The Bad Years consists of members Sami Akbari and Aaron Mort. Their music spans genres from different eras, evoking sounds of bands like INXS, The Cardigans and The Kills. They recently released a Double A-side single, the haunting yet upbeat "Common Mistake," and "Didn't Need to Know", a middle-finger anthem to our naive attempts at coolness when we were young. Both tracks were produced by The Bad Years, recorded at their Thai Town home studio and at Swing House Studios, and mastered by Brian Lucey (Chet Faker, Arctic Monkeys, Delta Spirit).
We just happened to be 'taking the air' on West Compton Boulevard when we happened across Aaron who was looking stressed, we said 'Hi' and after a couple of minutes, he had agreed to doing an interview with us (it's the least he could have done as those air fares aren't cheap you know...), we found a suitable coffee house and ordered some drinks and sat down, we chatted about making music videos, cool clothes and peeing in the shower, here's how we got on....
Please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
Hello, we are Aaron and Sami of The Bad Years and we like to play alternative indie pop type of music akin to the music of INXS and The Cardigans.
You’re called The Bad Years, how did you go about choosing this name?
Aaron has a book called “How To Prosper During the Coming Bad Years” and he liked the sound of “The Bad Years” so we went with it.
Currently you are making a video for your single ‘Common Mistake’? What will this be about and who is directing it?
Yah, we worked with director Jacob Arden McClure on the video and really gave him a lot of creative freedom to explore what the song meant to him visually. He created a really beautiful and dark atmosphere that does a great job of portraying the songs push and pull nature.
Is acting an art you would like to get in to? If so what movie would you like to be in? And who would you have play you in your life story?
Sami: I actually did some acting in my younger days, and I enjoyed it very much. That was what I wanted to do for a while as I was growing up. Now, you get me in front of a camera and I don’t know what to do with myself! But if an opportunity came up that was awesome, like a movie where I got to make out with Ryan Gosling for example, I would definitely be down to try it. Obviously, Mila Kunis would play me in my life story. We are practically twins. I’m joking.
Aaron: It’s something I’ve entertained whilst having an existential crisis around 2am in front of the bathroom mirror. I appreciate film so very much but I’m not sure I’d be a great actor. However, if Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, or Charlie Kaufman hit me up and said, “Hey, I wrote this movie for you,” I would probably say yes and figure the rest out later.
In England there is a football (Soccer team) called West Ham United, they have a song called I’m forever blowing bubbles. What song would you have to describe yourselves?
That’s a tough one...but I do know that if we were professional fisherman we would most certainly be “All About that Bass.”
Have you had any ‘Spinal Tap’ Moments? If yes, please share!
Aaron: I used to do heaps and heaps of dumb stage antics in my previous band. Everything from climbing and jumping off giant speaker stacks to rolling out a sleeping bag in the crowd and taking a nap during one of the bands “jam” tunes. One time however, at a venue located in a strip mall shopping lot, I decided I would sing part of the song outside for whatever dumb reason. Next to the stage was an emergency exit and upon exiting I quickly realized that I had been locked out, mic and all.
In your opinion, what is the BEST album/record ever released and why?
Sami: Abbey Road! It is perfection from front to back, up and down, side to side and all around.
Aaron: Abbey Road is also a favorite of mine. It’s just such a perfect album. M. Ward’s Hold Time record also ranks pretty high up there for me.
Tell me a fascinating fact about you or one of your band members?
Sami: The most fascinating thing about Aaron is that he can pretty much do anything he sets his mind to and he does it all well. I’m envious! And he’s also dating me, which is always a wonder.
‘Didn’t Need to Know’ is about Naïve attempts to be cool as a child, so, what were your naïve attempts at being cool?
Sami: To be totally honest, I was never one to try to fit in. I think maybe the only time I ever really tried to fit in was when I was in middle school and skateboarding along with skate clothes and sneakers were all the rage. I wore a lot of Stüssy clothes and Airwalk sneakers even though I could never skateboard.
Aaron: It’s not so much a song about cool attempts when we were children, as it is about youth in general. For me that’s a broad spectrum, I’ve felt like a child through my 20’s, honestly, I thought I’d have my shit together at this point, a family, a job, the whole nine yards. But I think I’ve come out ahead, I get to be creative for a living, all the while knowing I still have a hell of a lot more room to grow and mature still.
Recently it has been thanksgiving, describe what happens in the U.S during this time? What songs would you sing?
