Interview / Exclusive Audio: Sri Aurobindo

sri-aurobindo-andy-cookCheck our world premiere download of the first track off Sri Aurobindo’s upcoming debut full-length. Catch them live tomorrow, Jan 30th @ Sonar; they are up first on the Club stage at 9PM.

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MP3: Sri Aurobindo – Nobody’s Child from the forthcoming full-length

Some address the genre of psychedelia as a treasure of the past- best left alone. Crucial individuals of Sixties counterculture set the bar for Rock ‘N Roll- that tripped out, feel good groove of peace and naked people. But just as other breeds have, this acid-rock can evolve too, and Sri Aurobindo (pictured right, credit: Andy Cook) are right on track. Scheduled to play the first day of our 1 year anniversary bash (Aural States Fest) this Friday night, Brandon Arinoldo, Danny Chenault, Mike Furniere, and Mike Romano met me on an icy Sunday night in Hampden to let us in on the soon to be released, self-titled album and what to expect at the show this weekend: conscious, free-flowing Bohemians spreading the good vibes of avant-garde psychedelia.

Aural States: How did you all meet? What’s the story behind your collaboration?

Brandon Arinoldo: I was working at the Zodiac restaurant and I met Danny’s now wife and she figured we would hit it off.  Neither of us were actively playing music at the time. Then Mike Furniere started working at the Zodiac shortly after that and we got the idea to play since Mike plays and Danny and I have played. Then through a mutual friend I was introduced to Mike Romano.

Mike Romano: Yeah I had been playing with Vincent Black Shadow and doing production work and beats with Height. I happened to talk to Nick (a close friend from college) who mentioned Brandon had moved to Baltimore and was also into psychedelic music a whole lot. He thought we’d see eye to eye; after I met him once at Sound Garden where I work, we were formally introduced in front of the Zodiac.

BA:  The three of us played here (at our house) in the basement and we played once or twice with Mike R, then I started working at Sound Garden with him and we asked him if he wanted to play with us all the time. The whole first year we were together we just kind of went down whichever path it took, and we had a really good time doing it. It really helped us get to know each other as musicians, but we decided we wanted to do something a little more structured than that as far as playing shows and writing songs. We just decided to make our songs sort of a skeleton with which we’re still able to do all the improvising we like to do. Every one of our songs has plenty of improvising all throughout. We have kept that, but focused it.

AS: So, we should expect the live performance to be noticeably different from the recorded versions of your songs?

BA: Some parts are the same, some are improvised. You get what you’re familiar with, but hear it hopefully in a different way than before.

Mike Furniere:  The album was recorded basically within 4 takes for each song and it was all recorded live, so each take in itself was a bit different. We even had a couple usable takes for some songs and had to decide between them.

AS:  Why did you choose psychedelic?

MF:  The goal in mind when we started playing in the basement together was to re-introduce not just psychedelic music, but music influenced by all sorts of stuff we listen to, from post-punk to acoustic with a more ethnic, folk-y tinge.

BA:  But take all of these influences and re-juxtapose them in a way that, we hope, hasn’t specifically been done before.

AS:  That is very noticeable in your work: you pick up on a unique sound, but there are still recognizable elements of outside influences. What specifically are you influenced by?

BA:  I think the majority of what motivates us is past music, but there is definitely a lot of good music happening right now as well.

MR:  It’s nice that psychedelic music is kind of a buzzword. When I started with Vincent Black Shadow, stoner-rock was getting big, but it was more of a riff-oriented thing. Now people are starting to get into the 60’s-Pink Floyd-acid-pop viewpoint. We were never trying to be a retro rock band or just a psych band. We want to add more dimension to it than melancholy and down. We want to have the full spectrum of psych, which seems to be lacking in the current scene.

MF:  We don’t try and make it sound like it was recorded in 1969. We want it to sound contemporary. There are some bands out now that do that and it sounds good and retro. We just aren’t going for that scene. That’s kind of cool in it’s own way though and adds a nostalgic feeling to it all, but we wanted to do something new. We still respect it and listen to it, like new garage punk.

BA:  We try and have it not be all in one genre, have it be cohesive, but it’s cool when you can hear a kraut-rock element or a psych element and then hear something like The Fall, where it sounds more post-punk.

AS:  Have you all always been musical as kids? What were you doing back then?

MF:  I’ve played guitar since sixth grade. Hendrix and Zeppelin were a huge influence on me at the time. Even Pink Floyd.  I remember I bought Relics in 7th grade and listened to songs like “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine”- I always really liked that off of there. That’s what I mainly listened to in middle and high school when I was learning to play guitar and trying to emulate those things. In high school I got into jazz and decided I wanted a Music Composition degree at Towson, so I became more into the avant-garde music at that time. I think we all kind of share a similar taste in music.

Danny Chenault:  If you had asked me when I was like fourteen or fifteen I would have said something like “Interstellar Overdrive,” something I liked even back then. To me, it was the greatest thing.

