By Rachel Laurie
Pisgah Mountains-based band Pink Beds flaunt their unique mix of indie-pop, danceable, and trippy tunes with their debut album, All I Have. Taking cues from iconic indie bands such as Phoenix, they’ve created a dynamic listening experience that ebbs and flows between upbeat numbers and serenading ballads. The album starts with a lively hit that leads us into the lush soundscape of intracelty weaving melodies and delicate guitar riffs.
Made up of four friends, Pink Beds is members Aaron Aiken (vocals and guitar), Jackson Van Horn (keys and guitar), Ryan Sargeant (drums and percussion), and Logan Hall (bass). Prior to being a founding member of Pink Beds, however, Aaron was a member of another few bands, The Remarks and Foxfire. That said, his past experience has helped him form an eclectic fusion of genres and influences that reflect on the multi-faceted and engaging track-list of All I Have.
Sitting down with Aaron, we discussed his start with music, the making of Pink Bed’s latest album, and his experience as an indie musician.
So, when did you start playing and writing music?
Aaron Aiken: I started playing guitar in eighth grade. My aunt bought me my first electric guitar, a Stratocaster, for Christmas, and I don't think my parents were very excited about it [laughs], and it started there. I was super into it in the beginning — my uncle Daryl taught me pretty much everything right out of the gate. It was kind of a hobby at first until I threw my arm out in baseball season. Baseball was my thing before music. This was the first season I couldn't play in high school, and in my free time, I just played music and never went back to baseball.
For writing, [early on] there were things that resembled verses and choruses on guitar, but I never really messed with words for a few years. When I joined Foxfire, I was just giving suggestions for what should happen in the song, but I still couldn't credit myself for writing a song through that band. And then, when The Remarks happened, I wrote a bunch of songs out of necessity. I was kind of bluffing at the time when I started writing songs just because I had to.
What are all of the instruments you play?
AA: So, guitar was first. Then I had a bunch of friends growing up who owned drum set, so every time I was at their house and they dropped the sticks to go to the bathroom or go get food or anything at all, I would race to the drum set and play as much as I could before they got back. So, I've gotten pretty decent at drums. I played piano for some of the songs on the record — not great, but enough to get by, enough to write a song. Mandolin —in Foxfire I played mandolin for five years, so [I’m] decent at mandolin. Everything else is probably super, super bad [laughs].
How has your music style changed from when you started playing to now?
AA: I think everyone's favorite move as a new guitarist is to go down the legends and learn your Zeppelin, so I definitely did that. I was obviously in middle school, so there were some My Chemical Romance phases and what not. So, when I joined Foxfire, we were a rock band for a while. Then Clint [Roberts] bought a banjo and handed me a mandolin. So then, I got into bluegrass and folk. At first, it was not my thing, but while I was trying to learn, it became something I was really into. And I don't know how I really got into the indie thing — I think it started in high school, listening to Phoenix,The Killers, and The Strokes. From there, it would just go further and further.
You're an excellent writer, both lyrically and musically. Are most of your songs based on real life experiences or are they inspired elsewhere?
AA: I'd say most of them are based on real experiences, or they at least start out as a real experience. I’ll have something in my head, and it kind of plays like a movie. Like, you get 30 seconds of a commercial for a movie that flashes through, and it starts out with something that's familiar. But then, it usually morphs into something that's exaggerated or becomes something else. There are a few [songs] that are totally made up based on real experiences.
When writing, do you find it harder to write the lyrics or the music? What do you do if you get writer's block?
AA: I always wrote music first and then lyrics. So if the music never gets done, then the lyrics never get done. I'd say it's 50/50, though, because sometimes, we get hung up on lyrics. With writer's block, I have to get away from the environment I started the song in. So during quarantine, if I'm writing in my bedroom and the song stops, I have to go outside, do something else, come back to it, change something, and keep circulating new environments.
So, moving on to Pink Beds, tell me about how everyone got together and started the band.
AA: It was Halloween, pre-COVID, and some friends of mine from college wanted to have a get-together. And they were like, “Aaron, play some music,” and I said, “Okay, I'll see if I can find someone [to play with me].” I didn't really think it would come together….but this is the same story as The Remarks getting together [laughs] — the gathering of friends who you think will be able to play with you.
Can you tell me about the inspiration and behind-the-scenes involved with making of the album?
