Defining ‘Limits’

A conversation with Apache Grosse + the debut of ‘Limits’

Origin Stories
words by Alex Wen

There’s inherently this contradiction that occurs when talking about one’s art. Shouldn’t the work speak for itself? Is attention on the artist drawing eyeballs away from the art? Apache Grosse is no stranger to these tensions, he’d probably be the first to admit that he’s a bit of a walking paradox. For him, it’s not that these questions—or any other big questions: about personal branding, meaningful fulfillment, or the purity of art—are too hard to answer, it’s that they are being continuously answered and re-answered, in a million different ways. They often contradict and conflict, and that’s what makes it exciting.

Apache thrives in that space, whether it’s in his moody R&B or in his daily interactions, and perhaps best demonstrated in his latest work, ‘Limits’, being debut below this interview. It’s an audio/visual exercise in spontaneity, but rooted in something timeless. There’s a purity to it, one that’s born out of imperfections and flaws. There’s a video, a song, and some photos, and it’s quite an experience. Check it—but first, a conversation.

How would you describe your sound?

Apache Grosse: I think the funny thing was when I started this, I had a specific sound, an idea that I was trying to go for. It was more of a period in my life, because there was a big period of my life where excitement came from parties, you know, random sex, drugs. And so when I first started making music, I wanted to emulate that time in my life, which was that melancholic, drug-induced, sex frenzy.

I think traveling was a vaccine for that poisonous ego.

Alternative R&B is how I describe my music. And I like that because I feel like the alternative aspect really opens the door for it to not sound just like one thing. For awhile, I was a little bit trapped in that because I was so hyper-focused on just those feelings. But as I’ve gone through experiences that have contradicted a lot of the music that I’ve made in the past, it’s really a big gift because now I feel that I don’t have to just speak about one time in my life because I have been so many different things. I can speak on love and I can speak on inability to love. I can speak on sobriety as well as addiction, because life is multi-faceted. Fun part about this now: I don’t feel like a contradiction if I go ahead and make a different type of music or a different type of sound because I can relate it to that period of my life.

So everything that I make isn’t constant. It’s not what’s happening right then, but it’s what I’m feeling right then. Whether it is in the moment or it’s the nostalgia of a memory that I had before. I think my sound, this year especially, is going to evolve a lot. I even have some songs that are heavy rock. I’ve got some blues songs coming out. I plan on releasing alot of music, but being able to have it be a window into periods of my life. I also think no matter who you are, you’ve had these different experiences. Although it may not be relatable to who you are twenty-four seven, I think a lot of these songs, feelings, and sounds will be something that people can relate to, whether it’s just a night that they went out or it’s someone that they’ve loved. But alternative R&B is the genre. If I have to define the feel, I think memory-based music would be it. I’ve never said that before, but I like it.

What about music resonated with you that made you want to make this a big part of your life?

I was very displaced as a child. I was decent at a lot of things, but I didn’t have one thing I was solidly good at. I was sociable but I wasn’t popular. I was mixed. It was just so many different things that made me feel very displaced.

When I discovered music, it was the one thing that I was good at. It was my retreat, it was my home, it was my identifier, salvation in a certain way. Anytime I didn’t feel like I was adequate enough, I could turn towards music and it could make me whole. In a way, it was always an extension of who I was. So I was always destined to do this. It just depends on what THIS is, you know? But I know for the rest of my life I’m going to be playing music.

What do you hope your music can be for other people?

I’ve grown up on a very similar path to a lot of people. That path is: there’s often times where people feel a disconnect between what they want and what they have. I think it’s very easy for us to feel that we always have to play it safe, that we have to stay within the box and if we just do that long enough we’ll get to the place that we want to be, but sometimes that’s not the truth. Sometimes you have to break that box, you have to destroy the thing that is currently your identity, to reshape yourself into what you want to be.

Even if I’m not making money on my music, if I’m not where I want to be, for other people, they see it and they’re like, “this guy’s following his dreams.” And Instagram always makes things look so much more extravagant. But it was the same thing for me when I saw other people do it, it triggers something in your head.

