Sing me a story

For a two-man electro-funk outfit from Austin, Ghostland Observatory can be pretty galvanizing. Their simple approach tends to either set listeners to gnashing their teeth over its derivative nature or into a frenzy on the dance floor. Simple beats, cheesy synth hooks, and Aaron Behrens’ Prince-meets-Freddie Mercury voice are not built for serious consideration but can be a damn good time. Couple that with the band’s storied live show, replete with capes and lasers, and you’ve got an indulgence worth, well, indulging in. We caught up with Behrens on the road to Reno to discuss caged tigers, shock and awe, and self-criticism.

So, that voice. When and how did you discover that you had it? Honestly, I think the voice is something that was developed around a passion. It was a thing of necessity. I actually had to sing like that because Thomas’s electronics were so loud. I actually had to find a frequency that would pierce through it.

Were you a singer growing up, or did you start really singing with Ghostland? I was always a performer, always a frontman. I used to lip-sync all the time. I would perform, but I wouldn’t sing. I had a band called Dismount in high school, and I started singing with them. I guess it wasn’t really singing; it was more screaming and cussing. That’s great for adolescence, but if you were going to take it further, it doesn’t really do much unless I was a gangsta rapper.

Did you or do you ever feel self-conscious just belting it out like that? You know, sometimes on the high notes, if I haven’t properly warmed up … but for the most part, I don’t, man. I’m such a loud mouth anyway; it’s just really natural for me to sing that high, just belting it out. And it feels so damn good, you know? I love it, the chance to open up and not be restricted. It’s wonderful.

Was there a conscious decision behind changing the way you sing on Codename: Rondo? There was. I just didn’t feel like doing that anymore. At least not for this album. I wanted to explore different territories ... It’s not completely different, just a little more toned down, more precision, in the way of telling a story.

How does the new stuff play to audiences? I can only imagine that your audience is expecting that from you. Oh, they get it. They definitely still get it. Our live shows are so much, and we put so much into it. You get the theatrics. You get the movement. You get the “being too close to the tiger in the cage” type thrill.

Can you describe the typical Ghostland Observatory show? Yeah, it’s balls to the wall, 100 percent of the time, dude. From the get go, you know you’re in for something. When you see those lasers flash on, you know you’re in for something different. We’re here for shock and awe.

Do you think you’re ever going to put out a live record to capture the energy of your live show? I continue to say that’s a brilliant idea. If I can get everybody on board for that, I don’t see how that thing could miss, at all. We might wait a couple albums down the line then do a double Blu-ray DVD box set of all the live shows, four hours of non-stop entertainment!

How did it feel to be in your own audience, sort of? I love it. This is probably going to sound so self-centered, but that’s what I’ve done from the beginning, from being a little kid, I used to watch myself. That’s a way I’ve honed in on how to get better. You know how football players will watch the game back again the next morning? That’s what I do. I’ve always been my hardest critic. Nobody can say anything about me that’s gonna honestly hurt me, because I’ve always been my worst critic.

OK, be as critical as you can of your brand new record. Hmm … I can’t be critical of my own record. That’s something that has never even come into my mind. It’s more or less my personal performance. I honestly feel like you can’t blame a person for capturing that moment of time. If anybody has ever made a record, no one can ever knock it, dude. I mean, they can knock it, they can say all they want, but they can’t really knock it because that’s just the way it is, man. Get over it. Can’t go back now. I’m proud of it. I want people to hate it, and I want people to love it. •

Ghostland Observatory
7pm Fri, Dec 3
17200 N SH 16, Helotes

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