Over the summer, we caught up with Aaron Perrino, the driving force behind the criminally underrated The Sheila Divine, the all too short-lived Dear Leader and his most recent project, Aaron and the Lord. At Rock Olmen, The Sheila Divine played their only European show this year, hands down one of the best things I’ve seen this summer. Which is not that surprising when you have songs like ‘Criminal’, ‘Hum’ and ‘Sideways’ at your disposal. We talked to Aaron about the three Bs that The Sheila Divine will forever be associated with, flying over to Europe for a single show and the upcoming Aaron and the Lord album.
PRT: Belgium has always been good to you. And you’re still coming over here quite often. Couple of dates last year, and then this year as well. Does it feel like a homecoming to you when you get to Belgium?
Aaron: I mean, I don't know about homecoming, but it's very familiar. I've been to no other country more than Belgium. I'm like, why can't we do Italy or something? Not that I don't like Belgium, it's just that we've been here more than 20 times. But yeah, I love coming here and I have a lot of friends here.
PRT: When you came onstage, they mentioned the three Bs that are always associated with you: Buffalo, Boston and Belgium. When did you realize that was a thing?
Aaron: That's a good question. I don't know. I mean, it was just sort of like, I'm from Buffalo, I live in Boston, and then we do well here. So it was just always just kind of the three places that I've lived are the places that we do well in. Yeah. And then someone coined the three Bs.
PRT: Was that a tough pill to swallow at first?
Aaron: I think we do well in other places, but it's more of a thing. Every artist wants to be successful, but it doesn't happen for everybody. So yeah, it was a bit of a tough pill. But I have friends who've been doing it forever and who don't even have one place where they do well. So I'll take the three.
PRT: Have you ever come up with an explanation as to why you’re so popular in Belgium?
Aaron: Oh, I know why. Well, I mean, I don't know why it hasn't translated in other places, but I know why it has in Belgium: we were on Roadrunner and we had this guy, Stef De Vos, who was a huge champion of the band. And he's the one who single handedly got us on national radio at Studio Brussel. Same thing in Buffalo. A program director at a radio station made it happen for us. I feel like that's what it takes, someone who has the pull to make it work.
PRT: You just mentioned Roadrunner Records. That's one thing I always wondered about, because you were kind of the odd band out.
Aaron: We ended on that label sort of by default basically. We were on this Boston label and back in the day Roadrunner bought the back catalog of that label. But then for some reason, the label owner liked us for some reason.
PRT: When you’ve just started a band, it's probably the most important thing in your life. How has that evolved over time?
Aaron: Another good question. When you start out, you travel and go all around the world and then at some point you're like, is there more to this? What is the end game? And then I got married, had a kid. And then you get a real job, give up on those things. But now my kids are old enough to where I can start to do it more often again. I have a new booking agent in the US. So I don't know… I just think it's the roller coaster of life. It's one thing if you're Madonna, you'll make it work. But when it's four guys staying in a hotel room, it's not that fun.
PRT: Next to the Sheila Divine, you had Dear Leader and you put out a solo album under the Aaron and the Lord moniker. What is it that you still get out of making music?
Aaron: It's just who I am, regardless of if I'm in a band or whatever. I write songs and that's really the only thing what I think I'm meant to be here to do. The Sheila Divine is a bit of a nostalgia act at this point. It's also situationally: our drummer lives two hours away in Maine and the guitarist has a really crazy job where he works seven days a week. Meanwhile I still am writing 50 songs a year. So I'm going to put 'em out. I'm not going to wait around.
Aaron and the Lord was started in Covid. I had a friend, Steven Lord, and I'm like, that's the coolest thing ever. It's got to be Aaron and the Lord. I'm starting a cult. So the name is not a religious thing. It just turned into a thing and then it turned into a band. And that's sort of how it always happens for me. I mean, I've been doing it since I was 16 and I'm turning 50 this year. I just write songs and record everything myself. It's my hobby. Other people are beekeepers or play soccer, I write songs.
PRT: Writing music is still your way to be creative. But you had a creative job as well?
Aaron: If you call it that (laughs). Yeah, no, I work in advertising, but I wouldn't say it's being creative when you are writing a brief on banner campaigns for an internet service. There are worse things you could do to make a living, but it's not that great.
PRT: So it’s just for fun now?
Aaron: Since the first time I quit The Sheila Divine in 2000 or 2002, it's only been fun for me. Once I took trying to make a living from it out of the equation, it became infinitely more fun. Unless you can be at a certain level, you got to make it fun because there's no money to be made. You can be like, ‘hey, I made $700’, but you made $700. Great. Now what? It's not sustainable,
PRT: It shows you’re having a good time when you're on stage.
Aaron: Yeah. I mean, I flew here yesterday and I'm leaving tomorrow. To be able to just come here, play a cool show, and then go to work on Monday, it's awesome.
PRT: You're going to work on Monday?
Aaron: Yeah. I mean that's why it's awesome. Other people my age are a soccer coach, they go to bed at eight o'clock after watching a TV show. I'm flying to Belgium and get to play a festival.
PRT: So when you go into work on Monday and your colleagues ask how your weekend was, you're like…
Aaron: I played a show in Belgium. Check out this photo (laughs).
PRT: You released a vinyl version of the Aaron and the Lord album, but you're also giving it away for free on Bandcamp.
Aaron: Well, it's like there's 7 trillion things coming out online. But the physical product costs something to make so you got to charge for that. But other than that… I do both the recording and the mastering so I'm not putting that much into it financially.
PRT: The most recent Sheila Divine album ‘The beginning of the end’ came out four years ago but since then, there has been no shortage of new material.
Aaron: That's all me. My guitarist Brian is a producer for a living and he didn't want to be associated with it because he didn't think it was up to the usual quality. Over Covid, I had this idea to write a song every single day, record it, and then just put it out. Some of 'em were fun and with others I would challenge myself to write a song like say, the band Ride. And if it was garbage, that was cool too.
PRT: I've been a fan since your first album and have tried to keep up, but I have to admit that I’ve been surprised when I saw new music on Bandcamp. When I last checked, you had released four new songs in a week.
Aaron: I know. Why? I don't know, I was bored. It's more like, here's another one, here's another one. It's kind of bad on my part. I should be a little bit more precious about it. I can't keep up with making things.
PRT: Do you still believe in the album format?
Aaron: I do feel like the album format will make people pay attention a little bit more, but at the same time you put all this work into a thing, release it and then it's like a blip. You do your thing and then it just fades away unless you continually harp on it. I like the idea of making a song, putting it out, have people comment on it, and then move onto the next one.
With Aaron and the Lord though, we've been working on a record for a year and a half and I do think it’s going to be good. It’s very thought over as opposed to other stuff where I just make it and it could be good, it could be bad.
But yeah, I feel like the Aaron and the Lord album is not like anything I've done before. And I got a record label and a booking agent, so I’m pretty excited about that one.