Because I’m no different than anyone else. I’m made of the same DNA, we all get different starts. I had a starter kit, for what I needed in my life and I had disadvantages. But the thing was, I was able to go and follow my dream just by one day deciding to do it. And if there’s anything that I would want for my music it would be for someone who believes that they’re trapped inside a box or believes that they need something to define them, to be able to throw that away and try to reshape what they want for their own.

If I have to define the feel, I think memory-based music would be it.

Creatively, more directly related to the music, I want that music to be an escape for them or a decoder for their own thoughts and emotions. Whether it’s a song that helps them grieve over a lost love of theirs, or if it’s just to make you feel like a badass. Put that track on right before going to the club or you just want to smoke and have sex and you need something to vibe out to. I want to create that, for people to open up a catalog and accompany that music with whatever they need in their life. I think that would be awesome.

Did you have specific inspirations that helped you break out of your box?

One artist that just popped into my head that I always really enjoyed was G-Eazy. The reason I had a personal feeling towards him is he documented everything. If you look at his Youtube series, you can see him as a young kid, he was going to music school and was just rapping all day long—turned into this massive pop giant. You can see how he did it, and how he did it was through relentless work, a certain business acumen and intelligence. Someone coming from nothing, get it, not out of just luck—obviously there’s always luck, but straight grit and tenacity. Those stories always inspired me. Weeknd was another person that was a huge inspiration for me because I fell in love with his type of music and also his story of how he was homeless at 16 just getting fucked up. I’ve always loved that recklessness cause I had it in myself growing up, and even as an adult, moments where I had this voice saying just throw it all away. He was just this homeless kid, but he was so fucking talented and he was so raw. And now he is one of the largest artists in the world.

I think from that you bring up an interesting dynamic, especially in the digital age where a lot of inspiration can be drawn from knowing an artist’s journey, right? Like seeing G-Eazy and the progress he made. But then with the Weeknd, his philosophy in terms of how he markets himself has been very intentionally kind of mysterious for quite a while. I think that that speaks to these two different approaches to being artists and how they present themselves. How open do you want to be or how transparent do you want to be with your journey and your behind-the-scenes?

That’s the hard part though, deciding what you are. Some people make it because they put every single aspect of their life online, they have Instagram on them twenty-four seven and they’re marketing geniuses like that.

I’m a thousand percent honest.

Personally, I’ve had that battle and I’m still trying to figure it out. I was a model for so many years of my life and I loved being in front of the camera. Then there was a huge moment in my life where I had social anxiety and I started to hate that. I hated taking pictures and being out in front of people. I felt more introverted. Then, there were parts of my life where I realized that I have a gift for being a front person and being an identity. I am too at the same point trying to decide how much of my real life do I give up? How much of my music do I let speak for itself?

How would you describe what your brand is right now?

I’m a guy who constantly is battling with insecurity and ego, recklessness and control, stability and change. I think that I am a dichotomy. I’m separate things trying to live together so there’s always conflict in my life, but I am focused and on a campaign and everything that I do is for a purpose. I am these multiple things always at war, but trying to find that middle ground to accomplish this purpose. I’m a human and what it is to be a person.

It really does feel like a lot of your music is based on this personal journey. I know you’ve moved before from Arizona and you’ve traveled the world. How does that impact your music or your creative process?

I think traveling the world was the biggest gift because I was a little asshole before and I thought that I was just the shit. I had a really good circle of friends and they made it feel like everywhere we went, everyone wanted to be us. I had modeled for six years, there’s a whole ego that comes in with that. But you know, I think traveling was a vaccine for that poisonous ego. I saw how big the world was and as soon as you leave the space that you are currently occupying/conquering, you really realize how minute you actually are. Traveling is really great because it was very humbling and made me want to be more because I saw there was potential way beyond what I had ever been conscious of.

