Among the many catalysts in music production, there remain those experiences and those feelings that initially coax the artist to the drawing board – those that put pen to paper, those that transform verse to song, and those that ultimately bind the artist to their audience both on and off stage. For Andrew Wayne, growing up in New Jersey was no walk in the park. Early on, he suffered from depression, as did many of his friends and family members and by his teens, music had quickly become his outlet for his anger and frustration, much of which stemmed from his mental health and society’s stigma towards it. By 2002, at the age of fourteen, Wayne was heavily focused on raising awareness for those suffering from mental illness and channeled much of his energy through his new-found hobby, guitar playing. As Wayne recalls, “I’ve always kind of grown up in a play-what-you-feel kind of era. Especially, ya know, music is – not that we don’t have our technical aspects – but music [today] is very calculated and technical, and not that it’s a bad thing but it almost kind of sucks the emotion out of it. And I’ve always come from the generation of whatever you feel, let it pour out of you, don’t think about it, don’t think about what key, what mode, what everything else, just play it. If it sounds good, if it speaks to you, then let it come.”
It was right around this time that Aurin was born. In its textbook definition, aurin is an organic compound derived from phenol that forms deep-red crystals, and is often used as an indicator. Wayne was initially drawn to the name for its stark contrast – for while it can be beautiful, it is also extremely toxic. In truth, the name and what it stands for is perhaps the only thing that has remained a constant for the then one-member band. Since then, Aurin has taken on many different forms; admitting various members and experimenting with new line-ups, styles, and even genres over the course of the past twelve years. In 2009, Wayne was joined by drummer Linda Medina and shortly thereafter, Sarah Anderson auditioned and took over as lead vocalist – both a seemingly perfect fit for the band, for not only did their musical styles align but they all shared difficult, yet similar social experiences growing up in Jersey.
They were such a good fit, in fact, that when Aurin officially signed a record deal with Pavement Entertainment in July of 2014 – a dream come true, no doubt – they already had their first record debut locked and loaded. An 11-track, hard rock/alternative metal jam sesh, Catharsis is due out for release on October 14 of this year. “With this current inception – we have Sarah on vocals for our last record and this one and that’s as serious as Aurin’s been – so in a way you can consider it an original, in a way though it’s not, because like I said, the genres and the members were completely different. It is really the name and my idea for what I wanted Aurin to be that stayed the constant,” says Wayne of his official record debut. Indeed, the evolution of the band has been swift and at times, instantaneous. Shortly after the completion of the new album and just a few short weeks before signing with Pavement, bassist Mike Canton was replaced by Joe Palamara. As Wayne recalls, “We parted ways with our bassist a few weeks before signing with Pavement. So, once we signed, we kinda went on this search for a bassist. Luckily, we found Joe – a bassist around these parts is a very rare commodity – we’re from New Jersey, and finding a bassist that isn’t committed to ten other projects is pretty difficult and we were luckily enough to find Joe and he was a perfect fit. He really liked our message and our music and ya know, great personality, great fit for the band, extremely talented, so we could not be more excited to have him on and to write future music with him.”
With Palamara on board, Aurin is looking to expand their future tour beyond the borders of the tri-state area (namely New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, etc.). In comparison with their previous album, Catharsis takes on much “grimier influences,” according to Anderson, who showcases Gwen Stefani-like vocals and whose inspirations range anywhere from Alice & Chains’ Jar of Flies to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Wayne’s musical tastes are also eclectic – seizing inspiration from albums like Staind’s Dysfunction, Cold’s 13 Ways to Bleed Onstage, and even Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.
For both Anderson and Wayne, Catharsis, in particular, has been a step in a darker direction – one that at times, has been both jarring and healing:“We’ve been through a lot in the past couple of years,” says Anderson, “Like Andrew said, we’ve lost a couple of people because of mental illness and the lyrical content in the album definitely addresses the things that we’ve been through such as that.” For instance, the fourth track on the album titled Vermin recalls one of Anderson’s close friends who also suffered from mental illness and was brutally murdered by police earlier this year – another prime example of the fragility of our mental health system and the failures to find constructive outlets for those suffering from such illnesses. For Wayne, the inadequacy of our mental health system became even more apparent when he began working with the mentally ill. “When I was a young kid,” he said, “I suffered from clinical depression and I eventually went to school for psychology and I ended up working in the field. After many years of working, it became – ya know, I started to realize that our system is very broken. You see a lot of people slip through the cracks and people that are quote-unquote ‘getting help’, but it isn’t the real kind of help they need.”
Aurin’s strong message comes to fruition in yet another loss that haunts the 11-track album: the recent death of Wayne’s brother, who also grappled with mental illness and like so many others, eventually lost the life-long battle. For him, writing and playing tracks like The Other Side have been more than simply purgation. It has, in many ways, been a healing process – one that has allowed his darker experiences to fully reveal himself to his music. “Music saved my life,” says Wayne, “There’s no doubt. I think everybody in the band could say that. As far as the lyrical and the musical content, we don’t want to give away what the song meanings are because we want everybody to have their own interpretation, but they all have to do with our experiences: being in poverty, in depression, in having to lose people … this album comes from an even darker place than I think we were even willing to let ourselves reach for our first record. In that respect, it had a cathartic effect and we hope that it has that kind of release and that kind of understanding and that message of you are not alone and there are other people out there with the same, thoughts, [and] feelings, as you.”
It is precisely these experiences, and the thoughts and feelings that come with those, that ultimately connect an artist to their audience and from what it sounds like, Aurin is a band that understands that. Especially in today’s digital world, it can be hard to decipher where the computer ends and the human touch begins, if it does at all. With a band like Aurin, they are in many ways attempting to preserve an out-of-date, almost ancient technique in a time when electronic music dominates the scene. For while it is not necessarily a negative attribute, it is important to acknowledge the shift and to be able to identify what it is exactly that we are leaving behind and what we are taking with us.