[Photo: @burgesscreative, Instagram]
Last week, we mentioned one of our most anticipated acts at the CMJ Music Marathon was producing and performing trio BASECAMP. And, as the CMJ diagnostic proves, they were well-worth the trek to NYC. Just kidding. Though we didn’t actually make it out to the festival, this week we did catch up with band members Aaron Harmon and Jordan Reyes right after they arrived back from their busy week. Topics covered: what it was like performing as BASECAMP for the first time, their highly downplayed public profile and what it's like creating and producing in Nashville’s music community. Read on for our exclusive interview, and watch a clip of their debut performance at The Bowery below (via musicobssessed).
So how was CMJ?
Aaron Harmon: It was fun. We played four shows but our first time was playing at The Bowery.
Was that actually the first time you played together in public?
AH: Yeah it was. Jordan and I had been in a band together for a while, but that was the first time as BASECAMP.
Was it a different project?
AH: Oh it was way different - it was a rock band.
Indie rock? Classic rock?
AH: No - It was like pop rock I guess, the best way to put it. It was called Enjoy The Zoo. Jordan and I have been in a band since we learned how to play instruments together so we've been doing it for a long time. We've known each other since first grade.
You grew up in Nashville?
AH: We grew up in Vegas, we moved to Nashville with our band about eight years ago.
With Enjoy The Zoo?
AH: Actually it was a different band at the time, the band was called The Beginner's Mind. It was actually a prog rock band, it was way different than Enjoy The Zoo. We've been through a lot of different changes.
Well that's good, now that you've explored all these genres it gives you a wider perspective to draw from.
AH: Oh no doubt, you know BASECAMP is loaded because of the journey we went through.
What were your influences when you were in the pop rock and prog rock stages?
AH: Well the prog rock I can tell you, straight up, we were like The Mars Volta, and Tool, Coheed and Cambria, that kind of sound. And then the pop rock we were more like Maroon 5 or Cobra Starship. Muse was kind of a big influence. Chili Peppers.
Nice. So it's a more somber sound now, I feel like it's really calm and dark. Who's the person singing on tracks like "Emmanuel" and "Rydia"?
AH: Aaron Miller is the vocalist.
He has a very interesting voice. It reminds me of Beach House and Rhye - you can't really tell if it's distinctively masculine or feminine. Did he do any side projects before BASECAMP?
AH: He was a singer in his own solo thing for a while before called Boss of Nova.
That's an interesting play on words. Was it actually a bossa nova act?
AH: No it was more along the lines of I guess what BASECEAMP became - that more chill kind of sound. So that was his own thing for a while. We met through a mutual friend - Chancellor Warhol, a rapper - who Aaron would sing for and me and Jordan would produce for. So that's how we linked up.
What's it like being based out of country music's capitol? Do you have any local influences?
AH: No. Not really at all. We're not really in the country scene at all [laughs]. There are really cool artists out here not necessarily in our genre, there's a growing music scene I'll say, a pretty cool rock scene. A little bit of a hip-hop scene - like Chancellor Warhol who we work with all the time.
So you played four shows at CMJ. Did you guys have a goal going into your first live show - was there a creative aim or did you kind of wait and see what would happen?
AH: There was definitely a goal. We were actually super nervous going into it just because it was our first show. And when we were originally writing this record, we weren't thinking about playing live ever - it just wasn't even in our minds. So being able to make music that wasn't designed to be played live translate right was a challenge. We didn't want to come across like DJs playing tracks and Aaron singing or anything like that. We come from a live background and we really love being on stage and performing so we wanted it to come across that way - like an actual band and not a DJ group. But we got a great response and it came out pretty cool.
Was there a favorite performance you guys had out of the four?
AH: They were all really fun but I think we all just let loose in the final show. It was the last night we were there - it was at Slake.
Did you guys get a chance to check out any acts at CMJ in your downtime?
AH: Yeah, we actually rolled over to the Cashmere Cat show, which was amazing. We played after Sweater Beats at the Vital show. He's someone we really love so it was cool watching him DJ. But we didn't get to see as many as we'd probably have liked to, but that was certainly a highlight of the shows I saw.
Who would you say your influences are currently - or do you not have any?
AH: Oh no we have probably a million. That's all we do, all three of us, all the time. We listen to music. And we all have common grounds of artists that we love, but we all kind of listen to different styles in a different way. I like Cashmere, I'm really into that Jersey kind of sound. Trippy Turtle, DJ Yellow Bear, all the way to Rhye - I'm kind of late to the game on that.
Jordan Reyes: The Rhye record I've really been messing with. Really into Penthouse Penthouse right now.
AH: Of course, we're all on that new Drake record.
What's your favorite song?
AH: I don't know I'm really getting into "Pound Cake" for some reason. I don't know it just feels so good. I hated it at first. I didn't like Jay Z's verse, but now I'm like “Oooh.” I think I heard it in a mix and it was slowed down a little.
Just researching you guys on the Internet, there's not really much out there. Did you intentionally try to create a mysterious persona around yourselves?
AH: It definitely wasn't intentional at all. Like I said, we didn't really plan for this to be any bigger than just playing our record for our friends and maybe getting some licensing deals for commercials or movies. So I guess what we wrote the record for was just moody stuff for movies.
Is there a reason why there aren't any publicity photos of you on your Facebook profile and website?
AH: That was intentional. Eventually there will be photos up.
And your audiences saw your faces at CMJ.
The whole point of BASECAMP was originally to be synced up to movies, so we're very visual people. And it's all about the experience. I don't know, connecting my face to the music isn't a priority for me. We're not trying to hide our faces like with a mask, but when we put our music out and people are hearing our songs for the first time, I want it to be more art than selling you songs.
JR: We're about vibes.
AH: I think there are enough artists, bands, producers out there who are putting their faces on everything and trying to be big rockstars when that's not our goal at all. We're just trying to make good music and even pass that to eventually good art.
What kind of films would you want your songs to score?
AH: We like to throw up visuals while we're writing in the studio and movies on mute. Movies like Only God Forgives is something recent that is just beautiful front to back. And even big blockbusters. I thought Pacific Rim was one of the coolest-looking movies ever. So something really moody and cinematic. This past EP, Jordan collects a lot of photos, literally there were 8,000 photos cycling on the computer screen and t.v. while we're writing. Everything from beautiful women to crazy landscaping to fashion. Our studio's on an acre of land and a big forest behind us with a creek. It's really pretty and we have a window in our studio to look at, and during the winter it was freezing cold. That's what we love about Nashville. You're kind of in the zone, that winter vibe.
That came through on your album, it's a little bit chilly. Are you working on an album now?
AH: Not a record but we're working on our second EP
What's that process been like?
JR: We're just starting.
AH: We had to stop all the writing to put the show together. It took a lot of time and just a lot of experimenting and failing until we got the show right. So we just haven't had the time to sit down and write because our mind's been elsewhere. But now that we got this leg of shows down, we're super excited to get back into the writing process. We've got some cool ideas going but we haven't finished anything yet.