Emos Rejoice: Nathan Aurora's 'Pop-Punk Goes Reggae' Is This Summer's Hit Compilation [Q&A] | THE NOISE
As we quickly approach Labor Day and the official end of summer 2023, don’t be so quick to anoint an album of the summer just yet. The reason being, there is still something dropping later this year that absolutely screams poolside hangs, cool drinks, and only the best of vibes.
The album, one that’s been highly anticipated for quite some time now, comes from reggae viral sensation Nathan Aurora – yes, I said reggae.
After building endless hype online by transforming beloved emo hits into chilled-out reggae covers, Aurora – with the help of a few well-known artists – is ready to release the first-ever Pop-Punk Goes Reggae compilation.
Featuring bands like SOJA, Ballyhoo!, Stick Figure, and Aurora’s own, Iya Terra, Pop-Punk Goes Reggae brings a mellowed tone to beloved pop-punk and emo tracks like “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” “Ocean Avenue,” “MakeDamnSure” and more.
Like a Vans Warped Tour pool party waiting to happen – except with piña coladas and not Monster Energy drinks – the new 16-track compilation turns mosh pits into bong rips as the laid-back instrumentation shines a fresh new light on angsty teenage favorites.
To get a better idea of where the new cover compilation came from, The Noise spoke with Aurora all about the relaxing, easy-going release. To check out the in-depth Q&A, be sure to look below. Afterward, to pre-save Pop-Punk Goes Reggae before it hits streaming services September 15th, head here.
Congrats on announcing Pop-Punk Goes Reggae — on your birthday too. Where did the idea come from to put together a covers compilation like this? And who’s the band you’re most excited to have on the compilation?
NATHAN AURORA: Thank you so much and thanks for having me here at the Noise! Love what you guys do. The idea honestly came from a drunken night at my buddy Wes Miyake’s house. He lives on a street called Helena Circle. So we were all hanging out and when we got back to his place and I noticed his street name, I picked up his guitar and started playing “Helena.” I had already been posting random covers on my Instagram -- different genres from Post Malone to The Avett Brothers - but something about the emo stuff just hit different and I saw people’s reaction to it. I then posted a reggae cover of New Found Glory and the rest is history. I decided to make the record, started working on it last September and here we are! It’s hard to say a specific band that I’m most excited about -- because I love them all -- but having my brother Stick Figure on the album really sealed the deal for me. Stick has been absolutely killing it and pushing this reggae genre forward like no one else, so to have him be a part of the album is really huge.
A lot of people have recently discovered you from your own TikTok covers. Why did you decide to create Pop-Punk Goes Reggae as a compilation rather than your own solo record?
This is a question I’m hearing a lot of lately. The main reason is: This compilation with all of the different reggae artists was the original idea. Last summer when I had the idea, I thought, “How cool [it would be] to get all my friends together and rock this thing.” What a cool way for people to see their favorite reggae artists in a different light and an awesome way for these reggae artists to share their other influences. The viral videos and everything came after as a way to promote the album. In hindsight, I’m still really happy that I chose to do it as a compilation with tons of artists, for a few reasons.
Number one, this album not only lifts me up but it’s lifting up this entire reggae scene, which I believe is really special. When the videos started going viral, I was getting a lot of comments like, “I don’t listen to reggae at all but I love this. What are some bands I might check out?” So for me, it’s really cool because if you like a band’s version on this album, boom, you have a new artist to check out. All these bands featured on this album have a huge discography and there’s so much amazing reggae music in the world that is yet to be discovered. What we’ve been doing here in the US as reggae artists is something really cool and I think a lot of non-reggae fans would really be into it if exposed. My hope is that this will be a bridge to get that kind of fans into the genre.
That being said, I’m definitely aware that doing all of the solo covers on TikTok and Instagram has developed somewhat of a cult following and there’s definitely a demand for me to drop a lot of those songs with me singing them. The coolest part about all of this – this record now gives me a platform to do so. My full-time gig is playing with my band Iya Terra and I’ve never done anything solo -- just not my thing -- but now with this album, I’ve got a platform to drop random covers onto streaming services whenever I want. I definitely think in the coming months after this album cycle, I’ll consider out solo versions of some of the songs that really went wild on social media.
You mentioned “Helena” early. Your band Iya Terra does have a cover on this compilation which is My Chemical Romance’s “Helena.” How involved were you in the cover selection process for the entire compilation and were there any songs you wanted to do a full cover of that someone else took first?
I came up with the entire track listing myself! Once I decided that I was definitely going to make the album, I made a Google Doc with all the songs I wanted to do and the bands I wanted to sing them. All of the artists on the album are close friends of mine, so I reached out to them individually to see if they were interested and to my surprise they were all stoked on the idea.
When some people think of pop-punk/emo music, they might not see a connection between those genres and reggae. Do you think there are any similarities between pop-punk/emo and reggae?
I don’t think that there are any specific similarities between the two genres, however, good music is good music and all of it makes your head bop. That’s really what counts. I was honestly blown away by the response on social media because the two genres really couldn’t be more different but so many people were drawn to it because they love the songs regardless of what genre they’re played in. Also, a lot of us reggae musicians came from the world of pop-punk, punk rock and metal! I feel like at the end of the day, all roads lead back to the same place and the simplest way to put it is just “Good music is good music”.
Lots of the artists you cover have commented on your videos giving their approval. What’s the coolest interaction you’ve had so far?
Man, that was honestly so crazy to me. As a kid who grew up in the alt-music scene, I never thought I’d have some of these guys who have been idols to me reaching out to me. Hands down the most insane interaction for me was when fucking Aaron Gilespie [of Underoath] ]reached out and said my cover was sick. I was sitting there with my wife freaking out and she told me I’m such a nerd and I need to chill, [laughs]. It’s easier said than done when this music has been your whole life for so long and these guys are seriously such a big part of my life and my journey in music. Another awesome one is Chris [Kamrada], drummer of Dashboard Confessional, who reached out and asked me to come do an Emo Nite in Orlando. Stoked to say I’ll be making an appearance on August 31st after our show in Orlando with Slightly Stoopid, The Movement & Artikal Soundsystem!
Some other interesting covers you’ve released in the past are of heavier bands like Lamb of God, Slipknot, Meshuggah, and Thy Art Is Murder. As someone previously in a death metal band, would you want to pursue a Metal Goes Reggae project?
Death metal and metalcore are in my DNA as an artist and I’d honestly love to. I plan to get back to work on a new original record after PPGR is out. I’ve got about 16 original songs that I’ve written in between this album process that are definitely ready for the full treatment. So that’s priority number one for me, but I’d love to put some work into some of the metal covers and get a few out there to the world when I’ve got some time.
Any last things you want the people to know about Pop-Punk Goes Reggae?
So the first single “Sugar, We’re Going Down” featuring SOJA is officially out everywhere now, the second single “Helena” featuring my band Iya Terra is out August 11 and we’re dropping a single a week for the next four weeks until the entire album comes out on September 15th. I really just wanna say thank you so much to everyone who’s been blowing up this record and hyping me up the whole way. Super thankful for all the love and support. I also urge people to go check out my wife & I’s clothing company, Crossed Heart Clothing, who is putting everything together for the album. Go check out our website and give us a follow on the socials to stay up to date with everything PPGR. Tons of new merch, CDs & vinyls coming soon. Thank you to all the fans and thank you to The Noise!