Apollo Quad
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Apollo Quad

Bloomington, Indiana, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | SELF

Bloomington, Indiana, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Hip Hop Rock




"Apollo Quad the best wake up since coffee"

Left to Right: Steve Alwine, Hythum El-sayyad, Ethan Chambers, Eric Ottinger.

We recently met Apollo Quad, and man, you have got to hear them. Their sound blends Hip-Hop vocals with awesome Rock instrumentation, to bring a sound that is completely new, and definitely inspired. Vocalist Hythum El-sayyad’s lyrics are on the eloquent side of Hip-Hop, think Slam Poetry.

It’s enough to make us Minnesotans stop hibernating.

Apollo Quad, originally from Bloomington, Indiana, are now Minneapolis locals. They moved here for the vibrant arts and music scene that is quickly gaining recognition around the country. With album titles like “Come Alive” and “No Gods, No Masters”, their political messages are definitely suited to the Twin Cities’ arts culture.

Apollo Quad Independent Music
Apollo Quad Live

Apollo Quad is:

Hythum El-sayyad: Vocals & Keyboard

Steve Alwine: Guitar & Keyboard

Eric Ottinger: Drums

Ethan Chambers: Bass Guitar

I had the chance to talk with lead vocalist, Hythum, this week. What struck me the most is how full of passion he is about reminding people to really live, not just survive. They work that passion into their songs, and it shows.

Bonnie Hanna-Powers, Minneapolis Americana Promoter for Our City Radio:

”What inspires your song-writing?”

Hythum El-sayyad, Lead Vocalist, Apollo Quad:

”Our inspiration is hunger, we want to get people hungry about their dreams and passions again. We want people to take the plunge and chase their goals and passions 100 percent. We hunger for success so that we can become an example that chasing your dream can pay off, but even if it doesn’t become everything you want it to be there is still merit in giving yourself to what you truly want.”


”Who writes the songs?”


“The lyrics are all written by me (Hythum El-sayyad) and as far as song-writing goes, it’s a group thing really. Our lead guitarist (Steve Alwine) is our chief song-writer instrumentally, but me and him play off of each other well and we all come together and pursue the song as a group. When we sit down to write a song, we don’t aim for a genre or a certain type of song we just get out whatever we feel.”


”You guys go on tour, what are some of your favorite moments from your time on the road?”


”Well we lovingly nick-named our van “Big Mo” seeing as how its a Pontiac Montana-which I have to give credit to our bassist Ethan Chambers for giving her that name-and she has sure seen some long trips.

The longest being when we went out to California driving 31 hours to play the Whisky a Go Go and our drummer (Eric Ottinger) was extremely sick with Pneumonia, battling hotel clerks, and meeting homeless people.

We played the CBGB fest in New York City and it was a very tough trip: sleeping in a basement with no pillows and freezing in Brooklyn. We had a fan come all the way from Canada just to see us play, which for us was just incredible. We took a picture with him and gave him a CD and talked on end with him, which was just awesome. On that same trip we also met Mark Mendoza of Twisted Sister who gave us such amazing info and was a badass dude.”

Apollo Quad is currently finishing their 3rd album, “The War on Mediocrity”. Their CD Release will be at the Fine Line Music Cafe, March 21st, with local Alt-Hip Hop group No Bird Sing.

What Hythum had to say about their upcoming album “The War on Mediocrity”:

“Throw caution to the wind, take the leap wholeheartedly and dive into your passion.Join me all of you closet artists, musicians and dreamers. In this war routine is your enemy, your weapon is your passion, and the battlefield is outside of your comfort zone.So take up arms, gather your willpower, free yourselves from the mundane and choose the impossible!”

Get in touch:

Go here to: Hear Apollo Quad

Social Media: Check out Apollo Quad on Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation, Sonicbids, and their official site.

Listen for Apollo Quad on Minneapolis Our City Radio!

