When Jason Aaron Coons re-teamed with his college friend and music producer Tom Daugherty to collaborate on Coons’ sophomore album Ride, both of them hungered for a sound they had only just missed the first time around.
“The first album was straight-up rock pop,” Coons says. “At the time I was trying to make more a synth-pop album, but it ended up being a little more rock than I wanted. But Tom and I have gotten better, and we’ve finally created the kind of sound we originally set out to make.”
That fine-tuned sound is packaged in a record which consistently delivers, transitioning fluidly from the up-tempo rhythms of a voice embracing the impulsiveness of youth to the more sedate and thoughtful pace of a speaker nearing adulthood.
“This record is my interpretation of my own awakening,” Coons says. “I’m 29 years old, and I’m not a kid, anymore. The record really focuses on that transition from that general, youthful happiness we all feel when we’re first out on our own to that sinking realization that life is full of challenges. It’s not a concept-album by any means, but by the end of it you really do get that sense that, ‘Yeah, we’ve all grown up.’” Coons’ thematic evolution makes itself evident in the first three tracks—including the album’s titular track—which speaks to the joys of the careless life rushing past us in that fleeting window of time when we’ve emerged on the adult scene without any of the inconvenient worries that come later. Late in the record “Nations” tries to hang onto such youthful whims claiming that “We will never grow old…” yet saying so with the hesitant awareness that none of it rings as truth.
Hailing originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Coons moved to Indiana as high-schooler, graduated from Noblesville, and then took his talents to Bloomington where he studied music at Indiana. By the time Coons’ family decided to move back to the South, Coons — now well-adjusted to life in the Midwest — stayed put.
“I love the South and still feel very much attached to it,” Coons says, “but if you meet somebody who’s been to several different places, lived in different parts of the country, and has experienced other cultures then you’ve met somebody who sees the world through a different lens.”
To amplify that diverse perspective, Coons turns to the synthesizer, and while it harkens some listeners to a familiar style from decades ago, the similarities of his music to '80s pop is more coincidental than deliberate.
“Several bands right now seem to be putting out a sound which has a little bit of an '80s flair to it,” he explains, “and a lot of that has to do with the fact that many of the new synthesizer software programs on the market are replicating the original synthesizer sounds from that time. I’m actually using a program which draws from the Access Virus synthesizer — the same kind which Depeche Mode used.”
Besides Daugherty, Coons has also teamed with Owen Thomas — creative designer for The Band Perry, and Daugherty's former bandmate in The Elms — forming a musical, production and artistic trio whose distinct end-product stands out among Circle City performers.
“There really are [no other acts like ours] around here. You know, I’m pop, and I’m not ashamed to say it. People like to make fun of it, but what are most people listening to on the radio right now. Most of those people who make cracks about it are always listening to it, too,” Coons says laughing.
Still a new face in the Indy circle, Coons evokes a mixture of confidence believing he can “go as far as his talent will take him” with a paradoxical awareness that “this is not an easy business.”
“But I trust myself,” he says. “I trust that if I do the right thing and make the best material that I can then people will hear about it, and it will get around. I suppose this is a naïve notion, but it’s also what people like us do. It’s what we have to do. You can’t dwell on the hurdles in front of you if you’re a newly starting independent singer/songwriter…the money needed to get your work heard, for example…but we believe in our talent, and we believe that we can overcome those obstacles.
Nowhere is Jason Aaron Coons’ self-trust more evident than in his explosive use of his synthesizer, transforming him from an extremely talented yet mechanically safe singer in his first record into a dynamically powerful and artistically bold figure in his second.
If you go:
Jason Aaron Coons with Joe Paulson
The Hi-Fi, 1043 Virginia Ave. Ste. 4