TeenNick Top 10 Fresh Artist Interview: AJR
Alright, let's state the obvious: sibling boy bands have been around for a minute. In the '90s we swooned over the golden-locked Hanson brothers, and the early aughts brought on the global sensation that was Jonas. But there's a new brotherly trio on deck, and they're ready to separate themselves from their (albeit legendary) predecessors.
Meet AJR: the three-piece indie-pop outfit comprised of, logically, Adam, Jack and Ryan. They're already armed with an impressive YouTube following and a smash hit (which, BTW, features our very own pineapple-dwelling, squarepantsed sea sponge), but AJR are about to make even more noise…and we're not just talking about annoying neighbors from their New York City living room. We caught up with the boys to talk about their growing career, their songwriting process, and what it's like to be in a family band!
How do you collaborate on music? Does one of you primarily write most of the songs, or is it a joint effort?
We've been working together for such a long time that the writing and production of the music has become very smooth. Ryan is the primary writer and producer, but the process of creating music is very much a collaborative one. After eight years of developing AJR, we all have a shared vision of the type of band we want to be, and the type of impact we want to have on the industry.
How has growing up in New York City influenced your sound?
New York City is such an icon for singer/songwriters like Simon and Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen, and even for contemporary artists like Vampire Weekend and Fun.; some of our inspirations. We're born and bred in this city, and it inspires our aesthetic as a band, our lyrics, and even the industrial electronic elements of our sound.
Your track "I'm Ready" samples SpongeBob Squarepants. How did you decide to include that?
Jack came up with the idea to use the Spongebob sample in a dubstep song. He brought it up to us by saying, "someone like Skrillex should sample Spongebob," and our next thought was, "why couldn't we do it?" Spongebob was a big part of our childhood, and we thought that it was a cool little throwback to our fan-base's childhood too.
Your music has an awesome ability to be both fresh and eclectic but also undeniably catchy. Do you look to different eras and genres for inspiration?
Thanks so much. That's a big reason the Beach Boys are such an inspiration to us; they were able to create music that was musically sophisticated, but present it in a catchy, sing-along-able way that was accessible to the public. To answer your question: yes, we take huge influence from the music of the 1950's and 60's and combine those influences with modern and innovative production.
Some of your songs feature what you call "spokestep." Can you tell us a little more about what that is and how you use it in your music?
Spokestep is a sort of sub-genre we're developing, and we've sprinkled it into a bunch of the tracks you'll hear when the album drops. The sound of dubstep is created by taking a distorted bass-line and messing with it over a beat. This can mean cutting the audio up, or putting filters on it. We thought we could take that same approach with vocal melodies: and that's essentially what spokestep is.
You guys are getting ready to release your album independently. What advice would you give other artists who release their music without the help of a major label?
The worst advice we ever got was to try and be like other artists. We've been in so many meetings over the years where we were advised to be more like the popular bands of the time. I think that an advantage of going the indie route is that we're our own bosses, and we can be very authentic in our music, our images, and our videos. So the best advice we can give to another artist is: develop and showcase the unique parts of yourself.
Out of the three of you, who is the most likely to goof around when you're rehearsing?
Jack is probably the most likely to goof off. It's good to have that kind of energy around though; it can get really intense working in a little apartment like ours.
What's the best part about being in a band with your brothers?
It's great to be able to be perfectly honest with each other. For us, the workday doesn't end at 5pm. We are constantly pushing ourselves forward, and an important part of this growth is being honest with each other about all aspects of the band.
AJR, everybody! There's only one question left: what will their fan army name be? AJRmy?! (Don't lie, that's pretty good.)
If you want to catch more of these guys, head over to the TeenNick Top 10 page! And, of course, don't forget to tune in this Friday at 10PM ET!