AGL Live Session: A Boy Named John
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Being in the room with A Boy Named John, a band native to New Jersey and known for their palpable mixture of expressive punk and alternative rock, as they reworked their music to cater to AGL Sounds’ acoustic environment was a moment that made me remember that punk bands, at the core of their musical intentions, can really let themselves be vulnerable. Shortly after the 5-piece played a passionately delivered set at Sounds from the House, I caught up with vocalist Christian Singh and his brother and multi-instrumentalist, Paul Sing, to learn more about the intricacies of the band and how they adapted their massive punk sound into deeply felt anthems that could fit into playlists with the likes of Foxing and The Hotelier.
So, when/how did A Boy Named John become a band?
Chris: Back in the middle school days, Josh (guitarist) and our old drummer starting jamming together on some Green Day covers. Jack (guitarist) was added into the mix as well as an old friend on bass. Eventually, they asked me to sing and we had the really, really early stages of A Boy Named John. The name comes from our middle school band director, John SanGiovanni, he gave us free sound equipment to allow us to have productive practices at such a young age. To thank him, we named the band after him! We started to really take this band seriously when we added Nick (bass) and my brother Paul (keys/guitar) to the lineup. We finally found THE guy to play drums, Brandon Martinez! He’s been such an important addition. Not just in the band, but in our lives as a friend!
What was it like stripping down your music for the acoustic style space at AGL?
Did you make specific song choices to fit the mood? Chris: Stripping down to the acoustic setting for AGL was so fun but so scary! We have a big sound when it comes to full band, so any mistakes that we could’ve (and definitely did) make during the AGL session were extra exposed. It was a challenge to us as musicians to stay true to our songs, but at the same time make them feel different. We were definitely thoughtful of the songs we wanted to pick for this! We wanted to be creative with our old songs from our first album, “So We Live | So We Die” and also showcase some new songs that we’re working on for our next full release! We did our best to fit the mood when lightly re-creating the songs for our set.
Tell me about the song, “Circuits,” you chose for your video. What does the song mean to you? When was it written? Is it out in the world yet?
Chris: ‘Circuits’ is about vulnerability. When we wrote the song around a year and a half ago, we recently went through a line up change that left us as a band in a strange position. We had choices to make that were incredibly stressful: Do we continue to be a band and write music, or do we simply fade away? It’s always been an outlet for me to get that frustration out on being vulnerable, being vulnerable with an aspect of my life that has always been so solid. It’s not out in the world yet, but it will be soon! Like, really, really, REALLY soon. How does the music you play make you feel? Paul: All kinds of things; depends on the night I’m having. But consistently mostly like I’m part of something complete. Not in the cheesy way, but literally. I love filling in empty spaces and finding places to fit in. The new songs we are writing definitely hit me in more of an emotional way (excitement, happiness, pride, etc), but the older stuff is all about fitting in perfectly. I guess the best way I can describe it is like I’m having a talk with an old friend that’s always evolving.
As artists making music in a fast-paced, consumer hungry era, what has been the most difficult part about continuing to play the music you love? The best part?
Paul: Well, as far as writing the music you love the most difficult part is staying genuine. I’ll find myself thinking sometimes “how will this relate to an audience”, or “is this catchy enough” when really honestly it’s all about the process and how you feel about it. The culture that we live in as musicians is all about networking if you want to be successful, and that can lead down a slippery slope of ass-kissing and disingenuous interactions even when you don’t realize you’re doing it (especially when you don’t realize you’re doing it). The hardest part is keeping it in perspective and reminding yourself every day why you do it, keeping it about the music, actual connections with humans, and trying to actually live by humble principles. The best part about playing the music we love is…well, that we get to play the music we love and how we get to see it’s propensity to evolve and change.
What was your favorite memory from Sounds from the House?
Paul: Noticing that someone was painting with a pocket knife in the corner of the room and everyone accepted it as totally cool and normal to do. Which it was. Shoutout to Murph.
You can download the whole session along with all our previous sessions for Pay What You Want HERE!
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