AA: These songs, a lot of them I've already had and wanted to bring them to this band. They were ideas that I've had for a year or two, and just never figured out how to finish them or make them a complete song. So, when writing these songs, they didn't really have a concise concept. They are all very independent from themselves. And then, when I placed the songs in order, I did find some similar themes, which I don't know...I think I made that connection, and it was really cool to have a matching theme.
But I guess, musically, we did want to make some of this stuff more danceable, as compared to before. And we've already started the next record, actually, just because we're bored and pandemic. But that's one thing we really enjoyed and, with having a couple of shows under our belt, having the crowd dance is really fun as a band. So, that's one thing we're trying to do with the music part.
Can you tell me about what your experience has been like as a musician, and forming a new band during the pandemic?
AA: We had that party in October, and were playing with the idea of becoming a band. We practiced a little, and then we had two shows in January. Then, at the beginning of March, it was COVID, so we got two shows under our belt and it was over.
As far as us being a new band, we had to come up with a set, we had to write the material, and it actually came together a lot easier than I thought it would ‘cause it was just me recording. I usually get the idea [of the song] across on guitar and vocals and then send it out to the guys. They learn it, and it comes back, and we'll piece it all together. It's just a lot of sending songs back and forth.
If you had to choose, which song are you most looking forward to playing live?
AA: “Tunnel Vision” is really fun right now. Also, the piano song is really fun. It's an opportunity for me to put down the guitar, which is really nice. We've been hammering out the set at practices. I can't wait to play; we've all been anxiously waiting for it.
Speaking of “Tunnel Vision,” the music video is incredible. Can you tell me about the process of making and filming it?
AA: A good friend of mine, Tristan Pelletier, filmed it. We kind of tinkered with some ideas and it really wasn't going anywhere for a while until he sent me some ideas, handwritten on a napkin. And I was like, this could be cool. So, we kept that text flow going and saying things like, “From zero seconds to 13 seconds, I can imagine this,” and “From 13 seconds to this.” We really did build frame-by-frame the entire music video via text.
The casting call was just us asking our friends to be there. We used The DFR Room, which is a venue I used to run sound at in Brevard, and the baseball fields. [There are] a lot of Brevard scenes. We shot for 13 hours the first day, 13 hours straight. Then, we had to finish up with three more hours the next day.
That hoisting scene with you is insane!
AA: Yeah, that was really funny. In the original idea, I was supposed to be an alien, and there was a scene at the bar where tentacles come out of my sleeve. The hoisting was initially supposed to be me going back to the ship, but it really didn't come across. So, we played that off as some dreamlike state, so you think I was unconscious and just dazed, but I was supposed to be an alien.
So, to wrap it up, as an indie music musician, you've had a lot of roles outside of playing and writing music, such as graphic design, sound mixing, social media managing, and more. Can you tell me what that's been like?
AA: I've always kind of enjoyed controlling a little bit of everything, so it's never overwhelming, really. I thought I was going to college for graphic design, and I know my way around Photoshop, so that's always fun for me.
Sound mixing...I recorded and engineered and mixed and mastered the whole record. And this is something I learned a few years ago, just because I wanted to control a little bit of everything or, you know, I didn’t have the musical vocabulary to explain to someone what I want when making a record. So, it's nice to be able to do it myself. [But] getting all this equipment and learning how to use it took a few years.
Social media managing...That's still such a foreign game to us. I think we just do what feels right, but we definitely don't know the rules of social media. We try. We don’t have a manager, it's just us posting...for better or worse [laughs]. I think, at this level, it's pretty fair for most indie bands to be doing most of this stuff themselves. At our level, I think it is nice to have your hands on everything because you get to figure out what you want to be as a band: what's your image, who you are, who you want to be. You get to figure out out. You don't have someone else telling you what to do.
If you’re in the North Carolina area, or just want to make a road trip, Pink Beds has a live, socially-distanced show coming up in Asheville on July 2nd. Keep up with all upcoming shows by checking out their website and follow their Facebook and Instagram. All I Have by Pink Beds is available to listen now on Spotify and Apple Music. Plus, they have an awesome T-shirt for sale, made by the incredible artist Anna Bryant. And if that’s not enough Pink Beds for ya, make sure to watch their music video for “Tunnel Vision.”