American Aquarium announce new album & release new single ‘Crier’

American Aquarium
Pair Unbridled Spirit With Illuminating Empathy On New
Shooter Jennings-Produced Album
The Fear Of Standing Still – Out July 26th

Listen to ‘Crier’- a gloriously ferocious track that swiftly obliterates worn-out ideals of masculine behaviour – here

Photo credit Joshua Black Wilkins
For nearly two decades, American Aquarium have pushed toward that rare form of rock-and-roll that’s revelatory in every sense. “For us the sweet spot is when you’ve got a rock band that makes you scream along to every word, and it’s not until you’re coming down at three a.m. that you realise those words are saying something real about your life,” says frontman BJ Barham. “That’s what made us fall in love with music in the first place, and that’s the goal in everything we do.”

On their new album The Fear of Standing Still, out July 26th via Losing Side Records/Thirty Tigers, the North Carolina-bred band embody that dynamic with more intensity than ever before, endlessly matching their gritty breed of country-rock with Barham’s bravest and most incisive songwriting to date. As he reflects on matters both personal and sociocultural—e.g., the complexity of Southern identity, the intersection of generational trauma and the dismantling of reproductive rights—American Aquarium instil every moment of The Fear of Standing Still with equal parts unbridled spirit and illuminating empathy.

Recorded live at the legendary Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, The Fear of Standing Still marks American Aquarium’s second outing with producer Shooter Jennings—a three-time Grammy winner who also helmed production on 2020’s critically lauded Lamentations, as well as albums from the likes of Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker. In a departure from the stripped-down subtlety of 2022’s Chicamacomico (a largely acoustic rumination on grief), the band’s tenth studio LP piles on plenty of explosive riffs and hard-charging rhythms, bringing a visceral energy to the most nuanced and poetic of lyrics. “In our live show the band’s like a freight train that never lets up, and for this record I really wanted to showcase how big and anthemic we can be,” notes Barham, whose bandmates include guitarist Shane Boeker, pedal-steel guitarist Neil Jones, keyboardist Rhett Huffman, drummer Ryan Van Fleet, and bassist Alden Hedges.

Mixed by four-time Grammy winner Trina Shoemaker (Queens of the Stone Age, Emmylou Harris), The Fear of Standing Still shares its title with one of the first songs Barham wrote for the album—a soul-baring look at how raising a family has radically altered his priorities and perspective. In the process of creating what he refers to as “a record about growing up and growing older,” Barham also found his songwriting closely informed by his ten years of sobriety, as well as his ever-deepening connection with American Aquarium’s community of fans. “Whenever someone tells me that one of our songs helped them in some way, it encourages me to be more and more open—almost like peeling a layer off an onion,” he says. “This album is a writer 18 years into his career, peeling away the next layer and seeing just how human we can make this thing.”

Expanding on the raw vitality of previous albums like 2012’s Jason Isbell-produced Burn.Flicker.DieThe Fear of Standing Still kicks offs with ‘Crier’, a gloriously ferocious track that swiftly obliterates worn-out ideals of masculine behaviour. “It’s a song about breaking down what many of us learned from our fathers growing up—this idea that boys don’t cry, or that crying is a form of weakness,” says Barham, who co-wrote ‘Crier’ with singer/songwriter Stephen Wilson Jr. “I wanted to send the message that it’s not natural to bottle everything up inside, because all of us are meant to feel.” Fuelled by a savage and soaring vocal performance from Barham, the result is a perfect encapsulation of American Aquarium’s multilayered artistry. “I don’t think anyone’s going to get through that first listen of ‘Crier’ and think, ‘Wow, what a great song about disrupting the cycle of toxic masculinity!’” Barham points out. “It seems more likely that it’ll make them want to dance and jump around, and then when they put the headphones on and listen a little closer to the lyrics, that’s when they’ll start to understand what we’re talking about.”

A resolutely outspoken artist who’s emerged as one of the most progressive voices in country music, Barham infuses an element of trenchant social commentary into a number of tracks on The Fear of Standing Still. On ‘Southern Roots’, for instance, Georgia-born singer/songwriter Katie Pruitt joins American Aquarium for a spellbinding meditation on pushing against the boundaries of traditional Southern identity. Another song anchored in Barham’s ardent belief in breaking generational patterns, ‘Babies Having Babies’ arrives as a finespun piece of storytelling that doubles as an emphatic pro-choice anthem. “It’s a mix of fiction and personal experience, and felt like an important story to tell at a time when a woman’s right to choose is being taken away,” says Barham. While American Aquarium bring a lived-in intimacy to all of The Fear of Standing Still, songs like ‘Cherokee Purples’ encompass a particularly tender emotionality. A wistful reminiscence of all the charmed and wild summers of Barham’s youth, the track unfolds in so many gorgeously detailed images (kudzu vines and fireflies, menthol cigarettes and Big League Chew), each rendered with a loving specificity that lingers in the listener’s heart.

For Barham, the sharing of hard truths is indelibly tied to his sense of devotion to American Aquarium’s audience—and to his belief in rock-and-roll as a singularly unifying force. “All I really want to do is put words to the emotions that most people have a difficult time expressing on their own,” he reveals. “No matter what that emotion is, when you put it into a song and then get to those moments when a whole bunch of people are singing that song all together, it makes you see that you’re part of something bigger than you ever realised. That’s when you can really affect people’s lives, and to me this record is another stepping stone to making that a reality.”

Pre-order/pre-save The Fear of Standing Still here

(photo credit Joshua Black Wilkins)

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