Attica! Attica!
Contributed by ben_conoley, Posted by Red Leader Interviews

Aaron Scott is probably best known as the front man of the New York punk band Marathon. However, since that bands break up Aaron has kept his hands full traveling the country, relocating to Portland, Oregon and recording and releasing his debut Dead Skin/Dried Blood under the moniker Attica! Attica!. In the midst of all that Scott took a moment to sit down and talk about music, community involvement and dental health.

So we are hanging out with Aaron Scott of Attica! Attica!.


This is your first time back in California in like five years you were saying.

Yeah, I think the last time I was here was with Marathon. Actually, we never made it out here after our first California run.

Because we’re so awesome?

We were like, "We never really need to come back to California." (laughs) No, it was good. We got a chance to play Gilman and some sort of art gallery in San Francisco, but then, I think we just got really practical about it. Which is less fun, obviously. We just kept touring more regionally…because we lost so much money on that first tour. (laughs) We toured for seven weeks with a band called Nakatomi Plaza and we went all over Canada and everything. I mean it was totally great but it was just so long and so draining and being that early in the band it sort of set us back financially. We just sort of went, "Okay, we’re not doing that again, unless the right thing comes along," and we just kept finding more and more regional stuff to do.

Kept finding better reasons not to come back to California?

Well, I’ve been out here a bunch. My sister used to live in San Francisco. I really like it our here and now I live on the west coast but I haven’t put it together until now.

So this will be your first time out here playing Attica! Attica! stuff?

Yeah, I played in Portland a bunch. I have kind of a…it’s cool, we’re building a…I don’t know what the heck you’d call it, and alternative folk or a folk punk thing there. But it’s my first time playing outside of Portland on the west coast.

Your current project Attica! Attica! is really different than what you’ve done before musically. What inspired you to go in that direction?

During the whole tenure of Marathon, I would bring in songs and a vast majority…I mean, I wrote all the lyrics and melodies but a vast majority of the music I brought in they were like, "That’s not a Marathon song and it’s not a punk song and it doesn’t sound good with drums". Well, because almost every song I was writing, I was writing the melody first and then I was trying to craft the music to meet it and I don’t necessarily hear drums in my head the way, you know, better musicians do. (laughs) Well, everyone else in the band basically. So most of my songs were getting discarded, as far as my full songs that I brought in and they were right, they weren’t a good fit. So I started banking them and working on them a little bit. When [Marathon] decided to break up I went, "well, I have all these songs anyway, why not just finish the record." Almost all of my friends moved out of Ithaca around that time, which is where I was living. I had a buddy who has a home studio and was like, "Hey let’s do this." It took like six months to record the whole thing. Not because were the Mars Volta or whatever but we decided let’s just make it nice and easy, so we did a few hours a couple afternoons every week and it just came out so different than how I thought it would be at the beginning. I thought it would be really rough demos, just me and a guitar and some of it came out pretty epic. A friend of mine, an old roommate, happened to have a cello…She’s a concert cellist, she didn’t just happen to own a cello. So she came it. All these things came together that we weren’t even planning. The way the timing worked out it was like, "Well, he quit Marathon to do his all this solo stuff" and I didn’t then and I don’t really even now have aspirations, like, "These are the things I’m gonna do with this." It’s been really awesome to just… Like my friend Jim from Rejouissance, who I’m on tour with, them and Red Tag Rummage Sale, both of them are from New York State. Jim called me up and was like, "Hey, I’m touring up the West Coast, do you want to come for a few days?" I said, "Totally" and because I don’t have…(huge group of motorcycles ride by).

Holy crap, it’s like a cavalcade of really loud bikes.

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of flames on bikes but that black one with neon flames was pretty cool. Whatever I was saying. It’s nice, because I can just show up somewhere, but I can also call up friends. Like the last couple of summers I’ve gone along the East Coast and I had a couple of friends who came along with me. One of whom is Chris Antal, who recorded the [Attica! Attica! full length] with me. I’ve toured with other bands and they’ve joined up for a few songs. I don’t want to go so far as to say it’s a collective, or what not, but I did want to name it Attica! Attica!, well a band name instead of my name, because I felt like it would feel better if other people were playing with me.

So it wouldn’t be like, "Hey it’s me….and there’s these guys".

(Laughs) Well, I think there’s a certain arrogance…Well, I don’t want to indirectly call out all the people who do that. I think it’d be a little arrogant of me if I was like, "hey I’m Aaron Scott" and meanwhile, there’s three other people on stage. You don’t need to know these guys. Like, "I pay these guys out of pocket"…Actually, in a lot of those situations the back up guys probably make out better than the artist, unless you’re like….Jason Mraz. Is that his name? I was just trying to think of a successful singer/songwriter.