Sami: For my family, we have been celebrating with the same family since before I was born. We always go to one of our houses or sometimes a different, fun location. We basically cook all day, eat all day, and drink all day. It’s my favorite holiday! We don’t sing many songs, but this year there was a lot of Taylor Swift’s new single playing in the background. It was also Aaron’s first Thanksgiving with my family. He made it out alive.
Is it true you recently made your live debut? How did it go? Will you do it again?
It is true! It went well for being our first time out! We got a lot of positive feedback which was very reassuring, so we know we have a solid start and now can only get better and better. Yes, we definitely plan on doing it again, 2015 should be seeing more live shows from us.
Do you own a record that you wouldn’t like to admit you have?
Aaron: Who’s ashamed of Creed?
Is there something you would like to tell each of the band members that you haven’t told them before?
Sami: I’m actually 65 years old.
Aaron: Last week, about 11:23 am, pacific time, I was walking down Western in hopes of finding coffee until all went awry. Out of nowhere a woman, about 34 years of age, long blond hair, unkempt, clearly in last nights dress, approached me. She said, “Could you spare the time?”, to which I replied, “It’s 11:23”. She said thank you, turned her head, and kept walking. As she met the intersection, she waited patiently for the light to turn, when it did turn she crossed safely. As I kept on, headed in the direction of coffee, I realized that the coffee shop that I wanted to patronize was not open on Tuesdays. So, with really no feelings either way about the situation I found myself in, I turned around and walked back to our apartment. Upon my arrival, I turned on the stove to warm the kettle, prepared the coffee grinds, and prepped my mug for my pour over. A loud whistle rang from the kettle, the water had boiled. As I went to reach for the kettle I had a most unwelcomed epiphany, it was Wednesday.
What classic song would you have liked to have recorded and why?
Aaron: T. Rex “Twentieth Century Boy”
First gig you ever went to?
Sami: The Lilith Fair with my older sister.
Where did you record the single ‘Common Mistake’ and what made you choose that studio?
We recorded most of it in our apartment and the vocals and guitars at Swing House Studios. We chose our apartment studio because it’s convenient and free, and Swing House because we know the good folks who run it.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
We’ve been listening to Børns lately, he’s been blowing up. He’s got some great, catchy songs and a really awesome, interesting voice.
Who would you like to know has your music on their iPod, MP3 or cassette walkman?
I heard Paul McCartney was a big fan.
What advice would offer to a musician’s starting out? What has your experience been?
We both played music for about 10 years before we got together, and for both of us the business has provided many ups and downs. But the highs are so great, they keep you going. And if they don’t anymore, it’s probably time to do something else. In general, it’s always smart to get to know the business side of music, always make the creative choices that you feel are true to yourself and your music, drink and do drugs in moderation, and make music from the heart.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
Batman. And/or, Dr. Who meets Dirty Harry.
Do you think we can ever live in a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned?
No! Absolutely not.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014? And beginning of 2015?
We plan to release our music video for “Common Mistake”, finish and release our EP, continue writing songs and playing more shows.
We were getting some funny looks on the street so decided we'd best hail a handsome cab and hot foot it to a more salubrious part of town, on the way, we asked the guys a few quickfire questions....
Coke or Pepsi?
Aaron: Who’s got the rum?
Drum machine or the real deal?
Aaron: They both have soul.
Mac or PC?
Aaron: & Cheese
Taco or Burger?
Aaron: Taco’s are King
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)?
Aaron: I wouldn’t throw either out of bed.
CD or Vinyl?
Sami: Vinyl (duh)!
Live Show or Recording studio?
Sami: Live show!
Aaron: I love both my children equally.
Beard or No Beard?
Sami: Depends on the face.
Aaron: Sami prefers scruff.
Car or Motorbike?
Aaron: My mother says I can’t have a motorcycle.
Big Bang Theory or Gotham?
Sami: Modern Family! :)
Aaron: Peep Show
Acoustic or electric?
Sami: Depends on the song!
Aaron: They’re both good.
Shower or Bath?
Aaron: You can pee in the shower.
Tattoos or Piercings?
Sami: Tattoos (but not for me).
Aaron: I’m considering botox.
Robert de Niro or Al Pacino?
Sami: Robert de Niro!
Aaron: You talking to me?
God or Google?
We'd like to thank Sami and Aaron for taking the time out to answer our questions, we wish them every success for 2015 and a very happy Christmas and a merry new year....
Interview by Mark Wincott