by Annabeth Reeb
Known for their powerful lyrics and genuine rock and roll, American Aquarium has built up a large fan base over the past few years. They’ll be playing in College Station on Thursday, October 8 at Boulevard 217—bringing their “roots-rock grit” to the Brazos Valley.
The band consists of six main members, including BJ Barham with vocals and guitar, Ryan Johnson and Colin DiMeo also on guitar, Bill Corbin on bass, Whit Wright on pedal steel guitar, and Kevin McClain on drums. American Aquarium fits right into their steel-heard scruffy rock-and-roll vibe with their from-the-ground-up history. The band met in college at Raleigh before coming together to form American Aquarium. Their first few albums were good, but as many musicians know—it’s hard to catch any traction in the music world. They were struggling to make a living off of their small group of fans and were about to give up before the release of their album, burn.flicker.die. We had a chance to sit down with lead singer, BJ Barham, and asked him to tell us a little about what that initial success was like for the group.
“We were at the end of the rope” said Barham. “We’d been doing it for so long and we weren’t making money or getting ahead. We were putting ourselves further and further into debt and that’s a hard thing for anybody—when you have to face that ultimate question ‘maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing.’”
Part of what makes the band great is how relatable they are. BJ described a phenomenon that can happen to anyone. Their backstory puts reality and passion into their lyrics.
“All of our songs are pretty autobiographical,” BJ explained. “They’re all about things we’ve experienced: heartbreak, drinking, and long nights on the road. They’re personal but everyone knows the emotions, they just have different variations of those emotions.”
Burn.flicker.die ended up being the bands biggest hit, bringing them out of their rough patch. The album itself was inspired by that desperate time in their life, ironically becoming the very thing that brought them out of it.
“The album is disparity 101,” BJ joked. “Desperation breeds creativity. We didn’t have to find out what it would be like to give up on our dreams.”
Their new album, “Wolves,” has enough rock and southern comfort to keep both rock and country fans alike listening and singing along. The track “Wolves” definitely deserves the album title. The song features a killer beat in the intro along with gritty lyrics. Slower songs like “Southern Sadness,” and “Man I’m Supposed to Be” lean on the softer side of rock, making them the perfect songs to wind down your night.
“I really like playing Southern Sadness,” BJ said, “It’s a song about my home town, which a lot of people can relate to. You come from a small town and spend your entire youth trying to get out and then end up missing it when you get older.”
All in all, the band has a unique alternative country sound with lyrics any free-spirited individual can relate to.
The band is excited to get back to College Station.
“A college town on a Thursday night . . . we’re looking forward to it,” BJ said, remembering their last show in Aggieland on Halloween last year. “The kids in College Station always know how to have a good time.”