Photo by Elena De Soto
Written by Alex Kemp via Off Tha Record
Local Atlanta powerhouse Blis is set to hit the road on tour this October following the anticipated release of their first full-length album, No One Loves You. The tour is filled with all local bands: Blis, Microwave, and Big Jesus, and it's a true showcase of Atlanta’s talent. The consistent theme of Blis’ music is the unique voice of their vocalist, powerful riffs, and lyrics that evoke a level of introspection that is rare amongst the post-hardcore, emo scene. Vocalist and song-writer, Aaron Gossett, took the time to discuss with me the inspiration behind the album, what life looks like for him now, and the southeast music scene.
How is this album going to be different from your EP that you released in 2015?
It’s way different. We spent a lot more time on it, you know? We took literally 6 months to record this thing, and we were writing it for 2 years as opposed to the EP, which we put out really quickly. We’ve been working with our friend Travis Hill, he’s an engineer and just helped out a lot. It’s just a much more refined version; we dropped a lot of the cringe-worthy aspects of the songs, we trimmed the fat and stuck to what we think we’re good at.
Life looks a lot different for your now than it did when that EP came out. Can you speak on the influences for the new album?
Obviously I had a kid, and that was a good two years off before I could re-enter the music game again. I think the record is riddled with that and the tumultuous relationship me and Atticus’ [Aaron’s son] mom have together, so it’s kind of themed around that. There’s also a lot of religious themes on the record. There was a lot of issues that happened between her and I during that period from when she found out she was pregnant; her parents weren’t okay with it because of their Christian upbringing, her dad is a pastor, and so that was like, the LAST thing they wanted to hear, and obviously they didn’t give me a lot of respect in that situation…so that pretty much sums up every topic on the album!
The southeast music scene has long been dominated by white males, do you feel like being a person of color in this music scene has been different for you in any sense?
Oh yeah. When I first started playing music here, no one would book me on shows because I didn’t look the part. I still get shit today like, “Oh yeah you’re voice doesn’t fit your face….” Like what do you mean, asshole?
No one really wanted to put me on when I started playing shows up here seven years ago. Kyle Swick was actually the first person to book a show for me up here. He put me on some shows up at Wonder Root, and our friendship developed from there. Through him I met other promoters out here and I was just getting the band together at the time. It was weird because the type of music we play and the bands we play with are heavily dominated by petite white guys ….so until they saw that we had any substance they definitely weren’t in any hurry to let us into the circle of bands.
We always felt pretty out-casted from that and still do, in some ways. We definitely don’t feel like we fit in. Most people that enjoy our music are not from Atlanta. You know?
I feel like it’s changing a little bit. There’s more representative groups starting to come out.
That’s what’s cool. There’s a lot of people of color and female fronted bands coming up that are doing really cool things and sort of taking over the genre, which is what has needed to happen. It’s getting kind of boring and the same, kind of incestuous.
They all start to look alike after a little bit.
Yeah, so I’m happy to be a help, or representation in this scene. I think it’s encouraging, too. I know a lot of people who are talented musicians who don’t feel like they would be able to get on shows or fit in with these people, so it’s encouraging to see bands like us saying fuck it, I’m gonna do it anyways even though I don’t look the part.
The songs that have been released so for off of No One Loves You, to me at least, come off with a type of anxiety that’s sort of familiar to everyone about having to be an adult even when they’re not ready. Is this going to be a theme throughout the album?
What’s funny is, when we worked on the record there wasn’t a method to the lyrics. It was all topical to what was going on at the time. Also, some of the songs are the first ones I ever wrote on guitar, where others I wrote two weeks before going into the studio. There was no method behind it. After the fact I went back and looked at how the record came out and it kind of just starts like a dialogue about my relationship with my dad, which has been here and there forever. Then it kind of spiraled from that into how that applies to the relationship with my own kid, and tells the story of the drama and heartache of the past two years.
I know you’ve mentioned previously that Pedro the Lion is a big influence on Blis. Can you talk about that and what other musicians and bands you consider key influencers on the new album?
Definitely David Bazan and Pedro the Lion…that was one of the biggest influences for me musically; I love how he debates the ideology of a God and just has really heavy, interesting lyrics with a lot of substance. He poses questions that are really uncomfortable, which is something I always wanted to do with my own music. I can say obvious ones like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, etc., but for this record, the tones we were trying to achieve, we were definitely listening to Control a lot.
Your music has been called everything from "math rock" to post-hardcore. How would you describe it?
I hate being called math rock….we do do that…we do some diddles. I don’t want to be lobbed into that because I think we can do a lot more than that. I don’t know how to describe what we do, though. I guess it’s just emo if you want to go there, but it depends on the song, too. We’ll do a song that doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of the songs, but when we apply vocals it ties everything together. We try to steer away from calling ourselves a post hardcore band, but I’ve heard that a lot too, lately. I like that more than being called an emo band, it’s more of an open ended genre. It sets people’s expectations a lot broader than being called a math rock or emo band because we don’t just like to jerk off with our guitars for 35 minutes.
Between the political firestorm of the past year and the changes in your personal life, do you feel as if your outlook on writing and music generally has changed any?
Maybe a little. I think I feel more comfortable with saying the things on my mind. I can be direct in the music now, and I don’t need to cater to an audience that doesn’t respect my opinions on race and religion. We’re at a point in time where people are actually listening to people who look like me, so it’s nice to have your point of view heard.
The political climate has affected the band. I wouldn’t say it’s helped us, but it has taken people who weren’t really comfortable to say how they feel and it’s now allowed them to be more open about everything. I think that in itself draws a lot of people to listen to not your general “white guy band.”
All the guys in Microwave are awesome. They’re great dudes, I’ve known them for about five years and Nathan (of Microwave) has had such a huge influence on us. The guys in Big Jesus I’m starting to get to know. I think the tour is going to be cool, getting to hangout with them. I’m really looking forward to doing the tour with all of them.
Anything we can expect to see while you guys are out on tour?
We’ll probably all get really skinny and get really poor.
Any final words?
Buy our record! It comes out soon.