A conversation with Blis.
Reverb soaked, exasperated vocals open Blis’ sophomore EP, Starting Fires in My Parent’s House. Gosset begins each line as if the wind got knocked out of his chest with the previous guitar chug. “Time…slowed…down,” each word breathed with what feels like Aaron Gosset’s last.
The entire 2014 EP is a whirlwind. Clean guitar melodies turn into long drawn out rhythmic build ups before exploding into distorted noise and chaos. Blis uses dynamics, contrast, and beautiful melodies throughout the less than fifteen minute EP.
Gosset’s lyricism battles uncertainty and disappointment post-adolescence. He depicts a life “Pretending to be grown,” and fucking up, while the Atlanta base quartet builds from Aaron’s frustrative phrases. Gossett and second guitarist, Josiah Gabriel, embrace the “fuck it” mentality seen in pop-punk – i.e. lots of angry, overdriven guitars. The group also incorporates the technical aspects of math-rock – i.e. shredding melodies.
The Atlanta based group has gone through a lot of changes in the two years since their last release. Last fall Blis signed to Sargent House records. Just a few short months after the birth of Aaron’s son, the band began a two month tour across the U.S. with “actual musicians” And So I Watch You From Afar. The band’s typical DIY, “we’ll get to the next show when we get there” mentality quickly matured as they learned the importance of showing up to sound check on time.
After Shuffling through about a half dozen guitarists, the band has been and working (and re-working) through a new album that they hope to release early next year.
The guys in Blis were kind enough to chat with me a bit in between watching fellow Atlanta bands Microwave and Big Jesus perform at Wreckingball.
It seems like the Atlanta Music scene is really thriving right now, Microwave, Warehouse, Big Jesus and Blis are all getting national attention, has Atlanta always been this hotbed for musicians?
Jimi: I think there’s always been awesome fucking bands.
Aaron: Yeah, there’s always been two or three bands in Atlanta that are doing something great.
So Blis has sifted through a bunch of guitarists in the last year, How’d you get hooked up with them?
Luke: I’ve known Aaron and Jimi since I was thirteen. I was in a metalcore band when I was thirteen or fourteen. I met Jimi through playing shows together with his band. I met Aaron from friends. I’m from a town like 30-45 minutes away from them. I would just go hang out in their city.
Why weren’t you in Blis before and what brought you with them now?
Aaron: It was a long rocky road. We were dealing with some people and just trying to feel out a good lineup. We did a tour with the last lineup and it just didn’t really work out. It just fell out of personality differences. Then we asked him to practice with us and it was perfect.
I joined because I’m always down to play with anybody – especially my friends.
You’ve got a new bassist then, has that changed the feel of the rhythm section in Blis?
Aaron: I think it’s just tighter.
Jimi: I think a big thing is that he was a drummer first. I don’t think we’ve sounded better than we do right now, I’d say. I guess other people have been saying that too. You’re killing it, Luke.
Luke: The last bass player was better than me at bass. He wrote some really cool sounding stuff, so I’ve got some big shoes to fill, but I try.
The last album had a lot of different influences, it reviews referenced anything from Modest Mouse to Silversun Pickups. I’m wondering how the different music tastes connect?
Aaron: We have a few bands that we all really like. Then we have a random collection from person to person.
Jimi: Our iPods are completely different.
Is it difficult to collaborate and write new things together because you’re all listening to different styles of music?
Aaron: Sometimes. It depends on the situation. Sometimes we’ll spit something out in no time, but other times it takes a while. This last record we’ve been working on, we had to play three weeks together, just recording and writing to get the songs together. I spent a long time writing and working on the songs before I even brought them to the band. I didn’t want to give them some completely open ended mess.
Okay, so Aaron will build a structure and the rest of the band will build on it and a collaborate with it?
Jimi: It all starts with Aaron.
Luke: Aaron’s the genius and we put our flavor in it after he shows us the foundation.
I’ve read that your music is heavily influenced on Pedro the Lion.
Aaron: David Bazan is one of my favorite influences. I love David Bazan.
Jimi: That’s one of the common loves.
Aaron: 100% on this next record, you’ll hear that. That’s always been a nostalgic sound for me, where I’m from, where I grew up. It just has this sound of living in the south. There’s an air to the rest of the people that live out here. It’s more controversial and showcases living in a place and having opposite opinions of the people that live in around you. You get a lot of people that are just backwards and ignorant in the south, so it makes it hard to be the kind of people we are down here. What I love about his music is that he’s always questioned those principles and the dated opinions that come with living in the south.
