Q&A w/Aaron Sturgill of Old Worlds


The most awesome thing about doing what we do here is just finding out about or getting clued into music that we really like by bands that we hadn’t heard much about, or failed to check out if they passed through West Virginia.

Such is the case for the Columbus, Ohio-based post rock, mainly instrumental but definitely experimental band Old Worlds. Although they’ve played Huntington once previously, at Shamrock’s, we didn’t got exposed to the music they were making.

Well, that has changed. After listening to their debut A Light In The Corner, we thought it was cool so we caught up with Old World singer-guitarist Aaron Sturgill (above pic) in advance of their show Saturday at the V Club...

WVRockscene: Old Worlds has been together since 2008, right? What was the process like taking what you were doing with guitars and loops into a full band with [drummer] Mike [Poston] and [bassist] Adam [Langdon]?

Aaron Sturgill: At first, it was just my guitar, some loopers, and a drum set that I would lug around to every show. I’d jump around and sort of jam on these half-finished songs. Mike volunteered to take over the drums and expand the melodic percussion with bells, and before I knew it, we were a three-piece band opening for The Appleseed Cast. We still rely on loops and samples, both live takes and pre-recorded, but the soul of the band is in these dense orchestrations in which everyone has a hand.

rockscene: You list some kind of obscure bands -- at least some that I haven’t heard of -- as influences or artists you like. Following up on the last question, how did, as the band came together, kind of have a meeting of the minds over mutual influences, or bands you all like?

Sturgill: Mike and I used to party hard while listening to math rock like Q and not U, while Adam and I worked together and sort of found each other via The Appleseed Cast. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a very unifying band, I’ve met people that were raised on pop punk, emo, electronica, post-rock, even classical and jazz, and somehow, The Appleseed Cast is frequently the common denominator on which we can all agree.

rockscene: You released A Light In the Corner last year, how much time went into getting that record done and just capturing the sonic landscapes you do as a band? And what’s the response been like to the record?

Sturgill: Adam took out a huge chunk of his life to record this album. We met at his church and in his basement, tracking took about three months, and mixing took another three. We couldn’t afford to pay anyone else except to master it, so the rest was on us.

As far as the soundscapes go, it was just a matter of layering and layering and layering. The first track has the sound of air escaping from an accordion, but with all these time and filter effects applied to it, such that it sounds more like the creaking of an old ship’s hull. In another instance, we set up most of the drums we owned in this big hall, so that Mike and I could do this massive percussion segment (found at the end of “Little Human Beings”).

The response to the record has been positive, although we haven’t seen any true reviews, even though we’ve sent it to dozens of blogs and other media outlets. That’s frustrating. Oxide Tones in Germany, however, was a huge windfall -- they helped us get the album pressed, and have been really, really generous with us.

rockscene: Your wife is also in the band, always an interesting angle to see in a band. How did she get welcomed into the band and how neat is it to be able to share the experience of traveling and doing shows with her?

Sturgill: Adding Kylie was kind of a no-brainer. Last year our shows started to incorporate a string section, so her experience in opera fit right in. Both of us collaborating on the music means that we can both just pick up and head out on the road, without losing much of that time that a newly-married couple needs, you know? It’s pretty rad.

rockscene: You teach violin? The strings are definitely something that stands out on the record. Obviously that’s something that you could do live but is that something your wife Kylie does on synth? And how cool is it to be able to incorporate the violin into your band?

Sturgill: Kylie and I both teach music out of our home. I do the instruments (violin, guitar, piano), and she does this awesome mashup of voice and whole-body fitness called Method Voice. My site is arcadiamusic.weebly.com.

Like I said, we started using a string trio last year -- but, of course, we want to keep the touring group as minimal as possible. Kylie certainly handles a lot of those sounds on the synth, but we’ve been lucky enough to score Seth Ellsworth as a full-time violinist. He harmonizes with the vocals and synth, and even does some background vocals, which is fantastic. Just an all-around talented guy -- he brings a lot to the table.

rockscene: One of the great thing about your songs is that there’s just enough vocals in there to really let you get into the music. So many experimental/instrumental bands can kind of lose a listener’s attention by having vocals. How do you approach writing songs for what seems to be a mainly instrumental band, still having vocals and writing lyrics, etc.?

Sturgill: Typically, if a song needs vocals, we put it in. I know that sounds glib and simplistic, but it’s the same with wonky time signatures -- you can write all your songs with shifting meters and tempos so the audience has trouble keeping up, but sometimes it’s better to keep it simple, a nice 4 or 3 or whatever.

But, this is changing all the time -- in fact, a lot of our newer material, which will be on a forthcoming EP, features a lot more of Kylie’s vocals at the forefront than mine. I’m starting to focus on guitar compositions, and letting her do what she does best. This is something that not very many post-rock bands do well or at all, so if we can figure this out, we might have ourselves a niche.

rockscene: What is up with any new material or recordings? Has much changed or have you got much new stuff since releasing what was on A Light In The Corner?

Sturgill: Be sure to check out a couple of songs we did in July for Jacuzzi Suit Records. There’s this awesome remix of “Secret History” by Glenn Davis (Triangle Piece) of the Columbus band Way Yes. We’re super happy with how that project turned out, although it looks like this will be a Bandcamp-only release for the time being.

We’re almost finished writing a five-song EP, which I’d like to see released sometime this year. That’s as much as I can say right now.

rockscene: Aside from any new music or recording, anything you’re looking forward to in 2012 as far as shows?

Sturgill: Touring has been a blast, and we’re hoping to keep it up. We have a strong relationship with Jacuzzi Suit in Chicago, and in June we’re heading out for a five-day tour with Survivalist, from Columbus.

rockscene: You’ve played Huntington once, at Shamrock’s, how were you received there in particular, but in general by new listeners, people who haven’t really heard you before, and how neat is it to just be able to pull people in with your music?

Sturgill: The crowd at Shamrock’s was outstanding, and it’s always gratifying just to be able to meet new people wherever you go. We’re really trying to share a message, or even a feeling, of love, community, and personal responsibility. The more we can talk to people and learn about them, the better.

--- Old Worlds plays the V Club in Huntington tonight with Sly Roosevelt and Sweatband

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