And also with traveling I can relate now to a sense of loneliness and contentment. Even when you have a ton of friends and you’re in the same place, you can feel very lonely, which is weird. Even when you have tons of friends that you see all day long. I’ve always lived with people, whether it’s been friends who’ve needed to crash on my couch, or roommates. I’m the type of person that’s always around people. But there was a big period in my life where I felt really lonely and isolated. It’s funny because when I went on the road traveling for three months to all these countries where sometimes no one even spoke English and I couldn’t communicate with people, I didn’t feel lonely. I think that was also something that was really cool, being able to understand, it’s alright to be alone and be yourself. I think I was able to value my friendships, my creative connections a lot more after traveling.

Can you speak more on that loneliness or just being lonely in general?

I have this crazy anxiety a lot of times that I’ve created this narrative in my mind that everyone is waiting for me to make it. I’ve really tried to battle this idea because we’re all trying to make it. I have this paranoia when I put a song out or when things aren’t moving as fast as possible or when I’m working with someone creatively and the thing we worked on didn’t have great results, that people are going to fall out or I’m going to get on their nerves. I have this anxiety that I’m going to lose my friends. I’ve had moments where I’ve fallen out with people.

I’m kind of hard to deal with as a person. I’m a thousand percent honest. I have no filter, that can be refreshing sometimes and it can also be annoying as hell. I have a way of wearing down on people too. But there is a lot of times where I do have loneliness and it’s because I’m not thinking about the past. I’m only thinking about the future and where I’m at in that moment. If that moment isn’t fully enriched, it’s hard for me sometimes to see everything that I’ve already accomplished and everyone that I’m with. But I’ll never forget about the people that I came up with. When I make it, they’re going to be right there by my side.

I think because I put so much pressure on myself to become something, that loneliness exists and that’s a huge part of what I felt like when I was making ‘Limits’. The whole story about the song and the feeling is about this relentlessness to try to make it and to go until it breaks. To try to forge destiny while holding on until I can’t anymore.

Can you describe a little bit of what ‘Limits’ is and what your inspiration was for creating this project?

‘Limits’ is this raw moment in time where nostalgia is the narrative. When I made it, I wanted it to be something that was organic, that just happened, that wasn’t created for any specific purpose. A lot of times when you create music—when I create music—I’ve had that battle, fighting between my business mind and my creative heart. There’s moments where you change things about a song. You make it a certain way because you know it’ll perform well. That’s all pop music is, pop music is created to be popular. It’s very meticulous. So I wanted ‘Limits’ to be very organic, very raw, and just embody an emotion and a memory.

The inspiration for it was a really good friend of mine that’s part of my collective, The House, that came out to Chicago. His name is Josue Brockmann and he’s a fucking amazing photographer. We’ve been good friends for a while and shot a bunch of times. We wanted to create something and we wanted to go ahead and do it all in one day. I reached out to a friend of mine, Cloe, who had styled me for my “Poison” shoot. She had helped me pick out some outfits that I could just wear. Once again, when we went into make this, we didn’t even know what we were making. I think we woke up after a night of drinking or something like that and we went down to the studio and I put on one of the outfits and he just started documenting it, taking photos. He started taking video and I just smoked, and let my mind go.

And then I just opened up my music software, started playing a little beat, started creating some layers, then picked up the mic and started humming some things. The cool part is with my vocals, I redo a lot of things. This is the exact opposite of that. Everything that I made in that freestyle was recorded. There’s moments in the song where I go flat. And I love it.

But the whole idea was to not edit or change anything. It was to put those words, those ideas down and create something that was just made from emotion. So it’s not the most complex piece of art. It’s not the best singing you’re going to hear and it’s not even the best story. But it’s organic and raw and it is the whole idea of creating something to just create it. Not to be burdened by how great it is or this or that. The same thing came with the film, we just went ahead and shot some pictures. We were walking around the city seeing things we liked and capturing video of it. Everything was captured in that moment, you know, then it was just boom.

Visuals by Josue Orozco Brockmann, styled by Cloe Doherty.