-Bonnie Hanna-Powers, Americana Promoter, Minneapolis Our City Radi - Our City Radio

"Apollo Quad Finding Their voice in Minneapolis"

Apollo Quad: Finding their voice in Minneapolis
Published By Emily Buss On Wednesday, January 29th 2014. Under Main, On the Rechord Bands, On the Rechord Events
The sting of a full-fledged Minnesota winter was almost enough for Bloomington, Ind., natives Apollo Quad to pack up their beats and head back home. But the thriving underground hip hop scene, which brought them to Minneapolis in the first place, kept its grip tight. The foursome, who relocated to the Twin Cities from the comforts of familiar stages just five months ago, is actively making waves in the increasingly more competitive world of hip hop. That voice of hope, strength and not giving a shit what popular culture has to say you’re hearing is the mantra Apollo Quad used to craft their upcoming record ‘War On Mediocrity.’ Slated for a March 2014 release, lead vocalist and brains behind the operation Hythum El-sayyad and guitarist Steve Alwine braved the bitterly cold January weather to talk breaking down stereotypes, creating music with meaning and how they plan to positively change the hip hop scene.

Bloomington, Ind., transplants Apollo Quad are poised to take Minneapolis by storm. (Photo credit: Brad Gunnarson)
“We actually thought about moving to California first,” Alwine said earlier this month at the Bulldog in Northeast, his coat still zipped long after he and El-sayyad sat down. He jokingly said the impending polar vortex just might push them over the edge. “But we knew there was a huge hip hop scene here in Minneapolis.”

Packing their van several months ago, the two ventured the almost 700 miles north and instantly fell in love with the overwhelming potential Minneapolis presented.

“Me and Steve came up here, we saw it, and we loved it,” El-sayyad said.

Forming in late 2008, Apollo Quad quickly made a name for themselves in their hometown of Bloomington, Ind. While not the most fertile ground for the talent that seems to effortlessly flow from this group, the city of roughly 81,000 did cultivate quite the cult following for the band.

“I was in a band with a guy who knew Steve,” El-sayyad explained of the group’s beginning. “He came by one day to play bass.”

El-sayyad’s band, Protocol, initiated Alwine in. But the two eventually felt the desire to create something more meaningful.

“We had wanted to do our own thing for a long time,” Alwine said.

All that was needed was a name.

Passionate about Greek mythology, El-sayyad connected with Apollo, the Greek god of music and poetry, a natural progression of his own character. The word ‘quad’ followed to denote the four, at that time shifting, members.

Shortly after forming, their first album, Come Alive was mixed and mastered, a feat Alwine said was “forever ago.” Following up with No Gods, No Masters, Apollo Quad was well on their way to crafting a successful career in the music industry.

But finding members in it for the long haul was tough to come by.

With an open position for a drummer, Alwine turned to a childhood friend.

“Eric (Ottinger) and I grew up together and I’ve played music with him since I was 15, he was 12,” Alwine said. “We grew up in the same neighborhood and I knew he was a nasty drummer. When our first drummer quit, (Eric) was the clear choice. He’s been with us ever since.”
But the fourth spot, solidifying the quad in Apollo Quad, Alwine admitted, was a whole other story.

For a while, the group relied heavily on El-sayyad and Alwine. Going through two keyboardists, having no bassist and a wavering fourth spot that couldn’t seem to stay filled, stumbling upon current bassist Ethan Chambers was just the break the group needed.

“He filled in for a couple of shows and we just felt like he really changed up the mood,” El-sayyad said. “I think this is the best lineup we’ve ever had.”

Having an ‘8 Mile moment’

The hip hop scene, both in Minneapolis and other sprawling metropolises, is slowly undergoing a transformation where artists are becoming less focused on bragging rights and more conscious of the messages they are relaying. While the popular culture trend continues to praise materialistic objects, there are a select group of artists fighting for a chance to break down the stereotypical walls.

Letting you in on a little trade secret, but El-sayyad admitted he was initially turned off by rap. But a cassette tape, yes, a cassette tape, changed his mind.

“I would rap along with an Eminem cassette and it was just something that inspired me,” he said. “I started writing poetry, my voice matured, and I found that I actually had a passion for this.”

With the decision to move forward and take his music to the next level, El-sayyad entered a battle in Indianapolis. The Rhyme against Crime anti-gun violence rally was his first true test as an artist.

“I was terrified,” he said. “But I won. I won the whole thing. It was kind of my 8 Mile moment.

“That’s when I started taking this a whole lot more seriously and thought, ‘Oh shit, I can do this.’”

