In the spring of 2015, Aaron Fink made his first foray into a solo career with “Saint Sylvania,” his debut album. Now the long-time guitarist turned frontman is back with his sophomore effort, “Heavy Feathers,” less than a year after the debut.
Listeners expecting Fink’s solo output to mirror the work he did as a member of heavy alternative rock juggernaut Breaking Benjamin would be rightly surprised, as Fink’s songs live in a much grittier, straightforward rock world, which you can hear for yourself in our exclusive debut of “Damned If I Do,” the lead track on the album which will be released on Feb. 5.
Fink, who wrote all of the songs on “Heavy Feathers,” recorded the album at his Northeastern Pa. home, co-producing alongside Paul Smith, his bandmate in Gentleman East and the former bassist of The Badlees.
We chatted with Fink about his growth as a solo artist, the making of “Heavy Feathers” (including his work behind the drum kit) and the talented cast of characters that join him at his live shows and as guest players on the record. He’ll celebrate the release of the album with two Wilkes-Barre, Pa., shows next week: a full-band electric show at Bart & Urby’s on Friday, Feb. 5, and an acoustic performance and CD signing at Gallery of Sound the following afternoon.
When did you realize you wanted to do a second solo album, and why?
Probably while I was still doing the first one, just because I have a catalog of quite a few songs in the last five years. Some of them on the new record are brand new, and then some of them are older and I’m playing catchup at this point. It’s just kind of about writing some songs and getting some ideas out of my head and throwing them out into the world and seeing if anyone else likes my music. That’s kind of all it is.
Was making the second album a smoother process than the first one?
Yeah, I felt a little more confident doing shows as a lead singer, I have some of that under my belt now, and I feel more confident as a producer, an arranger. Obviously I’ve been making records for a long time but mostly as a guitar player, so I have that in my back pocket that I can always grasp onto, but now I’m opening the door to other stuff, playing different instruments and singing and writing and producing. It’s hard to organize everything when you’re trying to put on all those different hats, so that’s the hard part, but I felt a little more confident this time around.
I see you behind the drums in the EPK (electronic press kit). How much drumming did you do on the album?
I played nine out of 10 (songs).
What was that experience like, tracking the drums?
Whenever I was in bands, I’d go back during break and I’d tinker around on the drums. I didn’t have my own kit until 1999 or 2000. So I’ve been playing for a while, I’m no expert or anything, I guess I’m like a solid rock drummer. And I’ve played with so many great drummers over the years that I got a couple lessons here and there, a couple tips, and just watching guys that I’d played with who were badass. I’m not sure if it rubbed off on me or not (laughs), but hopefully it did. The music I’m trying to create isn’t like Rush or Dream Theater, so it’s kind of like I’m just chasing a good, solid rock song, so the drumming for what I’m trying to do doesn’t have to be anything amazing. Plus I just had some fun; I’ve been playing drums for a while, so I was like, if I’m not good enough to record on some tracks after 15 years…
How would you describe the material on “Heavy Feathers”?
On the last album I didn’t know if I was starting a new rock band or making a solo record. When I listened to the first one, I liked the songs; it sounds like a full-on rock band. This time, I had it out of the gate in my mind that I was making a solo record, so it was a little more, I wouldn’t say lighter, they’re all still rock songs, but it’s a little more focused and a little airier sounding for lack of a better word. Mostly it’s another batch of 10 songs that I wrote that I thought were kinda cool. So that’s mostly what it is. I still feel that if I keep putting out music in this fashion that I would further refine what I’m trying to do. I still feel like I’m finding my sea legs. I think that’s always the process. If an artist thinks to themselves, well, I’m a finished product, that’s when it starts to suck.
Who all played on the record?
The last time I played bass, and this time I was working with Paul Smith, who’s an awesome bass player, so I felt like it was foolish to not have someone that killer sitting with me the whole time not play bass, so I just kind of showed him the songs and Paul collaborated on it and took it to the next level. I had a couple people come in and sing guest vocals, one was Kaylin Karr who’s in a band called Skip Monday. Bret Alexander sang on one song, Adam McKinley from Suze sang on a song, this guy who I play with from time to time, his name is Jeff Brozena, he played tablas on a song, Pat Flynn played on a song, I think that was it.
Will you be performing alone for the acoustic show at Gallery of Sound?
I usually play with Pat Flynn. Pat plays with me live and he’s kind of becoming my right-hand man. He does all of the other guitar parts and he sings background vocals. He’s a really awesome guitar player in his own right.
Who will be in your band for the Bart & Urby’s show?
Bart & Urby’s will be Josh [Karis, Fink’s former Stardog Champion bandmate], Pat, myself, Dustin Douglas [bass] and Vince Saracino is going to play keys on some songs.
Aaron Fink’s Heavy Feathers will be released Friday, Feb. 5. He’ll perform a full-band electric show at Bart & Urby’s (119 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre) on Friday, Feb. 5 at 10 p.m. and appear at Gallery of Sound (186 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre) on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. for an acoustic set and CD signing. For more information on Aaron, visit aaronfink.net.