Getting out and having fun: Interview with Austin band A. Sinclair

Lead by none other than Aaron Sinclair, A. Sinclair is an Austin band with two quality albums under its belt, two delightfully gory music videos, and two new songs currently been released through Dangerbird Records. I had a great chat with Aaron over the phone where we discussed the recent album ‘Get Out of the City’, how many bands the average Austin musician plays in, his two sweet babies, whether his current beard would survive the summer, and how important it is to truly enjoy making music.

 

Hi Aaron, tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up and when did you start playing music?

I grew up in a suburb of Houston called Missouri city, and had my first guitar when I was probably 4th or 5th grade, but didn’t really play it. I took lessons later in Junior High and started my first really awful junior high band with the drummer next door. Had my first garage band when I was about 15 or 16.

Did you start writing your own songs at this point?

Pretty much right away when I was 15 or 16, though very poorly. Tried to copy whatever it was I was listening to at the time, trying to put chords together and melodies.

Around this time, did you find that whenever you started strumming your guitar songs just magically appeared?

Yeah, I think so, I just never really turned into a great guitar player. The guitar has always been like a song writing tool for me, it’s always simply been “these chords sound cool together”.

How did you fall in with the other guys in your band?

Michael Booher, our other guitar player, I’ve known since I was a young age. He actually grew up with my cousin on the other side of Houston, and he had his own band called Squirrel Tribe, and then later had a band called Zykos here in Austin. Was a cool band back in the day, about 10 years ago. I had a band in Boston and we played some shows together on tour a few times. I always kept in touch with him and then he’s been band with my band the past few years. And bass player Brendan, we worked in a restaurant together for a few years, in the service industry, and the drummer through him been in other bands… basically the whole Austin music scene for me, and I can’t speak for anybody, it’s pretty incestuous. Everybody plays in a few different bands, if somebody is need, then somebody else quickly jumps in. I guess from playing music and working in restaurants is how I’ve met most the people I’ve played in bands with here.

I found that from all the other bands I’ve been talking to. That one, if not all of them, play in another band at the same time.

Yeah, and some of the guys will be playing bass in one band, and drums in another. I’m getting a bit older now at 40, so I used to be in a bunch of bands but now I just do this [A. Sinclair]. Some of the other guys in the band are younger and they’re still playing in about 3 or 4 bands, and I did when I was younger too. Playing like 5 shows on the weekend. Which was fun when I was 25 but I can’t hang with that shit anymore [laughs].

With the album title, ‘Get out of the City’, what is your current relationship with the city? How personal is the sentiment in the title?

It’s not personal in that it’s about Austin or anything like that, honestly we have been touring not a huge amount, we’re doing around 4 tours of 3 to 4 weeks a year for about the past 3 or 4 years. Austin can be its own little music bubble, where you can play in Austin as much as you want, there’s so many clubs and shows going on here, so just trying to branch out and try to get something happening outside of this town. That has a little to do with the title, mostly written about the tours we went on, just kind of an anecdote that sounded cool as an album title, not super purposeful in a sense.

When I first read the album title, for some reason in my head I was thinking it was a bit of call to get out into the country, leave behind the hustle and bustle of the big city. Maybe it was the rustic looking flowers on the cover.

I like the city. I dunno if I would do so well in the country. I’d get a bit bored. Though I don’t get to leave my house that much anyway, have 2 cute babies right now, so if I went out into the country with 2 babies I’d actually be worse off [laughs]. It’s about us trying to tour more, and trying to figure out a way of how you can have a career in making music; not just wait tables and play at the local clubs. Which I’m fine with, I knew when I was younger that was probably what was going to happen, so I’m happy doing that, but it’s always a dream to be able to play music and support yourself doing that.

Listening to the album again, I can hear some country influence on two songs, ‘Everything We Need’ and ‘Green Leaves’. Is country music something you’ve had in you?

I actually did play country in the past with some other bands, but I wanted to do more rock stuff and created A. Sinclair. So I still like to write songs that have that country influence, as I wouldn’t want us to have a record of one style of song for 45 minutes. I also don’t think it’s cool to have about 10 different styles of songs for 45 minutes. I just like to have the pace of an album change a little bit.

The lyrics for the 2nd track ‘Liars of the State of New York’ repeat themselves again on the final track ‘Magic In Chapel Hill’, but with a completely different sound and style. Was there a particular intention in doing that?

I wrote the slower version just on my acoustic guitar, and I just thought it might be cool to bookend the record in that way. We recorded that one first, and then we created the ‘rock version’ and then I thought “just put ‘em both on there and maybe it’d be cool.” There’s a few minor differences in the chords, and then obviously they sound very different. The song is just two different stories about touring in two different cities [Chapel Hill and New York].