Ben Harper?

Jack Johnson.

Dave Matthews, but he has the whole band with him. Sound Guy Nariman: The Aaron Scott Experience.

An "experience" is good. You’d need laser shows.

Well a friend of mine, I think it was Matt from Red Leader, said I need to be called Aaron Scott and the Astronaut. (Laugh) But I don’t think something rhyming is justification.

I think that might be the greatest justification for a reason to do anything. We’ll cut that out so you can unveil it later.

Right, the grand unveiling in my marketing push. "Well, have you heard about this new guy and all his astronauts? Yeah, let’s listen to that." (laughs)

So your full length under the Attica! Attica! moniker, Dead Skin/Dried Blood, is very thematic, particularly the first and last song "Motion Sickness" and "Flamethrower." Was that something you planned when writing or was it just how the songs fell while arranging the order?

When I used to write songs, I used to try and put the whole arch for whatever theme in that song. Then I realized…I was doing a lot of traveling at the time and really not sure what I was going to do next and what to do with myself. I realized that so many of the songs were coming out the same. One of my biggest problems with being in bands and touring a lot, prior to slowing down and doing some solo stuff, was that a lot of themes were about making your world better or building your community or whatnot and meanwhile we were just constantly traveling. When I wasn’t traveling I was booking shows, or just doing dumb web promotion or whatever. So, I’d go there and people who really liked Marathon would be like, "So what are you guys involved with at home?" Like they’re really into the activist lyrics and I’d be like, "I don’t know, uh…." And I’d look over and my band-mates are debating who farted. I’d be like, "I don’t know what they do….and I book shows. Like that’s all I have time to do". It just seemed like there was a huge disconnect between what I was singing about and what I was actually doing and I was getting really bummed out that I had never really tried to invest in my community in any way because I was just singing about how great it would be for everyone to invest in their community. (Laughs) I think it’s sort of like… I’m not really into people who say, "Oh yeah, my music is my activism." Okay, I can appreciate that people get inspired by music and they go do stuff. But, I don’t think it’s right to be like, "We’ll, I don’t need to do anything else."

Did you hear the song I wrote about doing community service?

(Laughs) Exactly. Yeah, I spent a lot of time on that and I got my graffiti ordinance violation cleared up because of that. You know, all that community service I did writing that song.

On the album there’s some songs that are very narrative, such as "Tires and Mint" and "Blackout." I was curious if those are based on real incidents in your life.

Well, everything is based on life experience to a point. I mean, "Tires and Mint" is all based on my dental experience which has been nothing short of a horror movie. All my teeth are fake, because I had some sort of, I don’t know, family diseases where so many of my permanent teeth were never there, like the genetic information wasn’t there. So the insurance company paid for them to straighten all my teeth and then pull a ton of them out and then shave them down to fangs and take what was left and put these caps on. It was this four year process.

The sounds horrible.

Yeah, it was real bad. So now, I needed to talk about it. I dream about my teeth falling out all the time. It’s really terrifying.

That’s actually a really common dream.

But it’s really specific. It’s like the caps falling off and if that happens like, I don’t have the money to deal with that. I don’t have insurance.

Can I see them? (Aaron bares his teeth) Oh wow, those are really nice, straight teeth though.

Well yeah. It’d be really messed up if they weren’t straight. (Laughs) We gave you these really messed up not straight teeth. So that’s a part of my life.

Yeah it sounds terrible, not to mock your dental experience.

It is intended to be a slightly humorous song. "Blackout," is more based on [that] I’ve been through a few blackouts that have lasted an indefinite amount of time, at the beginning. At the beginning you’re like, "Oh, the lights aren’t going to be coming back on." It just changed everything. Restaurants started giving away food, people came outside and I met people I had never met before who lived right next to me. So, I was already writing all these songs about traveling and that was actually the last song I wrote for the record. I felt like I needed on that was a little bit different than the other stuff. So I just took this idea of, "Okay, well what if you intentionally created that [atmosphere]." Now, if you shut down a power station, if you could even figure out how to do that, you’d probably be put in jail for terrorism in our current climate. So, it’s not based on my life in that way, but it’s that fantasy of, "how do we create community and how do we cut through." The idea, is how can we change that on a grand scale. Theoretically, each of us knows what we can change on our own. I wanted to just…I feel like I’ve covered a lot of the topics in a lot of uninteresting ways in other songs I’ve written over my life. Part of this record was taking another look at some of that stuff.