Aaron Brooks is no longer a Trendy punk. Simeon Soul Charger, his mature new rock band, will release its self-titled debut EP on Saturday at Musica in Akron. If you’re looking for the infectious, wiseassed pop-punk Brooks played as frontman of Trendy, you’ll either be disappointed or impressed. “To make a long story short, I grew up, my taste changed, my goals changed, and now I’m here,” says Brooks. “I’m over the lowbrow now.”
Trendy’s 2006 Stupid Generation might be Cleveland’s best pop-punk album. The group signed a management deal with a California company, but things went south, the band grew tired of songs about sloppy sex and tampons, and the players split in late 2007. On the new EP, Brooks emerges as a gifted songwriter who can really sing. The Akron-based quintet rocks on tunes like “Cigarette,” and soul-searching songs like “Rocket” have a cello in the mix. The band plans to use a full choir at the show. (The EP will be available as a free download at MySpace.com/SimeonSoulCharger. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m., cover $8.)
Brooks answered some questions about his new band, new direction, new approach and entirely new music. Read on. —D.X. Ferris
You had a professional management company with Trendy, but now you’re literally giving the music away operating on a much more low-profile career track. Why do the DIY thing?
Well, for starters it's the perfect time to do it. Everyone is broke and in search of something new. The major music industry is in shambles, and the labels that are able to sign bands are putting out mountains of formula-driven garbage, with a few exceptions. Just my opinion, though. This has actually been brewing in me for some time, but it's just now starting to materialize. Although we'll be offering physical copies of our albums for purchase, we'll also always offer all of our music for free download from here throughout eternity. People are going to download anyway, and I've wanted to give away the music for free since the days of Trendy. I really believe in the free networking of art and creativity. It literally makes it completely accessible on a world wide level to anyone that wants it. I'd hate to think that someone that heard one of our songs somewhere and liked us would be denied access to our music because of a financial or transportational obstacle, especially during the time we're in. Growing up, being the fanatical music lover that I was and still am, I know that if a band I really liked answered my e-mails, was nice to me at a show or on top of that gave their music to me for free, as a gift, I naturally would tell everyone about them. So that's all we're asking: Tell your friends and come out and see us live.
What turned you off about the other way? It’s good work if you can get it, and you seemed qualified.
When I was 18, I had that romantic idea that I would be signed to a major label and become rich and famous. By 2006 everything seemed like it was on its way there. We had a huge album release at the House of Blues, we were on the Warped Tour and had tons of buzz. It seemed at the time that the climax of Trendy occurred when we went out to L.A. and showcased for both major and indie labels. It seemed like everything that we worked for was building to that moment. When things seemed to gradually start fizzling out, I was devastated. We lost touch with the labels and it wasn't looking like anyone was buying. I was ready to quit. It wasn't until I took some time to reflect that I realized that signing to a label had never been my only option. I could do it any way I wanted. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we had already made a huge dent doing it on our own, getting out there and promoting ourselves and making fans. That idea of "making it" vanished and I realized that "making it" for me was just doing what I really loved. All the rest was just bells and whistles.
Speaking as a Trendy fan, I knew you'd been playing acoustic shows, but how did you go from "S&M" to songs with a cello and choir?
I can remember very well the first acoustic show I did the day I officially figured out Trendy was no longer a band. It was at the Symposium in Lakewood. After the performance, I remember sitting quietly in the back of the room by myself, observing the audience. No one in there noticed me or knew who I was — and it was awesome. For the first time in eight years I felt like I was no longer Aaron from Trendy. Toward the last few months of Trendy, the sound had really evolved, although we never finished recording anything from that period. We were even thinking about changing the name of the band. I think my band members thought I was insane when I started talking about bringing a choir and orchestration into it. I think that when the label thing didn't happen it really humbled me. It also helped me lose all of my fear. I felt a certain security in Trendy in the type of songs we were doing that would have never allowed me to evolve. I think somewhere deep down I knew that writing a song like “S&M” would appeal to a large demographic and I found comfort in that. For years all of these abstract ideas floated through my head that used to make me think, "Well that's really beautiful, but it doesn't sound like a Trendy song." I ignored them and let them pass. The moment I decided to open my mind to them, they started becoming more abundant and more colorful. From there they just kept evolving and diversifying and continue to at a steady pace. I'm excited to see what the next year of experimentation will bring to this band. I do find great value in our rock and roll foundation that I doubt we will ever abandon, but the painting in my head has more colors than we currently have to paint with. I expect to see this band expanding in many more directions in the future.
Where did you find the cello and choir guys?
When I was doing the solo/drifting thing, I put out a few ads online looking for musicians of all sorts that wanted to jam recreationally. Kevin, our cellist, was one of those people. The choir on the album is actually like 25 Aaron's — ha. However, we do have a choir made up of some talented young people from Streetsboro and Kent Roosevelt high school. Jim Boardwine, a friend of mine and teacher at Streetsboro, assembled it for me, and I write the parts and rehearse with them a few times a week. The choir thing, as of now, will only be for local events due to the members' ages and the obvious financial restriction of taking 10 extra people on the road. For the time being we're focusing on performing "events" locally. When it's more realistic, I would like to see a choir accompany us on the road.
You seem a little embarrassed by the Trendy days. Is it overstating it to say "embarrassed"? Is it more like looking at your high school photos?
That's a funny way to put it. I wouldn't say embarrassed. If it wasn't for my experiences with Trendy, I wouldn't have gotten to this point, and I'm very grateful for that. It's great having a fresh start with all of the accumulated knowledge of being in a band for nearly 10 years. Plus, at the time when I was in Trendy, I legitimately liked that kind of music that we were playing and that makes it real in it's relation to then. As my taste and mentality changed over the years my music changed, and for me to not move with it would have been tantamount to denying my own existence. I think Trendy still means something to a lot of people and for me to call it an embarrassment would be disrespectful to them. Everyone should be entitled to like what they like.