PHOTOS / MALLORY TURNER
STORY / ANGIE PICCIRILLO
Previous articles have called Lil Aaron “one of the music industry’s best kept secrets,” but after the release of his new EP, ROCK$TAR FAMOU$, which came out last week — he’ll probably not be a secret any longer…
I had only ever seen Lil Aaron on stage for performances at Emo Nite, but knew his songs “Drugs” and “Escalade,” — the latter being a catchy little tune he did with collaborator blackbear. His past songs were seemingly more trap heavy, but “Drugs” stood out as a major pop-punk throwback — and gave obvious pointers to Aaron’s songwriting talent. Having previously written for other acts like Louis the Child, Liam Payne, Blackbear, and Big Boi — Lil Aaron was seemingly just secretly fine-tuning his own music over the last year or so, like a mad musical scientist — just waiting to release the most perfect collection of songs possible.
The stairs of the back entrance above The Roxy in Los Angeles are rickety and old — I’d never been to the little club above it called “On The Rox,” but this was the place that pop-punk trap artist Lil Aaron calls “his.” I wasn’t sure what type of person Lil Aaron would be in real life — I guess I was expecting some sort of caricature rap artist dressed in all lime green, his “signature color” — but I would soon be proven wrong… Lil Aaron is perhaps one of the most intelligent and well-spoken artists I’ve been around in a while, his dream project “ROCK$TAR FAMOU$” is like a sculpture an artist has planned and chipped away at carefully.
Originally from Goshen, Indiana, Lil Aaron grew up as a self-described “punk kid” who locked himself in his room obsessing over the music of late 90’s pop punk groups like Sum 41, Blink 182 and Green Day. “Music was always my escape from high school and middle school and all that shit. I probably have a bad taste in my mouth, but I could have grown up anywhere and I would have been like, ‘fuck school.’ I’m by no means a hometown hero or anything.”
After releasing his debut project, GLOING PAIN$ in 2016 — it’s been rumored that Kylie Jenner posted about him on her snapchat — which triggered many fans to search out his music. He says of the debut project, “GLOING PAIN$ was my first cohesive body of work, so that was kind of my entrance into the world of being an artist. GLOING PAIN$ is a joke off “growing pains,” so that was just trying to get in the door…” Though the album saw some success, it hadn’t broken through to the mainstream yet, and Lil Aaron maybe knew he had more magic dust up his sleeves ready to unleash what would be his real entrance into the music world as a solo artist with his next project.
Claiming to have written over one hundred songs, Lil Aaron very carefully selected just seven that would be his “ROCK$TAR FAMOU$” project — a collection of songs he claims, that “Every song’s a single.” Of the process, Lil Aaron says, “that’s just kind of how I work. It’s like, I gotta write a million songs and then find the songs that all fit together and touch every aspect of the story I’m trying to tell, not only lyrically but sonically. You have ‘4 LIFE,’ which is the acoustic slow jam, and then you have ‘ANYMORE’ with Kim [Petras] with the big hook. I just wanted to have all the elements of that nostalgic ‘Avril, pop punk, early 2000’s angsty-shit-meets-the-trap-pop’ of today. ROCK$TAR FAMOU$ is definitely more polished, which is definitely what I was going for — More intentional, more fully packaged.”
Of the seven stellar tracks, three of them feature female artists including Kim Petras, Kiiara, and rapper Rico Nasty. Whereas GLOING PAIN$ had no features, Lil Aaron knew he wanted to have a female-heavy feature list for his dream project. “I’ve been featured on a bunch of girls’ songs, and worked with all these amazing female artists — I wanted to feature some of the coolest female artists that I’ve worked with; Kim and I have worked a lot together over the past year, me and Kiiara have worked a lot together over the past three years. I’m such a big fan of [Rico Nasty’s] music and her brand and her energy and everything she brings to the table — she’s got such a punk attitude and it really fell in line with what I was doing,” he says.
He adds, “I hate the whole idea of asking someone that I don’t know for a feature, it just feels weird. I want people that really understand what I’m working on and what I’m working for, and people that I also agree with their motives and where they’re taking their creativity.”
Perhaps the most notable feature is on a track called “QUIT,” on which Blink 182’s own Travis Barker is featured. The track really comes full circle, as you can undoubtedly hear the major influence Blink had on Aaron’s entire EP collectively, it only makes sense to have Barker make an appearance. “My first step into music was drumming. My parents got me a drum kit when I was really young, so the drums, especially pop punk drums — super aggressive drums, have always been really cool. Travis has always been an idol for me,” Lil Aaron says.
His most memorable moment of the release thus far was maybe when “QUIT” was released prior to the full EP, and Lil Aaron was backstage at a concert watching Blink 182 perform. “Right before Blink went on, Mark [Hoppus] walked over to me and was like, “Congrats on the new song,” and then literally started playing [his set] thirty seconds after that. We’ve hung out, we’re cool, but he looked over and waved, and I was like, “Oh, who’s he waving at behind me?”
Perhaps that’s Lil Aaron’s signal that his entrance has been seen, and no doubt heard.
Lil Aaron seems proud of his most current body of work which was produced independently, he says “it’s a blessing and a curse being able to do your own music. Nobody’s telling me what to do, nobody’s telling me what I can or can’t do, but also I have to find that vision and that goal on my own. I think ROCK$TAR FAMOU$ really brings people back. I worked really hard on making it nostalgic and feeling like a certain emotion that I think people haven’t felt in a while.”
But just as you’d expect, Lil Aaron isn’t here for anyone who might have luke warm feelings about his music… “I don’t want people to hear my music and be like, “Oh, I kinda like this.” Either you love it or you hate it. I’ll be the first to tell anyone I’m not for everyone. I’m a very vibrant energy, I guess. You can do whatever you want, but I think a lot of new people are gonna connect with this project.”
As for what he has planned next? That is, beyond this night at a little club on Sunset blvd? Lil Aaron says he’s planning a video for every song on the project, stating “ ’cause like I said, every song’s really a single to me. There’s not a sleeper on it….” And even though it was clear that also on this particular night, Lil Aaron was ready to party super hard, there would be no rest for the wicked, “Tomorrow I’ll probably need a recovery day, but after that….Non-stop.”
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