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American Aquarium on the distractions of living in the digital age

BJ Barham, the songwriter and front man for American Aquarium, checks in with the Reader from Charlottesville, VA. He says the band has a couple of days off before heading up to Washington DC. This is a band that has put out solid records to critical acclaim for years but has struggled to pay the bills. I ask Barham if it’s a generational thing — in other words, had American Aquarium been new, say, during the ’70s, does he think success might have found them? “For sure. The industry kind of ruined a lot of things for bands. It used to be if you were any good, you were famous. Now, it’s all about image.” That, and the distractions of living in the digital age. “You have 15 seconds to get their attention. That’s it. Hell, these days, people don’t have 15 minutes to waste on anything.”

Past Event

Justin Townes Earle and American Aquarium

  • Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+ / $22

American Aquarium has released seven albums in six years. Burn. Flicker. Die, nominated for Best Americana/Roots Album and Best Album Artwork in the 2013 Lone Star Music Awards, was to be the band’s final recording. “We said, fuck everything. We’re gonna put out what we want, leave it all on the table.” The album instead was a turning point for American Aquarium, and newfound success brought newfound pressure. “After, I didn’t write a song for about a year and a half, and that’s depressing for someone who calls himself a songwriter, to think you’re not ever gonna write anything better.”

Wolves is set for release in January; Barham says they’ll preview some of the new material in San Diego. “It’s coming from a point of being really depressed, but there’s hope on this record. There was no hope on Burn. Flicker. Die. There’s a little gas in this tank. There’s hope that this band will make it. I can’t wait for our fans to hear that record.”

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BJ Barham, the songwriter and front man for American Aquarium, checks in with the Reader from Charlottesville, VA. He says the band has a couple of days off before heading up to Washington DC. This is a band that has put out solid records to critical acclaim for years but has struggled to pay the bills. I ask Barham if it’s a generational thing — in other words, had American Aquarium been new, say, during the ’70s, does he think success might have found them? “For sure. The industry kind of ruined a lot of things for bands. It used to be if you were any good, you were famous. Now, it’s all about image.” That, and the distractions of living in the digital age. “You have 15 seconds to get their attention. That’s it. Hell, these days, people don’t have 15 minutes to waste on anything.”

Past Event

Justin Townes Earle and American Aquarium

  • Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+ / $22

American Aquarium has released seven albums in six years. Burn. Flicker. Die, nominated for Best Americana/Roots Album and Best Album Artwork in the 2013 Lone Star Music Awards, was to be the band’s final recording. “We said, fuck everything. We’re gonna put out what we want, leave it all on the table.” The album instead was a turning point for American Aquarium, and newfound success brought newfound pressure. “After, I didn’t write a song for about a year and a half, and that’s depressing for someone who calls himself a songwriter, to think you’re not ever gonna write anything better.”

Wolves is set for release in January; Barham says they’ll preview some of the new material in San Diego. “It’s coming from a point of being really depressed, but there’s hope on this record. There was no hope on Burn. Flicker. Die. There’s a little gas in this tank. There’s hope that this band will make it. I can’t wait for our fans to hear that record.”

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