The New Rock$tar$: A Conversation with Lil Aaron

Lil Aaron © 2018
We sat down with Lil Aaron to discuss his most recent EP ROCK$TAR FAMOU$, Brokencyde, and working with Kim Petras.

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Genre has never been more fluid than it is now. There’s an abundance of crossover appeal, whether you like hardcore punk, bubblegum pop, or gangsta rap. L.A. by-way-of Indiana rapper, singer, and songwriter Lil Aaron blends all of his influences seamlessly.

Whether it’s early-aughts pop-punk, SoundCloud rap, or pop, Aaron finds a place in his music for it. Aaron fits just as comfortably at Emo Nite as he does alongside Blackbear. We got a chance to sit down and chat with him about his most recent release ROCK$TAR FAMOU$, working with Travis Barker, and Motion City Soundtrack.



A CONVERSATION WITH LIL AARON

Atwood Magazine: I've been listening to interviews with you for most of my day today and I feel like I should start by asking about the mini mansion. I feel like that comes up in every interview. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

Lil Aaron:Yeah. That’s the house that I live in. It’s got me and a couple different guys in it. Well, I guess more than a couple. It’s a little three-bedroom house in the middle of West Hollywood that all the homies crash at. We’ve got a studio. We’ve got beds. We’ve got couches. It’s always full. It’s always a party.

Is it a creative space for you? Do you work there?

Lil Aaron: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I work there. All the homies work there. It’s a free for all. You never know what’s going to go on each day. It’s something different, something exciting.

Lil Aaron © 2018

Lil Aaron © 2018

What was the recording process for the new EP ROCK$TAR FAMOU$?

Lil Aaron: The writing process took about a year, year and a half. Some of it I did in L.A. Some of it I did when I was in Hawaii. We went to Kauai with a couple of producers I was working with. Just throwing out ideas, trying to get a little change of scenery. Once we had the songs locked in, for the most part, the ideas were there. Then we just finished it all at a couple different studios in Hollywood. It’s mostly producers I’ve worked with, homies. It was pretty easy. We tried to keep it fun, tried to keep it lighthearted. That kind of stuff.

Excellent. GLOING PAIN$ was incredibly genre-bending. Listening to it, I heard trap and pop punk. It really felt more like a rock record to me. Do you feel like you got to bend genres a little bit more on ROCK$TAR FAMOU$ or do you feel like you veered more in one direction or the other?

Lil Aaron: With ROCK$TAR FAMOU$, I definitely tried to be a lot more concise and to the point with exactly what I wanted to do. GLOING PAIN$ was trying to reach a bunch of different sounds and genres and try out a bunch of different stuff in one project, which I love. I really love GLOING PAIN$. I’m really proud of that project. ROCK$TAR FAMOU$ was more like, “All right. Let’s take that, refine it and get really down to the point.” I still feel like I successfully touched on a bunch of different sides of myself, where each sound that I can do ends up. It’s definitely a more poppier, well-rounded project. I love them both for different reasons, but yeah. ROCK$TAR FAMOU$ is more of the … Polished. I guess that’s the word for it.

My favorite song on ROCK$TAR FAMOU$ is “Anymore” with Kim Petras. Could you talk a little bit about what it was like writing, recording that song and working with Kim?

Lil Aaron: Yeah. I’ve been working with Kim for a while. Probably near two years now. We’ve been friends. We’ve written a bunch together. I’ve helped her write on some of her own songs and we’ve got some more songs coming out in the future. That one was just kind of obvious. I wanted a big female vocal feature. She was pretty much the go to. We worked at the same studio, same spaces, so we would see each other all the time. We’re good friends. When I had the idea to take that one to her, it was like a no brainer.

Cool. Probably the most famous person on the EP was Travis Barker from Blink 182. What was it like working with him and getting to open up for Blink at their Las Vegas shows?

Lil Aaron: Yeah. No, that was amazing. Travis has been an incredible blessing to my life. He came into my life right around after GLOING PAIN$ dropped. He heard some of my music and really liked it. We had been in the studio, and I was helping him work on a couple projects he was doing. I always knew in the back of my head, I was like, “Of course. That’s a dream, to get him to feature on one of my records.” It took me a long time to get the guts to ask him, but when I asked him, he was so nice about it. He was like, “Yeah, anything you need.” We just went up to our mutual friend John Feldmann’s studio and knocked it out in a night. Killed it. There’s a reason he’s the biggest drummer in the world. He’s very, very talented. He just heard the song a couple times, did a couple passes drumming and took the files and mixed it all in there.

Now what I've noticed on both GLOING PAIN$ and ROCK$TAR FAMOU$, it seems like you use a lot of Christian imagery in your artwork and subvert it a little bit. I remembered hearing in an interview, you think Indiana was very Christian growing up. How do you think that that's influenced you and your art?

