With the upcoming release of their single “Her Vowel No” it seemed like this would be a perfect time to welcome Burning House to the Weekly Featured Artist club. Everything Is Noise had previously added Anthropocene to our The Noise Of July featured list and it’s about time we got deep into Burning House. We managed to ask vocalist and guitarist Aaron Mills a few questions to explore the inner structures of this house on fire.
Let’s start at the basics and explore Anthropocene which was released on July 12, 2019 through MIOHMI Records. This record contains a lot of songs – 15 tracks and running over an hour-and-twenty minutes! Whew! There’s a lot to get into. Anthropocene contains many stylings which come and go throughout the totality ranging from grunge and noise rock to pop and high art. One thing you’ll notice right from the get-go is that these folks like to use the wall of sound approach to songwriting. That’s not to say it’s everywhere, nor does it cover up the music, but there is an obvious love for this type of vibrancy, and I can’t say I blame them.
Incorporating many genres and sounds into one’s music, surely there must be a myriad of influences. When asked about the influences of bands and musicians from the past, Aaron tells us:
‘I suppose I like to revisit old ‘classics’ – the genealogy of music fascinates me. I naturally reach towards the music that characterised my teenage years, but I don’t feel constrained by that, or that as a songwriter/arranger I must pay homage. On the contrary I think the idea is to deviate as much as possible… kill yr idols! But I suppose it’s something like cutting your nose off to spite your face to suppress your influences entirely.’
As mentioned earlier, Burning House produces an alternative rock sound which encompasses noise rock, art pop, shoegaze, post-punk, and more. I get a heavy 90s grunge vibe seeping through the cracks and that’s a good thing. Burning House is able to evoke a sense of nostalgia amid a wall of mastery which comes from their voice. Referencing movies and philosophy as strong influence we get the effect of something grand in scale when listening to Anthropocene.
Releasing an album titled Anthropocene invokes some heavy imagery of the current political and environmental climate, but this title was chosen before the immediate climate worsened and is used with artistic license. The album doesn’t overtly talk about the world in turmoil, rather it’s more of introspection or lived in response to the surrounding turbulence. Aaron speaks of the political influence and how it is interpreted through music:
‘[…] the will is the driving force, and my will is to move people with deep emotions through the music… in whatever form that takes on. If I try to contrive that.. it doesn’t work. I become despondent. Stuck. It comes from some place in the psyche, and one’s voice reveals everything, regardless of the subject matter – I believe that. In my conceptualised universe anyway, the personal is political, so there is little need for me to make trite, transitory statements. It’s all there in flesh and blood, for better or for worse in all its modalities and contradictions. I am distillation of everything I imbibe, read, etc. I’m not interested in moral grandstanding. I am documenting.’
Continuing on this heavy subject of world turbulence, the other end of the definition of Anthropocene is the environmental aspect. As mentioned above, the album takes an artistic approach rather than a direct tackling of these divisive topics. Using the musician’s approach by taking in the world and releasing it through sound you can start to hear the world being driven through guitar. With all of the constant news, disasters, and unrest throughout the world it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning and to me, the wall of noise effects the songs utilize are very reminiscent of that feeling – albeit it’s much more enjoyable.
Rounding out the topic of heaviness is the third beast of mental health which is the driving factor behind everything we do as humans. It influences the choices we make from the mundane to the life-changing. Art is something that is done to process the world and as a coping mechanism. Musicians are often more sensitive and thus create are able to create great sounds of beauty because of it. When asked about the places he goes mentally when writing songs, Aaron had this to say:
‘Often I don’t know what I’m singing, and in fact I’m trying to not consciously say anything, but I have constantly found I invariably revisit some conflict or other I was experiencing at the time of writing, and the music has revealed itself as my subconscious (attempting at least) to resolve that conflict. Much like a dream. It will dawn on me and I will go, ‘that’s what I was singing about!’ Even when I’m being deliberately vague, escapism always brings me back home. Or perhaps that’s reductive analysis. Whatever the case, the will is the driving force, and my will is to move people with deep emotions through the music… in whatever form that takes on[…]’
When speaking with Aaron, I get the feeling of incredible empathy for others from him. Just like the way politics or climate change gets interpreted through his music, I also think that his empathetic view is filtered through as well. ‘Ideology and bias is practically preconscious for many, many people, and where I’m at now, I think it’s more freeing to liberate yourself from identity and be wary of how your own pathologies inform your political outlook, if more people did this, I think we’d see greater empathy for each other.’
Alright, alright! Let’s lighten things up a bit! Obviously Burning House is a band and one has to be a musician when being in said band. This leaves me wondering, what would be happening in his life if he wasn’t able to be creating music. Aaron answered this questions like this:
‘This is a difficult question! Would I be more or less mentally ‘together’ or is it only music that affords me this expression? Without the ability to play music, I might be an unquestioning drone… but I might be a hell of a lot happier! Or I might even be yearning for that skill and capacity to move souls through some sort of art. I think given my constitution I would always be seeking to free myself from the body/societal shame so I would always gravitate towards some form of expression.’
Anthropocene has a lengthy run time which matches that of a movie’s and this is not a coincidence. Aaron explains that the album was conceived more like a motion picture rather than a record. He goes on to say that he wanted a narrative arc which shifted in moods and temperaments with a flow to unravel organically at their own pace. Of course since this album was written with film in mind, we got off track and began talking about some of our favourite movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey being one of them.
‘The silence of this movie has always struck me as very bold, the opening where you are right up next to monolith… represented with an entirely black screen, with the incredible microtonal music of Ligeti. It is an unsettling experience, but one which draws you in. And of course the psychedelic, ‘interstellar’ journey undertaken by David Bowman, undoubtedly influenced by psychotropic drugs.’
This brings us upon the ending and we have touched on many different subjects so I figured we could end on a fun note. Since Everything Is Noise is all about great melodies and Burning House is a band, why not talk about music! I know, I’m a genius, hold your applause please. I am always wondering what kind of acts musicians would bring to a music festival in which they are curating. As one would assume, Aaron offered a wide assortment and definitely did not disappoint.
‘I would choose a wide spectrum of music. I am enamoured with the new Lana Del Rey and Weyes Blood LPs, so would definitely have them high up in the bill. I would have Jessy Lanza tearing the roof off the house… making everyone dance. Anna Von Hausswolff and the experimental classical music of Giacinto Scelsi (which hopefully won’t entirely alienate everyone!) Labradford, Grouper and if a time machine was present, I’d kidnap Smashing Pumpkins from ’93 and Red House Painters from the same year.’
Burning House are in the works to have a European tour put together so stay alert for that if you’re in the area. They have also already begun work on their follow up album which will be pulling inspiration from the legendary Glenn Branca, and that makes me tingle with excitement. More than that, they are focusing on music that they want to create and are always looking on expanding their sound to something different. All of these are great things! Thank you Aaron and everyone at Burning House for taking the time to answer some of my questions and for creating a wonderful soundscape for all of us to enjoy.
Burning House is:
Aaron Mills: Vocals/Guitar
Ruby Taylor: Guitar/Backing Vocals
Patrick White: Bass
Dominic Taylor: Drums
Since we are living in the days of information, make sure to follow Burning House at all of the usual social media and internet places. You can find them on Facebook and can also purchase their music over at Bandcamp which will definitely help them continue to create new music. You can also stream their music over on Spotify and SoundCloud which is always a plus!