AJR Keeps It Real And Keeps The Tunes Catchy

Calling these guys a ‘boy band’ is a bit reductive, even a bit lame. In being a trio of brothers,  Hanson and Jonas Brothers comparisons keep cropping up and yet, Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met don’t allow people like you (or me) to define their path to success. Their recently released album, Living Room, was created in that very place in their apartment in Chelsea, and is an infectiously smart album that is almost as infectious as these three guys themselves. We caught up with them just before their release party at Webster Hall, where crowns of fans lined up to see them on one of the snowiest days of the year, to talk social media realness, brother stuff, and what they would be doing if they weren’t in one of the coolest up-and-coming bands out right now. galore_ajr_band.jpg

So I think the most unique part of the story so far is the fact that this was a project that came together in your living room. So tell us a little bit about that and how that environment affects your sound.
We actually got our start street performing, so we went to Washington Square Park and we were able to make enough money to buy the microphone and the Pro Tools and we brought it back to the living room; in our situation we didn’t really think twice about it. It never really occurred to us to go to a real studio or find a real producer because we loved making it every step of the way. And so it just happened to work like that. When you spend ten years in the living room just experimenting and working on your craft, you reach a different sound than if you go straight to a real producer and a real studio and have someone do it for you.
Do your parents get kicked out of the apartment when you’re recording?
When we’re recording usually they’re kicked out. But they’re just huge music supporters, so they let us do our thing. They introduced us from a young age to like Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, all the things that we’re in love with. So they’re just super supportive.
Something that I read about you guys was that part of your kickstart was in using social media and building a buzz that way. And so I think it’s an interesting model of young people taking ownership of a generation that already loves social media. How intentional and active are you guys with that?
We got our start in this more professional lane after we were street performing because of social media. We were in a psychology class together at Columbia and he was tweeting one of our videos to a bunch of different celebrities and actually Sia saw the video retweeted it, responded to us, and invited us to brunch.
It was through the power of Twitter and Youtube together, that combination kind of brought us to a place where we were able to connect with the right people in the industry to make this stuff happen. But I mean on a day to day basis it’s us on our social media; we’re real people actually speaking to our fans. And you’ll see that we actually talk to them which is not something you can say about a lot of artists. And we really like having a direct connection with as many people as possible. Because something we pride ourselves on is the reality of this band. There’s nothing manufactured. Nobody told us that we have to wear this clothing, nobody told us that we need to say the answers that we are telling you. There’s nothing manufactured about us. So we want that to come across in our social media as well.
As you grow and you develop your sound or you develop you brand is it intentional for you to continue this outside of the tradition model, this alternative model of making music and getting access to your your fans.
Yeah, I think it’s a direction that the music industry is heading, that’s very artist centric where artist have a very clear vision for the music and there aren’t fifty people surrounding them telling them this is how you’re supposed to be doing it. It’s a much more honest method, and especially with social media nowadays and people able to see every step of what’s going on…It’s a lot easier to see the bullshit now. So you see a ton of artists now taking this kind of reality focused approach because you don’t want…I mean it’s much harder to bullshit than it is to actually be yourself.
In terms of goals you have for yourself and your brand how long do you plan/think/want to exist in this model?
I think it’s important to change because that way you show growth. For example, our next record we’re not going to be recording the entire thing in the living room like we did for the first one, we are definitely going to want to and we’ve already started to work with other song writers, writing for other people, developing our sound into something more. Kind of take this idea that we have and delve deeper into it to find out what there is to explore. Right, but even through growing I think what stays alive is the authentic love of music. And we’re never going to be that band that works with this rapper because he’s hot right now. We’re going to be the band that works with someone  because we truly respect them as an artist. And so that’s what’s going to keep fueling us, just our love of music and hopefully the fans can kind of see that honesty.
You guys are siblings: how balanced are you in terms of input or cohesion? How does that dynamic work?
The process is pretty collaborative between the three of us. Ever since we were small we’ve been making music together, it’s been like ten years or so. We all have the same vision for the music and since we all have the same vision it’s super easy to work together on it. There’s a mutual respect as musicians where if one of us throws out an idea we can easily say to the other person ‘that’s not a good idea’. It’s not going to be a huge problem if one of us doesn’t like it. It’s not an ego battle, it’s more just let’s make the best product. And I think that’s really special because a lot of bands kind of have a hard time with that. And there are problems. But I’m glad that we’ve been able to work that out. Yeah we grew up in a tiny apartment in New York City, all three of us shared a room for like, twelve years. So we had to be forced to get along. So…we make it work.
In terms of 2015, what do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?
We’re doing this cool tour thing coming up because the album is called Living Room. We ran a contest and the winners, we’re actually going into their living rooms throughout the east coast to play acoustic shows. And we’ll invite up to  60 people from that city, and we’ll do a couple in each city. We’ll go in and play an acoustic set and talk about the album and we want to make it like a super intimate living room style concert. So instead of doing like a traditional headlining tour we wanted to bring people into the space of how we created the album. So we’re going to be doing that over the next bunch of weeks. And watch out for our new single “Infinity”.
Is radio still crucial for artists like yourselves?
Absolutely crucial, it’s the number one driver of sales for pop artists. There are now a lot of other ways to get around it like pandora and social media but radio is still the number one.
In terms of radio breaking new people?
It does. And what’s interesting is radio works really city by city except for satellite radio. So you could be an enormous hit in Salt Lake City for example and nobody could have heard of you in New York City. So if you go out to Salt Lake City, you could be the biggest celebrity there ever and then you come back to New York and nobody knows who you are. It’s because every market plays songs differently.
Let’s do an alternative universe theory. If each of you guys weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
Ryan: I’d probably be back in school back at Columbia. Taking off the past few years to do music. I’d probably be back there, probably doing film.
Jack: I’ve always had an interest in film but I guess advertising would be really interesting to me. I guess kind of like car commercials to give one example. I’ve always been really interested in creating car commercials. Creating a unique way to make someone buy a product, I’ve just found an interest in that.
Adam: I’d probably be back in school, or teaching.

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