gHOst­lanD singer en­er­gizeD

Ghost­land Ob­ser­va­tory’s Aaron Behrens talks cre­ativ­ity, dy­namic shows and help­ing kids shine

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Chad Swiate­cki

If there’s a hu­man per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Prozac, it looks a lot like Ghost­land Ob­ser­va­tory’s Aaron Behrens.

That’s be­cause it’s hard to not smile and feel bet­ter about life when talk­ing to the singer and gui­tar player of Austin’s elec­tro-dance rock duo, whether he’s hold­ing forth on his band’s early days, its dy­namic and shape-shift­ing live shows, or his re­cent vol­un­teer work with Austin Bat Cave to fos­ter cre­ative ex­pres­sion for teens.

Af­ter a re­cent spot head­lin­ing May’s Detroit Elec­tronic Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, and ahead of Ghost­land’s now-yearly July en­gage­ment at White­wa­ter Mu­sic Am­phithe­ater in New Braunfels this week­end, Behrens talked deeply and pas­sion­ately about what moves him as an artist and how that helps him move his grow­ing mass of fans.

Amer­i­can-States­man: When did you and Thomas (Turner) de­cide to make the live ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing re­ally spe­cial, since that’s what you’re known for?

Aaron Behrens:

It was never pre­med­i­tated. I’ve al­ways been a fan of the live el­e­ment, of the moment, of the freestyle. To me that’s the most pre­cious thing that can ever be. A moment can’t ever be du­pli­cated. It’s im­pos­si­ble. There’s so many hap­pen­ings go­ing on at one time, and we love mak­ing the most of that. Thomas feels the same way, so it’s some­thing that nat­u­rally hap­pened. Thomas took el­e­ments from raves he used to throw back in Dal­las and took that feel­ing of never stop­ping and flow­ing all into one song. We take you on that ride, which I got from watch­ing the Doors, and Queen and more psych mu­sic, too.

What were the steps you took to get the live show to the level it’s at now?

With the whole laser thing, that hap­pened when we were do­ing a show at Hogg Au­di­to­rium and we were sup­posed to have big LED screens in the back­ground, but, two weeks be­fore the show, the guy who was sup­posed to bring them fell through and wouldn’t call us back. Thomas Googled “laser light show” and the first thing that popped up was this Light Wave In­ter­na­tional out of Pitts­burgh. We called them up and said, “We’d like to get some lasers.” They had a guy in Dal­las au­di­tion­ing for Roger Wa­ters’ show who’d hop down there and do the show. Turns out it was the owner; they loved us and we’ve been kind of their baby band ever since, since they do huge acts like Wa­ters, Ri­hanna, peo­ple like that.

Con­tin­ued from D

You’ve also be­come known for the White­wa­ter shows (com­ing up Fri­day and Satur­day). How did those come about?

They con­tacted us a cou­ple of years ago when it was a new venue. It’s turned into some­thing cool, where peo­ple make a whole week­end out of it. They go tub­ing in the river and have a blast; the peo­ple who run it are su­per cool and since it’s two days now I was say­ing it might be­come our ver­sion of Wil­lie (Nel­son) in Luck­en­bach, an an­nual event. I have a friend who re­serves cabins the whole week­end ev­ery year for this thing.

So do you take op­por­tu­ni­ties as much for the vibe and ex­pe­ri­ence as a big pay­check?

Yeah, to­tally. If it’s a cool place, we’ll do it. Es­pe­cially if it’s a cool place we like that no one else thinks is cool. We love any­thing that’s for the mid­dle class and lower class, and to take chances.

You re­cently started work­ing with Austin Bat Cave on self-ex­pres­sion work­shops for teens. How did that come about?

I’ve been feel­ing a call­ing to do stuff like that. An old high school friend taught at a mid­dle school, and I went in and talked to them and their stu­dents. A lady from St. Stephen’s was there and she loved it and asked it I’d come to their lit fest. When these come to me, I feel I should say yes, be­cause oth­er­wise no doors will open. So I did it; the film di­rec­tor there is head of Austin Bat Cave and asked me to try some stuff with them. Man, it was great. The more and more I do it, the more and more it’s like a show. I see how to get through and how to do it bet­ter.

