Based out of Los Angeles, a new breed of project has seen the light in the name of Drinker. Originally formed in the fall of 2016 after leaving their respective bands, singer-songwriter Aaron Mendelsohn and producer-composer Ariel Loh have just dropped their debut EP entitled Happy Accidents via Dollar Slice Records on August 11, 2017.
Ariel, you might know of. He scored the music for the horror film The Eyes Of My Mother which premiered at Sundance and did pretty well at the box office following national release. Made of ambient and analog soundscapes felt like the perfect atmosphere for the songs Aaron was writing. A point was made to explore minimal arrangements while pushing the music into different territories, all the while embracing the unexpected. The forthcoming EP “Happy Accident” was the result of 2 months of collaborating in Bushwick, Brooklyn and Astoria, Queens. Aaron has since moved to Los Angeles and is working on the songs to bring them to the stage with a band. Meanwhile, their creative collaboration continues bi-coastally with new material always brewing.
We really tried to keep the arrangement simple and chordally ambiguous, which I think gives this imaginative quality to the recordings.
Your guys’ new EP, “Happy Accident”, maintains a steady-yet-subtle sonic darkness throughout it’s 4-tracks – yet it doesn’t feel like a project that’s wallowing in melancholy. How do you guys approach the relationship between the feeling of the production and the subject matter of the lyrics?
Aaron: I’m glad you responded that way. While I feel like the songs came together in the recording process, I wrote the lyrics before we got to work. The production vibes would be somewhat informed by the lyrical content, but the process allowed them to take on life of their own. Where they ended up was just what felt good.
Ariel: We really tried to keep the arrangement simple and chordally ambiguous, which I think gives this imaginative quality to the recordings. We often leave out the 3rd’s of the chords, only brushing on it in the vocal melody. It kind of gives an open palette for the listener to hear it uniquely and ultimately gives the vocal and lyrics a starkness.
Is there a real life “Happy Accident” the title here is referring to, or is it a deeper reference to the underlying themes within the EP?
Aaron: We spent so much time with the songs and arrangements and arrived at certain bits of the songs through a lot of trial and error. A lot of it surprised us. The bridge of ‘sinking / feeling’ was a “happy accident” in the way that it came together…adapting what had been written on a strummed acoustic guitar into a synth part, we accidentally displaced the vocal entrance, having it drop in later, and then it felt so chilling and perfect.
Ariel, among some of your past accomplishments is the score of 2016’s Sundance horror, “The Eyes of My Mother”. Do you ever find that having experience with film scoring leaves you taking a more cinematic approach to producing in general? Does the horror genre in particular have any bearing on your musical work?
Ariel: I think there are aspects of film scoring that definitely carry over to our production in Drinker. While scoring The Eyes Of My Mother, there was emphasis on minimal but effective sounds and compositions that could create tension and serve the story of the film. In modern music production it’s very easy to get carried away adding more layers and more instruments to build a big arrangement but with this EP we tried to be meticulous about what we included in the arrangement and made sure all the elements worked together to serve the song and Aaron’s vocals. We both enjoy dark music so horror/suspense music is a great point of reference – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Mica Levi, and Disasterpeace are a few that come to mind.
Aaron, you’ve got some really intriguing lyrics on this project. Do you have a line on the EP that stands out to you as even impressing yourself with? Are there any specific artists you would cite as influencing your lyric writing, in particular?
Aaron: Wow, I’m flattered by that question. As a writer, I feel like I’m pretty all over the place. It takes many sessions and many revisions to finish anything. It’s hard because I usually feel like I’m starting fresh when I pick it up and am coming from a different mood or inspiration. It’s almost like a different person writing. It’s happened many times that I’ll look at a song’s lyrics and not really know what they’re all about and then months later, I’ll have a fresh understanding of them and see a cohesive thread tying the song together that I never knew was there. It’s a mysterious process.
Radiohead was big. ‘Climbing Up The Walls’ off OK Computer. I started reading along to lyrics from a lot of artists as I would listen. The lyrics on Interpol’s Antics. It’d be hard to fully wrap your head around it. A lyric like “If time is my vessel, then learning to love might be my way back to sea,” created an aura and mystery that I would aspire to.
Returning to cinema once more – there really seems to be a distinct black and white aesthetic to Drinker as a whole – from the band photos, to the album cover, and even the sounds themselves, in a way. Is this mostly coincidence, or do the two of you have some sort of special affinity for greyscale? Furthermore, can we expect any visuals from Drinker in the future that may or may not play on this same look?
Ariel: This was definitely on purpose. At first we were just looking for a way to brand ourselves, and black and white seemed fitting for the music. There’s a simplicity in black and white photography and design that we really enjoy, it leaves something up to the viewer’s imagination and there’s an ambiguity that’s very calming, even if it’s dark. We’re going to be releasing a music video for the opening track “Dog Years” in the coming weeks, which is a very simple but beautiful one shot video, also in grayscale. As far as moving forward, we’re not sure if we’ll be introducing color into our image.
Lastly, what can our readers expect to see and hear from Drinker in the future, and where can they keep up with you guys – both online and in person?
Ariel: You can follow us on Spotify and social media – our handle is @drinkerfornow (see links further down). I’m often out at shows in Brooklyn during the week otherwise working or eating in Astoria where I live. Aaron’s out in LA, and a few times a year you can find both of us in the same city.