Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
Life, as well as rock & roll, tend to lean towards the annals of chaos. Moments in life are often defined by it, forcing one to rise above the occasion or collapse under the weight. Meanwhile, hard rock music often thrives on riding the line between order and discourse – creating a beautiful sound that is both heavy and melodic.Gemini Syndrome has emerged as a band who brings the perfect definition of riding that thin, chaotic line. With two proper studio albums under their belt (Lux & Memento Mori) showcasing their love of lush melodies and a momentous live presentation to boot – the band has the makings of the true rock stars of the future. They offer a powerful and accessible music and message and are seemingly destined to an arena near you. It’s this definition that makes us all the more grateful that 850 Music & Entertainment has been granted an interview with Aaron Nordstrom & Brian Steele Medina, Gemini Syndrome’s vocalist and drummer respectfully.
However, as with any good rock music, life is also full of chaos. To say I was nervous for this assignment would be an understatement. After a decade-plus of performing in bands that would sometimes open for guys like these, this was my first official “big rock music interview.” I felt it was my civic duty to make sure these guys were represented in the coolest light possible, particularly for those who may be going to their shows for the first time. In my head, that also meant shutting the door to my office, turning on my recorder, turning off the world, and just sitting back and listening. Life had other plans. A parking lot car accident (not my fault), filing a police report, and picking up my wife and our chocolate-milk addicted toddler in the short time between leaving the day job and sitting down for the interview. Needless to say, I was pretty vulnerable when the call from the guys came in the midst of the latter. What I found out though, was in the midst of all this, the boys from Gemini Syndrome were revealed as one more powerful term: wonderful human beings.
Through my son’s calls to me and his mother regarding his “ti-ti gulk,” there came laughter and the shedding of any pretense. While an interview was had, it was truly just an insightful conversation between a current student and two Jedi masters. These guys love their craft, love coming to the Destin Gulf Coast (“It really started accidentally when we were touring with Device and a couple of the guys got sick; it’s like a staycation every time we come here,” proclaimed Brian at one point), and love connecting with their fans – a stellar group of people known as Synners. While the conversation turned a lot of different ways – from talk of the new record to their place as artists in these mad times we live in today – Aaron and Brian never strayed from being approachable and refreshingly candid.
Rob: Straight into it, this is the last leg of your touring for 2017 and, if I’m reading everything correctly, you all are heading straight into the studio. One of the main things that I’ve been pretty stoked about with that is that you’ve added Meegs (a.k.a. Miguel Rascon, formerly of Coal Chamber) into the lineup. How did that even start?
Aaron Nordstrom: Meegs has been a long-time friend of the band, and a longer-time friend of Brian’s; they were in bands together back in the early 2000’s. He was in the studio with us when I was recording vocals for the first demos for the band, so he’s been in really since the inception. When we were looking, we were looking for somebody who really wanted to be in this band for the long-haul, wanted to be a permanent fixture as opposed to just a touring guy…and Meegs seemed like the obvious fit. So far so good in that regard. He’s happy to be here; we love having him. As far as the family goes, he fits right in with zero effort and as a guitar player, obviously, he’s a tried and true veteran of the industry, so no issues there either. It’s just a happy marriage at this point.
Brian Steele Medina: My favorite part about it is that, after we’ve had these first two albums that are very dialed into everything that we’re doing, I think that’s where we’ve all become very comfortable in our roles. Aaron’s vocals and lyrics are, from my perception, growing and maturing and taking on a life of their own. Same thing as far as A.P. (Alessandro Paveri, bassist), and being a part of that rhythm section with him…it just pushes me to do better. We get to work with some pretty amazing producers and that always pushes it to new levels. So, it feels really good and I feel really secure in knowing that we have someone now on guitar that is completely their own monster on their instrument. It feels great that we now have these 4 very strong pieces that complete the circle and I’m really excited to go through everything that we come up for these next few months for the next album.
Rob: If you don’t mind, can we dig into that a little bit? This will be your 3rd record coming up. With the line-up change – even with Meegs being there since the beginning, do you feel like there’s been a big change or further maturity to your sound that may translate on tape?
AN: Yeah! I think the whole goal – from the first to the second record, from the second to third, and so on and so forth beyond that – will always be to evolve and try different things, try to experiment a little bit. To really, from my perspective, to not try and write the same record again. That’s really one of the philosophical principles of us, as a band and as individuals, is trying to constantly evolve and change and grow and not get stuck in a box.
BSM: You know, I feel like when we were done writing the second album (Memento Mori), we were on such a roll that if they didn’t have to go in and make us stop…(laughs)…we were really on a trajectory and I feel like we’re continuing that, gonna pick up right where we left off. But now, with us also having these new creative elements in there, it’s gonna be really cool.
Rob: Coming back to the music overall, the big thing I’ve noticed is that, while it’s heavy, there’s a certain positivity to it which seems especially relevant today. Is that something you guys aim for right from the get or is it something that comes naturally?
AN: A little bit of both, for sure. I think you really nailed it on the head, especially living in the times that we do. Seeing the kinds of craziness and darkness that can happen, we’re definitely led to focus on that stuff by whatever media or entertainment outlets that us as a culture and society are exposed to. I think it’s important as artists to shine some light on the actual beauty that still exists…that it’s not all despondence, that there’s always a little bit of hope. On a selfish level, writing lyrics like that…it’s necessary for me. If I write and stay in that dark place all the time, I tend to live in that dark place all the time. So, it’s very therapeutic to me.
