Center Stage with Aloud

Jen de la Osa and Henry Beguiristain have been writing, singing, and playing guitar together since they were young. Today they are the core of Boston-based Aloud. The songs on their sophomore album Fan the Fury are an engaging collection of observations, each expressed with urgency and true emotion. Though currently in the midst of writing their third album, Henry and Jen took a break to discuss their music with me.

Describe your songwriting process.
HENRY: It's a little different each time, but normally the way it works is Jen and I will have stuff we work out on our own- an idea for a song, something nearly completed, and everything in between- and at least once a week we set aside time to finish the song together until we have something. It works wonders on quality control having an extra set of ears!

JEN: Lately, we've been a bit more organic about letting the song lead the way. Before, early on at the writing session we'd work out guitar parts and really end up leaving little space by the time we took it to the band. Now it's more like strum it and we'll figure out in the studio what the instrumentation will be. That gives it more time to get its own character.

Your lyrics seem to straddle a line between rebellion and contrition.
HENRY: When Jen and I were writing the songs for that around 2006, 2007, we were reading a hell of a lot of news and trying to be more aware of what was going on in the world. We were definitely reacting to things that were happening.

JEN: Yeah, I just think the whole state of the world was unavoidable. It was everywhere you looked, invading your home, so we wrote about it. "Fan The Fury" was the first track we wrote with that in mind and the second we wrote for the record. I think it encapsulates the whole record.

I noticed a reference to Rita in "Hard Up in The 2000s". Tell me about what the Beatles mean to you.
JEN: The Beatles and their catalog of tunes... it's just everything a musician aspires to. The way the songwriting developed over time, how it became more subtle or abrasive or artistic or rocking... it just changed all the time. And the way they attacked the studio, refusing to fail in getting the sound heard in their heads. They made plenty of mistakes, undoubtedly, but the songs and the attitude were brilliant. And most of the clothes weren't bad either.

HENRY: The Beatles are my youth, they're the reason I picked up a guitar and plucked away on a piano. More than the mythos, though, the approach to the music and how they wrote it and recorded it is what really gets me going. Hell, even when they were angry at each other or when they were downright lazy, they still managed to get something really interesting out of it all.

What are some of your other musical influences?
JEN: The Clash, especially on this last record. The Arcade Fire, Bob Dylan, Kasabian, Motown was huge for me. As of recent Metric and Feist. Just got into Elvis Costello.

HENRY: The Who's another big one for us, and Oasis is one of our all-time favorite bands for sure, U2... I could go on forever. I just really love music. Lately, I've taken to searching for random stuff on Blip to see if anything interesting pops up. Music is alive and constantly evolving. The last thing we want to do is get stuck harping on one thing all of the time.

Describe your recording process for me.
JEN: We get a live take that we then begin overdubbing parts on top of. That's how we did Fan The Fury. I think that retains the feel while you put on the guitar, bass and drum overdubs. Then you've got vocals and then what I call the "fun stuff" - which is anything else under the sun. That's my greatest joy in the studio. That being said that process could all change on the next release.

HENRY: With some of the stuff we're currently working on we're doing everything backwards and adding things like drum and bass at the end of the process. It's working out surprisingly well, and it's forcing us to think of this stuff differently than in the past.

Are you selling more downloads or physical CDs of Fan the Fury?
HENRY: Downloads, for sure. In fact, I think we've only sold CDs at live shows recently. Even at our level, things are changing.

JEN: Digital sales are by far in the lead. It's certainly an eye opener to approach any future pressings or albums in a totally different way as far as reproduction. Maybe you make a small run for shows, or maybe you go all digital and have special limited edition packs the hard core fans can buy. What's apparent, though, is that doing the same old thing as far as pressings isn't really worth it.

So what is working?
JEN: The internet is certainly an important tool. Twitter is a very easy way for us to keep folks updated. Henry is a great blog writer and will regularly post on our website. He also runs the site and keeps it as user friendly as possible. We're on Facebook and MySpace, of course. And I've mentioned our YouTube page. That and Twitter are the big ones for us in terms of social networking sites and the like.

HENRY: Yeah, YouTube and Twitter are great, great tools. When we're on the road we like taking movies and uploading them as soon as possible. I've had a lot of folks come up to me and talk about how they're living vicariously through us while we travel, so I like to get those videos and blogs up about our time on the road.

I loved the video for Julie. It reminded me of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer".
HENRY: I'm so glad you mentioned Peter Gabriel! His video for Sledgehammer was mentioned quite a bit while we were filming. The take we wound up using was filmed twice as slow as the actual recording, so when we sped it up to the proper speed it had have a very stop-motion, jerky quality to it. The first day of filming was fun, which is when we did the main shot with the red background and green screen. Jen and our friend Justin- the pair of hands on the right- as well as Chris March (the director) and Annie kept coming up with ways to torment me. Those kitty whiskers that Jen painted on my face were completely unexpected and we nearly lost the take because I started laughing, but it's the take we ultimately used. It was one long shot with no cuts through to the middle eight of the song, so I had to wash my face and dry my hair so many times. I have to say, I was very clean that day. But yeah, we had a lot of fun with this video and working with Chris. Behind the camera, Annie and Chris kept egging me on to ham it up. We were all in good spirits, and it felt more like a big group project. The whole idea was kind of silly and it was a really, really fun video to shoot. It's my favorite Aloud video so far.

How much of your time is spent running the business end of the band, versus making music and doing the fun stuff?
HENRY: It's a constant tightrope act, because you can't neglect either. Our manager, Annie Burns, is an enormous help to us and does what she can to ease the burden of the business end of things. But, yeah, sometimes the business side can get very overwhelming. It's difficult sometimes to focus on writing music you actually care about when your weekly schedule keeps distracting you.

JEN: It can be difficult. The main thing is to be creative with all of it. That's tough to do all the time of course. If we're ever taken with a flight of inspiration we stop all we're doing and work on the song. You also have to set aside time during the week to hang out with friends, do new things or what will you ever have to write about? Generally, idleness is a good thing. It's where you have space to be creative.

What else do you want people to know about Aloud?
HENRY: Well, we're planning on another tour by the end of the year, we're working on writing and recording new material, playing CMJ in October... just generally keeping busy. And who knows, we may even be lucky enough to sneak in a quick vacation in there!

Do it now - check out the Aloud website.

*Photo by Mick Murray.


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