Combining a tuneful pop sensibility with energetic, guitar-based indie rock, Apex Manor was a project Ross Flournoy created to strengthen his creative muscles after a period of writer's block. Following the breakup of Flournoy's indie pop band the Broken West, Flournoy struggled to create music, but finally made a breakthrough with the 2011 release The Year of Magical Drinking, where he took his previous band's hook-laden sound, put a tighter focus on the guitars, eased up on the '60s influences, and let a more personal tone inform the lyrics. After changes in his personal and creative lives put the project on the back burner, Flournoy returned in 2019 with a second Apex Manor album, Heartbreak City, which found him moving between tougher, more aggressive indie rock and atmospheric and introspective selections.
After the Broken West quietly parted ways in 2009, Flournoy left the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles for Pasadena, and started blocking out plans for a new group. However, after his car broke down, he found himself often stranded at home, where he drank beer and struggled to come up with new music. Ideas refused to materialize, but when NPR announced an online songwriting competition called Monitor Mix, Flournoy decided to make an entry as a way of challenging himself to create again. The song he wrote for Monitor Mix, "Under the Gun," was about the pressure of a creative deadline, but it did the trick, and once he completed the tune, he began writing more, some on his own and some with his friend Adam Vine. In time, Flournoy had a batch of 25 songs, and he went into the studio with Vine, engineer Dan Long, and one-time Broken West bandmate Brian Whelan to work them into shape. The result was 2011's The Year of Magical Drinking, released by Merge, which Flournoy credited to Apex Manor, his name for Vine's apartment where they did much of their work.
While The Year of Magical Drinking was well-received, its title proved unfortunately prophetic; in the wake of the album's release, Flournoy's long-simmering alcoholism came to a boil, and he checked into rehab in his hometown of Memphis, where his parents still lived. After a week of in-patient treatment, he moved in with his folks, and his father, who had given up drinking in 2009, became his ally in sobriety. Flournoy's father had also started a business making and selling pimento cheese, and he soon joined him in the business as it became a success. Though cheese was keeping him busy, Flournoy started easing back into making music, writing instrumental music for commercials and web series, as well as penning the signature music for the CNN news show The Lead with Jake Tapper. In 2016, he started writing songs for a second Apex Manor album, and he completed 35 tunes within the space of nine months. After getting the go-ahead from Merge, Flournoy went into the studio with bassist and producer Rob Barbato and drummer Dan Allaire. After two weeks of sessions, the three completed the second Apex Manor album, the harder rocking and more introspective Heartbreak City, which was released in May 2019. ~ Mark Deming