“Preppy, sporty, and edgy.” “We’re like the Spice Girls all of a sudden.”
The members of the vocal trio Apollo Link are coming to a realization about their style on a Monday afternoon in a midtown Panera. “Oh my God. I’m preppy Spice. Preppy Link,” says Adam Roberts. That leaves Jake Odmark as Sporty Link and Brandon Rubendall as Edgy Link.
The three have style on the brain these days as they get ready to release their first EP, “Dressed in Holiday Style,” an album of a capella holiday music that will be released in early December on iTunes.
“We’re all so unique,” Rubendall says. “If you look at any of our performance pics, although we all complement each other, we also have our own style.”
But that doesn’t mean they can’t borrow from each other. They are all conveniently the same size, and sometimes they even buy clothes that are more along the lines of what another one of them would wear. For example, Odmark’s favorite item of clothing is a long black sweater that he calls his “Brandon sweater.” “I probably would have never worn it until I saw Brandon and the stuff he wears,” says Odmark. “This is a black sweater that goes down to my knees and there are no buttons. It just falls over. It’s almost like a statement piece. And I don’t wear many of those. ”
“We rub off on each other a little bit,” adds Roberts, who says his favorite fashion statement is more practical: his black, round-framed glasses. “A) Because I’m going blind. B) Because they’re a part of me now. They’re like molded to my face,” he says.
Rubendall is currently into a pair of drop-crotch pants that he bought while on vacation in Bali. They have leather suspenders, stripes, and Velcro and he says they’re amazingly comfortable. The others don’t think they could pull it off. “I probably have the most average style, but being next to them, I have to step it up,” says Odmark. “I’m the musical brains. I’m not the style brains.”
Odmark, a self-proclaimed a capella geek, arranges all the songs for the group. He started arranging music in college for fun and then continued to do it professionally as a second job while trying to make a career as an actor. He met working with Roberts and Rubendall when they were all in the infamous Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark and Roberts asked Odmark to arrange a song for them. Since it was the holiday season, Odmark chose “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” his favorite Christmas song (it’s Roberts’s favorite too; Rubendall goes with “Sleigh Ride”).
On Christmas Eve, they performed it for everyone at Spider-Man before the matinee. The reaction was so positive that they kept going. Initially they were known as the Spidey Boys, but they didn’t choose that moniker, so they re-named themselves Apollo Link, after the hallway in the Foxwoods (now Lyric) Theatre where they performed for the first time.
From there, they started making YouTube videos of a cappella arrangements of pop and holiday songs. As Odmark has gotten to know their voices better, his arrangement style has changed. “We’re actually terrible singers,” jokes Rubendall. They learned the arrangement for their rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier” in 24 hours, and the YouTube video has almost 566,000 views.
They’ve moved onto other shows—Rubendall was in Anything Goes on Broadway and just finished leading the Asian tour of Saturday Night Fever (where he was often recognized from YouTube). Roberts was in Pippin, and Odmark is currently in Kinky Boots. But they never forget their roots at Spider-Man, where they all made their Broadway debuts.
“It was the best experience of my life, and it was the absolute worst experience of my life,” explains Rubendall, who was in the musical from the very beginning. “It was great because it put me on the map as a performer in New York and it did a lot of things for me personally in my career. It brought me with them. But it also hurt my soul. It hurt me physically. It was great and it was terrible for me.”
“Say what you want to say about it, but it taught us all everything about the industry—the good and the bad, the crazy, the amazing, because we also were the most covered,” says Odmark. “If anything happened, we were in the press. We were scrutinized. It made you have to deal with everything this industry can throw at you all in one job and now that we’ve all moved on to more Broadway shows, we’re still singing together three years later. I’m definitely happy that Spider-Man came into my career and I think we can all say that.”
Now that they aren’t in the same theater where they can rehearse at intermission, it makes it harder to balance the group with their acting careers, but they make it work using Facetime and e-mail. Odmark sometimes records the arrangements and sends them out, so they can practice wherever they are.
“It’s the icing,” adds Odmark. “Not only is it our hobby, but we’re getting paid now to sell out concerts, so it’s our icing.”
Part of what makes it fun is that it happened organically. “We weren’t trying to put a boy band together,” Roberts says. “It wasn’t like we sought out fame or recognition. It just happened progressively over time. That’s why we still love doing it so much. Everything keeps falling into place like it should.”
And now they’re releasing an EP, going back to the Christmas music that started it all. There are seven tracks—a mix of songs they have recorded on YouTube and some they hadn’t sang together until now—and it was recorded in one day. “We wanted it to feel very much like you’re sitting in on a concert,” Odmark explains. “Not overproduced like they sound like this on YouTube, but different in the studio version. We wanted it to sound very similar to how we would record live because that’s our bread and butter.”
They also have a number of holiday concerts lined up, including a big one at Birdland on December 14. (Their other concerts are on December 5 at the Historic Prallsville Mills in New Jersey; on February 8 and 9 at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach, Florida; and on February 25 at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center in Miami.) Though most people have time off during the holidays, the members of Apollo Link are used to working. “What’s interesting about being on Broadway is you work twice as much for the holidays,” says Roberts. “Christmas and Thanksgiving are really hard to be with your family unless they come to you.”
This year, for example, Odmark has Thanksgiving off, but has two shows at Kinky Boots the day before and two the day after. But they’ve learned to make their own traditions. Rubendall says his Thanksgiving is so good he doesn’t even mind not going home. “I make a mean fried turkey and some sides,” he says. “We throw down.”
But he’s still able to keep up family traditions. His mom gives him a Christmas ornament every year representing something big that happened. “I have a feeling I’m going to get a disco ball of some sort because of Saturday Night Fever this year,” he adds.
Odmark’s family would always open presents on Christmas morning, but wait until after dinner to open stockings. “So that keeps something to always look forward to,” he says. “And I remember always being really sad at the last stocking present. Even though stockings for us were always like toiletries or a couple of gift cards.”
Roberts has a huge extended family and their tradition is a game called Dirty Christmas where everyone brings gifts to exchange and there is a fruitcake in a box and whoever gets it is stuck with for the year. It’s still sealed in the box. “You disguise it,” he says. “You put a little tiny box with a note that says get the fruitcake in the closet. We’ve kept it for like two decades.”
Holiday shows are a becoming a new tradition for the three. Unlike the album, the concerts won’t be all a capella. There will be piano and also solos to showcase their individual talents. “It makes for a nice journey throughout the night. It’s not just harmony harmony harmony harmony. 90 minutes of a capella. I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” Odmark says, to which Rubendall shoots back, “I would.”