BSN: Aaron nailed that one. Lyrically, it’s fun for me to sit on the outside and watch where Aaron goes with stuff.
Rob: Aaron, you said that “If you write in the dark place, you live in that dark place.” I feel like we’re very, unfortunately, seeing that end result of that constantly living in that dark place, most recently with Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. You’ve been doing that beautiful tribute to “My December” in the acoustic shows, you all have mentioned prior that Chester was a good friend; anything further thoughts regarding any of that?
AN: I’ve been involved for the last couple of years with the You Rock Foundation and To Write Love On Her Arms; basically, anyone I can get involved with that helps deal with depression, suicide, mental illness, etc. A lot of our content deals with those sorts of things; that’s based from either directly my own experiences or from anyone else’s. It’s something that HAS to be talked about. Speaking from my personal experience, it’s not easy to bring up, it’s not easy to reach out, but you have to talk about it. You look at guys like Chris Cornell or Chester…guys in that position who seemingly have it all. They have success in an industry that’s extremely hard to make it in, worldwide adoration, people looking up to them, families, kids, all the money they could ever need, and yet somehow…that devil that is depression creeps in and wreaks havoc. It’s a very, very real thing for anyone dealing with it. Unfortunately, it’s a testament to the fact of it doesn’t matter what you’ve GOT. It doesn’t matter what lot you have in life. You could be a fucking beggar or the king of the world; you can still have these issues. And I think it’s important for people to recognize it can be a universal predicament for anyone to be in. It needs to be addressed. People need to be able to feel safe or capable to reach out. If you let it go too long, it will take control.
BSM: It definitely doesn’t ever go away, but the problem does lie in not talking about it. Whether it’s from Kurt Cobain to Chester Bennington to everyone in between…I feel like if they could talk about it, it could’ve served to show the other side. Obviously, when something tragic like that happens, it only shines a light on the worst-case scenario. In contrast, we do our best to show that talking about it and not being afraid to bring it up, it could save lives and be a success story as opposed to a tragedy.
Rob: Very well put. And thank you for that. Switching gears, going back to the music – along with bringing that positivity, there’s a little bit of concept with you guys. I say this, of course, being a novice with you all as far as the storylines of your albums, but you take bands like you guys, Starset…you all are bringing a sort of theatricality back to rock music. Do you even think about albums in those terms starting off and, if so, how do you stay more Pink Floyd-esque and avoid a KISS sort of trap?
AN: We’re definitely thinking about it to a degree, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it theatrical. Our friends in Avatar are very theatrical, Starset – definitely so….I think, in our case, the word “conceptual” is more appropriate. We’re definitely maintaining a visual spin on the music and the message itself.
Rob: That was the word I was looking for. Sorry about that (laughs).
AN: Yeah, it’s cool! It’s a natural thing. We may have a particular way to dress on stage, but I don’t think it’s as quite contrived as, say, KISS. I think it’s really just trying to become appropriate with the things that we’re talking about, the things that we’re trying to stress that have to have that visual component. It’s just like the artwork does too. The artwork is very tied in closely to the concepts of each record, the concepts of each song. At the end of the day, we just want to be a full artistic package as opposed to just being a CD with music on it playing rock and roll.
BSM: I think that’s really been the natural evolution. The more we get out there and play the songs in front of people, we want to set a mood and convey an emotion. That’s what we decided to do with the art and the stage show. It is MUCH bigger than us as the individuals. We wanted to put it out there in a way that people can digest it on multiple levels. They come to the shows having heard the album however many times; now, they can come in and experience it with their other senses.
Rob: One last question for you guys – 850ME is very much local and regional musician supported; they, like myself, are big fans of you guys and will hopefully be a big part of the audience reading this. Is there any advice you could give to those guys who are slugging it out in the dive bars trying to make their way to another level?
BSM: I have very specific advice, actually. First and foremost, take a look at the people that have achieved the things that you are wanting to do…don’t be afraid to ask them, learn from them, research it. That applies to anything – whether you wanna build golf courses, build spaceships, or be in a rock band (laughs)…
AN: Designing golf courses?! Good one, Brian!
BSM: There’s people out there! That’s what they do, man! (laughs)
AN: I just love that that had to be your first example…(more laughter)
BSM: So, there’s that. The first big thing we did was to get out of our hometown, get out of our comfort zone. To try and play music, to try and develop that fanbase….and whatever you do to make that happen, know there are a lot of sacrifices, but you gotta weigh all that. “Do I like having nice clothes, a new car, and a fancy apartment? Or am I gonna rough it out for 3, 5, 10 years?” There’s a big gap there. But, you gotta keep going, you gotta keep moving…and the last band standing wins.
AN: Very much in that same vein, you gotta get good at your craft. You wanna be in a band? Be a musician? Get good at music. (laughs) It kind of gets overlooked. A lot of people think it’s just a rockstar game. Like Brian said, there’s a lot more slugging it out. That comes with anything – again, building golf courses, building houses, whatever. So hone your craft. Don’t expect it to be handed to you. And if it is handed to you, I’d be very skeptical.
GEMINI SYNDROME WILL BE PERFORMING LIVE AT CLUB L.A. IN DESTIN, FL ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17TH WITH DEADSET SOCIETY & SPOKEN. TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE NOW AT ROCKDESTIN.COM