The first time I listened through the album I did think on the last track “Hmm.. these lyrics sound familiar.” I then wondered if perhaps this was an arty concept album about ‘getting out of the city’…

It’s all about the process of being in a band, it’s not like a deep concept going on or anything, thought it’d be cool to have two different versions of that song.

Were you involved much in the literal heart stealing video for ‘You’ve Got a Heart’?

We hired some guys who are in Austin to make some videos, director Zach Scott and Taylor Camarot on camera/cinematography. We saw they had made videos for others that we thought were cool. They came up with it all and it’s all in one running camera shot. Zach is into gory horror movies, so whenever we’ve worked with him blood is involved. There’s definitely some people in my family who say “why do you have to make these stupid bloody videos?” and I’ll say “I dunno, I think it’s cool.” [laughs]

I saw you played some recent shows at South By South West. How’d those go?

South By’s cool, I always have fun. We kind of took it easier this year but the other guys in my band, they probably played about 15 shows with all the other bands that they were playing in. We played only about 3 or 4 shows this time, which is all I can really handle right now with babies. So yeah, the shows were cool man, they’re fun. South By is its own beast, just works out by how much you want to do. Living here in town, you can play a lot or a little or just avoid it. I enjoy it in small doses.

Will you keep the bushy beard for summer? Spring has been hot enough as it is.

Oh man, that’s a good question. It hasn’t got too hot yet but yeah, it’s gonna get hot soon. I’ve had it for a while but I’m sure my wife will be excited if I cut it. My two year old daughter has only known me with it for the last year so it might freak her out a little bit. It definitely happened to me last summer. I work at a restaurant with an outdoor patio, and after serving tables in 99 degree heat for a month I did say “alright that’s enough.” So I’m sure I’ll cave in at some point.

You’ve been mentioning you have a couple of cute kids; how is it to be a musician in Austin while also being a parent?

It’s a lot different than it used to be. My wife is super cool and she has been very supportive, and both of our families are in town so we get a lot of help. We’re both working and our babies hang out a lot with their grandparents and they help us. My wife hasn’t made me stop yet. And I’m still having fun doing it. We’ve actually been recording a bunch with a guy named Justin Douglas in town. Studio called King Electric and have about 9 or 10 songs recorded right now. So just been recording a lot while the other guys have been touring with some other musicians. Trying to keep that going. That keeps me happy making music. I’m tired, but tired is better than bored right?

With those new tracks recorded, do you have another album already in the works?

They’re recorded but I don’t know if it’s a new album. It’s a bunch of songs recorded that aren’t all yet mixed. I don’t know if they’re all album material or not, it’s been just a way for me to keep working. Keep the blood flowing.

An EP perhaps?

I actually have no idea. We do have 2 singles coming out on the Dangerbird Records label that we’ve signed to. They’re doing this thing called Mirco Dose and you’ve got a 2 song digital single [which is out now]. ‘Cars’ is the first and then ‘Just Remind Me’ is the 2nd song that’ll come out a few weeks later. From there will keep recording and making stuff and see where it leads to. I don’t really have anything worked out in my head yet, because I can’t really remember what happened yesterday right now. With a 6 month year old baby and 2 year old baby. So everything’s just kind of flying by. Will keep moving forward.

What do you and the band have planned for the future?

We’ve got some shows coming up in the next few months which’ll be fun. The other guys, Jud and Brendon are coming back from tour. And then just keep recording and playing, and like you said maybe figure out what this group of songs are when they’re finished. Whether it’s an EP or a record or just some digital singles. Will figure this out in the next few months and move forward from there. Keep writing and playing and having fun. As long as it is still fun then I’m happy. It’s always been fun for me.

Playing music, performing live shows, recording; if you didn’t enjoy it, you’d get sick of it pretty quick.

Yeah, it would be a huge pain in the ass [laughs].

I’ve found if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. I feel like I have to do it. It makes me happy and sometimes you get caught up in things that aren’t going the right way and you remember that doesn’t really matter; just get active creating and recording music. And sharing it. If that’s not fun enough then you’re missing something. For me anyway. I never expected to be really making money doing this. That would be a great thing to happen, but I’ve figured that with any artist, or songwriter, or painter, or musician, or anything, everybody’s pretty screwed if only a small percentage can actually make enough to live on their art. So it becomes how much do you like doing it and how long do you want to do it for.

As I always ask at the end of my interviews, when you hear the word ‘kiwi’, what first comes to mind?

I guess the fruit for me man, I didn’t really pick up on kiwi being a nationality until I was a teenager or something. My mom used to always feed me kiwis when I was a kid.

 

A. Sinclair is playing this Saturday afternoon, June 10th, at the 3Ten ACL Live ‘Austin Record Label 2nd Annual Flea Market‘, as well as later that night at Hotel Vegas. Plus June 18th will be playing at the KLBJ’s Sunset Concert Series.

Check out all things at www.asinclairmustic.com

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