Andrew Whiteman of Indie Duo AroarA Discusses Their Debut, ‘In the Pines’
Montreal's Andrew Whiteman (of Broken Social Scene) and his wife, Ariel Engle, got their start as a pop duo in 2012 and gained more visibility when they opened for Martha Wainwright -- who later asked them to be in her band. But they didn't stay in the background for too long as AroarA hopped on the road as their own act and toured around their native Canada.
While they gained more and more fans wherever they went, the two also went into the studio to work on their debut album, 'In the Pines.' Released in September, the album received positive reviews and gave them a bit of an oomph to move forward with plans for a sophomore effort to be called 'La Force.' But before any of that, we had a chance to chat with Whiteman about 'In the Pines,' their literary inspiration and being Canadian.
How did AroarA come together?
Ariel and I married. So that came first. Musical pursuits came after.
How did Alice Notley's book of poetry become the inspiration for your debut record?
I'm a great reader of non-official verse culture, especially the North American breeds. Alice is just up there, once you start to dig around. I mean, she doesn't belong to any school or clique. She never has. She is simply one of the most original writers [America] has produced. Her explorations of both language and the self-in-language are bleak, visionary, immediately feeling and also very funny when she chooses to be -- if you like that kind of humor, which we do at our house. So I was reading her book 'In the Pines,' which is laced with quotations from old American folk and church music, and there's some scattered [Bob] Dylan things as well. While I was brushing my teeth, I realized what could happen if these poems were turned back into songs. The book feels sepia and vintage. As well as the quotes -- there are images of old hospitals, old wars, revival tents and burning eyes.
Does Notley know about the album?
I have such respect for her. As soon as we made a couple of demos and I had made song lyric shapes out of her words, I mailed them to her right away and told her of the idea. She graciously said continue. We kept up our correspondence and eventually Alice came to see us play when we were in Paris.
Why are each of the track titles numbers, but not in numerical order?
Well, each of the poems [in the book] is given a number, so that seemed like the correct title for each song -- they correspond exactly. However, instead of ordering the album chronologically [or] narratively, we opted for the best music flow.
What was the most memorable song on the album to create?
We made the album in the living room. So the most fun was probably when we were being the most lo-fi and free. For example, on '#10,' there's a percussion part that is the sound of socks on the end of drumsticks gently throbbing an air vent. Being stoned late at night and mixing is [also] always fun.
Now that you've done a concept album, is it something you want to continue?
I'm a conceptualist. Yes. I'll always go toward those types of constraints. But, no, our new stuff is creating itself right now, and it'lll dictate what we leave out as we go along.
What's the biggest misconception about being Canadian?
That our country is somehow a very different and more socialist place than America. We are in just as bad a situation -- and perhaps worse. Our current prime minister, Stephen Harpur, should literally have been taken down and he and his politics and his hubris can be quietened permanently.
AroarA -- '#4' Official Music Video