording, is that fair to say?

That is basically it. It came together really fast, I started in August and it was finished by mid-October. It would usually take me longer than that, but whatever I’m doing now, I’m just not overthinking it. I feel like I would overthink a lot of previous songs or try to be too perfect with them. I’d listen to them over and over again and fucking hate them! I’m trying to get away from that. Whatever I’m feeling, just write it, record it, put it out.

Whatever I'm doing now, I'm just not overthinking it... Whatever I’m feeling, just write it, record it, put it out.

During lockdowns, I didn’t have a lot of perspective. It was usually just me in my room listening to what I was making over and over again, and obviously not getting out much. No gigs, nothing to broaden my mind; it was very insular. You could just drive yourself slowly mad, and I realized after doing it for months and months I don’t want to do that!

I remember being inspired by Kevin Parker and Tame Impala: he does all of his writing and recording by himself. So I used to think, 'Aw, I’m like that, I want to do that.' And I realize now, no, I don’t, because I’ll drive myself crazy. So this is the first song where I’ve got someone else to master it, and relinquished a little bit of responsibility.

Were there any other inspirations for the song?

Well, what I do, usually, if I need inspiration for a song, is not to sit down at an instrument, but I’ll go for a walk or a run or something. It was a run around here where I got the last part of that song. It usually just tumbles out of my mind, I don’t really know where it comes from.

It can depend on the song, but with Wrong Foot Forward it started as more of a feeling first. I never really set out like, 'I’m going to write this song about this thing', because, well, I’m not that organized. It’s usually just that I have this feeling, and if the feeling keeps nagging I’ll be like, 'Right, I need to get this out.'

Then the music sort of lends itself to what the song is about. So for that song, the first half is slow and reflective, whereas the second half has the same structure as the first, but it gets faster, more upbeat and a bit more optimistic in tone. That matched the feeling I was going through, 'give yourself a break.'

Apollo in his element. Photo: Rory Maguire Visuals

Obviously everyone is influenced by something, subconsciously, but I never try to listen to another song and be like, 'Right, I’m going to copy that formula', or whatever. I just can’t, it feels really insincere. The EP I made before Wrong Foot Forward was basically made around January to May 2021, in that giant chunk of lockdown. When I listen to it, I tend to forget how many hours I put in. I sort of lost track of how long it took, but it was a lot. But with this one, it’s a long time since there’s been a lockdown, so making it I was thinking, '...fuck, I don’t have the excuse of lockdowns, I need to get on with my life.'

The start of the song is slower and sadder, because that was just what I was feeling at the time. I was trying to find the chords on the guitar and find the right lyrics. Then the song gradually gets lighter, but that wasn’t a choice; it just sort of happened because once I got the first bit out I was just like, 'Oh, I don’t feel sad anymore!'

Similarly when listening to The Lights Turned Red, it gives such vivid impressions of personal experiences during lockdown. It’s hard to believe it was actually written before 2020.

Yeah, it was written a couple of years before the pandemic, in 2018 or something, which is what was freaky about it, because when you listen to that now it sounds like it was written about the lockdown. But it wasn’t. It just shows you how a song can have so many different meanings. I suppose it was inspired by a bit of burnout at the time, but… I had no idea, compared to the burnout that was to come!

It seems like these two songs, Wrong Foot Forward and The Lights Turned Red, almost form a set, is that fair to say?

That’s true! Because one of them is about stopping and the other is about getting on with things. I didn’t even realise that myself. This is why it’s helpful that other people listen to my music!

At the time of this interview, Wrong Foot Forward has only been out a day, but how has the feedback been so far?

I’ve heard from the usual suspects, close friends and peers, just saying 'Great tune man!' (laughs). The good thing is though most of my friends, they’re pretty unpretentious about it. If something doesn’t click with them they’ll just be like, 'Shite .' So if they say it’s a good song and they’re saving it on their Spotify, I’ll think it must be going down well. But usually the songs are slow burners and I don’t get most of the feedback until a month after.

