Over the weekend, Portland based Aan put on an excellent show at Luigi’s Fungarden here in Sacramento. They are promoting their new album, Amor Ad Nauseum, and on tour headed down to SXSW in Austin next week. I was able to chat with them after their set.
Sasha Tokas (ST): You guys are on tour promoting your new album, Amor Ad Nauseam; are the name of your band and the album titled related?
Bud Wilson (BW): Yes, absolutely. In part the album title is to dispel the curiosities of folks who ask what A-A-N means all the time. So, although its sort of asinine because Aan is not an acronym. I think the whole point of the band is just to create those strange moments where you’re like, “I don’t know what the heck’s going on.”
ST: Can you talk a little about recording the album and how it came to be; the process behind putting it all together?
BW: Yes, it was gradual. We started strong, we went out to a cabin and did a bit of basically laying out the framework for the record and recorded some drum tracks and bass and finished one piece fairly quickly and then, as well we ran out of money and then came back into town.
Jon Lewis (JL): We got cabin fever.
BW: Yeah, we got cabin fever. Got real weird. Then once we were back in town we would sporadically go in and work on tracks and just explore the studio a bit. That’s part of that record, just an exploration of the studio and also sort of became music school for us.
Reese Lawhon (RL): Some of the songs pretty much, literally came about in the studio. We wrote them, before we played them together live or anything and just kinda crafted, you know, a piece of music and then, been learning how to play it ever since.
JL: We all came in with like a rough draft basically.
BW: Exactly. And the goal was for it to be a sort of visual record. That was the one point that was going to be made from the beginning, was that it didn’t listen like a live record, it listened as a… you know you’d sit down with headphones on and go through each track linearly. You can still jump around, but it’s supposed to sort of listen in a cinematic way.
ST: What’s happening to the poor dog on the album cover?
RL: Yeah a lot of people, some people were really disturbed by it. Been getting kind of hate mail about it.
JL: Someone wrote us and they like Aan a lot and then…
RL: But the album cover’s horrible!
JL: Someone replied to them and they were like “Yeah, I love your music, but this cover makes me not really wanna listen to it anymore.”
RL: Which, you know, is understandable.
BW: We would say like, you hate the cover… What do you think the dog feels?
Patrick Phillips (PP): It’s not like we, it’s not like anybody… A dog ran into a porcupine.
JL: It’s not like we got the quills from the porcupine and just threw it at the dog.
PP: It’s not like we had a little, like, blow-dart gun and were torturing an animal.
BW: Absolutely not.
PP: These things happen.
BW: What happened, I’ll tell the story.
ST: Do you know the dog?
BW: Yes, the dog is my lady friend’s mother’s dog. She’s 12 years old, her name’s Maya and she’s fine. That’s the third time that she’s attacked a porcupine. She’s very well known at the veterinarian’s office. This photo was just captured by the veterinarian before she was treated getting all those quills removed.
RL: And she’s fine. We just liked the image and how it relates to the album title.
BW: And a lot of the subject matter on the record, sort of, doing things that you know are bad, continuously.
ST: Can you talk a little about the beginnings of the band and how you guys formed, met each other?
BW: Yeah, it started as a solo project for me (this is Bud) and then I was playing in a band with Reese and brought Reese in and some other members of that band. As time went on people would come in and out. It’s been a three-piece, it’s been a four-piece, it’s been a two-piece, but it never really coalesced until Jon went to the East Coast with us for a tour and I think we started to understand the process of music making as well as the business end and what it takes to be serious. That was probably almost three years ago, or it was three years ago, and Jon brings a lot of enthusiasm to the band and I’m more of the creative minded person so it’s important to balance those two things out. Then Patrick has come on with the band about six months ago and been touring with us. The next record will be with Patrick and it will probably be a lot more of a different direction, but within the same… Things that you would expect from us, but with an emphasis on more, probably more rhythmic things.
ST: It’s kind of unfortunate, but inevitable that bands get labeled under specific genre names and all that. So before people start saying “Oh, Aan is this kind of music or that kind of music”, what do you guys want to be seen as?
BW: I think we want to be understood as just, playing with pop structure. At the end of the day, we’re a pop band. Can’t really not be. You know, so, experimental pop to some degree with atmospheric rock touches. My mom wrote in our local, where I grew up, there’s a newspaper that goes out to about 250 people and she wrote an article in the newspaper and it’s called… What’s it called? It was like “psych-tinged atmospheric rock pop”. Something like that.
JL: It’s pretty accurate.
RL: Decent description, better than a lot of the other ones we’ve had.
BW: Good job mom.
JL: Freak folk. That’s a good one.
RL: Well, we used to be more freak folky, I suppose.
BW: Just ridin’ the wave.
PP: So whatever’s the coolest new thing.
BW: It’s difficult to say what we are, I think what’s happening is what we feel like doing. We don’t put limits on anything.
ST: For your “Somewhere’s Sunshine” video, did you guys come up with the concept for that music video?
BW: No, we didn’t. Some friends of ours have a production company called KYDJ, which is “Keep Your Day Job”, and they’ve always got really good ideas. They took the helm on that one and we just had all the cowboy clothes shipped from my parents, who are ranchers. And then that was it.
RL: Dragged us all out to a field at 6 in the morning and shot til sundown.
BW: Yeah, 6 to 9. 6am. 9pm. It was hellish.
ST: Is there a message behind the music video?
BW: People keep asking that. There must be some underlying philosophical thing there, but they haven’t told us what it is.
ST: Left open for interpretation, right?
BW: Yeah, the best always are.
