Following the release of their self-titled 2015 E.P., Apollo Bay spent nearly three years dominating the North Texas coffee shop and bar scene. Playing to sold out crowds of almost hundreds, the band formed a reputation for live performances that were inventive, and at times, controversial. "We knew we were creating something special for ourselves, but we had no idea that we were going to get the response that we got." said Apollo Bay bassist, Casey Morse. With the band headlining over fifteen shows in just three years, Apollo Bay mania was taking the greater Texoma area by storm.
The journey of Apollo Bay begins In 2011 when lead singer Tyler Mckinney, decided to join forces with long time friend and drummer Cody Fuhr on a passion project they called "A Fleeting Moment". During this "Fleeting Moment" era, Tyler and Cody began working with bassist Sean Mathes and guitarist Colby Hix. After having a moderately successful, yet short-lived, career in the post-rock arena, the band decided that they wanted to reimagine their creative direction. "We loved what we were doing but at the same time we felt limited by only playing instrumental music." says Tyler Mckinney. The moment for "A Fleeting Moment" had indeed fled, and the rise of something new was on the horizon. In this void, Apollo Bay was born.
It was in this period of transition that Cody Fuhr decided to depart from the project, being replaced by drummer Jonathan Hoffman. After also adding guitarist and vocalist Andrew Cacho to the roster, the band decided it was time to record their first single. In late 2012 the single, "So Far So Thin", was released to the public. The mix of ambient guitar layers, unique vocals, and tasteful but aggressive percussion set the stage for what the band would be bringing to the table for the next four years. With the success of "So Far So Thin", the band began to book live shows. Playing coffee shops from North Texas to Southern Oklahoma, the bands popularity exploded in the area. With a clear direction, and a newfound army of dozens of fans, instant stardom had been achieved.
For the next year Apollo Bay rode the success of "So Far So Thin", building their fan base, and perfecting their live performance. In late 2013, the band went back into the studio to record their second single, "Me Again". "For me, 'Me Again' truly signified a turning point in the band where we realized that we could potentially be the best band that has ever existed." said Jonathan Hoffman in an unprompted letter written to lead executives at RCA records. The release of "Me Again" brought the band even more success than the previous single, continuing the assent of the behemoth that was Apollo Bay.
With the band requiring more time and commitment than ever before, members Colby and Sean, individually decided that they wanted to pursue other ventures that would require their time. The original Apollo Bay lineup had been fractured, leaving a few holes to be filled. For bass, Tyler called upon talented bassist, Marshall McManigell, who of which he had worked with in the past. The members also agreed that they needed a third guitarist for some reason. That’s when they extended the invitation to pretty ok guitarist, Grayson Connor, who they had seen lurking around town. With the new lineup established, the band asked themselves, "What’s next?"
As the story goes, one day Tyler had awoken from a mid-day nap to a knocking at the door of his Denison, Tx home. When he answered it, no one was at the door. Only a small, white envelope addressed to "A.B." laid on his door step. When Tyler opened the envelope, he found a promotional flyer for the 2013 Dallas Battle of the Bands. This, he knew, was what was next for the band. After months of stress and preparation, the Battle of the Bands was upon them. Heavy hitters of the Dallas music scene, such as "Changes" and "Caravan Fuzz", were contestants in the battle as well. A victory for Apollo Bay seemed like a pipe dream. Nevertheless, the boys played their hearts out. Those who attended the final round have said that the energy in the room was palpable, and Apollo Bay's set was transcendental. "I don't even remember playing that final round of the Battle of the Bands, it was like I blacked out for twenty minutes" says Grayson Connor who actually just stood on stage motionless and wide-eyed for the duration of the set. To Apollo Bay's surprise, they had been named the victors of the battle. This ushered in a new era for the band. With newfound notoriety and a prize pool of nearly $300 dollars at their disposal, it was clear what the bands next move should be. A full-length E.P.
With the recording of the E.P. underway, the band was simultaneously building their presence in the Dallas bar and club scene. The stress of balancing time in the studio with the pressures of the live performances started to take its toll on the band. It was during this period that Andrew decided that it was time for him to focus on his own pre-existing projects and obligations. The band continued to press on despite the fatigue and stress.
