Aaron Gillespie is a man obsessed. Whether he’s out in front of The Almost, his celebrated rock-based band, or behind the drum kit for Underoath, the Clearwater, Florida-bred songwriter/musician can’t help but throw himself into everything he does.
The Almost's debut CD Southern Weather, lets Gillespie put a different, more melodic side of himself on display. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his idol Dave Grohl, who stepped out from behind his drum kit to capture the rock world’s hearts as one of the genre’s most visible frontmen, Gillespie has begun a metamorphosis.
The Almost’s debut affirms they’re clearly worthy. Consider that Southern Weather rocketed onto The Billboard 200 at #39 in April 2007. It has sold nearly a quarter of a million copies since release and has earned the band the distinction of being an MTV/MTV2/mtvU Discover & Download artist. It also landed Aaron on the cover of Alternative Press and an outside stage performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
For Southern Weather, Gillespie aligned with acclaimed, Seattle-based producer Aaron Sprinkle, renowned producer of Pedro the Lion and they hit it off instantly.
Looking at the credits for Southern Weather, one could surmise that The Almost is a solo project for Aaron Gillespie – for he plays nearly every instrument on the disc. But as the album was coming together, the band was coming together as well. Gillespie had already recruited wunderkind drummer Kenny Bozich, who was only 16 at the time. Then he met Jay Vilardi, who’d been recommended to him by Underoath’s drum tech.
“Aaron played ‘Say It Sooner’ for me first,” says Vilardi, “and I remember thinking ‘wow, this song is pretty sweet, it’s definitely something different.’” Aaron Gillespie followed with “Southern Weather” and Vilardi was sold. “Right away, I thought about how cool it would be to play live, because it’s a little heavier,” he says. The two jammed and by the end of the night, Jay Vilardi had signed on as guitar player – a job description that got a whole lot bigger the following day.
“I’ve got to travel with Underoath,” Gillespie told him. “But we need to hire some guys, teach them the songs, put together a rehearsal schedule – could you do that?”
And that’s what Jay Vilardi proceeded to do, first adding bass player Alex Aponte and eventually relocating the band to Salt Lake City, where Gillespie’s family had moved. With the three holed up in the basement of Gillespie’s new house (dubbing themselves “team homeless,” Vilardi recalls), they continued fine tuning the songs, bringing on guitarist Nick D’Amico (who subsequently left the band and has been replaced by Dusty Redmon, formerly of Dead Poetic and Beloved).
Aaron Gillespie returned from tour and, after a three-hour rehearsal (their first as a full band), The Almost drove to Los Angeles for their first gig – a sold-out show at Anaheim’s Chain Reaction.
Southern Weather debuted to rave reviews, scoring a three-and-a-half star review from Spin, an “On the Verge” feature in USA Today and a cover story in Alternative Press.
The powerful video for the title track of their debut album "Stormy Weather", directed by Shane Drake , juxtaposes the band’s swamp’s edge performance with a striking montage of footage evoking the land and its people. (All of the band members grew up in the South – Gillespie, Bozich and Aponte in Florida and Redmon in North Carolina – with the exception of Vilardi, who was born and raised in Southern California.)
Between his own duties out in front of The Almost and Underoath’s schedule, Gillespie has his hands full. (As does Vilardi, who now doubles as Underoath’s guitar tech.) After The Almost’s spring outings with Paramore, Say Anything, Classic Case and Forgive Durden, the band played the 2007 Vans Warped tour.
The Almost’s No Gift To Bring, a five-song EP produced by Underoath’s lead guitarist, Tim McTague, followed in November 2008. The collection is an eclectic one, offering up a brand new song (the achingly introspective “Awful Direction”), a cover song, radically new versions of two tracks from Southern Weather (“Dirty And Left Out” and “Amazing Because It Is”) and Gillespie’s take on a classic Christmas song, “Little Drummer Boy.”
The Almost’s second album for Tooth & Nail /Virgin Records, Monster Monster, began taking shape just as soon as the band came off the road after touring for their 2007 debut, Southern Weather, including a stint on that summer’s Warped tour.
The now thoroughly road-tested band was intent to make their latest a completely collaborative effort, melding their talents into a whole that was more than the sum of its individual parts. The process began with Vilardi, Redmon and Aponte e-mailing files back and forth to Gillespie, who was busy penning lyrics and coming up with musical ideas of his own while touring with Underoath, before all four of them got together in the studio to jam and work out the arrangements.
With the addition of drummer Joe (former Beloved drummer and current vocalist for Advent) Musten (Gillespie played all the drums on the album), The Almost is ready to hit the road and do what they do best, play for their increasing fan base around the country.
For now, Aaron Gillespie is a firm believer in his ability to balance both bands. “Underoath is extremely special to me,” he says of the group, which he co-founded in 1998.
“Whereas with The Almost, we’ve got a much broader scope,” continues Gillespie “From a 12-year-old listening to her iPod on the school bus to a 38-year-old guy commuting on a train, I’m excited by the fact that this music can find an audience with a lot of different people.”
Listen to The Almost Here
|Southern Weather||2007||Tooth & Nail/Virgin Records|
|No Gift to Bring||2008||Tooth & Nail Records|
|Monster EP (Hot Topic Exclusive)||2009||Tooth & Nail Records|
|Monster Monster||2009||Tooth & Nail/Virgin Records|