Interview: Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties (Record of the Year 2014)

To coincide with our “Record of the Year” feature, we bring you the first in a series of interviews speaking to a handful of bands who made our Top 10 list.

First up is Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties, whose debut LP, ‘We Don’t Have Each Other’ made the number eight spot on our list.

Like a lot of side projects, Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties gives Dan “Soupy” Campbell of The Wonder Years the opportunity to venture into other genres. However on ‘We Don’t Have Each Other’, he goes one step further and becomes an entirely different person as he embodies the character of Aaron West.

‘We Don’t Have Each Other’ is an immersive and captivating lyrical experience. West is a unique storyteller and gives the listener an insight into his past, his thoughts and so on. You quickly become drawn into his tale and soak each little detail ‘We Don’t Have Each Other’ has to offer.

Already Heard spoke to Dan “Soupy” Campbell about the Aaron West concept, the albums influences, transferring its tale into a live setting, his plans for 2015 and more.

View our Record of the Year 2014 feature here.

Already Heard: First of all congratulations on making our Top Ten Records of the Year list. What do you make of being part of the list?
Soupy: It’s very cool for me. This record was terrifying to make. I was trying to force myself out of my comfort zone so seeing it received well is really vindicating.

AH: For those who aren’t familiar with the Aaron West concept, can you give us a brief roundup of what its about and how it came together?
Soupy: The general idea is that I wanted to keep developing as a song writer and I wanted to learn to play guitar semi-competently so I decided to write some songs and, to stretch myself as a lyricist, they weren’t going to be songs about me. I was going to, and did, create a character, write his story and then sing from that perspective. That’s where the plan stopped. The songs would get written. They wouldn’t get recorded except on my voice notes on my iPhone and that would be that, but I showed them to Ace Enders who encouraged me to actually make the record a reality. He ended up producing and it was really born there.

AH: When you first announced the project, what was the initial reaction from fans especially as its stylistically different to The Wonder Years?
Soupy: Overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the only negative critique I would read was that it sounded too similar to (The) Wonder Years which a) isn’t a mean thing to say to me as I think my band is good and b) meant that (The) Wonder Years fans were excited to see where else I could go musically.

AH: One thing I admire about the record is the first-person narrative perspective that you put yourself in. In terms of songwriters, who influenced you when you were writing ‘We Don’t Have Each Other’?
Soupy: Craig Finn is a big one in that regard. So is John Sampson and John Darnielle.

AH: Lyrically there are elements of the story that are dark. Did personal events from the past influence this?
Soupy: It depends on what you’re referring to. Certain personal events influenced it, like the amount of time I spent in Roman Catholic Churches growing up but I’ve never been married and my dad is alive and well.

AH: Also by putting yourself in the role of Aaron West and experienced these dark events, did it effect you in anyway?
Soupy: Writing the record, I wanted to be sure that I was doing justice to the tragedy therein, so, at the recommendation of a friend, I started reading support groups online. Just reading people’s personal stories as they battled through life-altering sadnesses put me in a better position of understanding to write the songs but of course also effected me emotionally. You start to realize how lucky you really are.

AH: Now the album has been out for a few months, how has the overall feedback been to the project?
Soupy: Again, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. It’s exceeded all of my expectations. The shows have been wonderful and full of interested and patient people who are excited about being a part of the experience. I’m growing as a performer with this project and I’m lucky to have people support me as I do it.

AH: Are there any plans for a follow up in any shape or form?
Soupy: I imagine there will be but my current focus is on helping to write a new (The) Wonder Years record.

AH: You’re currently preparing a handful of Aaron West shows. What can people expect from your set? Is it difficult transferring the story of Aaron West to a live setting and condensing it to a smaller timeframe?
Soupy: Well, I’m about to go to rehearsal for full band Aaron West sets which are a new challenge for me. I have been, and often will continue still will be, playing solo sets, so playing with a drummer and bassist and horn section and everything is a lot to take in. But as far as the solo sets, I do the whole set in character. I think it helps move the story along and keeps up the suspension of disbelief to create an environment for that story to exist in. I almost think of it as a play. I’m acting to a degree, which is foreign to me but fun and challenging, as I play the record through.

AH: Going into 2015, what are your plans? Can we expect more Aaron West material or we will see The Wonder Years back in action?
Soupy: We’re working on new Wonder Years songs and you can expect both projects to play a lot of shows.

To finish things off, you’ve released one of our favourite albums of the year, what have been some of your favourite albums of 2014?
Soupy: Fireworks – Oh, Common Life
Hostage Calm – Die On Stage
The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
The Menzingers – Rented World

‘We Don’t Have Each Other’ by Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties is out now on Hopeless Records.

Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

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