Aaron and the Spell | Photo by John Vettese
This week on Unlocked, we’re featuring Sing, the debut album from emerging Philadelphia soul ensemble Aaron and the Spell. When songwriter Aaron Brown wrote the title track of his record, he was drawn to a childhood memory of visiting his grandmother in Florida and attending her very music-oriented church. While not necessarily spiritual, he wanted to capture that emotion and channel it into his songwriting, which has taken a roundabout journey from aggressive punk rock to melodic soul. I chatted with Brown on the phone this week to get his perspective on the path he’s followed.
The Key: Let’s start with “Sing,” and your grandmother’s church in Florida. What about that memory was so interesting for you?
Aaron Brown: It was such a contrast from living in the city. When I was going there, back in the 80s and 90s, it was on a dirt road, there was one room, they didn’t have any air conditioning. There was cows, you could see cows from the window. There was a cemetery in the back, and everybody buried in the cemetery was a relative of mine. It’s something that means a lot to me, that feeling that there’s just generations of family and just oldness around.
TK: Right now, your music is very is very soul / rock oriented. But your background as a musician is in completely different styles.
AB: It’s been a long journey. For a while I was heavy into Nick Cave, and [his album] Murder Ballads. I was based around Scranton for a while, and there I was really into really aggressive styles of music. I was into ska for a while, and the local punk scene in Scranton. And the music I was making at the time, my band was called Alien Red, and it was this very super aggressive, way aggressive. One of the songs that was on the record we made was called “Kill the Dog,” another was called “Capitalist Condition.” Super aggressive stuff. I think that album is on iTunes still!
TK: What was your role in the band, did you sing, did you play guitar?
AB: I sang, wrote the words and played guitar.
TK: Was your style of singing much different from where it is now?
AB: Yeah, it was just very forceful, quite a bit of screaming, very loose. If you think of John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, the first solo record he was making where he was doing a lot of screaming and just letting his voice go where it was going to go, it was kind of like that. Just doing stuff, not necessarily thinking about it. Continue reading