ST: What was it like going on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins?
JL: It felt like a job. Well, I mean, this is a job, but we also have fun at our job.
RL: It was surreal.
BW: I’ll just do it cause you guys are taking too long. We’re on the radio, they can’t see your cool face. It was really fun, but it was also like music school because we felt like little fish in a gigantic ocean. But we learned so much and met the members of the then Smashing Pumpkins and they were great. It was super cool, it was probably one of the coolest things to ever happen to any of us.
JL: I remember hearing “Zero” when I was, I don’t know, 9 years old at my friends house, like behind my neighborhood and just like freaking out. And then, I don’t know, what was that, like 20 years later, I’m opening for them.
RL: Yeah, definitely never would have thought that we would be opening for this band at some point. It was surreal, but it was super fun. Their whole crew was super nice to us, accommodating. Glad we did it.
BW: Personal growth.
JL: Got rained on everyday too.
ST: Ok, so for some random questions now. How would you guys prepare the perfect bowl of oatmeal?
JL: This is Reese’s.
RL: Well, I probably eat the most oatmeal of the band. I like my oatmeal with some brown sugar or some sort of syrup, berries, and almonds. That’s all I really need.
PP: I usually go savory. Sometimes, like to mix it up, do like…bacon, Sriracha, and egg. I’ve done that one before, its pretty good.
JL: Dude, egg in oatmeal?
PP: Don’t knock it til you try it.
BW: I don’t eat oatmeal. I don’t believe in breakfast.
JL: (To Patrick) You put Sriracha on your Pacifico.
RL: Bud does not believe in breakfast, very true.
BW: Its one of my least favorite things: breakfast. Truly. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I’d just rather have lunch.
JL: Bud just eats two lunches.
BW: Yeah, I don’t even really eat dinner.
JL: He just eats three lunches. Keeps you going.
ST: What was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life?
BW: Beautiful thing I’ve ever seen… Its probably on DMT.
JL: I was about to say rainbows on mushrooms.
BW: Yeah, I’m sure it was a psychedelic experience. I mean, if we’re gonna be honest, I’m sure it was some profound psychedelic experience.
PP: I was at church. I was a young man then and, uh, sometimes you get to peek behind the veil and see, uh, see something really beautiful like, I don’t know.
BW: Where you going with that?
RL: It was Billy Corgan in his white robe. The most beautiful thing.
JL: Eating noodle salad on a couch.
RL: Which is pretty much how we met him.
PP: Its probably the day Bud was born. I saw him emerge. It was one of the most beautiful things. Just crawling out, a full-grown man.
BW: Thanks dad. Patrick’s also my father.
ST: If you guys could pick a mascot for the band, what would it be?
BW: Absolutely, it’s our spirit animal.
ST: You guys had that one ready!
PP: Is this the chupacabra or the…
BW: Jon has “Chupa” tattooed on his…
RL: Since we’ve been touring together, Jon, Bud, and I…
JL: (To Patrick) You might like rabbits, but we like chupacabras.
RL: The chupacabra’s by far our spirit animal, mascot, whatever you want to call it.
JL: The elusive chupacabra.
BW: When we find the chupacabra, which we are looking for…
JL: We’ve been searching…
BW: Jon will get “cabra” tattooed on his arm because currently he only has “Chupa” tattooed on his arm, which is…
JL: To suck.
RL: We got homemade tattoos the last time we were in Austin for SXSW.
JL: We were staying with my friend and he bought a tattoo gun, like, I don’t know, when. But, he never tattooed anyone, so I just gave him this idea of giving me a tattoo cause he needed practice. He wants to do this. So, I just had him tattoo “Chupa” on my…
BW: Yeah, its his upper arm. It says “Chupa” in papyrus font.
PP: What’s really great is that, I have a really great picture of Jon with his shirt off that will hit the internet really soon. Actually, it already did hit the internet and somebody commented on it. They’re like, “Sick chalupa… sick chalupa tat!” Its like… my friends aren’t very smart.
JL: Yeah, I love chalupas. Especially when the Blazers win, I get a free chalupa.
BW: Not anymore.
JL: Yeah, that’s true.
ST: Ok so, last question, what can we expect in the future from Aan?
BW: Trying to get a record out again this year. If anything we’ll be writing new music as soon as we get back from this tour and hopefully supporting some larger bands in the near future. Like I said, trying to put some new pieces of music out by the end of the year.
RL: As soon as possible.
BW: Just trying to turn pro.
PP: Probably expect to see the Smashing Pumpkins opening for us.
JL: Once Billy reforms the band for the third time, they might be opening for us.
RL: On the Mogwai/GRMLN tour.
BW: We are not loved by Pumpkins’ fans anymore.
JL: Yeah, I don’t think so.
BW: We blew that one hardcore. And we don’t even mean to! Obviously we’re fans, and we didn’t have any bad experiences, but we sure say some dumb stuff sometimes.
RL: We’re talking about the hardcore Pumpkin fans.
BW: Yeah, the guys who run blogs.
JL: The 40 year olds.
BW: We love you.
JL: Billy Corgan’s neighbor, I don’t know.
ST: Thank you guys so much for speaking with me tonight.
All: Thank you.
BW: Our pleasure.
Note: This interview isn’t word for word. I interpreted it as best I could, but if you want to listen for yourself, click here and it will direct you to Soundcloud.
You can listen to my show, The Beat Hour, live on Tuesdays from 6-7pm on KSSU.com. I play today’s best alternative & indie music, interviews with bands, and the occasional giveaway. Tune in!
DJ Constance – Sasha Tokas