Interview: Aaron Gillespie of The Almost

The Almost

This past week I had the chance to chat with Aaron Gillespie of The Almost. During our conversation, the topics ranged from discussing his new album, Fear Caller, the lessons he’s learned growing up with his bandmates in Underoath, and gaining some perspective on what makes him such a brilliant musician and songwriter.

Thank you Aaron for your time today! Tell me a little bit about how the tour preparations are going on this current headlining trek that kicks off in early January with All Get Out, Ghost Atlas, and Rowdy?

It’s a totally different band from the last time we went on tour. Everyone in the band is from the Florida area, but some of the bandmates actually worked for Underoath on the crew. We just did a residency at the House of Blues in Disney with A Day To Remember as one of our last shows of the year with Underoath. So we got together a week before that and started the process of learning the material and re-learning other parts. We spent about a week together and we had a few rehearsals right before the tour starts. That’s where we’re at right now. As far as the band’s we’re paired up with, Rowdy is actually in my band. Rowdy is my drum tech, and he does his own thing. It’s a solo kind of country/alt-country thing. He also plays bass in The Almost and so it was kind of a natural thing to have him involved. All Get Out I toured with a ton. I’ve toured with Nate by himself and so it was just natural for the first tour back. And Ghost Atlas was recommended to me by a friend so I don’t know too much about them, to be honest. Other than what I’ve heard on the streaming sights, ya know?

I understand that during this tour you will be playing two sets: one with your debut, Southern Weather played in full, and another set of newer material. Why did you feel the time was right to play Southern Weather in full on the “If I Believed You” Tour?

I don’t know, people ask about it a lot! So why not? I’m not going to do the albums front to back with the two set thing. We’re going to do a song off Southern Weather then a song off of Fear Caller, then back to Southern Weather and a song off of Fear Caller. I’m not going to do anything but material off of those two records. So that will be about three songs short of Southern Weather in its entirety and then I’m going to come out at the end and play those last ones by myself. I just feel like Underoath did that whole albums tour when we first got back together, where we played one album in full then took a five minute break and then did the other one. Some bands will come out and do a set, and then they’ll encore with the whole record. But for me, I’m just trying to find a different way to do stuff. The album tour has become such a thing for bands, so I wanted to figure out something that would be different for this one, ya know?

What can fans expect from this current tour? Do you have any specific goals in mind for how you rate your tours as being a success?

There’s always the traditional ways of measuring success, like did you make your money back, did people show up. But for me, and with The Almost, I don’t look at it like…<pauses>. It’s sort of just an organic thing that I do. It’s not something where I’m trying to make sure I sell an X amount of tickets, I really don’t know what I expect. I think for me it’s like an outlet. It’s like a spiritual, emotional outlet for me. For me, it’s always been that. It’s been made for me to fill a void creatively, like for Underoath to write some standard rock songs. I was 23 years old when I started this and the brand for this band is for me to try to be myself, ya know? So I’ve just always kept that feeling where I just want it to be an outlet for me to feel, to feel one way.

Let’s shift gears now to chat a little bit about your newly released album, Fear Caller. How would you describe the recording sessions for this record?

I rented a house in Joshua Tree, California in the desert. Brought out all my own stuff and Matt Squire, the producer, met me there. We just did it all (the record) in six days. (Laughter) I really wanted a loose kind of cathartic feeling of music, so that’s what you get there. It was very non- traditional in the terms of making an album, you know what I mean?

I really loved how you included a U2 cover on the new album as well for “In God’s Country!” Tell me a little bit on how you honed in on this particular Joshua Tree song to make the final cut of Fear Caller.

I just love the desert. It’s kind of mystical to me and strange and there’s lots of stuff out there that inspired me. As a kid, and even now, I love old U2. Like Boy, Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree, which I consider one of the best records ever made. So some of my friends, the label, and my management thought I should do a U2 cover and it should be this song. And then when I started putting it together it was so fitting and it felt so good. It just turned out really good, and it took a snapshot of everything that was going on here.

Yeah, and it made sense thematically with all the different feelings and themes you were going for on this record. Did you ever float any other ideas besides that Joshua Tree cover for this album?

No, we never talked about doing any other cover. Just that one. It was just kind of a neat way to pay homage to that time.

Where does Fear Caller rank in your list of favorite The Almost albums’ discography? How would you rate the other records along the way in this project?

