PREVIEW: Aristocrats @ Club Academy Dec 15th
Fresh off their wildly successful 2013-2014 Culture Clash world tour, The Aristocrats – by any measure the hottest new band in instrumental rock/fusion today – rewrote their own rules for their third studio album, Tres Caballeros, which is slated for release in late June.
After two fairly raw trio albums, guitarist Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson, Asia/GPS), bassist Bryan Beller (Joe Satriani, Dethklok) and drummer Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani) set up camp at legendary Sunset Sound studios in Hollywood, CA, where Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Van Halen all recorded landmark albums.
We spoke to the band ahead of their upcoming Manchester show at Club Academy December 15th.
So, you're embarking on another UK tour - what can the Manchester crowd expect from the show, how would you sell it to someone unsure of coming?
BB: Well, the first thing I'd say is that because of our crazy schedules, we don't get to do this that often, so I'd recommend coming out if you're at all interested in the band! Also, I think the music on the new album is a distinct evolution from the previous material. I think there's more depth to the compositions. There's still plenty of fireworks and humor, but the new stuff has more layering on the album, so we're taking that clay and molding it into something that works live in a different way than songs from the first two albums, which have more of a raw trio vibe.
But forget all that. It will be fun and silly and loud. That's reason enough to get off the fence and come out.
Naturally, with a band of three virtuosos coming together, you've been labelled as a supergroup, how do you feel about that? I mean, this seems founded more on musical love and a sense of adventure than anything else?
MM: This definitely came together on a different basis. To us, the most important things are the quality of the songs and the energy exchange between the audience and us. I think the people feel entertained in a musical way, rather than expecting ‘shredfest’ in the first place.
There's always been a light-heartedness prevailing from you guys, like you don't take yourselves seriously despite the insane amount of talent you guys have, how important is that do you think, in terms of making this band work and making it an outlet for fun, it's not like you guys NEED to be in another band?
MM: Well, we do what feels natural. And again, we rather go for creating a certain vibe for a song, instead of feeling the need to project a sort of ‘look what we can pull off’ factor. I mean, of course there are fireworks here and there, but everything has got to have balance. I don’t like to constantly bombard the listeners with notes. Also, live we tell the stories to the songs and at points in the show we invite the audience to participate. So, yeah, we’re just having fun, while having the chance to express ourselves on a good night with passion and joy on our instruments. That’s the general mission and vibe I’d say.
Tres Caballeros is a record with a little more depth than previous efforts, there seems to be more focus on layers and textures rather than a raw 'let's just go for it approach' - how do you see the record?
GG: Pretty much as you described it! On our first album, we were trying primarily to capture the raw, organic sound of three people playing together in the same room: we started to experiment tentatively with a little more layering on the second album and for this latest offering we all decided that there would be no such thing as “too many overdubs”. Our aim was to make the songs sound somewhat more lavish and “expensive”, reasoning that people would still be able to experience the “pure trio” version at one of our live shows. (Also, I think we all preferred the fundamental idea of adopting a fresh approach for this album, rather than merely attempting to replicate its predecessors.)
Even though we indulged in a lot more studio fun on this recording, we were nonetheless very conscious of the need to ensure that the compositions would still sound complete in a live setting so… we actually did a few live shows at a small club in California, just to road-test the new material and work out our live arrangements before we entered the studio. In retrospect, I think this was very helpful - during the recording process itself, we were able to explore all kinds of layering ideas without having to worry about the prospect of creating an album of un-giggable music!
The record was recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound studios - what was that experience like, knowing the history of the place?
GG: I definitely think that the impressive rock ’n’ roll heritage of Sunset Sound made some contribution to the way the record turned out. Of course we were all pleasantly aware of the “mojo” factor, knowing that bands like Led Zeppelin and Van Halen had used the very same live rooms and studio gear in the past: that must have made some kind of intangible contribution to our finished product! In a more literal sense, you can also hear the distinctive sonic imprint of the place all over Tres Caballeros - as soon as we found out that Van Halen had used Sunset's in-house echo chamber on classic albums like Fair Warning, we resolved to deploy it on as many tracks as possible ;-)