Shiprocked is a cruise. There are bands. If you’ve never cruised with us before, that’s a fair assumption of what you get when you book the most rockin’ vacation at sea. Talk to a veteran of the experience and they will tell you it’s so much more than just who is headlining and where the boat docks. Shiprockers are bonded for the life of this party, and we stay in contact year round. We meet up at festivals, matching t-shirts like date mates, posing for group pics and organizing high jinx. We support each other when we’re down, and we promote each other when we succeed. I met Aaron Clements in 2014, my first Shiprocked cruise. I met him again in 2015, my second Shiprocked cruise. In 2016 when we were introduced by a mutual friend, Aaron threw down and said, “This is the third time I’ve met you. I know you. I have pics of us hanging out!” It’s never been said that I can’t forget a face, even as pleasant as his is, but it’s also never been said that I don’t right my wrongs. I made at point of heading to the live band karaoke night to catch Aaron perform ‘Killin in The Name,” and let me tell you from that point, there was no forgetting Aaron.
Like all ship rockers do, we stayed in touch (maybe if we’d done that in the first or second place, I wouldn’t have had egg on my face, but I digress). When I found out Aaron had snuck a recording in behind my back, I had to give it a place to shine, and I absolutely had to know more about his musical background and how exactly this song came about.
Shockwave Magazine: Tell me how you got started in music. Were you always a singer?
Aaron: I have always had an affinity for music. In elementary school I took lessons on the violin and the piano, and I enjoyed classical composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and my personal favorite Chopin. My mom always liked the “bubble gum” music growing up, like the Monkees and the Beach Boys. I strayed away from that in my teenage years and leaned more toward loud, sometimes unintelligible, high energy music. Around the age of 14, shortly after moving to Indiana from Virginia where I grew up, I started playing bass guitar and drums. I bought used instruments from kids I had met at my new school. I admittedly wasn’t very good at either one of them, but I wanted to learn. I came across a 6 string classical acoustic guitar with nylon strings at a garage sale and picked it up for probably $10-20?
We didn’t have the luxury of Internet video tutorials and elaborate search engine machines back then, so I proceeded to go to my local big box retailer and bought a chord poster. I hung it on my wall in my bedroom and started tinkering around with the chords pictured on it. I started what I thought was singing around that time as well. Watching some old home videos I don’t know that I would exactly call what I did back then “singing”…ha. More like belting out lyrics in a loud, often tone deaf fashion over whatever new chords I was working on that week. I wrote countless songs about girls I liked, and teenage-angst-filled ballad style pieces about moving away from where I grew up.
You were in a band when we met, again. Would you like to talk about that musical endeavor?
Unfortunately my aspirations to become a British rock phenom are on hold at the moment as Sash [bandmate and another of this writer’s personal favorite Shiprockers] is going to law school and the rest of us are focusing on our respective careers in the meantime. That’s not to say that the transatlantic team won’t rise again, but for now we’ll have to wait and see.
Let’s talk about the single “Purple Cow.” What was the inspiration at that time? It’s a fun, funky tune. Is there a hidden meaning or are you just having fun?
In high school, my brother Derick and I joined up with a few local guys to form a garage band in my mom’s basement called “Sitting Litmus.” We wrote and played silly songs about Chinese food and comic books. The members changed a few times over the years and the style evolved (and devolved) as well. One day, on a half day of school, we were playing some songs for some friends. My mom was always very welcoming to whatever kids we would have follow us home from school. She had a “snack drawer” in the kitchen always stocked full of goodies for us all. We’d grab snacks and head down to “the pit” which is what we called my mom’s basement at the time. Well on this particular day one of my friends, I can’t remember who at this point, but I want to say it was either Karla or Erica? Anyway, one of them kept saying some nursery rhyme about a purple cow over and over again. I asked her what it would take to get her to stop repeating it and she said we should make up a song about purple cows, so that’s exactly what we did. Someone in the room fortunately was writing it down as we went along and so the song was born…
Talk about your studio time with Scott and Leanor. How did you meet, come to record with them, and how did the three of you decide to lay down this track?
I met Scott and Leanor a long long time ago in a mystical Era known as “the 90’s.” It was a beautiful time full of fast, fun music that you couldn’t help but move to. One such band was their 3rd wave ska band called Five Iron Frenzy which was still in its infancy back then.
At that time my brother and I would moonlight with some friends, Steve and Larry (a.k.a. Wenis & Skillet) on a tiny, tiny radio show called Reel to Real. It aired on an AM station that broadcast out of the back of a pizza shop in Hampton, VA. On Saturday nights they would let us take over what was normally a contemporary Christian radio station during the week and let us play our fast, heavy, unorthodox music that none of their traditional listeners would ever dream of listening to.
The first time I met the members of Five Iron was through that tiny radio show. We booked a pre-show interview with them at a show in the Hampton Roads area. I went to several more of their shows during that era and on occasion would hang out with Leanor and her cousin Micah Ortega who is one of the guitarists for Five Iron and an all around great guy. Sometimes he would teach me how to play random FIF riffs on guitar, which as a young fan of the band and budding musician I always greatly appreciated. Fast forward a decade or so and thanks to the evolution of technology, Leanor and I reconnected a few years back on social media. Through that same channel I learned that Leanor, Scott and Andy of Five Iron were starting a new band called The Fast Feeling with Matt from Eleventyseven. I reached out to Leanor about being a special guest contributor toward the new album and they were gracious enough to accept my offer.
I flew out to Denver to meet up with them in the studio and record some supporting guitar and vocal tracks for their upcoming debut Fast Feeling album. In preparation talks with them I asked about the possibility of recording the “Purple Cow” track if there was time in the studio. This seemed fitting seeing how the band name, Sitting Litmus, was inspired by a Five Iron song and one of the lyrics in Purple Cow is a nod to a FIF lyric. They agreed and we started laying some tracks. Leanor jumped in on background vocals and Scott threw in some of his special stylistic flair on the bass and lead guitar. He also was the mastermind behind the drums on the track. They really helped flesh out some great ideas and helped the track evolve into something even better than I could’ve imagined.
Any other musical endeavors in the works? What’s next for you?
As to what’s next for me and my musical endeavors that remains to be seen. I am looking at a few different possibilities and projects. There is even the slight possibility that “Purple Cow” may make an appearance on stage for Shiprocked this year, but that is still unconfirmed at this point so we’ll see.
Guys, if it does, how much Shiprocked love can we give one of our own than to know all the words before we set sail? Check out “Purple Cow” at Spotify now. If you want to show mad SR love, download it for 99 pennies at CDbaby.