MR:  I started out actually with the opposite. After grunge died, I was kind of like “Rock kind of sucks now”, so I was really into making beats with Wu-Tang as my main influence. I was working with Height and other people in town and performed in a group called Wounds.

When I was in college, my friend had this killer psych collection because his dad was really into it. He really turned me on to psych in general. And I would hear it and think “Why isn’t anybody using this stuff?” Now, of course, it’s come full circle with people like Edan. Not that other people weren’t using it in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there were innovators doing that as well.

I really got into psych because everything has a really good groove to it and it’s nicely spaced out, but ultimately they are just cool pop songs with a little something else that makes them special and unique. They are interesting and have another dimension to them besides a three chord change.

BA:  I was always into music on some abstract level, but I never had any older brothers and sisters to let me know what was cool. When I got my first CD player in sixth grade, my first CD was Chicago (laughs). As I got exposed to more and more interesting stuff, I naturally started to drop all the music I would now maybe not consider so much “my bag.”  I remember the first time I heard Relics too, and I couldn’t believe those songs. That was my first real introduction to psychedelic off the beaten path. I immediately went for it.

MF:  Ten years ago, psych was a lot harder to find. A lot is being re-issued to CD now and with the Internet, it’s completely different. It’s a lot more accessible.

AS:  Do you think the growing technology is hurting musicians with things like illegal sharing or is it more of a help through networks like MySpace and Facebook?

DC:  I think it’s like magic. Anything you can do with it is like energy; it can be used for the good reasons or to commercialize and take the soul out of it. Ultimately, I think we need to  embrace the fact that it gets the music out there. I think that’s priceless in our time.

MF:  We got this message one time from a girl in France and she was like “Oh, I found your page and I showed it to my roommate and now he wants to move to Baltimore, so you’d better take care of him when he gets there.”  It was just cool that we can have fans from places like Germany, Australia, Spain. You would never be able to share it like that any other way. You’re creating it and we’re obviously not in it to make a lot of money, of course it’s not a very lucrative path that way, but people hear your music all over the world and it’s a great thing.

BA:  It’s definitely good and bad. For us, it’s been absolutely helpful, especially booking shows. Like our friends Teeth Mountain tour for two months and play a show almost every single day and half the dates are TBA and they can get shows last minute. People find out about it that would never know about it.

MR:  At the same time though, it’s so easy that people do it that aren’t really into it. It’s a flux of bands that makes it hard to stand out sometimes. It kind of lowers the bar to some extent.

DC:  It’s funny because Myspace and things like that are not the pinnacle of all these networking programs. It’s only been out for what, somewhere between 5 and 10 years? We haven’t seen anything yet. It could go anywhere.

AS:  What inspired the lyrics of your songs?

BA:  I can’t speak for Mike, but I know when I write, we’ll be figuring out a song and I’ll just hear that this is a song I want to sing on. Half of the time I try and find something that is fun and really relatable and almost dumb as shit. Trite maybe even. There are so many garage lyrics that I love. I’ll be listening to a song and repeat the lyrics because they are so mind-blowingly simple. Like “walking down the street I saw a girl. I said yeah”. Other times I enjoy lyrics that are more visual. The detailing of those are much more of the psychedelic experience.

MR:  With psych it’s all about how raw and stripped down and stupid it gets. Not stupid in a bad way, but more of the fact that you can get to that point where it doesn’t matter and you’re not thinking about it too much. It’s just you being you. With music that I write, I like to have in there something you can relate to, a way to share the experience.

BA:  A lot of times I’ll throw in a specific, individual connection, an inside joke. Somebody would know that it was specific.

MF:  By the way, Brandon wrote the lyrics for “Vertical Electric” and “Nobody’s Child” and Mike R wrote the lyrics for “Shape the Change of Time” and “Never Felt More Free”.

AS:  I know that Sri Aurobindo is an Indian guru. How does spirituality and religion play into your lives as musicians and people in general?

BA:  I don’t think there’s any one answer for the four of us. I think we all have very different ideas with some underlying similarities. I think there is a pantheism in regard to psychedelic experiences that you feel this current between things that is definitely expressed in some of our lyrics. It’s something we can all relate to: this feeling of a connection to a greater thing even though one of us could consider ourselves atheist or agnostic, some genuinely spiritual and in full belief of absolute things. The whole thing is very mystical. With the name, it kind of chose us. We had a few that were kicked around for a while and none of them stuck. One day, Danny came in with the name Sri Aurobindo and knew about him as a figure and thought that would be cool.

MF:  I remember we still hadn’t decided and the next day I was asking them you know “What was that name you said yesterday? Sri Aurobindo?” It had really gotten stuck in my head.

BA:  Some people it gets stuck in their head, some people you can’t get it to stick in their head.

DC:  It gives it a sense of mystery and mystical experiences that you find in psychedelic music. You’re trying to be more alive. Somehow there’s a hidden reality behind the everyday world and you want to get inside of there. Can I storm heaven? Can I get inside and see if we are really awake? And we thought Sri Aurobindo would be into that, (laughs) I mean he dedicated his life to it.