(Photo credit: Brad Gunnarson)
Breaking walls and taking stages

Apollo Quad is not your typical hip hop group out to cash in on the spoils of the music industry. They aren’t reaping huge financial benefit, at least not yet, and like most musicians climbing the ladder, they have full-time jobs. But don’t discount their every-day goings on as a lack of passion for the craft.

Foregoing the use of samples, Apollo Quad pride themselves on being 100 percent live during performances and while recording in the studio.

“With good hip hop you can come up with some really incredible things, it’s the harder way but we specifically chose the hardest route possible,” El-sayyad said. “With the rapping we can attract the rap fans but with the instruments we get the rock fans.”

A couple words of wisdom: don’t ask the group what genre they categorize themselves in. Politely, El-sayyad said he loathes that question, simply because their broad audience base and across-the-board musical stylings sets them apart from just the rap genre or just the rock genre.

“We make music for all people,” he said. “We’re so different that it’s hard to say that we paint ourselves in this light or that light. I’m sick of labeling myself.”

Their debut and sophomore releases gave fans an inside look at the makings of a band that so perfectly meshes the angst, anxiety and longing found in the intelligent rap stylings of El-sayyad with the Zeppelin-inspired, classic rock-influenced sounds of Alwine and Chambers. And coupled with the polished kit in front of Ottinger, finding more proof that Apollo Quad is poised for greatness isn’t just in the pudding, it’s in everything they do.

“I feel like I’m changing minds when I show people what (hip hop) can be,” he added. “When people come to a show and we change their mind, it’s a good feeling. People that hate rap music and hip hop always come up to us after a show and say ‘Man, you guys are fucking awesome.’ That’s the greatest thing.”

Alwine shared the sentiment and said performing live is their best bet at converting fans.

“When they come to a show, when they hear us live, that’s our best shot,” Alwine said. “When they hear us live, it’s different. They understand more.”

Readying for the upcoming release of War On Mediocrity, both El-sayyad and Alwine said the new music will blow any of their previous recordings out of the water.

Recorded in two days — an 11-hour session and a 10-hour session — at Arctic Studios in Minneapolis with veteran recording engineer Adam Schmid, War On Mediocrity is completely different from anything recorded by Apollo Quad.

“We loved working with Adam,” Alwine said. “I mean, we love our studio back home but (Arctic Studios) was refreshingly different.”

The grueling two days of recording forced Alwine to, at one point, put Superglue on his fingers in order for him to keep playing.

“We basically did everything live,” El-sayyad said about the recording process. “We were all in one room, Steve and I were in the vocal booth and we played all our songs live. This, I think, is our strongest asset because it captures our feelings track by track. It was way more efficient, too.”

The songs on the new record, El-sayyad said, developed over the last year and incorporates the core message to make life everything you want it to be.

“It’s not really a concept album so much as we want people to tell people to just do what they want to do in life,” El-sayyad said. “Our main influence was to go to the city and make this thing happen. Don’t be afraid to fail doing what you love. But you have to at least try.”

From friend’s basements and ratty practice spaces to playing some of Minneapolis’ bigger stages, Apollo Quad has not only progressed musically but figured out what they want as a band.

“I’m proud of this album and what it represents,” Alwine said. “I want this album to announce our presence. I’ve been excited about all our other albums but this is what we need to become prevalent, full-time, 100 percent. This album is really something special.”

For more information about Apollo Quad or to purchase their music, visit their website and Facebook.

Apollo Quad is Hythum El-sayyad, vocals, keyboards; Steve Alwine, guitar, bass, keyboards; Eric Ottinger, drums; Ethan Chambers, bass. - On the Rechord

"Band Apollo Quad poised to make it big"

Being a musician isn’t always easy. In the early years, you pay to play — not literally, but you certainly don’t make enough money to quit your day job.

And when he takes a job, Hythum El-sayyad, 23, makes it clear to prospective employers. If he is scheduled to work when he has a gig, he’ll quit.

El-sayyad is a member of Apollo Quad, an alternative hip-hop band that started here in Bloomington with fellow townies Steve Alwine, 23; Eric Ottinger, 20; and Ian Ottinger, 23.

“Steve met Hythum through a mutual friend,” Eric Ottinger explained.

“I’ve known Eric since he was 3,” Alwine said.

All the band members have played in a variety of bands covering different genres. But it was when Alwine and El-sayyad met that the hip-hop band formed in 2009.