I feel like it’s such a loaded question to ask a musician that, ya know? Obviously, no matter what, like the Underoath record I liked the most was when Erase Me came out, so at that time I would have said that, because you’re “in it,” ya know? You just created it and you feel like it’s your best work. But with cohesion and songwriting Fear Caller is my best work. In terms of the songs being where they need to be and my maturity as a writer and my intellect, it’s how I feel. But a lot of people may say that Southern Weather is my best work. It’s a loaded question, because any artist, no matter what, people are always going to like their first album no matter what. Because there was no pretense around it. There was no success to follow up, there was no name to live off of. I’m just going to go out there and do what I wanna do and people like that. Whether or not we admit it as artists, we know when people feel like something is contrived or not. But for me, of all the Almost records, this is the one where I wasn’t trying to follow up on anything. The success that I had at 24 years old, I’m not going to have now. Little girls aren’t going to think I’m cute or like me anymore. Those kids have all grown up. This record is hopefully for the people who have followed me the whole time and maybe for some new people, too. But I no delusions of grandeur that a bunch of 14- year old girls who like Black Veil Brides are going to like this album. (Laughter) It’s cool if they do! And there’s nothing wrong with them, or that band, or the style of music…I just don’t think they will. In 2007, when Southern Weather came out, there were the same kids that were into My Chemical Romance and thought The Almost was cool too. It’s a different time, it’s a different thing, but I really hope that everyone likes it. To me it’s my favorite one because it’s my most honest one. It’s a hard question to answer, because it’s like a two hour conversation.

It’s kind of like the whole adage or saying that, “You have your whole life to make your first album, but only a few months after that to make your follow-up.” It sounds like you’re kind of thinking about some of those steps along the way.

Yeah, I’m really just so lucky to be able to make music for a living for so long. For me, I try not to get too wrapped up in like what people think. Which is really hard because the only reason I’ve been able to play music for so long is because people liked it. But at the same time, you have to make music for yourself and go it do it for yourself. That’s what this was, it was a totally selfish thing. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I gotta get radio play or, I gotta sell out this place…” this was not like that at all. It was just me making this for myself and my sanity. I feel the need to make something like this.

And I think I read in an interview a little while back that you weren’t sure if there was going to even be another Almost record.

Yeah, I wasn’t sure at all. Even when I went into the studio, I was just writing songs. It was during Underoath’s big headliner for Erase Me, which was last year, I just started writing songs. It wasn’t the time to make an Underoath record, and I had all this stuff and felt like I had a lot to say. And I also didn’t know where it was going to live. So that’s when my manager and I started tossing around the idea of reinstating this brand because it’s such a “whatever you want it to be” thing. People don’t expect anything out of it, ya know? It’s just my thing, it seemed like such a good fit.

Do you have a favorite track off the new album, Fear Caller, that you feel is like definitive The Almost at this point in your career?

So, for the Almost in 2019, the song “Life” is one that I really feel like kind of made the whole thing.

Looking back on the past tour with Underoath, what lessons have you learned from reconnecting with that band?

Underoath is so different now than what it was. The post-30 Underoath is so much better than the pre-30 Underoath. As you grow older and we all grew up together in doing that band. You grow up together, but you grow up into different people. It creates a wedge, nor wedges. This time with Underoath, everyone is totally different. Different both politically, and ideals, beliefs, and we just accept it now. It’s so much easier and so much better. If I were to go back and do anything differently with Underoath, it wouldn’t be the music; it would be how we treated each other. Realizing now that we’re all chasing the same goal of creating art, even if we have different beliefs and thoughts and morals even. If I could’ve remembered that a long time ago, I think this whole shit would have been a lot easier. It’s so much better now.

Did any of those lessons bleed their way into this new album?

Totally! I think you have two types of artists, some that can make a product to sell and be popular, and I don’t think I’ve ever been good at that. I’ve only been good at telling the truth, ya know? I’ve only been good at wearing my heart on my sleeve, which can sometimes be a detriment. And other times, it can be fucking great. For me, the themes of this album are where I am and where I was at that time. I brought a lot of what I’ve learned from reconnecting with my oldest, greatest, collaborators in music, but I’ve also learned a lot from working alone too. For me, it’s trying to bridge those two things and see what happens.

Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me. Last question: after this tour wraps up, what are your plans for the rest of 2020?

Uhhh, a lot of shit I can’t tell you. (Laughter) I produce other bands all the time, so I have a lot of that going on. We’re also in the infantile stages of making a new Underoath album. I have no idea how long it’s going to take, I have no idea what it’s going to sound like. We’re just kind of in those really early demo stages. A lot of writing next year, especially at the beginning of the year, but that’s about all I can tell you at this point. If you’ve followed Underoath, we’ve never made the same album twice. Never. It’s just not something we do. I don’t know if it’s OCD, or ADD…we just don’t do that. So we won’t go make Erase Me part two. It won’t be “that.” Once we know what the songs will be, then we may be able to have the next conversation of who to work with on it.

Thanks so much for connecting with me to talk about everything!

No problem!