Why not leave Atlanta if it’s the antithesis of what you are?
Aaron: It’s my home. All my friends are here. My family is here. My child is here.
Jimi: I feel the same way. I love this city.
Luke: It’s a love hate relationship for sure.
Aaron: I think everyone would say that. All the bands down here rule. It has it’s ups and down
Jimi: There’s more positives than negatives.
Aaron: Traveling, going on tour, every city blurs together. Each city has the same similarities, so why not settle down in the place that feels most like home? I don’t think I’ll ever leave Atlanta
Your profile photo is captioned “A lot can change in a year.” Can you explain explain what you mean by that? What’s changed? How has it affected your view on the world and Blis?
Aaron: Well I had a child last year. My son Atticus. He’s a year and three months now. It was really tough to work around it. We had just gotten picked up by Sargent House. He was born and literally three months after he was born we hit the road for two months. When I got back home I just had to piece my life back together. Just start working and demoing this new record. We finally got to the point now where the demos are done. I just – even today – moved into a new apartment with my family. We’ve had a bunch of lineup changes. Nathan left the band because Microwave started touring more, he wasn’t going to have time to tour anymore. We tried relentlessly to replace him with several people that just didn’t work out. We finally found a good fit, but even our guitar player now lives in Knoxville, Tenn. He drives down here to practice with us. It’s been a really crazy year. It was a lot to get back on top of after the craziness of the world.
So, having to reassess after a kid, then having lineup changes, reworking and the new songs for over a year, it’s a lot of patience. Does it make you feel like blis is this doomed weight on your shoulders?
Jimi and Aaron – No!
Jimi: I actually feel really good about Blis.
Luke: I feel like it’s just smooth sailing from here.
Aaron: I’m excited. I think the material is really solid. It represents all of us. The lineup is solid. There’s a clean slate. We all love our instruments and what we do. It just came back together. I’m just excited. I want to go ahead and rush the release of this thing and get back to it. As much as I’ve complained about touring and all the aspects of being in the band. After taking the time to get my life back together this past year, I’m just ready to dig back in.
Has having a kid changed your outlook on Blis and writing?
Aaron: Not so much about playing music. I’ll always pursue my dreams and I’ll always have room in my life to be a dad – that comes first. I think the biggest aspect in my life that’s changed in definitely the mentality that’s been reflected lyrically.
This whole record prior to my son being born would have gone a completely different direction. After Atticus all of this new inspiration came, the things I started writing about. I was realizing things not even about my own relationship with my son, but my relationship with my dad. I was having a trouble writing this new record. I had a really bad break up in the past, I was still milking that for the record. I’m glad I can put that in my past and write about something positive, current, and something that happens every day and that I see everyday. Honestly the record is mostly about being a father. The transition into being a father and clinging to your youth while being forced to grow up a little bit because you’re responsible for someone else.
So in Starting Fires in My Parent’s House, It seemed like there was a lot of apprehension and anger stemming from insecurities of an uncertain future. You’re yelling “I’m not ready to be a dad yet,” but now, you’re a dad, you love it and things are okay. Does that mean this next record is going to be more upbeat? Has the tone changed?
Aaron: I think musically the new album is a little neutral. There are some parts that are down in the dumps, but there are also positive points. I don’t think the tone of the lyrics on the record matches the music. I think sometimes the music hides a sad idea, or the inverse.
Give me a little bit of insight on the sound of this new record? What were you listening to while writing the new record?
Aaron: Everyday it changes. I’ve been listening to Nine Inch Nails pretty consistently though. The entire discography, excluding Hesitation Marks which honestly wasn’t my favorite. Everything before that point, and Year Zero, I’ve just been obsessing over for the past year and a half.
Jimi: I think I probably listen to the Clean Head EP by Oceana at least three times a week. Anything grooves is something I’m into. That’s kind of where Aaron and my paths differ a lot. If it grooves I don’t care if it’s cheesy. If there’s good rhythm I like it. The Clean Head EP is just chock full of weird polyrhythms. There’s different style guitar parts and weird lyrics going all over the place.
Luke: I appreciate that record in a completely different way. I love the tones. I love tones of the instruments. The drums sound so great. They sound Earthy and real – like you’re in the room with them. The guitar has this old sound to it. It’s still really dark. The vocals sound like Thom Yorke is singing in a really indie song. I’ve been listening a lot of this band, JANK. They just put out Versace Summer and that record is awesome. Pretty much just a lot of Elliot. It’s all I really listen to besides this band, Sam I Am.