There’s this band from NY that my ears have been noshing on for some time now. I know them as the Madison Square Gardeners, but a few of the band members also play in a band called Taurus which is releasing an album right now and embarking on a tour. Lead singer, Aaron Lee Tasjan will also be releasing an album this fall and hitting the road.
When these cats were in town, I had a chance to sit down with Aaron to talk a little bit about chasin’ girls to Boston, makin’ rock & roll in the big Apple, and his general badassedry. Yep, this dude’s so legit one must make up words to describe him.
Aaron, you’re from Ohio originally, went to Berklee for college. What took you out to Boston?
Yeah, for 6 months. Um…a girl. I was living in Ohio, moved to Edgewater, NJ, this girl that I was dating went to BU, I decided to move to Boston to see what was going on in her dorm room…which was a lot of good stuff. Then I moved back to Ohio.
What were you studying?
No major, I had a scholarship to play guitar there. That’s what I was supposed to be doing.
How’d you end up in NY?
Well, basically, I had started this band when I moved back to Ohio from Boston, called Autumn under Echoes, and that band was very fun but super short-lived. Country-punk band, the aesthetic was a get up there, bash it out kind of thing. That band broke up and it was right around then that I met this kid named Justin who was a singer, a really great singer and he told me he wanted to start a rock band. And he and I started Semi-Precious Weapons together. I sort of pretended like I still lived in NY to be in the band…drove there, turned around and came back to Ohio. Stayed on Justin’s couch, for like three years…we had a really great time in that band and as we got more and more serious and were getting record deals, I all of a sudden was really young and had a decision to make, and I could tell if I decided to be in that band it was going to take up a lot of my time.
I loved the people in it, but I wasn’t sure it was the kind of music I wanted to be doing. It was rock & roll, but not the kind I wanted to be doing.
Where’d you meet all these cats?
Some of them are from Ohio as well, we all met when we moved to NY. Bryn was in Roseanne Cash’s band, Mark was playing in Ben Kweller’s band, Rob was playing with Justin Townes Earle.
It was just more for fun, then it became more serious when I started writing songs for the band. Then I wrote some songs, one about a lesbian that we’ll never live down, apparently, that was alright.
I love getting up everyday and making this kind of music. Makes me really excited and happy. I feel very fortunate to be doing it. I’m taking a longer time to make a career, but I’m doing it on my own terms. That’s the new motto for songwriters.
Where’s everyone else hail from?
John is from Westerville, Rich is from Terrytown NY, Mark is from Galeon, Rob is from E. Canton, Bryn is from Canada. He’s always speaking French to us.
The first time I heard you guys I got this really bluesy, nostalgic rock ‘n roll vibe. How would you describe your sound?
I like that. That’s totally accurate, I think. We’re not really a band- I guess I’m not really a songwriter- that just does the same thing over and over again. I’ve been really interested in developing and going as far out with things as I can. So, our band has kind of grown up in front of everybody’s eyes.
I think at the root of it I’m really just a huge music fan. There’s certain kind of musicians, like Rich, Blake Mills, and you just hear them play and you’re like, “Oh my God, these guys are amazing musicians.” I’ve done nothing my entire life but listen to records and imagine myself in that band…Rolling Stones, Beatles, Birds, T-Rex, Tom Petty & Heartbreakers, Oasis. It’s just basically that stuff…
Deerhoof, Grizzly Bear…I’d rather listen to Damn the Torpedoes 25 times in a row, then that. Not because their music isn’t good, but because that’s what made me do it. It’s like people in relationships, like that first girl you fall in love with…you never forget.
If you’re not scaring yourself, you’re not doing enough.
So, you’re working on a four EP project. When will you be releasing the 4th EP?
That is a fine question. We’re trying to figure that out. The rest of them have been so constant, every three/four months we’ve been putting out one. Up against a time constraint, there’s some tours that a couple of other people in the band have that are going to involve them for a while…I’m going out to LA to make a solo record, then tour and put it out this fall.
There’s a whole big spiel with some vinyl after that. It’ll be worth the wait, I hope. I feel like the last one was our strongest. Not that we’re resting on laurels, but we can take some time off and think about making something really great that’ll make people happy.
When you guys write, how do you approach the process? Is it more of a trial and error, or does someone in particular usually bring something to the table and say, make it happen?
Most of the time, I write and demo, and send it out to everybody. I leave it up to the band to come up with their part. They all do their own thing with it. We’ve tried, we’ve made an honest effort in our band to have it be as democratic as possible—that’s obviously pretty difficult thing to do. And when you just happen to have a band full of people involved in so many different things…I am genuinely interested in what everyone’s idea are.
That’s a lot of what makes a band a band. I think obviously, the Beatles are a remarkable band, like John Lennon’s rhythm guitar part on All My Lovin’… it just wouldn’t have sounded like that if he hadn’t played it like that.
Do you guys play in a lot of other groups or is MSG it?
We play or have played with Butch Walker, Anna Eggy, Justin Townes Earle, Roseanne Cash, Dar Williams, and a couple of us play in Taurus.
Do you have any challenges playing together?
Yes, we do, actually! We come across challenges. I think the biggest is finding a place for everybody to fit in sometimes. Especially with 3 guitar players in the band. All challenges are certainly not without their frustrations, but at the end of the day, I think it makes you be a better musician, forces you to think about things you wouldn’t have to think about otherwise. About your playing, others’ playing. Good to stretch yourself.
Who are you digging on musically nowadays?
Favorite: Joe Pugg. I don’t think there’s anybody who is a better folk singer than Joe Pugg. BP Fallon. I think he’s a real poet, he’s the real deal. The Tallest Man on Earth, Delta Spirit from San Diego, Dawes, Blake Mills, phenomenal. That Breaking Mirrors record was incredible. JP Olsen. The Dead Weather. Really liked that first Dead Weather album, Horehound.