In session: Aaron Rhoades | Nipperville


ALBANIA – Artistic Leg Stretching, Local Musician Aaron Rhoade is about to unveil their latest effort, “Undertow.” Release scheduled for September 8e at 8:00, the track is one that demonstrates the artist’s electropop sensibilities. We at Nippertown were thrilled to get our hands on a taste of his new piece. With some really nice synth arpeggios, followed by deep, throbbing under-bass, and what sounds like a TR909, “Undertow” has a quickly established groove. On top of that, the song has great elements of the genre, full of effective synth pads and occasional vocal manipulations that accentuate the production nicely. The different bass textures help create a nice base for the melody, which blends effectively with Rhoades’ pop vocal styles that demonstrate a comfortable melody in his tenor range. Nothing is overtly difficult, but the merging of sounds makes for a fascinating experience.

Prior to the release, I had the opportunity to sit down with Rhoades to discuss his new art direction, the inspiration behind “Undertow,” and more. To follow our conversation, keep reading below.

Photo credit: Kiki Vassilikis

Lucas Garrett: Thank you, Aaron, for sitting down with us tonight to talk about your music. I hear you have a new song coming out?

Aaron Rhoades: That’s right. It’s called “Undertow”, and I’m very excited about this one.

LG: Tell us a bit about the song.

AR: It’s a bit more pop than my previous albums. He was definitely inspired by Glass Animals and various other artists. It deals a lot with depression, I think that’s one area, and just feeling alienated from something. Away from relationships and so on, maybe by something you create. I think it’s about how we as artists can get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that it becomes unhealthy.

The song is about that moment of realization. Like, “OK, you know what? Let’s acknowledge this is happening and make sure we take a better, healthier approach.

LG: As artists, why do you think this is so prevalent in the art world? It happens with a lot of people. I don’t know if it’s the arts that influence it, or the arts that attract a certain type of character to which it would be possible.

AR: Yeah. For me, personally, it’s almost addictive – the music itself. The feeling it can give you and the community around it, the culture. All these things about music that appeal to us, there are so many things…

LG: Right.

AR: It’s like exploring worlds. I always feel like when I walk into the writing room, something new might happen.

LG: When you write a new song or a new album or whatever you’re working on, how long does that process take? How long does it take you?

AR: I’ve had songs that are… I’ve had songs that last up to several years, and I’ve had songs that only last a few days. It really depends on the art itself and the type of song you’re trying to create.

LG: With “Undertow”, you yourself said it was a bit more poppy than what you are used to writing, right?

AR: Yeah.

LG: What prompted you to write an electropop song like this?

AR: Well, it’s something that I’ve been striving for for a while, but I don’t really have the ability. So, growing up as an artist, I realized one day that I could totally create a song like that. It was one of the shortest songs: it only took me a few days to get close to a good song because of the way things flowed naturally.

LG: What I really liked about this song is that there is a lot of information in this song, musically speaking. But none of this is overtly difficult. If you remove one of the parts and analyze them by themselves, they are simple. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. The way you have intertwined them makes it a very interesting piece, in my opinion.

AR: Thank you very much! I tried to keep things simpler with this song, but to mix things up in a unique and interesting way. For example, the sounds that we used: the samples that my sister and I put together…my sister Sarah and I got together and got a bunch of random stuff from all over the house. We started shaking a board game, or hitting a water jug, and random stuff like that.

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LG: Okay. You know, that makes a lot of sense, because I was like, “What am I hearing right now?”

AR: Haha, I know. We had a lot of fun with it.

LG: I know what kind of musician you are in terms of mastering your instrument. None of this appeared in the song. What I was really struggling with was overplaying – playing something that in itself sounds really amazing. Is it hard for you to cut back and play something very simple when you’re able to play a lot more than that?

AR: It used to be a bit like that, but as I got older and became more mature in my musicality, I realized it really came down to melody and harmony. The melody and chords you play under that melody. When you can start with the simplicity of that, first, I think you end up with a better song than if you try to write the most complicated thing you can find. If you’re trying to go for an accessible song, that is, then I think taking a simpler approach…my goal wasn’t “How complex can we make this song? It was “What can I communicate with this music?

LG: I think what you said about maturity is right. The more I write lately, the more I realize that I add to my newly written songs by subtraction. I’ll tape it and then say, “No, it doesn’t need that and it doesn’t need that.” It’s almost an exercise in restraint.

AR: Yeah!

LG: You talked about starting simple and adding things to it to make it more accessible. What do you think of accessibility? Will it hinder artistic expression, or not?

AR: I think it really depends on the project. It’s possible if you try too hard to make it accessible and something that’s going to hit big, or something like that, then you might get a little distracted and lose the point. If you come back and focus on “What does the song need?” so I think it’s a good guide to help you make those kinds of decisions.

LG: You mentioned your sister, Sarah. Is your whole family musical?

AR: My twin brother, Jeremy, plays guitar. It is awesome. My sister Sarah did drums for a while, but she has her own baking business and she travels in a food truck selling baked goods at various events around town.

LG: You mentioned a few influences. What are some of your most creative influences for being the way you are today?

AR: It boils down to several things. Video game music was important: Final Fantasy, Super Smash Brothers, Zelda.

LG: Amazing, every one of them.

AR: I love them. I used to choose them by ear. That’s how I learned a lot about the keyboard. When I was a teenager, I got into heavy metal. It taught me a lot rhythmically because guitar and drums together are very rhythmic in the metal I was listening to. I was in a band for ten years called Dust and Ashes. We were a progressive metal band of which I was the keyboard player and the vocalist. It shaped a lot of my sound, experimenting with what you could do with a keyboard that isn’t really done with the music yet. Keyboards can be very versatile.

LG: So the new single, “Undertow”, where and when will people be able to hear it?

AR: It will be on Spotify and all other major platforms on September 8e at 8:00 a.m. I chose this date and time because it’s something that’s close to my heart, you know, because of past experiences and so on. September 8e at 8 a.m. it’s 988. Nine-eight-eight is the suicide hotline number you can call. It’s kind of a mental health awareness thing that I chose to release that day. It is a message of hope. I feel like just knowing that number exists is a really positive thing because it’s like other people are struggling too, you know? Other people deal with all kinds of things in their lives. It’s good to know that there is help and there is hope.

LG: That’s a great message.

AR: Absolutely, thank you!

LG: Thank you, again, for your time tonight!

AR: Same! Thank you very much and it’s a pleasure to meet you.

LG: Same here. I’ll talk to you soon.


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