How much do you feel kids lose out on by not ex­press­ing them­selves like you pushed them to do?

They miss out on life, who they are and the chance to re­ally find out what they can be in­stead of what other peo­ple are go­ing to judge them as. It’s a “this lit­tle light of mine” type thing — ev­ery­one’s got that light and they should let it shine. By me talk­ing and mak­ing them more com­fort­able be­ing them­selves, that’s the way to make the world a bet­ter place. If, slowly, more peo­ple preach how to help kids find the good stuff in life be­fore the bad stuff finds them.

Did you have any­one like that in your life grow­ing up, push­ing you?

I’ve al­ways been a loud­mouthed kid. I grew up in a small town and TV was my en­ter­tain­ment, in­clud­ing lots of loud­mouthed co­me­di­ans. Ed­die Mur­phy’s “Raw” and “Deliri­ous,” Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, I loved all those guys grow­ing up. Later it was Tommy Davidson, Jim Car­rey and all the guys from “In Liv­ing Color,” a lot of the “Up­town Com­edy Club” guys like Tracy Mor­gan. They were just speak­ing truth. It was in a dif­fer­ent way by break­ing things down, and I car­ried that into when I started lis­ten­ing to more mu­sic and see­ing great per­form­ers. I’ll soak any­thing in. Coaches and ath­letes as well. It came from ev­ery­where.

What’s your cre­ative process like, for Ghost­land songs ver­sus solo songs?

For Ghost­land, I bring in riffs for gui­tar and work that into some loops, be­cause that’s what we’re based out of. With that, I like to play off of Thomas be­cause he’s a vi­sion­ary with the equip­ment and I love to feed off of what he does when he gets go­ing. I love to feed off of en­ergy, which plays into the live ex­pe­ri­ence again. With solo, it’s more deal­ing with a darker el­e­ment, a sad­der el­e­ment. Coun­try, bluesy, con­fes­sional type stuff. There’s some­thing so pow­er­ful to me about a man and an acous­tic gui­tar. Noth­ing’s closer to my heart. So I’m kind of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters in a play.

How much of your day is taken up by cre­ative pur­suits?

I try to dab­ble in ev­ery­thing. I’ve done some paint­ing and want to do more. I’ve done lots of pho­tog­ra­phy and re­ally love do­ing that. I tend to not have as much time as I used to, be­cause hav­ing two kids will do that, but I try to do some­thing pretty much ev­ery day, even if it’s just cre­ative think­ing and do­ing some med­i­ta­tion type stuff. I try to write ev­ery day, at least some po­etry that doesn’t even have to be a song. That’s what I try to tell these kids, is it doesn’t mat­ter if you’re not a su­per­star with it. You don’t have to make money with it. Just be a Joe Blow, but you need to feed that thing in­side you. You don’t have to be in any scene or hotspot like Austin to get that en­joy­ment.

You’ve got a new record fin­ished (‘Co­de­name: Rondo’). Time to share.

It’s def­i­nitely dif­fer­ent. The sound qual­ity is amaz­ing. I’m squelch­ing and squeal­ing on only two songs. Some I’m just talk­ing all the way through. We had fun on this al­bum. The past records have been dark and brood­ing and emo­tion be­cause there was some dark push and pull go­ing on. This one, we just went in, had fun and let it come to us. Our quirk­i­ness came all the way through. The last record had all those strings be­cause there was so much ten­sion and emo­tion go­ing on. But it’s all a party here and very quirky. Our in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties are com­ing out. It’s still got your hooks. We don’t make al­bums, we make trot­lines: hook af­ter hook af­ter hook af­ter hook.

Jay Jan­ner

Aaron Behrens (above, at 2009’s ACL Fest) says he feeds off the en­ergy of Ghost­land Ob­ser­va­tory part­ner Thomas Turner and of a live au­di­ence.

Chad Swiate­cki

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.