Lil Aaron: Yeah. It took me a while to come to terms with the certain things that I was subjected to or influenced by when I was younger. As an adult, maybe that wasn’t where I wanted to be or what I didn’t align with. It’s not like a mockery. It’s more of just for myself. I’m the kind of person I am because of these things. Even though I don’t agree with them or my morals don’t fully align with them, it’s still a piece of me. It’s just like a reflection of that and response to that, I guess.

You're not exactly taking the Marilyn Manson approach.

Lil Aaron: It’s like the diet Manson approach.

I saw a video of you where you shouted out Brokencyde. I remember Brokencyde five, six years ago was when they were-

Lil Aaron: More than that.

Yeah. You said in the shout out that they paved the way for people like you, people like Lil Peep. Why do you think that now all this is starting to take off when it didn't necessarily take off with Brokencyde?

Lil Aaron: It did take off, man. If you look at their old videos, they were getting millions and millions of views. YouTube was in a different … It was a whole different time period. A video getting a million views 10 years ago is the equivalent of a video getting 30 or 40 million views now. I really think they did take off. They had a big cultural impact. They were an extreme on the side of things that not everyone wants to align with on the alternative … I don’t even know what the right word is, but they were very scene. To a fault almost. I respect them. I’m actually featured on their new album that just dropped.

Right. I think I heard that.

Lil Aaron: They were very early. There’s a lot of those artists, like Dot Dot Curve, Brokencyde … Who else? There’s just a lot of those artists from that MySpace world. I just think they were really early on the idea of using trap and emo … It was called ‘crunk’ back then. I think it was really abrasive, which I love things that are very abrasive. My music can be very abrasive at times. I think maybe that’s the reason it didn’t fully cross over to the mainstream, but it takes … I feel like any genre or any form of art takes someone taking a risk and then someone else witnessing it as a fan. Then being able to mold that into their own artwork. It’s going to take a couple generations for anyone that’s taking a massive risk, for their art, it’s going to take a couple generations for it to be fully realized and packaged for the mainstream for the public.

Lil Aaron © 2018

Lil Aaron © 2018

Awesome. One of the things I had heard you say was you had stopped listening to pop punk and emo for a period of time in your life. Now it's very obvious that you're super involved in the scene. You're a big advocate. What brought you back?

Lil Aaron: It’s just a piece of me that I could never let go. I think there was a time when … I don’t know if it had to do with I was in a bunch of pop punk bands and none of those bands really took off. Maybe I was just searching for something else. I feel like everybody grows in and out of different scenes and different … Especially with music. Everybody has different phases where they like one type of music, another type of music. Yeah, I think I was just searching for something else for a second. Once I finally came back to it and I was like, “Oh, fuck. No, this is it. Everything I was searching for, I already had.”

I love that style of music. I love all those artists. I’ve been super fortunate enough to meet some of my favorite artists in that world, Blink being one of them. Same way with the Brokencyde influence. Take those influences that I had when I was young and I was in middle school and high school and be able to repackage it for this new world, for these new kids to listen to. Just do my own spin on it.

I read that you were trying to put together a band to take on tour. How's that going? Do you have a band that you're ready to tour with?

Lil Aaron: I’ve been playing shows with a guitarist. I’m waiting for the right tour to pull the trigger on fully putting the other band, but I would play the Blink shows with the guitar, so that was really fun. It’s just a process.

One last question. This was kind of random. I heard you mentioned that Motion City Soundtrack was one of your favorite bands.

Lil Aaron: Oh, hell yeah.

What's your favorite Motion City Soundtrack song?

Lil Aaron: Shoot. What is the title of the song? [singing] “Tell me that you’re all right.”

“Everything Is Alright”!

Lil Aaron: Yeah. “Everything is Alright.” What’s funny too is since that was back in the day of iPods and CDs and stuff and it was less going to search a song, there’s so many bands where I’ll know their whole album front to back, but I won’t know a single song name. It would just be track five and shit. It’s funny when someone is like, “Oh, man. Name five songs.” I’m like, “I can sing you all the lyrics to those songs, but I couldn’t even tell you the song title. The song titles back then … I know Panic! [At The Disco] always had this, but the song title would be a sentence and it has nothing to do with the song. It would be something crazy, out there. I would always be like, “Track five.” Yeah, that band was super, super influential on me when I was younger.

Cool. Awesome. Do you have anything else you think that your fans or our readers should know about you or ROCK$TAR FAMOU$?

Lil Aaron: I would just tell them a little tidbit. I just started producing, so keep your ears peeled for Lil Aaron beats. That’s coming soon. Very soon.

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ROCK$TAR FAMOU$ - Lil Aaron

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James is a writer, currently in Human Resources at The New York Times. Besides Atwood, he's contributed to SensationsPress.com and his own blog BurgerADay.com. In his free time, James also writes poetry, performs stand-up comedy, listens to more podcasts than he can keep up with, and can be found floating around shows in New York City's punk scene.