In mid 2015, the bands self-titles E.P. was released and was met with immense critical acclaim. "It’s alright." said music critic, Drew 'Fat Cat' Jenkins. "I've heard a lot of indie bands E.P.s in my time, and this is certainly one of them." said Australian Times journalist, Jacob Cool. The success of the E.P. only meant more live shows for the band, which aided in the development of their reputation for having electrifying on stage performances. Playing venues such as the Liquid Lounge, Curtain Club, and House of Blues, the size of the crowds the band was drawing in was noticeably growing.
At this point, the momentum that the band had generated became intermittent at best. The future of Apollo Bay was becoming less clear to the the members. It was in this lull that bassist Marshall McManigell had decided that it was time to part ways with the "Bay Boys" to pursue his own passion project. The departure of their bassist and longer gaps between live dates was beginning to hinder band morale. A shadow of darkness had befallen the band. To escape this darkness, the band needed a bright and shining North Star to lead them back to their former glory. "I was sitting in a local dive bar in Sherman, Tx, just trying to drown my sorrows. A real seedy place, mostly patronized by bikers and dark wizards. As the bottom of my fifth glass came into view, I heard the main door open and noticed that a deafening silence fell over the bar. From behind me, I heard the slow footsteps of spurred boots entering the bar. When I turned around I could only see the silhouette of the guy, but it was obvious that the people around me were trembling. Of all the spots in the bar he chose to come post up next to me. I kept my eyes forward as to not draw his attention, when suddenly a big bear paw of a hand was extended towards me, accompanied by a deep, booming voice saying, 'Howdy there, I'm Casey Morse.'" recalls Grayson. "From there we got to talking and I found out that Casey had been pretty active in the hardcore metal scene, and I extended an invitation to be the new bass player for Apollo Bay."
Just when the band thought that they had discovered a way out of the rut they had been in, another blow to the band had come down the pipeline. The sudden and mysterious disappearance of drummer Jonathan Hoffman shocked the Apollo Bay fandom as well as the band members themselves. Not much is known about Jonathan's disappearance, except for a cryptic letter that was found on the snare drum of Jonathan's drum kit. The letter simply stated, "It's time for me to go. Just don't let Jacob replace me." Jonathan's whereabouts are still a matter of debate, but he was last seen working as a salt merchant in the mountains of Tibet going by the alias, "Jampa".
Despite their late drummer's strange request, the band looked to Jonathan's younger and clearly less attractive brother, Jacob Hoffman, to fill the role as Apollo Bay's drummer. Jacob had been playing as a stand-in keyboardist for live shows since the bands inception. After teaching Jacob that drum sticks aren't just for chewing on, the band was alive again in its final form: a quartet.
Fans agree that this final iteration of Apollo Bay, which lasted about two years, is when some of their most notable works were produced. Singles such as "Bad Blood", "Seafarer", and "Moldy Money" signified that the band was in a period of experimentation. Though the bands live performances were becoming more scarce, these shows regularly featured new material that never made it to the studio. Songs like, "Down on Nila", "Ghost Outside", and "Winnabego" were the outcome of the band exploring new soundscapes and artistic states of consciousness. Apollo Bay had matured in its old age, but with old age came brittle bones.
At last, the writing on the wall became clear, the time for Apollo Bay had come to an end. Though the end of Apollo Bay wasn't a shock to anyone, it was still a devastating blow to all that loved the band. "Towards the end, we realized that Apollo Bay wasn’t going to be a 'forever' thing, and then we had a decision to make: do we ride this thing into the grave, or do we end it and leave it with the dignity that it deserved? For us, the choice was clear." said Grayson in his 2018 memoir, "Bay Boy: The Grayson Connor Story". With a final message to their fans, the band continued their own personal journeys beyond Apollo Bay. Though the band, Apollo Bay, may be no more, the spirit of Apollo Bay lives on in the recordings, videos, and memories. Apollo Bay's music was always intended to create a serene place for listeners to escape to. A world where communication wasn’t limited to literal speech, but was free to exist as sound, feelings, or ideas. Fans of Apollo Bay have clung to this place created by the band. It lives on in the quiet moments of reflection, made known by its still, small whisper of remembrance. Like a ghost, just outside of yourself.