'You can only release your debut album once.' That stuck with me... I’ll know when it’s the right time.
You’ve released this most recent track as a single, and you had an EP before that. Are there any plans for building up to an album for Kid Apollo?

It’s sort of cyclical, the way I release. Single, single, single and then they’ll be part of an EP. What most smaller artists do is keep doing the singles and EP thing for a while. An album would be nice because I have plenty of songs, but it’s something I’d only want to do if I had a bit of momentum behind me.

There’s a guy, Liam Craig, he’s the manager of ROE. He gives advice about this stuff, and I remember hearing him say, 'You can only release your debut album once.' That stuck with me. So I’ll keep doing EPs and stuff (god knows how many), basically until something just locks in with people. I’ll know when it’s the right time, I think. But I have no problem just doing singles every couple of months and then an EP.

The adorable Amy
I’m trying to not think that far ahead and just sort of go with the flow
Where did the name ‘Kid Apollo’ come from?

I always wanted to use the name Kid, I think because it’s just an easy enough thing to remember. The Apollo part, well, I was just Googling it, and it’s the name for everything: it’s a brand of clothes, it’s a rocket, it was a Greek god. I just thought, 'well that sounds pretentious, let’s use that!'

In that vein, could you ever see yourself creating another alias? Do you think you’ll have more than one sound?

I suppose people evolve and change their sound over time, or else they get boring. I guess a good example would be Damon Albarn who was in Blur, then he made Gorillaz. Blur did a lot of different types of songs, but they still have the same 'band' sound. But then you listen to Gorillaz and it’s hip hop, it’s just miles away. So I suppose, if I was going to go totally crazy and make… I dunno, Country-Reggae-Dubstep, then I would make something else or partner with someone else. But I’m trying to not think that far ahead and just sort of go with the flow.

Wasn’t there one track on Aquarius where you’re rapping?

Almost! People keep saying this. It wasn’t meant to be a rap, but then I realized afterwards it kind of was… at what level does fast talking become rap? Yeah, that was By a Thread. It was such a nightmare, it took like 40 takes because I wanted to do it all in one go. Tough, it was tough. I’ll never do that again!

Are you able to tease any upcoming tracks? You have an EP coming up, right?

Hopefully. An EP is always the aim. It’s hard because at the minute I’m trying to decide which ones are good enough to use. But basically they would all fit together. There’s less synth (and definitely no rapping).

In terms of theme, they kind of take on what I’m saying in Wrong Foot Forward about being authentic and sincere. I’ve been writing about stuff that happened over the summer, and I’ve been taking that attitude and mindset of ‘going with the flow.’

The ones I’m thinking of using all came out pretty fast. I had a whole other idea for an EP I was going to do, and then these tumbled out. They were all acoustic or indie-rock and I just thought 'alright, I’m feeling that!'

I have this thing where I want success, but I don’t necessarily want fame. Fame seems like, you know, a big bag of shit most of the time.

But the running theme is just about being more honest and not overthinking it. And I’m keeping them shorter: no five-minute songs anymore!

Five years from now, what would success look like for you? Is it having Kid Apollo as your full-time job?

That would be great. I have this thing where I want success, but I don’t necessarily want fame. Fame seems like, you know, a big bag of shit most of the time. If I could be living comfortably off of music, or just working in some part of music, like writing songs, that would be the dream. That would be me happy.

So that’s what I would love to be: if not Kid Apollo, then something else, but I’ll keep doing it until I can’t. Because I’ve done lots of stuff like photography, I had a YouTube channel for a while, all things like that. But this is the one I’ve stuck at for the longest. I just realized today, I’ve been at this for four years! That’s the longest I’ve stuck at anything, so this is the one that’s clicked and I’ll stick at it. Plus I can’t really do anything else! Can’t do maths, I’m not a manual labour kind of guy: it’s going to have to be creative.

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Kid Apollo
Wrong Foot Forward
  1. Wrong Foot Forward 3:14