When Aron D’Alesio, best known as the singer/guitarist for Hamilton, Ontario rockers Young Rival, decided to make a solo album, it became a one-man operation, reinforced by its eponymous title. Released Aug. 25 on Paper Bag Records, Aron D’Alesio plays like a deep dive into its creator’s musical subconscious, from Beach Boys and Buddy Holly-inspired melodies to the lo-fi experimentalism of New York post-punk.
Having been a working musician since he was in high school, D’Alesio consciously wanted to explore making music outside of a collaborative context for the first time. To eliminate all distractions, he chose to work at night in a windowless basement space, building each track meticulously piece by piece.
Although he received advice from his old friend Jeremy Greenspan of Hamilton electronica duo Junior Boys, D’Alesio learned on the job, spending countless hours refining sounds, and even playing all the drum parts himself. The results are a clear reflection of D’Alesio’s process in finding his voice, one that seems to suggest limitless musical possibilities.
Aron D’Alesio will be performing at this year’s Supercrawl in Hamilton, as well as Pop Montreal and the Halifax Pop Explosion. For more info, go to arondalesio.com.
What made this the right time for you to make a solo album?
I feel like I should have done it a long time ago actually. I needed to shake things up and assess why I was making music in the first place. This record was really about owning the entire process and having little to no alienation from any aspect of the project. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the music business as it was per my experience, so I decided I just wanted to make a record for myself, and if other people liked it, I supposed that would be a bonus. So I guess it was a process of figuring out if I even wanted to continue writing at all.
How did the album's sound ultimately come together?
My influences are more a lexicon of what I've liked about music along the way, and they've taught me how to write and structure my ideas. Oddly enough, I don't listen to all that much music. The sound came together the way it did because I was focused on giving each song the vibe I thought best served it. I wasn't intentionally trying to do anything specific with it other than representing the songs the best way I knew how to at the time.
How has your approach to playing live changed with this album?
Before I made the record, I remember talking to my friend Jeremy Greenspan about how I might approach this project. Either make a stripped down record that I could perform all aspects of live as a solo performer, or push the ideas as far as I could and figure out what to do live later.
Jeremy encouraged me to do the latter, and it was ultimately what I wanted to do as well. After all, it was the creating, developing and capturing of new ideas that were becoming increasingly rewarding to me personally. I ended up watching Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, and when David Byrne came out with the boombox and a guitar, I thought that that might be an interesting way to deliver the songs without changing the vibe from the recordings and without having to be accompanied by a band. So I started experimenting with different live interpretations until I arrived where I am now. The presentation has room to grow as well, and it can evolve, and that's an exciting aspect to me.
What are your next goals, and do they include Young Rival?
The thing about this project is that I haven't set any goals. I kind of feel like doing that can be poisonous. Creative pursuits can't be measured. The whole business is quite abstract, these days especially. In music, it's hard to be content. You're always striving for more. It can be exhausting. I just wanted to have fun with this record. I figured if I couldn't do that it wasn't worth doing at all. I'm humbled by the support I've received, and every good thing that's come my way so far. As for Young Rival, we just might have another record in us. Who knows? I'm just listening to the wind and looking for the signs these days.
If you could change anything about the music business, what would it be?
Well, right now the market itself seems almost abstract to me. It's a business that's in need of a product. For years it sold physical copies of music to fans, but with the dawn of downloading and streaming, labels have had a hard time monetizing music for themselves and artists. When you pay for a record, you invest in a band or artist.
For me, I found that even if I didn't ultimately like the album I bought, I would still listen to it a lot and try to find something I liked about it because I spent hard earned money on it!
Sometimes records would grow on me, and I'd end up liking them a lot. Without that investment though, music is so accessible and so easily thrown away. If it doesn't grab you it immediately gets tossed. I realize it's reflective of our consumer society though. The current structure panders to a preference of a majority demographic. I would like to see the music business end up with a product be it physical or digital or whatever that can empower it and the artists again.