The genesis of the band seemed to be a catalyst for the band members to strive with more energy than before to succeed.

“It was never as serious before,” said drummer Eric Ottinger.

Hip-hop’s hard road

The band has found that not all people are open to listening to their music when they hear the words hip-hop alternative.

“Our genre is really hard,” El-sayyad said.

With this unique genre, rap fans are confused when the guitars and drum are on stage. And rock fans can sometimes be turned off at the idea of rap. But listening to a few songs has changed doubters into fans.

“As time went on, people were like, ‘They’re good. Who cares what genre they are,’” El-sayyad said.

And venues will often turn away the band because they believe some of the negative stereotypes of hip-hop. The band members once attempted to play at a club where the previous night a hip-hop concert had caused a lot of problems for the owner. But the band members don’t give up and continue to push their music.

“We have a really good message. We’re not gangsters,” El-sayyad said.

The band has played a few venues in Bloomington mostly at The Video Saloon.

“It’s probably our favorite place in town to play. He’s excited to have us there,” Alwine said of Vid owner Mike Black.

“You don’t feel like a burden,” added Eric Ottinger.

Plus, Alwine said Black trusts him to run his own sound, which means a lot to the guitarist since he can “do what I like to do with the sound.”

Hoosier hip-hop

Alwine and the Ottinger brothers grew up in the same area in Bloomington. They often listened to the same music and soon were taking musical lessons. And it didn’t take long for them to become bandmates.

Through the local music scene, the members would occasionally play together or even against each other in band competitions.

As life-long residents of Bloomington, the band has decided it’s time to move on. In August, they will move to Minneapolis where the hip-hop scene is “huge.”

“I’ve just lived here my whole life,” Alwine said.

As vast as the Bloomington music scene is, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of opportunities and venues interested in a band known for hip-hop. And by being townies, the band members agree that it is hard to be taken seriously as musicians.

But they are serious and others have taken note.

The path to success

In 2010, the band opened for Snoop Dogg when he performed during Little 500. In 2012, the band won Rhino’s Battle of the Bands, and placed second in New York radio station WRCN’s Battle of the Bands.

Coming in second place was a major coup for Apollo Quad. The band lost by only 146 votes. Members of the winning band, Afterburn, are New York City firefighters.

“It was pretty close for our not being in the area,” Alwine said. “It was tough.”

The band recently played a couple of gigs in California including a show at Whiskey A-Go-Go. Of course, with little money, the band packed up a van and drove 31 hours straight to California with Eric Ottinger sick with pneumonia. With lots of peanut butter sandwiches and determination, the band performed both shows and deemed the trip a success.

“It was definitely a different atmosphere,” Eric Ottinger said.

In the end, that trip solidified their move to Minneapolis.

Paying to play

The guys are accustomed to the idea that making music doesn’t mean making money at this early stage in the game.

“Making it — it’s a loaded phrase,” Ottinger said.

Working day jobs to pay the bills and eat is a way of life — a life they lead by choice in order to do what they love.

This weekend, the band performed at the Launch Music Conference in Lancaster, Penn. And in June, they will be showcasing at the California Music Industry Summit in Oakland, Calif. In both cases, the band had to pay a submission fee to even apply to perform at the event with no guarantee they would be asked to attend.

“It’s a lot of money to make music,” Ottinger said.

Despite the continual drain on cash, no one seems to mind paying the fees. For them, it is just another example of how determined they are to succeed. “It’s not worth it if you don’t love it,” El-sayyad said.

Making a move

- The Herald Times

"Albums of the Summer: Apollo Quad “Come Alive”"

Albums of the Summer: Apollo Quad “Come Alive”
By admin · September 28, 2010 · Post a comment
Filed Under Apollo Quad, Come Alive, Elie Abraham

Apollo Quad recently released "Come Alive"
It seems that Indiana just hasn’t been on the hip-hop map as of late. Even more so, the Bloomington hip-hop scene is incredibly disjointed, leaving many unaware of what rappers this town even offers. However, up and coming act, Apollo Quad, is making progress. With a brand new release, Come Alive, they are finally pushing their music out there.

