The Spotlight – Aistis

February 20, 2017 // whatsontrack
Photo: Rima Sater

Aistis, also known as Aistis Cepinskas (born April 29, 1995), is a Canadian folk musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from London, Ontario, Canada. Aistis blends folk music with rich textural layering of orchestral arrangements, lush vocal harmonies, country-western twang, and ethereal indie rock. Equipped with wit and beauty, as well as a focus on destroying the tropes in which songwriters must write, Aistis’ music is new, in a familiar way. Recorded and written over the course of 2016, Aistis’ upcoming debut full-length album titled “Love Me, I’m Bored” covers a diverse range of topics and ideas soaked in personal intimacy, as well as brute but sincere honesty. Discussing themes such as the unconventional aspects of love, the cancer that is romanticism and idealization, and exploring themes of existentialism by asking the questions and acknowledging the worries that every common person faces, Aistis is an artist that has a distinct idea in what he is trying to achieve, both lyrically and sonically.

As a musician, are you influenced or affected by other art forms equally? 

While all art impacts my life in different ways, to say whether they impact me equally is a hard thing to grasp, that I don’t think I have a direct answer to. There are certain art forms that I know are directly stimulating my mind and influencing my life in real time as I am digesting the works, while I find that other art forms may affect and trigger inspiration without me consciously realizing at the time or ever at all. For example, I know that I often have a direct emotional response when listening to music, reading literature, looking at photographs or watching films, which immediately cause me to either take something from it or discard of it, based on how I react with it at the time. Then, there are certain types of art that I may experience but not know what to think of. I may then forget about that experience as a whole, but because I was exposed to it, in some strange subconscious manner it may creep into my own work or writing. I think that conscious exposure of anything, whether that is looking at a piece of art, looking at an apple, or admiring your own self-pity, can influence your own work and life. If you listen closely right now, you can faintly hear the thoughts of people reading this thinking, “God, what a pretentious asshole.” Babies, just you wait. We’re only on question one. 

How long have you been working on this album? Does it represent a specific point in time/event or is it a part of an ongoing narrative?

The album was primarily written in late 2015 into early 2016, and was then recorded over the timeframe of February 2016 – January 2017. The album was initially written about a very specific point and time in my life, but later transformed into a few different experiences that shared commonalities, causing it to become more of an ongoing narrative. One that I hope to rid myself of for the well being of future loved ones haha. While most of the album was written at a time of love loss, it was written in a very direct response and analysis to the way I carried myself through these new experiences of love and intimacy. It is the opposite of the “I love you, I miss you, come back to me” sort of love-loss writing, and is more along the lines of “Am I really this crazy fucking cowboy that cannibalizes his own experiences and can’t control his negative emotions, despite deeply emotionally caring for these people he’s intimately involved with?” I see it as more a focus and analysis of my experiences and actions, viewed from an outside perspective. There is a comedic dichotomy that happens throughout the album. From a writing perspective, it is very much intended to be the most selfless representation of myself, showing that despite the toxicity and inability to handle the wide array of new emotions experienced for the first time, that it all came from a deeper place of love and affection. Regardless of how it may have been portrayed at face value, at that time. The comedy of the writing is that these songs, when looked at on paper, are exclusively about me from a first person, self-analytical perspective. That, in it’s own, could be seen as selfish and making it once again absorbed in vanity, regardless of the selfless intent of the subject matter. That is something that I personally really like about the album. Lyrically, a lot of things were re-written later on in the recording process, to accommodate the new experiences that had occurred in my life. I think the spaced out time spent recording really allowed me to narrow down what it was I was trying to say with this album, and made the whole thing less of a direct emotional reactionary response, and made it a little bit more level headed. 

A little birdy once told me you’ve got a passion for winter surfing… WHAT?

 It’s more that I have an overall general passion for surfing, but my geographical location restricts the surfing to primarily only the cold winter months haha. Since the surfing takes place on the Great Lakes, the waves are wind generated. The main times that there are winds high enough to generate good waves are usually only in the colder months. Therefore, if you want to surf here, you have to be ready to brace the cold. It’s super fun though. It’s always a thrill and a really great time to head out on an early morning with a few pals, intending to hopefully catch as many limited waves as you can in the time that you’re given. 

It takes a village to raise a child, sure… but how/with whom did you go about making the album?

