Indie-pop band AJR looks forward to ACL performance

AJR will be performing at 5:15 on Sunday at Austin City Limits music festival. Courtesy Photo

By Kaitlyn DeHaven | Design Editor

Brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan Met make up the indie-pop band AJR, and they are slated to perform at 5:15 p.m. Sunday at Austin’s Zilker Park during the Austin City Limits music festival. AJR recently released its new album “The Click” on June 9, and its single “Weak” was certified platinum, receiving more than 250 million streams on Spotify.

Bassist and vocalist Adam Met spoke with the Lariat about where the trio’s sound originated from, their involvement with the It’s On Us campaign and what they’re most excited about for ACL.

Why did you and your brothers first decide that you wanted to form a band?

We grew up listening to a lot of the music from the 1950s and 1960s; the Beach Boys are actually our favorite band of all time, and we also listen to a lot of Peter, Paul and Mary. All of those groups had really interesting harmonies, and the Beach Boys in particular were brothers, so we kind of took after those classic, vinyl kind of bands that we grew up listening to. We started out street performing, and we took a microphone and a hat and put it out on the street. We started performing and then we started writing our own music. Just growing up on that music was really inspiring for us.

What was the first song that you wrote?

Honestly, I don’t remember. It might’ve been a song called “Law.” That was 10 or 11 years ago, and it never came out. At that point, we couldn’t afford a microphone, but we had a video camera so we filmed the recording of this song. We took out the video and just used the audio, and that was the best we could do.

What is the band dynamic like, working with your brothers?

The dynamic is great. Each of us have very different roles within the project. Ryan does a lot of the writing and he does all of the producing. He does a lot of work for other artists, too. Jack is the frontman on stage and he’s really good at coming up with melodies, and I do a lot of the behind-the-scenes, kind of business side/management side of things. The dynamic is actually really strong because each of us have an expertise in something different so there’s no ego involved, there’s no stepping on each other’s toes because we each really respect each other and what we have to bring to the project.

What suggestions do you have for young musicians?

Write as much as possible. The thing is, we don’t need another Justin Bieber, we don’t need another Miley Cyrus, we need the first of a bunch of new kinds of artists. So by writing, you get to kind of put your own perspective into your music. If you write 10 songs, 50 songs, then 100 songs, it’s like a muscle that you have to develop. Find a voice that’s unique that you aren’t hearing in the industry.

Over the last five years, who do you consider to be key leaders or groundbreakers in the music industry?

I would say Imagine Dragons. They started out touring in a van, and the fact that they were able to grow a touring base before they even attempted to go mainstream is really exciting. Macklemore is a great example of growing an enormous fan base in his hometown and then expanding to the country. Then Chance the Rapper is also really inspiring because he did this whole thing without a label, and we’re an independent band and we kind of are following that same trajectory of maintaining everything ourselves. It’s really cool because we get to have a full vision of what we want, and we get to keep everything cohesive.

What are the effects of digital distributions, such as streaming, on AJR?

Streaming has only done positive things for our band. I know a lot of artists say that people don’t get paid enough for song-streaming, and that’s something that I agree with, but the industry has transitioned. Music itself is not the primary income for artists –– it’s touring, it’s merchandise, it’s all these other pieces that end up making money for artists. Streaming, I think, does an excellent job of getting the music to a much wider audience much quicker than it used to, because you have no stake. If you purchase a song on iTunes, you put an investment into it, and you might listen to it a few times or you might listen to it more than that, but streaming actually takes into account every single time someone listens to the song, so it’s a better indicator of how popular a song is.

AJR worked with the It’s On Us campaign. Can you describe your involvement with that?

It’s On Us is a fantastic campaign, and it was started by Joe Biden. We actually went and performed at the White House back in January when President Barack Obama and Joe Biden were still there. It’s On Us is a campaign that reaches across the country to educate people on the fight against sexual violence. It’s such an important topic to us because most of our fans are in that college-age demographic, and it presents a real problem on college campuses. [The It’s on Us campaign] asked us to be a part of the organization and when we go to colleges, sometimes we talk about this, and we also wrote a song called “It’s On Us,” and all the proceeds are donated to the organization to help spread awareness.

What are you most excited for at ACL?

A: We love festivals and the energy of festivals. Sometimes you’ll go on tour and you’ll be opening for another band or they’ll be opening for you, but in a festival, you get the energy of 10, 20, 30 bands and you get to meet fans that are open to all different kinds of music. Festivals, especially ACL, open up a realm for people to appreciate and learn about new music.

*Bailey Brammer, Lariat Editor-in-Chief, contributed to this story.