As Come Alive is Apollo Quad’s first full-length album, there’s no foundational context to contrast this album with. Comprised of five Bloomington locals, Apollo Quad is fronted by wordsmith Hythum El-Sayyad and backed by guitarist Steve Alwine, bassist Ian Ottinger, drummer Eric Ottinger, and keyboardist Vince Newsom. The band is structurally similar to the Roots in that the full band writes the music and later pairs it with rhymes. However, they definitely maintain a sense of originality and successfully keep at bay any sense that they are merely a live act.

Come Alive, though only consisting of 9 tracks, still delivers the feel of a complete LP by developing as a concept album. “Intro” kicks the album off. It’s a short and ambient piece made of eerie jingles, distant pianos, and theremin-esque resonances. El-Sayyad’s voice enters, as if elsewhere in a cave: “My heart beats, but I am dead; killed by routine, hollowed by the same and mundane.” This very first line shapes the grounding for the rest of the album and is conceptually fleshed out in the subsequent song “Come Alive.” The vocals propel the songs, bolstered by El-Sayyad’s grit and intensity. Lyrically, Come Alive is full of depth and incredibly, and creatively, well-worded rhymes that touch most on social construction and the struggle to overcome materialism while trying to grow up with sanity. Every line is delivered with a distinct sense of poetic purpose.

Regarding the music itself, Apollo Quad is nothing short of talented. Fast-forward to 2:50 in “Black Metal” if you’re looking to hear an impressive guitar solo. Impressive not only for its shredding but also for how organically it fits into a hip-hop song. The guitar is also well supported by the slaps and more-than-root-note bass lines that help bring attitude to the record. Providing the thump is a series of incredibly energetic drumbeats, played with crisp precision. The live drums help make Come Alive more lively than it would have been with machine-made beats, especially with innovative touches like the use of tambourine in “Inner Riot.” Intertwined within all of this remains the keyboard, which provides the extra something that separates Come Alive from being merely a good album. I would be lying if I said the piano notes at 1:00 in “Acceptance Is Overrated” were not my favorite three seconds of the song.

What ultimately blows me away about this release is its closing track: “Apathy.” It begins with a simple yet evocative piano line by Newsom. El-Sayyad enters, rhyming over nothing but the piano, further creating the empty and lost feelings the lyrics describe. Gradually, strings work their way into the growing sound of the song which are eventually joined by a moving arrangement of orchestral percussion. In each listen, I fail to shake the relatability of the lyrics and how their sadness often hits so close to home. I couldn’t possibly pick a single lyric that exemplifies this feeling. Instead, I encourage any listener to close their eyes when they listen to this song and hear every word. It is an immaculate way to wrap up an album.

It is hard to hide that I was surprised and very impressed with Apollo Quad’s Come Alive, I do have a few critiques. First, though I am fond of the sound of the track “Intro”, it also feels like a bit of clichéd way to start an album. Also, Come Alive feels so conceptually consistent in sound and content that one may wonder if it contributes to a positive sense of fluidity or if it allows it to drift by as simple background music. Either way, I am positive this isn’t the last we have heard from Apollo Quad and I hope that their career continues as strongly as it began.

Rating: 9/10 - Wiux Blog (Written by Elie Abraham)

"Bloomington Blooming With Talent!"

With spring brings great weather and also great local music. We've been around to many local concerts and gotten to see some amazing local bands. On Wednesday at buffa louie's we listened to the hip hop sounds of apollo quad. With a very energetic set, and some carbon copy rage against the machine covers i had a great time listening to them and cant wait for their next show, we'll definately be on the look out for more from them! - IDS (Indiana Daily student)


Come Alive
No Gods,No Masters
The War on Mediocrity



We are Apollo Quad and we aim to push the boundaries of music! Forged by hunger and ambition, we are on a mission to inspire in others the very qualities that created us. We are 100 percent original live music, no samples,no beats. Our inspirations range from Led Zeppelin to Nas to BB King. All of us come from different music backgrounds which makes for an eclectic sound that has not been heard. We have opened for national acts such as Snoop Dogg,Jeremih,Bone Thugs N Harmony and Wondermike (From Sugar Hill Gang).Apollo Quad gigs have stretched from coast to coast including the legendary Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles and the CBGB festival in New York. The three albums we have recorded "Come Alive" "No Gods, No Masters"  and "The War on Mediocrity" can all be found on Itunes and Spotify, Check us out!

Band Members