October 12, 2009
Aa (Big A Little A)
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Aa (pronounced Big A Little A) began in 2002 as an evolving rhythm experiment based out of Brooklyn, NY. Their thunderous live show has taken them from hundreds of different basement and warehouse shows to sharing the stage with high-profile bands such as Sonic Youth and TV on the Radio. Aa’s debut full length gAme was released in 2007 on Gigantic Records and doubles as a DVD showcasing their animated music videos. JezebelMusic.com’s Gordon Sharp sat down with founder Aron Wahl to discuss the history and inspiration behind Aa’s evolving experimental project.
JM.com: I know that you do all the drawings that represent the visual imagery in the band. Tell me about your artistic influences and who/what you draw inspiration from in your work there. What does the elephant with the human hands represent.
Aron: For me, drawing is an outlet for the kinds of ideas that I can’t quite put into words, so it’d be tough to describe what any individual picture represents. I guess I think of my drawings as ornate one-liners. When I design an album cover for Aa, I’m really just trying to add another dimension to the sound. The visuals for bands like Black Flag, Crass, and Black Dice do this really well and have definitely inspired me over the years.
JM.com: In your video Thumper, I see your drawings animated. Did you animate these yourself or who did you work with on the video?
Aron: I animated it myself and it took forever! The video is basically a three-minute long animated GIF. I’m looking forward to learning faster and better ways to animate my drawings.
JM.com: Tell me about the reasons for forming Aa. You appeal to a big underground audience – was this your intention? What are your overarching ideals behind your band?
Aron: We didn’t start out with any lofty ambitions. We just wanted to play awesome shows and record albums and travel. Our sound and instrumentation has evolved over the years but we’ve always tried to emphasize the rhythm and make electronic textures that feel fresh to us. In terms of live performance, we always prefer non-traditional venues, to set up our equipment in the middle of the crowd, and involve our friends whenever possible.
JM.com: What are the origins of the band? How did it come to be, and who has come through and who has stayed?
Aron: Definitely not an uncomfortable subject but one that’s difficult to summarize! We’ve had a few full-time members come and go, and have some friends who just play with us occasionally. At this point, I am the only member who has played every show! We’re still really tight with everyone that’s played with –us – they all pretty much left because they either moved away from New York or were spread too thin from doing other awesome bands – and we’d like to think that there’s a good chance they’ll play with us again for future recordings and/or shows. Sean Neil, one of the founding members who left the band when he moved to California, will be joining us for our European tour next month. I’m super psyched about that.
JM.com: I know you’re heavy on percussion and structured minimalism. What exactly is your guys’ current lineup and instrument set-up? Does it vary from the studio to the live setting?
Aron: Right now the band is three people – me, John Atkinson and Josh Bonati. We each do a mix of electronics, percussion and vocals. John mostly does vocals and samples, Josh mostly plays drums, and I fall somewhere in between. When we go to the studio, we record the new songs that we’ve been playing live and experiment with music that we’ve never really given ourselves the luxury to play in a live setting – stuff that’s quieter, more textural and less composed.
JM.com: Tell me about the DVD that is included with your last CD. It includes music videos and live performances. Is there anything else on there that you like to elaborate upon?
Aron: When we finished recording that album, we realized that there would be a six-month delay before it was released. We have a bunch of talented friends (who work for free!) so we asked them to make music videos for us. The DVD is the result. It was really exciting to see how other people interpreted our sound.
JM.com: Just curious as to the name Aa. My childhood buddy was named Aaron, so I always called him Big A little A as kids. I always thought that’s maybe why you called it that, then I saw your name on email – only one A!!
Aron: Ha! We booked our first show before we had name, so ‘Big A little A’ was a last-minute decision. The name comes from a song by the band Crass. We tend to abbreviate it to ‘Aa’ because it takes up less space. I’ve since learned that ‘Big A little a’ comes from a nursery rhyme, and is also the name of a school of philosophical thought (Lacan). ‘Aa’ is a type of lava, a river in Sweden, and the name of a J-pop band. Oh well.
by Gordon Sharp
artwork by Aron Wahl