There’s a good chance you’ve heard Aaron West play music at some point as his fingerprints are all over Louisville’s indie rock community. He currently plays violin in Quiet Hollers and The Winger Brothers, makes weirdo avant garde noise with Brian Manley in Sociological Liver Pills, not to mention his growing repertoire of experimental projects.
It’s easy to commend West as a musician responsible for waves of brilliant sounds, but for me it’s even easier to give props to this guy as one hell of a human being. If you’ve had the chance to interact with this guy even for a minute, you know what I’m talking about. Simply put: he fucking rules, and I’m glad that Louisville’s music community has him as a consistent contributor.
Considering that Quiet Hollers is about to embark on their latest tour, I figured now would be a great time to reach out to Aaron for an interview. Thankfully, he obliged…
Never Nervous: How long have you been at it as a musician, and what was your first instrument?
Aaron West: I started learning music in an organized manner when I began 6th grade. I picked up the violin and guitar during that school year. So, I’d say I’ve been playing music for about 24 years in various forms.
NN: How’d you end up playing violin? Is it your “favorite” instrument to play?
AW: I had a strong interest in music from an early age. It just happened that one of my older cousins played violin. That sparked my interest and I decided to give it a try. It is a very fun instrument and there is a plethora of ways to create sounds on the violin. It probably is one of my favorite instruments to play, at this point, anyways.
NN: Is there anything special planned for the upcoming Quiet Hollers tour? Any surprises hiding under that beard?
AW: Quiet Hollers have a lengthy tour coming up. In fact, we leave today for a two and a half week run with some buddies we met at a music festival in Appleton Wisconsin called Mile of Music. This run, with Mo Lowda and the Humble, goes out to Colorado and back. Then we almost immediately leave for another two weeks or so with another band called Motel Radio. That tour goes up and down the east coast states ending in Washington DC on April 22nd. Check out our website for dates and venues.
Then I fly out to the Netherlands to spend time with the lovely Maaike Diks and to do some solo performances over there. So I’ll be traveling, starting today, for about 10 1/2 weeks.
There is currently nothing hiding under my beard but it is sometimes useful as a pencil holder. If you need to hide something, let me know. I’ve got plenty of room.
“There is currently nothing hiding under my beard but it is sometimes useful as a pencil holder.”
NN: Speaking of your facial hair, what exactly is the Derby City Weird Beard?
AW: The derby city weird beard is the under beard or the neck beard that some people have. It usually hides underneath a longer beard. Yes, I have a derby city weird beard, but it’s not something I think about too often. I once saw a guy sporting only a derby city weird beard. It was a special site for sure! Gotta love what you’ll find at Nachbar on occasion.
NN: Tell us about your solo experimental stuff. What inspires you to make the noise you’ve been responsible for?
AW: That side of my musical career has a very special place in my heart. I was the music student in college that would spend hours in the music library researching all of these composers that broke away from normalcy. I would read about avant-garde composers and I would then go seek out their scores and read the scores while listening to the recordings.
Once I had gotten pretty deep into these modern experimental composers I began to seek out even newer composers. Some that were my age, even. From there I began to dabble with various techniques and ended up doing a few bizarre performances at art spaces. It snow balled from there and I started creating recordings everyday and in any way I could think of.
Overall, my experimental sound ranges anywhere from harsh, abrasive noise to ambient and ethereal. I really enjoy using antiquated gear for that type of music. Things such as 8-track players and cartridges, cassette decks, reel to reel recorders, various homemade microphones and field recordings. I see it as being a discovery of sound. I don’t use any pre-made samples and everything is created without a particular idea in mind. I do have plans to push that harder and further than I have been in the past. Keep your ears ready.
“I began to dabble with various techniques and ended up doing a few bizarre performances at art spaces. It snow balled from there…”
NN: Do you use any of your experimental stylings with Quiet Hollers?
AW: No, not yet. Shadwick and myself have briefly mentioned it, but it’s always been in passing. Maybe some day soon we will get to that.
NN: What’s going on with the Winger Brothers? I heard the song on the Louisville is for Lovers comp, but now what? What’s next?
AW: The Winger Brothers have talked about going on tour in Jerusalem, but I don’t think we have enough boot money to pay for six round trip tickets at this moment. So, that’s on the back burner. We aren’t doing a whole lot right now. Maybe a couple derby shows. Maybe writing a couple more songs about trucks, drinking and pinball. All I know is that if you found an abandoned cowboy hat at one of our shows, it’s Shirley Lamonte Shirley’s hat and he needs it back. He’s already lost a couple. That idiot!
NN: I’ve been told that you’ve got quite a few funny stories about playing with The Winger Brothers. Care to share one?
AW: The funniest one was the story where I broke my ankle. But, I don’t want to talk about that.
Everyone in that family is crazy. I think every show has something funny that was not expected. Some of the older memories are playing back at Tim Tam Tavern. That was our spot! We had Will Oldham perform a song with us there as the female duet part. At the end of the song he kissed brother Daryl right on the lips! I tell you what, that was something else.
NN: Talk about Sociological Liver Pills, your project with Brian Manley (Insect Policy). How’d this originate, and what were the two of you going for?
AW: Brian pretty much cornered me at Nachbar one night and told me he wouldn’t let me leave until I agreed to do a project with him. I finally said yes. This all true except I was the one that cornered Brian.
It was an improv recording over at his practice spot and we only did 3 tracks and one take on each track. The first idea was to use antiquated technologies and create art from them. I prefer antiquated equipment because one never knows what is actually going to happen while using old 8-tracks or radios. It’s a fun game.
Sometimes the gear doesn’t work at all and then you have to rely on resourcefulness. So, I think the first idea was mainly based around the equipment being used and not so much on the sounds they may or may not produce. It turned out to be something I’m very happy with. Plus, it was good to hang out with Brian. I have many friends I don’t get to hang with unless it’s in a musical capacity. I feel very fortunate for that, but I would love to see my buddies more often.
“I prefer antiquated equipment because one never knows what is actually going to happen while using old 8-tracks or radios. It’s a fun game.”
NN: Weren’t you in a hardcore band in the early 2000’s?
AW: Ha! Yes, I was! We were called Anne Hutchinson. We had fun and toured quite a bit. We would get into firework wars with other bands and do all kinds of crazy shenanigans on the road. Good times! You can probably find some of that music online. If you find some let me know. We’ve been trying to get some archives of that only for our personal listening and viewing pleasure.
NN: It’s Friday night, and you’re taking me out on a date. Where in Louisville are you taking me, and what are we doing?
AW: Is this your way of telling me to take you on a date? Well then, I appreciate your forwardness!
I guess I would take you to Joes Crab Shack. I love having my date wreak of crab all night. After that I’d probably take you to T Eddies so we can get some cheap PBRs and maybe sing karaoke. If you’re lucky, we might stop by Old Hickory and play some pool. It’s a great Germantown spot.
NN: Before you go, tell us about your favorite song from 2018 thus far.
AW: I’ve been digging that WET album that recently came out on Obsolete Staircases! It’s great. If you haven’t heard it, check it out!!