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An interview with ÆGES

ÆGES’ two LPs both knocked my socks off in very different ways. The first was a grand slice of 90s post-hardcore (think: Handsome, Quicksand, Hum…) while the follow-up took these influences, dosed them with a newfound knack for melodies and proggy noodling before kicking them out into orbit. Check the second one out here while reading guitarist/vocalist Kemble Walters’ answers to some questions. 

Ok, so please start by telling us the basic stuff: how, when and why did ÆGES get together? 

ÆGES as it is today came to be in 2014, just before we recorded ‘Above And Down Below’. The band started in 2012, but with member changes and what not, Tony Baumeister is the only remnant (aside from myself) from those days. The line-up now is Tony on bass, Cory on guitar/vox, Mike on drums and me Kemble on vox/guitar.

I know a bunch of you play/ed in some fairly well-known 90s bands, including Undertow, Shift and 16. Given that ÆGES give a very specific nod to 90s post-hardcore, I was wondering what the rationale was there? You lived and breathed that era, so do you see ÆGES as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, an attempt to revitalise it or something else entirely? 

We’ve all been in bands for quite a while, some more successful than others, but all of them have deeply influenced us in how we play and write. We’re not nostalgic nor do we wish to take a sonic trip down memory lane, we’re just making the music that naturally flows out of us. Since we all are big fans of the rock music that came out on the 90s, there’s definitely going to influence in our sound.

To me, ‘Above And Down Below’ sounds a lot more dynamic and ambitious, and much as I loved ‘The Bridge’, it’s almost like a whole ‘nother band. How would you say the band has changed between the first album and the second? What’s different, and what were you trying to achieve with the new one? 

I think the main reason it sounds like a different band is because it is. ‘Above And Down Below’ saw the addition of guitarist and addition vocalist Cory Clark and drummer Mike Land. The talent and sonic possibilities that came with these new additions opened the doors wide up. We could write whatever we wanted to and pull it off, so that’s what we did.

All we want to achieve with any of the records we make is to keep moving forward. The next record will be different than the last, and so on. I feel that when bands keep turning out the same album over and over, they aren’t letting themselves grow. The next record has a lot of fun vocal work between Cory and I as well as some sick riffs, beats, overall nasty jams.

Was this a conscious move on your part? Were there things you feel ‘The Bridge’ lacked, were you specifically aiming for a different/expanded sound or are you just more confident as a band now? 

I love ‘The Bridge’ and think it achieved exactly what we were going for then, but we’re past that now. Now we’ve got bigger hooks, more complex structures, more intricate guitar work, more complex rhythms, and as always, nasty bass.

What went into ‘Above And Down Below’ to make it the way it is? What inspired and drove it, and are there any broad themes or ideas running through it? 

The common theme throughout ‘Above And Down Below’ is life. Life is dark, life has struggle, life is religion, life is love, and everyone is different and interprets it in their own unique way but we all start and end the same. This record was recorded very sparsely, we wanted it to sound like we do live: two guitars, drums, bass and two vocals. We tried to keep all the overdubs to a minimum and used single takes as much as possible (most of the time).

You’ve had some line-up changes between albums. What happened, who’d you bring onboard and what would you say they brought to the table? 

Yes we have. We added Cory Clark and Mike Land to the fold and now the band is exactly what it was meant to be from the start. With the addition of these immense talents, Tony and I were able to fully let loose and and wrote with no holds barred.

What would you say are the main differences between playing this kind of music now and playing it 20 years ago? What’s changed for the better, and what’s changed for the worse? 

Well, that’s hard for me to say because although I was playing music 20 years ago, I definitely sucked and was just starting out. I wish I could have seen bands like Nirvana back in the day, but I never did. The main thing that I noticed is the transition from hair metal to 90s rock bands. It wasn’t about dudes putting make up on, stuffing their trousers and having weird names like “Ricki Rockett,” it was about the message and getting angst out. Kids could relate to that and saw that rock stars were people too. Don’t forget, Alice In Chains and Pantera had their glam phase as well.

One thing I’ve rather enjoyed about writing about the thin trickle of 90s-style post-hardcore bands currently doing the rounds is that I’ve been able to reference Handsome rather a lot – a band I think got a fairly raw deal at the time and are overdue some love. Can you recommend some bands and releases from ‘back in the day’ that maybe didn’t get the props they deserved and you think people should check out?  

Oh man, lemme think… Handsome is one of my all time favorite bands, they influenced me big time!

Quicksand

Molly McGuire

Seaweed

VAUX (2000)

Triple Fast Action

Remy Zero

How did you hook up with The Mylene Sheath

Our old drummer was in a record shop talking about our demos and a dude said “hey, I know a label that might be good for you”, and they were. I believe that’s how the story goes.

What’ve been the best, worst and weirdest things to have happened to you as ÆGES? 

I mean, aside from the obvious tour craziness like weather, getting drunk and playing to empty clubs, I’d say it was when we played with Camp Freddy in Hollywood for New Years. They’re basically an all-star cover band consisting of Matt Sorum, Courtney Love, Mark McGrath, Billy Morrison, Josh Freese and so many more. It was kinda rad, kinda weird, and all around a perfect night.

What next for ÆGES? What are your immediate plans, and what are your long-term goals? 

We are about to head into the studio for record three as we as getting our tour schedule lined up. The goals are to keep doing this as long as possible and tour as much as our fans will let us. We love this band, we love our fans, so we’re basically never gonna stop.

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