My Interview With Aaron Hibbert
I've always respected my friend Aaron Hibbert, maybe even idolized him. He is kind of like an underground scene guru in my mind. He is probably the nicest guy I've ever met and has been a constant inspiration to a lot of us musically/artistically. Since I have been writing music reviews lately, I decided to interview him.
Aaron owns Open Hand Records (OHR) which is an independent record label with free to download music, I'll include links to stuff he mentions in the interview at the end of this article.
What got you into ska/punk/hardcore music in the first place?
When I was twelve, my uncle played drums in a metal band, and he was pretty much my hero. I went to all of their shows, and learned about underground music scenes and DIY shows. Then when I got to high school, I joined the marching band, and a bunch of the upperclassmen there had their own ska/skacore/punk band. I went to all of their shows, which got me into bands like Streetlight Manifesto and The Flaming Tsunamis, etc. It was all kind of downhill from there.
2. What bands have you been in/are you a part of, including touring with other bands?
My first band was called The Kleptos. My friend and I started it when we were fourteen and fifteen to try and be cool like our upperclassmen marching band friends. We were pretty terrible, but it was a fun time, and lasted until shortly after graduating high school. After that, I began writing and performing solo acoustic music, i guess to hold me over while I searched for a way to be in a band again. Since then I've been involved in bands like Marx Revolution, In The Face, Brunt Of It, Interrobang!?, and my current (and favorite so far) Atlas The Atom Smasher. I also did a tour playing saxophone for A Billion Ernies from California this past spring.
3. What is going on tour like? What do you think makes people want to drop everything and tour for little to no money? Favorite/Least Favorite parts of tour?
Tour is the best thing I will ever do with my life. People drop everything to tour because there is absolutely nothing like it. Truly, it's not for everybody - some people thrive on their nine to five jobs, and big houses, and white picket fences - and that's perfectly fine. But there's just something awesome and completely liberating about leaving my little hick suburb in Western Mass and knowing that I'm going to be on the road with my best friend/friends for a long period of time worrying only about getting from point A to point B, playing our own music every night, putting on the best show we possibly can, and making life-long friends along the way.
Which brings me to my favorite part of tour, the friends. Every tour, I meet so many new and wonderful people. And every time I come home, there are more people I will miss dearly until the next time.
There are definitely downsides to tour though. Playing in a dive bar in Savannah, Georgia at one in the morning to nobody but the bartender and the sound guy. Driving forever to a show in Nebraska, only to find out the show was never actually booked. Arguments between bandmates, and having to sit in the same car for the next four hours. Coming home and realizing you have to sell your soul to Sunoco again because you're flat broke and can't find another job (whoops).
As you can see by the steady decline in touring bands, you really have to decide for yourself if the awesome outweighs the awful. I, for one, still love it, and fully intend on continuing to tour until I am completely unable to do so. Also WAFFLE HOUSE.
4. What do you think sets our scene in New England from others around the country or the more mainstream hardcore scene, if anything?
I'm not sure that New England's scene is so different from the rest of the East Coast, other than having way more major cities clumped so closely together than anywhere else. I can definitely tell you that, in my limited experience, the underground community of the East Coast is generally FAR more supportive of touring acts than the West Coast.
I also don't know very much about the mainstream hardcore scene, although I recently heard Touche Amore for the first time. I don't know if they count. Band rules though.
5. What exactly is Open Hand Records and why did you start it?
Open Hand Records is an online donation-based record label consisting of a handful of bands I've come across in the past few years who I thought were awesome and deserved a little more attention. Basically I got a bunch of awesome bands that I was friends with, and asked them all if they wanted to release their music for free all on the same website, in hopes that if an interested listener found one, they'd find the rest.
I'm not going to act like I invented the idea, because I obviously didn't. Labels like Quote Unquote Records and Community Records had been doing it for a while prior, but where QUR was based on the pre-existing scene surrounding Jeff Rosenstock, and CR had a bunch of pre-established touring ska/punk acts, I felt like there needed to be something for the newer, less polished, and less established acts. OHR was basically meant to be a means for these "underdog" bands so full of potential to essentially grow up together, and help each other along the way. I feel like it has served its purpose thus far. And I'd like to think it will continue to do so via word of mouth and hard work on the part of all those involved.
6. Where do you see underground/independent music going in the next few years?
Right now is a pivotal point in underground/independent music. I can't honestly predict where it's going to go. As many before me have correctly stated, MySpace.com simultaneously saved and killed independent music. MySpace made it extremely easy to network between like-minded bands and individuals, but as it caught on, it became oversaturated. People stopped checking their MySpace accounts and moved to facebook, and bands stopped trying to network because their one bulletin became drowned out by hundreds from other bands.
Now with the invention of sites like Bandcamp, all music is now instantly available to people with a few clicks of a mouse. Nobody needs to really look to find music anymore. Nobody needs to go to shows to find new bands. It's all at our fingertips, and it's really up to the kids to decide if music is really all that important to them.
To answer your question though, I believe music is reaching a period of rebirth. Hell if I know what's going to actually happen to it. I know that we've only seen the beginning though.
7. How much has the Do It Yourself (DIY) ethic shaped what you do?
Completely. I've spent almost eight years booking my own shows, planning my own tours, writing my own music, spraypainting my own t-shirts, burning my own cds, driving my own car to a show to hand out flyers i designed and printed and cut on my own time. I've had plenty of help over the years, but all from folks who share the same "do-it-yourself" mindset. Though I suppose we've adapted to an extent and developed our own version of "do-it-together."
8. What is your favorite/most hated thing about modern popular music?
I love watching trends. I love watching the world get up in arms about Lady Gaga, and how people think her "controversial" stunts actually matter. Don't get me wrong, I think she's a wonderful person, and I love the fact that everything she does has an effect on the entire world. But Alejandro is a mediocre song, and if I hear Bad Romance one more time, I'm going to punch someone.
I suppose I hate that people blindly follow trendsetting entities and don't make up their own minds about things. But I can't really blame them. People want to like what their friends like. People want to like popular things in order to share interests with each other. You and I have both done the same thing. It's not wrong. It's just annoying when you're trying to create something,and people brush it off like nothing because it's not popular yet.
9. What is/are your favorite band/bands and why?
Thrice is one of my favorite bands, mainly because of the incredible musical progression from their first album to their most recent. Their early music was fast and heavy punk hardcore with screaming and melodic vocals. And their most recent album is an incredible bluesy progressive indie rock album. I have a great respect for everything they've done musically, and when I finally got to see them for the first time this past spring, it was almost like a religious experience.
My other favorite band is Folly. Folly screamed brutal poetry over an intense original blend of ska, punk, and hardcore, which (to my knowledge, and in my opinion) has yet to be matched by anyone. I was lucky enough to see Folly five times before they broke up. Each time was nothing short of perfect.
10. Any advice to aspiring musicians/bands out there?
Go big or go home. Do it wholeheartedly or don't do it at all. Work hard, be a good person, and write music that you love. The rest will take care of itself.
Open Hand Records- http://openhandrecords.com
Aaron's Band: Atlas The Atom Smasher- http://www.myspace.com/atlastheatomsmasher
Quote/Unquote Records- http://quoteunquoterecords.com/
Community Records- http://communityrecords.org/