BA:  And that kind of ties into that pantheist thing, that underlying current. We heard this name and found out a little about this person, but felt a connection to him as something. It’s hard to even explain. Again, the name chose us. Danny helmed the whole getting into 2012, but regardless of what happens at the whole galactic alignment, we are all very interested in the possibilities and significances and symbolisms behind that and later we found out that Sri Aurobindo was also very much into the concept of 2012.

DC:  He never said 2012, specifically, but he said there would be this huge alignment and it would change the path of mankind. A new dimension and level of awareness.

AS:  What do you think of this first album you are releasing? What do you want the audience to take from it?

MR:  Personally, it has been the first album that worked out right and it feels really good. I’m glad it happened with these guys and came together so well. Working with Chris Freeland, we had done some rap stuff together, and he had been doing sound at Talking Head.  Anytime he has done a show for us, it was the right sound. He really knows how to capture live music in general, just naturally how the band sounds.  We knew that if he could do that for us and record it on tape, it would be great. It’s really just raw and pretty much how we would sound live. I think we would want to be a full time touring band. That’s what I’ve been trying to do all my life. To have the chance would be awesome. We want to keep writing songs that have a pop element to them.

BA:  To get it out there to a bigger audience is a nice thought. We are not conceited in what we do, but we certainly enjoy it or else we wouldn’t be here.

MR:  Psychedelic is just a tag word. We want to be a fun, groovy, rock and roll band that’s poppy but at the same time has a soul and a fire to it. That’s what was happening in the 60’s and what is lacking in most current underground and popular music.

BA:  I think if we had to boil it down I would say we were in a psych band and it is a buzz-word but I think we would be doing the exact same thing regardless of that. There are a lot of bands that came out after Animal Collective got really big and people became familiar with them and started to do psych on their own and their real knowledge of psych was limited to maybe just them and like Tyrannosaurus Rex.

That’s wonderful. Someone getting into something is awesome. The first time you hear something is such an exciting moment, but we played with a band I won’t name who claimed to be psych and they were anything but. I think people are happy that our link to it is a little more thorough, or more researched. I don’t know if that sounds like an asshole thing to say, but I’m just saying it’s nice that people can recognize that we genuinely love this.

AS:  You will be playing at Aural States Fest on the 30th, what has your performance history been like in the past?

MF:  We’ve played pretty much everywhere in Baltimore. Our first show was at Current Gallery. We’ve played Floristree, Talking Head, Ottobar, Load of Fun, Joe Squared, Metro Gallery…the usual places. We’ve had a few shows in New York as well. We are definitely trying to get some DC and Philly shows and start branching out. We’ve been putting it off until we had the album finished.

BA:  We have a lot of equipment, so much that we can hardly fit in one vehicle, so it’s really hard to travel out of town. It’s very expensive with tolls and everything. We didn’t want to start over-reaching and trying to go to New York without being able to give them something to hold onto. You give one person an album and they show it to someone and 40 people know about it by the end of the week.

MF:  We are good friends with a band called Heavy Hands, who just put an album out recently. They help us get shows up there and we help them down here, which we’ve also been able to do through MySpace. I’m a teacher so it would be nice to get something going during the summer. The album has been ready for a while it has just taken some time to release it, but the good news is we are actually almost ready to record another.

DC:  Originally, we were going to release it through a label, but that whole thing kind of fell through so we are doing it ourselves.

BA:  Which was a blessing because we thought we were going to be doing it with somebody and that gave us the motivation to get it recorded. We got it recorded sooner than we would have had we not had it looming over us. There was a gap of time when we realized we weren’t doing it with someone and then we became really motivated to get it done ourselves and finally have it finished. People have been asking for it for a long time. The second will be much easier.

AS:  Any big changes in the second album?

BA:  It’s really hard to say what it’s going to be just yet. There are some similarities. Some are lighter, some heavier. The next few songs we write will definitely bridge the gap.

DC:  We’ve played some of them like “Toward the Sun,” “Don’t Know,” “My Peak is Too High”.  Some of the live versions of those we’ve put on our MySpace.

MF:  We’ve always been happy with the way our live improvised versions come out. I think it comes from us playing together for so long. That’s why we started writing songs because some of the improvisations we would have in the basement we thought would be awesome live, but we wanted to have a structure to it so it wouldn’t meander or lose the point. Now we’ve gotten to the point where we could probably do a 45-minute long improvised set live and we’d feel very confident that it would go interesting places. We now have that communication that you develop as musicians who collectively improvise like a jazz combo. Without even looking, you hear, you know, you sense.

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4 Responses to “Interview / Exclusive Audio: Sri Aurobindo”

  1. Fantastic live band! Love these guys!

  2. Brett says:

    Their debut is now available, limited to only 199 copies. Pretty amazing album, looking forward to their live set.

  3. Daily Breather says:

    Hey, I caught the last few songs of this set tonight. Nice trips, out there but keeping you grounded in the collective spirit. Right on guys.

  4. Jeff says:

    Kick ass set last night. Also picked up the album, definitely worth it.

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