Two for the road
Aloud ramps up its sound, pares down the band, and hits the road with ‘Exile’
CAMBRIDGE — The Boston rock outfit Aloud is proof positive that, sometimes, less really can be more. And despite their moniker, not to mention a reputation around these parts as a band of big hooks and even bigger harmonies, they’ve gotten quieter to prove that point.
The irony isn’t lost on newlywed singer-guitarists Jen de la Osa and Henry Beguiristain, the two founding and lone permanent members of the group. They both break into grins when they consider the notion that their soon-to-be-self-released third album, “Exile,’’ is arguably their most expansive, sophisticated, and stylistically diverse work to date.
And yet, it was written and recorded after the pair had parted ways with their rhythm section, and began brainstorming what they initially thought would be a modest EP.
“We’ve always had a record like this in us, and we’ve always wanted to do a record like this,’’ says Beguiristain over an afternoon coffee at a Harvard Square eatery. “But we started out writing songs as therapy, just to have something to do because we didn’t have a steady band to play shows with. But given the circumstances, we just said, let’s go all the way and make something that’s unplayable live!’’
Beguiristain’s being facetious — sort of — but he’s referring to the layers of piano, euphonium, trumpet, and even a string section, that create a multitextured template for songs that roam and veer from ruminative (“Burning Bright’’) to strident (“Counterfeit Star’’) to quietly harrowing and haunted (“To Die at Sea’’).
De la Osa and Beguiristain say that being a mutually intuitive duo this time around, rather than a democratic foursome with, as Beguiristain puts it, “four hands on the steering wheel,’’ played a crucial role in the conception and execution of “Exile.’’ The newly stripped-down dynamic forced them to take stock of what they wanted out of a creative partnership that, at this point, stretches nearly 10 years.
“We had to adjust to a new situation, but what we had to realize was that no matter what happened, Aloud was always going to be Henry and me,’’ says de la Osa. “That’s the only way we were going to survive and keep making records. We have a partnership in every aspect of the word.’’
“If I quit the band,’’ says Beguiristain with a nod, “my entire life falls apart.’’
“Exile’’ is a slow but powerful burn, made all the more so once you learn that just about everything about it — from its title to the narrative thread that runs through tracks such as “The Urgent Letter’’ and “Exile in the Night’’ — reflects the duo’s contemplation of their separate but shared experiences growing up in Miami as the children of grandparents and parents who fled Cuba.
“That’s why we were allowed to call it ‘Exile,’ ’’ says de la Osa, alluding to the title of the similarly titled, slightly famous Rolling Stones album. “Because we’ve got some exiles in our family, actually.’’
Both singer-songwriters had been reading works by Reinaldo Arenas, the exiled Cuban poet and author, as a way of connecting with roots that ran deep but had gone underground. “Our parents came to the States when they were 4 or 5 years old, and they grew up with the music of the Beatles and the Who,’’ says Beguiristain. “So it’s always been weird for us to comment on that [Cuban] aspect of our history. You almost feel defensive and weird about it, because you’ve always been trying to get away from it.’’
Ultimately, “Exile’’ is about “coming to terms with our backgrounds and exploring that,’’ says de la Osa. “You heard the word ‘exile’ so much growing up in our families, as in, ‘We weren’t immigrants, we were exiles.’ There’s a big difference, because you wanted to go back, and you were being torn away from your home and school as a kid.’’
Aloud is about to embark on its first-ever coast-to-coast US tour next month. They’ve bought the van, given up the lease on their apartment, and quit their day jobs. Joining them for the jaunt will be bassist Charles Murphy and drummer James Willetts, who also plays with the Boston band Silent Century. To kick things off, Aloud will celebrate the CD release of “Exile’’ with a headlining show next Thursday at Church. The concert includes a special orchestra and choir made up of musical friends and allies.
All of which makes the sense of displacement at the thematic core of “Exile’’ more than a little ironic. Like an increasing amount of self-released music these days, Aloud’s album was fan-funded via the online fund-raising resource, Kickstarter, to the tune of roughly $5,000, which has helped the group recoup recording expenses, hire a publicist, and prepare for its most ambitious undertaking. The outpouring of support, de la Osa and Beguiristain say, has been gratifying.
“It’s funny that with an album called ‘Exile,’ ’’ says Beguiristain, “I feel like we finally have a place in the community.’’
Jonathan Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.