INTERVIEW: Tristan Chu (AERIALS)
Good things come to those who wait, and epic tunes come to those who have secretly been hankering for the return of Brissie alt-rockers Aerials, who recently roared back to life with the release of some brand new music and a cheeky east-coast tour announce.
Starting life in 2011, Aerials very quickly found themselves dominating airwaves and stages with their thunderous live energy and eclectic rock tendencies; a potent combination that saw them carve up a dedicated fan-base while also being snapped up as supports for a horde of revered local and international acts including Birds of Tokyo, The Getaway Plan and sleepmakeswaves.
Fast forward to 2018, and while it's been a few years between tunes, time has certainly not hindered - in fact, the trio's latest track 'Drawing Blood' is their heaviest yet, full of erupting riffs and assertive synths that saw the boys added to Spotify's 'Rock Out' playlist within days of its release. And with a short-but-sweet run of live shows in the very near future, The Soundcheck quickly grabbed Aerials axe-sliger Tristan Chu to talk blood, sweat and the latest phase of the Aerials saga. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Tristan! Thanks for chatting! I know how busy you've been lately - I won't keep you long so you can go chill out a bit.
TRISTAN CHU: Oh, it's alright, I'll just be watching cat videos later (laughs).
TIANA: Oh, same! Twins?! But for now let's chat Aerials...the new track is ah-mazing, obviously 'Drawing Blood' is out and about in the world now. How's the reaction been so for to the track from your perspective?
TRISTAN: It's been really good, especially with our inner circle. I guess it's still kind of early days where, you know, you're trying to figure out whether radio's gonna play it or not, and all that stuff. But it's the first time we've been added to a Spotify playlist, so that's been really cool! I think just more than anything it's just been a big weight, for me anyway, off my shoulders. For the last, I dunno...I think it's been two years since we've released anything? I guess it's been kinda stressing me out and just feeling so inactive for so long...and I think it's been probably the longest we've ever worked on a batch of songs, we just kept on re-writing and re-writing. So if anything I just feel relieved, just to be active and doing something again!
TIANA: And on that note, you already kinda pre-empted my next question...was there a particular reason behind the long wait between new material? It's been a fair few years now, was it a case of just wanting to perfect it, or perhaps other things at play?
TRISTAN: Yeah, there was. We had a really good run in 2015 and 2016, we got on a lot of good supports and stuff like that. And I think we just had trouble writing while we were touring and playing shows so much. So the first part was just having fun writing and not even thinking about singles and a direction, and just writing. And then we tried to find a producer and we couldn't, and basically we kept on re-writing and re-writing just because we were about to go into the studio and we were like "well, it's good but it's still not better than what we had released". During the re-writing we took a lot of advice from friends and more successful bands and stuff like that - a good one was Adam Spark from Birds of Tokyo, he gave us some really good pointers and that's when we started getting super brutal on ourselves. I think 'Drawing Blood' itself had about four different choruses, or something like that, and maybe about two different key changes. And there's a lot of other songs that we're actually more excited about, but I think 'Drawing Blood' is a good one because it just really has our "sound". So basically, it was a mixture of that and being a bit burnt out a couple of years ago.
TIANA: Absolutely, and it's amazing how quickly time can go in between everything, you blink and suddenly it's been six months. Especially when you throw creativity into the mix, that's guaranteed to fast forward things...
TRISTAN: Definitely! We haven't even toured this yet and I'm already going "oh, god! We want to do another tour at the end of the year, I need to start planning that now!!".
TIANA: I'm just gonna put my Christmas tree up now and be done with it. On the topic of 'Drawing Blood' still...based on your previous stuff Aerials, have always had a touch of heavier elements, but this one seems to be a bit heavier again. And from a lyrical standpoint, there's also a significant focus on regret...was it an organic concept that you guys were drawn to? Or was it a natural evolution in terms of sound or lyrical inspiration?
TRISTAN: To be honest, a lot of the new stuff has been quite a lot poppier, and there's been some ambient kind of tracks. But 'Drawing Blood' just came together a lot quicker when we started working with Vinnie and Palmer from Dead Letter (Clint Vincent and Luke Palmer, guitarists for Dead Letter Circus). The other ones needed a lot more work and they kind of weren't singles. We're excited about them, but for 'Drawing Blood', once we got that right chorus, that was definitely the first one to release.
'DRAWING BLOOD' (AERIALS)
TIANA: Sounds like some exciting things ahead then, I'm very keen for more! And not only new music, but you guys are also hitting the road in July with a little east coast tour. What can we expect from a 2018 Aerials gig?