A lot of this album came to be through beautiful happenstance. I knew I wanted to make these songs very large with lots of instrumentation and diversity, but also knew that it would be a hard thing to do without ever having publicly released anything to use as musical reference point. I was introduced to Simon Larochette at a concert one night in late 2015, and told him that I had an ambitious and kind of crazy idea for an album I wanted to make as an unknown artist. He seemed intrigued, so we planned a time to meet and discuss it all. After we met, we ended up talking all night and I immediately knew that this is who I wanted to make an album with. From that point on, Simon and I became close friends and went through the whole process together, both equally as invested in making this album as close to what we both thought it could be. Initially, there were a lot of questions up in the air when we first started tracking, such as, “Who do we want to sing female vocals?” and, “Where do we want to record piano?” etc.  Through ways that I still don’t quite understand, all of these questions got answered organically without ever having to stress about them, with results exceeding what even we expected. For the female vocals, I knew that one of my best friends Tania Dupon-Martinez was a lovely singer, and that she was also a close friend of Misha Bower’s, who I was already a super big fan of. From there, I got introduced to Misha one night at a concert of hers, around the time that we needed to record the female vocals. After her show, I simply asked her if she would like to sing with Tania on this album that Simon and I were making, and the rest is history. We became friends of our own, and the two of them added their perpetual dreaminess to the songs I wanted them to sing on. I love them and am definitely forever indebted to them. This sort of scenario of meeting people through friends is pretty much what happened with everyone that played on this album. Everyone was friends of friends, that later became friends of my own. Life is weird like that. I’m still sometimes surprised when I think about the different people we got to play on this album. I really love that there are so many people that I’m inspired by involved in it all. 

What was your top concert-going situation?

There are so many concerts that I have been to that I have had really good times at, but the funniest is probably the time Mac Demarco played at Field Trip in Toronto a few summers back. Pretty much, I was visiting my brother in Toronto, and I got really drunk by myself at his apartment. I knew a handful of friends of mine were going to the show, but tickets were already sold out and I was also pretty broke (still am, don’t worry).  In my drunken oblivion, I decided it would be a genius idea to try and sneak into the festival. I walked down to where the festival was taking place, and from a bridge, planned my route of attack while scoping out the festival grounds. I ended up crossing a couple of railroad tracks, hopping a series of 10-foot fences, trudging through dense vegetation of overhead raspberry bushes, before eventually ending up inside of the festival. Somehow, I did this unnoticed, and realized that I actually ended up in the backstage area.  From there, I somehow got past security and watched the concert side-stage with only a few others. I danced with some girl the whole time and I only ended up meeting my friends once the concert was done. It was really ridiculous and stupid but it’s definitely a funny concert story of mine.

 You’ll be hitting the road soon, anything you want to bring to the table for the tour?

Confetti cannons to go off at the end of every song. So that when the show is done, you can see nothing of the floor and only confetti. In a dream scenario, there is no one in the audience to take away from the confetti. I’m pretty sure every artist has this dream though. I’m no different. I’m only human.  How much does confetti cost anyway? Maybe when applying to musical touring grants people should write that they intend to use the government money for confetti cannons. There is no way they don’t seem like the real deal after that.

What do you use to record? What’s the process?

I use my home recordings more so for ideas and demos than to publicly release anything. I then bring those demos to someone who knows how to properly engineer what I want to create, and we proceed from there. At home, I have a few microphones, a midi interface, a midi-keyboard, and then use either Ableton or Pro Tools

What was the concept behind the video?

The video, which was directed and made by Andrew Wyton, is meant to showcase the opposing personalities of one person, and how ones ego/narcissism can unexpectedly overtake and destroy the humility within them, when experiencing new emotions for the first time. It is supposed to show how the primitive emotions of jealousy, possession, and ego can destroy and get in the way of a person and the way they previously viewed themselves as. In short, it is a battle of oneself knowing how they should act from an intellectual standpoint towards their personal relationships, but being unable to control their overall negative emotional traits, causing them to act in toxic manors.

What do you think about the current trend of musicians looking to classic country artists like Bon Iver and Twin bandit drawing on John Prine, Emmylou on First Aid Kit; for inspiration.

I think that musicians will always find new influence from past music that resonates with them and inspires them. It’s inevitable that if something from the past connects with you personally, in one way or another you will bring a part of that into your own work. Some artists choose to do so in a more noticeable way, where you can see the influence a little more directly, while others choose to do so more discretely. I think the reason people look to the music of the past in a romanticized way is because that music has survived the test of time. If a piece of work has outlived the timeframe it was released in, and still connects with people on a worldwide basis in the present day, surely there is something of substance that makes that work timeless. I think most artists have a goal of having their own work surpass their physical selves, so that is why people look to the past as opposed to the present.  Reason being that there is no way to tell whether new music will survive time. Only time can tell.

Anything else?

 I’ve had 4 coffees and no food throughout this interview. My body hates me but I wouldn’t change a thing.


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