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|Nothing But the Truth
The Honorary Title’s Aaron Kamstra gets candid about his musical peers,
the failures of rock journalists and that pesky emo label
May 11, 2005
by Ashley Graham
The Honorary Title knows all about being slapped with that pesky emo tag. Since the release of their debut LP Anything Else But the Truth in June 2004, they have been dealing with the comparisons, labels and stereotypes that come with such an association. “I don’t even know what emo is,” instrumentalist Aaron Kamstra said in the midst of the band’s recent tour, “When I think of emo I think of some really shitty bands, bands out right now that I can’t tell the difference between, and they’re starting to be the emo mascot.”
Kamstra isn’t afraid to be candid. He’s not yet some jaded businessman afraid to talk, like so many of his peers. He’s still a musician, he still has opinions and he doesn’t seem to mind sharing them. And The Honorary Title’s music echoes that idea. While Kamstra sees the labels the band receives as a detriment to their possibly more extensive fan base were it not a part of nearly every review about them, he’s also quick to point to the positive. “We’re sort of injected into this scene and we’re providing an alternative for kids and showing them that there is more to a rock show. Their minds are like sponges so being able to go in and play a piano song in front of a bunch of kids waiting to see Taking Back Sunday is good.”
With crowds that Kamstra categorizes as “always kids,” providing that alternative is important and the band is eager to join tours that combine a variety of genres and personalities. Their most recent tour has seen them between the likes of Spitalfield, Gratitude, Straylight Run and Minus the Bear, and while Kamstra can’t cite any of the bands as his immediate favorites, he’s glad to grab the exposure they offer THT to different audiences. “I don’t [like to headline] now, I don’t feel like we’re ready,” he said, “Our fans are into Straylight. My least favorite [on the tour] I think is Spitalfield, but that’s why it’s good to have bands like [them] on because they bring us new crowds and we can combine our crowds together. We definitely have a lot of fans, and we’ve been touring a lot so it’s been starting to build up.” And those fans come not just in the form of emo-rocking teens.
Reviews of THT’s debut have been resoundingly positive and have earned them an array of comparisons to some of music’s most amazing. Read Spin and you’ll get Elvis Costello, Rolling Stone will give you Jeff Buckley and Bright Eyes, and Stuff will offer up Nick Drake and Elliott Smith and the list continues. And though they read the reviews, Kamstra remains modest on their alleged musical counterparts. “I don’t really see the comparisons, but I’m really into all of those people and to be even in the same paragraph is cool.”
He’s also noticed, though, that the reviews seem to be repeating themselves, offering the same tired comparisons and critiques of the music he and singer/songwriter Jarrod Gorbel have created. “It can [get frustrating] in the sense that creative journalism is an art and people don’t really know that. I love it when people really listen to the album and really have something to say about it, whether it’s good or bad. The frustrating part is when they are just writing the obvious and there’s no depth. And I don’t care if someone trashes the album; it’s always good to get some perspective.”
The beginnings of The Honorary Title start with Gorbel, who is responsible for most of the writing on the band’s debut. Kamstra credits Gorbel with introducing him to the appeal of pop music, after a background primarily steeped in the classical music of his youth and the instrumental and experimental bands he formed prior to meeting Gorbel. “I never thought of being in a pop band, ever,” Kamstra said, “Then I met Jarrod and I thought ‘Hmm’ and we started playing together and here I am, I never thought about it.”
The next album from THT promises to be quite different than the first, as the two worlds of the musicians begin to mesh. While Anything Else But the Truth was written predominately before Gorbel and Kamstra even met, in fact, the only song they share credits on is the single “Bridge and Tunnel,” the next album will be collaborative, with both musicians sharing writing duties.
For now the touring continues and by playing shows with bands from Tegan & Sara to Rufio and from Sea Ray to Switchfoot the boys are hoping to help to establish THT as a band independent of the tags they’ve been branded with. Kamstra says touring with bands like Spitalfield and Gratitude is something he “never thought would ever happen.” And he’s not straying too far from his core audience. “Idealistically I want to be the coolest hipster band in the world where only grown-ups come, but kids are the ones making shit happen right now and they grow up and can be supporting me when I’m older.”
The Honorary Title begins their next tour May 24 in Memphis, Tennessee with Lucero and Cory Branan. For more information visit www.thehonorarytitle.com or www.myspace.com/thehonorarytitle.