HEAVY TIMES: “It feels like every thinking person realizes there’s something off right now; there’s an incongruence that can’t be explained,” said Aan’s Bud Wilson, lead singer to the indie-rock, prog-pop band from Portland, Oregon, who plays the Funzone on Sunday, January 29, at 8 p.m., with L.A.’s Waterslice and two Goleta- and S.B.-born bands, The Flying Garbage and The Greens of Montenegro. “It’s like some sort of cosmic shift. I keep waiting for them to discover the poles have switched.”
Wilson has wrestled with some deep personal darkness over the last few years just as the world took a turn for the darkly incomprehensible. From 2015 to our present day, Wilson endured the deaths of his father and two close friends, the end of a six-year relationship, and the dissolution of Aan’s original lineup. The band that had once toured with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Built to Spill had skidded into uncertainty, just as Wilson’s personal life seemed again and again to be struck with grief and difficulty. Even as we spoke, his new girlfriend had just suffered multiple fractures in her arm days before, her limb crooked in an S-shape from a slip on unprecedented Portland snowfall ice.
And yet out of these rough times, Wilson wrote an album brimming with brightness along with its heavier, darker surges of guitar distortion. Titled Dada Distractions, the album has a spirit of lighthearted freedom and rebirthed vitality, a counterbalance to the woe. “There’s a playfulness to the music; everything is in jest. It’s not heavy for its own sake. I try to have balance of light and dark,” he said. “When things were getting kind of heavy for me, a lot of it seemed absurd. I like the term ‘Dada’ as just being absurdist, and I felt like things were so out of control it resonated with me. Distractions were kind of representative of everything pulling away from the task at hand.”
Wilson says the Funzone show will consist almost exclusively of songs from Dada Distractions. For this album, Wilson gathered a new band, and a new sound rose up, lightly grandiose. Some songs, such as “Forever Underfoot,” are quite spacey and pretty and Pink Floyd–like, while others, such as “Into the Fire,” are heavy and anthemic, somewhat in the vein of Arcade Fire or The Besnard Lakes but with more compositional surprises and inventiveness. And others are especially personal — “Bleached Out for Nothing” documents his friend’s descent into schizophrenia, and “Lookout!” is about his father, who passed away last September just two months before the album came out. “He was a cowboy, literally a cattle rancher, and that song is about embracing the now, which I think he always did so well,” Wilson said. “It’s about not feeling like you’re leaving anything undone and celebrating the moment … that’s my takeaway from him.”
Aan has been to S.B. several times before, with stops at Biko Garage and Muddy Waters. Though it was difficult to maintain the original concept of the band through the grief — “I don’t know if I did keep it together. I just got lucky that I got through the bullshit.” — the project has rolled with the punches by “always morphing by taking what was coming in, and taking all the mess that was my circumstances and using that for songwriting,” Wilson said.
And so, through it all, Wilson is feeling optimistic. “I still feel pretty hopeful. I’m not feeling too bleak about everything; I’ve already done that. I’m trying to think of what’s good and who I can help and who has helped me. We’re all kind of getting fucked over half the time; at least we have each other to lean on.”
ALSO AT FUNZONE: The batting-cage music venue will host No Age, the two princes of punk from L.A. who became shining stars of the DIY art-punk scene and inspired many more to make lo-fi ventures into all manner of creativity. They will rock along with Sacramento’s Drug Apts, who have worked with members of Death Grips and LCD Soundsystem, and Ventura’s Sweet Reaper, a Burger Records favorite.
For more info, visit sbdiy.org.