Week in Pop: Inspired & the Sleep, WEEED, Work Drugs

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D.A. Stern

Catching up with D.A. Stern; press photo courtesy of the artist.
Catching up with D.A. Stern; press photo courtesy of the artist.

D.A. Stern released his debut album Aloha Hola recently via the impressive tastes over at Twosyllable Records and we are proud to present the following review, listen & discussion with none other than David Aaron himself. The NYC by Hollywood artist has made some of the most criminally overlooked power-pop imaginable that is worthy of being an essential part of your collection of audio anthems & gems. Having already dazzled with the Albert Brooks concept for his “Miami” video; Stern’s entire full-length exhibits what some of the most sophisticated & powerful array of candy chords can sound like in executed practice.
Aloha Hola is the salutation to brighten up the humdrum & drab world that we all feel trapped in sometimes. D.A. Stern puts a smile on faces with the ultra-catchy “Am I Ever On Your Mind?” that keeps the craft in the key of the highest element of artistry on wordplay titled “Bluedgenes”, that then get into more complicated quandaries on “Giving Up”. David then breaks out into a duet with Paul Sicilian on “In Pain”, stumbling for the right words to say on the organ rager “Diggin’ For Something”, the high emotive drawn-out drama on “Home and Dry”, to the argumentative classic steez of “When I Said You Were Right I Was Wrong”. David Aaron wears his NYC homesick heart on his sleeve with the beautiful “Spirit of New York”, that then coasts into the already beloved single “Miami” that is an example of pristine & perfect pop. The album winds down with the glorious interlude of “Sports Moment” that could have been a transition from a sporting event to a commercial, as the album sun sets to the closer “Rising Suns” that features more of that Felt-era Martin Duffy-style organ with a little twang to wrap everything up in a blissful red ribbon bow (and an expertly orchestrated climactic finish to boot). After the following listen, be sure to read our heart to heart with D.A. Stern, aka the legendary David Aaron Stern.

Give us a never heard before D.A. Stern inside scoop about you go about writing a song…is there a ritual? A routine? We gotta know.
The process, like how agent Dale Cooper describes Albert Rosenfield’s path in “Twin Peaks” (Season 2, Episode 3), is a strange and difficult one. What usually happens is I accidentally stumble across chord changes and a melody that I find are catchy enough to pursue. Eventually, some placeholder lyrics—or really, random syllables—that sound good but might very well be gibberish enter the picture until they are phased out by some actual lyrical idea born from a notebook snippet, which is how “Miami” was made, or the two are married together and re-contextualized, which is how “Am I Ever On Your Mind” came to be.
Tell us about the challenges & accomplishments in the making of the cycle Aloha Hola.
A lot of these songs were more or less born in the studio so I had to try to have a very clear idea of what everything was going to sound like before even setting up a microphone. Obviously, when you have a band you work out the nuances and kinks for each song in a rehearsal space and on stage. I had to kind of put them together like IKEA furniture but with no booklet. But I think it worked out; what I thought was going to be a coffee table turned out to be a much, much stranger coffee table.
It was hard to see the forest for the trees as far as accomplishments go because I was in my own head a lot of the time during recording, but one highlight was when my dad sang backup vocals on “When I Said You Were Right I Was Wrong.” He is somewhat of a ham and I could tell that he was really happy to showcase his talents and be involved. Plus, explaining to him that I wasn’t going to start a band with him was pretty funny, despite how unsurprising his proposal was.
And then there is the epic “Miami” video….tell us the story about showcasing the family life as if it was an after-school drama special to some earnest power pop that highlights the action & misadventures.
So, Albert Brooks is one of my favorite filmmakers ever and since his movies were put back up on Netflix a while ago, I was really excited to revisit them. Real Life, which is probably my favorite one, is about this narcissistic nudnik filmmaker, played by Brooks, who wants to make a documentary about living with some regular family for a year. Naturally, it all goes to dreck but there is an amazing montage of the family during a short-lived happy period of theirs. When I re-watched the movie, I felt that the concept of this montage, where the happy-looking family knows they’re being watched, would be appropriate for “Miami”. So the video is an homage to that movie to the extent where certain shots from it were straight-up remade.
What are you currently listening to on repeat right now?
As far as newer music goes, I’ve been really into the Childish Gambino, Avalanches, Hazel English, and Weyes Blood albums. Also Alvvays! I haven’t stopped listening to that album since it’s come out. As far as less contemporary stuff is concerned, it’s been a ton of Linda Ronstadt, Mary Margaret O’Hara, and Phoebe Snow, who was actually a second cousin of mine, once removed.
And then for non-music stuff, it’s spring training so a lot of baseball-related radio and I am also a devoted listener of the Best Show.
Favorite thing you have seen in a long time?
I literally just got home from seeing Get Out and am still kind of reeling from it. So, so good! But, in general the best thing I’ve seen in a while is my friend Clancy’s third nipple. He showed it to an entire bar.
Best thing you have read since forever?
A group e-mail from Clancy to me and the rest of the people at the bar apologizing for his behavior that night.
Next big moves for D.A. Stern?
I’m going to be playing every Tuesday in April at Little Joy in Los Angeles, and then hopefully a lot more shows after that. I’m also going to make a few more crossword puzzles, shoot a few more videos, and I have a ton of work to do on my curveball. My sinker is pretty good and and my slider really moves but my curveball…what a disaster.
D.A. Stern’s Aloha Hola is available now via Twosyllable Records.