TRISTAN: We've always played small venues for our own shows, but we've kind of got a real punk-rock hybrid kind of thing going on. We usually run our own lighting rig through a laptop, and it's usually very strobe heavy, very sweaty. And plus we'll be playing a whole bunch of new stuff, so we're trying to figure out what old songs we'll be playing!
TIANA: Looking back a bit, do you have a particularly memorable Aerials gig from back in the day? Whether it was memorably good or bad...
TRISTAN: I think it would've been from the back end of 2015...basically when we released the second EP it was pretty nuts because it just went from big venue to big venue with supports, we did The Tivoli...I mean, The Tivoli itself was a bucket list kind of gig. We've seen so many awesome bands play that venue, and getting to play there was unreal. And then we supported our favourite band Mew from Denmark, so that was pretty insane as well and we thought that the year was done. And then we had a last minute support slot pop up with Birds of Tokyo at Eatons Hill, so that was a pretty crazy three or four months where we just thought that the year was over and we kept getting these big shows!
AERIALS BUSTING A MOVE ONSTAGE AT THE TIVOLI IN 2015 (PIC: AERIALS INSTA PAGE)
TIANA: For Aerials - in terms of pinpointing your sound, you guys seem to have quite a few mixed influences kicking around, and in some of your press releases I've read everything from The Mars Volta to Sigur Ros...is there an actual musical mission statement for you guys as a band ultimately?
TRISTAN: Yeah, I think the first time we got in a room....well I've known Brendan (Brendan Chu - drummer) my whole life, being my brother (laughs). But when we first got together and started writing, I think the mission statement was always just to be our favourite band. We just wanted to make it work, whatever our favourite sounds were, our favourite bands...we wanted to make it work with ourselves. We'll always be a rock band, there's always gonna be a guitar, bass and drums. But there's also quite a lot of 80s electronica sort of stuff that we're really influenced by, stuff like Depeche Mode. And that's basically always been the plan, just to make our favourite music, and we're still doing it!
TIANA: Well it sounds damn good, so you're lucky you have good taste! And for yourself growing up...the other bands already mentioned, were they the kind of things you were always listening to growing up?
TRISTAN: I've always been into more of the rock type of stuff growing up, especially in high school, I got swept up in the whole nu-metal phase. But I think like most people, Radiohead's 'OK Computer' opened up a whole wide range of music. Brendan's really into his glitch and electronica now. I probably listen more to stuff like Foals or Depeche Mode, but when it comes down to writing it's very rock and roll.
TIANA: Speaking of Brendan, what's it actually like being in a band with your brother? Any moments of sibling rivalry popping up, or have you guy matured beyond that?
TRISTAN: Oh yeah, we fight. Heaps (laughs). And, Jackson's (Jackson Walkden-Brown - vocals/bass) used to us fighting, but at the end of the day everything's cool. If something happens and I get in an argument with Jackson there might be a bit of silence for the rest of the week or something like that (laughs).
TIANA: I feel like me and my brother would possibly end up killing each other if we were in a band, so perhaps I'll leave that to the professionals!
TRISTAN: Well there was a stage when all three of us were gonna move in together and then we pulled the pin before it came to looking for a place because it was like "ohhh it's kind of working right now, being brothers and being in a band, maybe we shouldn't push it too much", you know? (laughs).
TIANA: A very smart move. Living with friends or family can often really change those dynamics, and not always for the better. Now as you mentioned earlier, you guys have had some pretty huge supports in the past with Birds of Tokyo, Fuel, Getaway Plan amongst many, many others. But are there any bands on your bucket list that Aerials would love to jump onstage with in the future?
TRISTAN: Oooo....the list would be never ending! I think getting on a full tour would be great. But realistically jumping on board with Dead Letter would be heaps of fun, as you know I just did that run with them tech-ing so I know it'd be a fun time as well. Internationally....oooooo....for the last few years I've been listening to a lot of Foals, I'd really like to get on with a band like that, that's probably more on the indie side of things, but they're very rockin' as well.
TIANA: And last but not least, obviously Aerials are about to embark on your 'Drawing Blood' tour in July, and there's a lot more to come in the form of some new music. But is there anything else you can reveal about what's next for Aerials?
TRISTAN: Yeah, we've kind of been toying around...I don't think there's gonna be an EP coming. We did record a couple of new songs with Vinnie and Palmer, and the next song is a lot, lot different to 'Drawing Blood'. But I think we're just toying with the idea of chipping away at an album...who knows if it will ever see the light of day! But, basically we're just really enjoying getting into the studio.
TIANA: Well it's awesome to have some new Aerials tunes on the horizon no matter what, and thank you so much for chatting!
TRISTAN: Thanks heaps!
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BY TIANA SPETER