The holiday season is a guaranteed time for people to decompress. Schools shut down and businesses close their doors for a few days, allowing everyone to take a step back and forget about the stress of day-to-day life and daunting to-do lists. But for Aaron Gillespie, frontman of The Almost, business is never done.
A few days after Christmas, Gillespie took time to chat with The Aquarian Weekly while on vacation with his family. While one could easily be closed off and bitter of the fact that a publication would even think to pursue a phone interview during the most hectic time of year, he was eager and willing to discuss how far The Almost have come, and most importantly, where they’re headed.
The Almost began merely as a side-project for Gillespie to channel his own creativity outside of his work with Underoath. Writing all lyrics and recording the music on his own, Gillespie successfully released Southern Weather in 2007.
Southern Weather touted a variety of notable singles, including “Say This Sooner” and “Southern Weather,” both of which were hits on MTV and Fuse—a success in and of itself. But The Almost’s debut album confirmed a new musical identity and journey for Gillespie: something more eclectic and stripped down that perfectly highlighted the complex thoughts and messages he hoped to convey to his fans.
Once Gillespie completely departed from his position as melodic vocalist and drummer for Underoath in 2010, he was able to fully immerse himself in The Almost. And with this, the band was able to evolve into a cohesive unit of musicians, rather than just a side-project.
With two EPs and a second full-length album under their belt, Gillespie, Dusty Redmon (lead guitar), Jay Vilardi (rhythm guitar), Jon Thompson (bass) and Joe Musten (drums/percussion) are in their element and ready for the next step. The band is gearing up for the release of their latest full-length, Fear Inside Our Bones, and are embarking on a tour of up-close-and-personal performances.
Gillespie told The Aquarian Weekly how The Almost have grown since their inception, the concept and message of Fear Inside Our Bones, and the role religion plays in his art. The transcription is below:
The Almost have another record in the trenches, ready to be released. What’s the progress on that?
Yes, we’re all done recording, and the new single is being released in January. We’re finishing a few minor things on the album, so I can’t really divulge a release date yet, but people should be on the lookout for it soon. [Note: After this interview, it was announced that Fear Inside Our Bones would be released April 9, 2013.]
It seems like the tour dates you crafted to help generate buzz for the new album all are at small venues. Was that the goal?
Yeah, we almost intentionally planned to play small venues and clubs for this tour so we could get up in everyone’s faces. We spent most of the past year writing and recording the new album, then touring overseas, and taking some time off from the States and really gearing up for this next record. We’re actually really excited because we’re not using crewmembers for this tour. It’s just the band and a van, almost like a sick experiment we decided to do (laughs). But I’m actually really excited about it.
So you’re really getting down to the bare bones of touring life.
With the music economy where it is, we could go and spend all this money and book out big venues, and have big productions and tour buses—there’s a time and place for that. But I think a lot of the touring world now is just a big contest against other bands. I just want to go out and meet people, and do things the way they used to be done and see how we like it. We actually never got to do that as The Almost. It was such a piggyback from Underoath that we just went into the big show thing. We never had the chance to get five guys in a van and tough it out. We want to guinea pig the record on people, play the new songs in small rock clubs and see how our fans react. That’s the goal.
You bring up a good point: You went from one big band, to creating another really quickly. But you started The Almost on your own, right? Was it a struggle to develop as a cohesive band of individuals?
Well, that’s what people don’t really know. I did Southern Weather by myself because I was in Underoath and our music was just getting heavier and heavier. While I do like heavy music, I wanted to write standard rock and roll songs and my wife suggested I just do it. Write a different set of songs, perform them alone, and see what happens. I realized when I finished, and my label started streaming it for major labels to get radio play, I was saying to myself, “What is this? This isn’t exactly what I wanted this to be.” I just saw it as an outlet and almost a one-time thing, but it really took off. So we went on tour and the band became the band. Now with Underoath being completely out of the picture [after I left the band], it feels even more like a real band. It’s what we do now and it happened completely organically.
So you would say you’re a really collaborative unit now?
After Southern Weather, we waited two years to release Monster Monster, and now we have the new album coming out after three years, so we really took the time to write, get to know each other and tour as a band, and I don’t think there’s a substitution for that. You can get in a room and write the songs and make a record. But it’s different when you’re a live band and playing together for five years—things happen differently. So it’s been very collaborative during the last four to five years, which we’re really excited about.
Was it a struggle for you specifically, since in essence, The Almost was a solo effort in the beginning?
It was a bit difficult at first because Underoath was such a collaborative band and I almost saw The Almost as my unit. It was my outlet, so I could do what I wanted to do. At first I sort of struggled with the whole thing, but now it’s really natural.
What I like most about your second full-length album, Monster Monster, is the message. You really tapped into the dark side of human nature and innate feelings that everyone has at some point in their lives. Can we expect something similar with the new album?
Our latest album, Fear Inside Our Bones, is mostly about the fact that when kids first start to walk, they get this look on their face when they let go of the couch or whatever they’re holding onto. It’s this fear. I feel like people are innately built to fear that if they let go of their safe place, then they’re exposed. But if people shared those fears and their personal identities, then they could just be who they really are. The whole idea of the record is that we’re designed to expose those fears and talk about who we are. That’s what creates us as people living life together.
In the last 20 years, the music industry has become very plastic. A very “I’ve got it together and have it figured out” frame of mind. But musicians, writers and actors are the same as the common man. If we shared that we all have fears and secret identities, it would create more commonality between everyone.
And I think the fact that you really dig deep into those emotions and that honesty is why people can connect so easily. Is that something you always strive for?
I feel like the more you build a big golden castle out of everything, you’re going to lose people and lose finding out who they really are. The whole idea of this record is to expose reality. We [as an industry] just don’t do that much anymore. The music we remember isn’t half the stuff that plays in the club. Sure, that music is fun to dance to, but in reality, you’re going to remember The Beatles, the Foo Fighters, and the people who ask the hard questions and write the honest things down. And that’s not to discount club music, but I personally want to be a part of those discussion-starting artists.
I also know that your faith is a big part of your life, and that is something that a lot of your fans are familiar with. Would you say there’s an intersection between your music and your faith?
I don’t think there is an intersection. If you’re a person who knows Christ, you have to erase that intersection. I personally believe that we were all made in the image of Him; that’s just a part of who I am. But I’m not saying you should go to malls and say people are going to Hell, because that would just make you an idiot. But you should share who you are with everyone.
If you think Jesus Christ is a 100 percent joke, I don’t agree with you, but I would rather you tell me that than lie to me. I don’t believe in an intersection, I believe it’s the same thing. Like you’re talking to me now, and I’m going to be this same person tomorrow. I’m going to be this person to my wife, my family and some kid I meet in Georgia while on tour. If you create an intersection, you’re highlighting the stoplight at the intersection, and I think you’re just being fake. It’s just who I am, what I’m designed to do and I’m blessed that I get to do it.
I think that kind of mentality is why a lot of people respect you.
Regardless of where people come from or what they believe, they just want something real. It’s what I believe and who I am, so that’s what I’m going to tell people. I think people know when something’s fake, especially where we are in the music industry. People are getting smarter and they know when someone is putting out a product or speaking something on stage just to sell records or concert tickets. Especially in the circle we’re in. I have to practice what I preach; otherwise they’re going to smell me a mile away.
The Almost play Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ, on Jan. 18, and The Studio At Webster Hall on Jan. 19. For more information, visit thealmost.com.