My first memory of Blis. is from the front porch of an Edgewood house show. I remember it was a frigid winter night, and while I can recall being impressed by the fledgling band, little did I suspect the impact they would come to have on the Atlanta scene. Since forming in 2011, the group has grown into a wondrous, pummeling force of atmospheric beauty, tumultuous guitars, and latent sadness. Frontman Aaron Gossett has emerged as a complex and conflicted songwriter, generously offering listeners a candid peek into his volatile world. Life isn’t something that comes easy in his eyes; Gossett’s hardships and struggles only motivate his perseverance to record and make new music—a kind of lifelong creative therapeutic session.
Blis.’ first full length, No One Loves You (Sargent House), is the long-awaited follow-up to the group’s sterling 2015 debut, Starting Fires In My Parents House. It’s a gritty, angst-ridden record that throws you aggressively into the everyday realities and dark intimacies of Gossett’s life. The end result is a beautiful mix of raw emotion, echoing screams, and brooding religious resentment that cuts through on every haunting melody and incendiary chord.
Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with Gossett over a couple beers in Little 5 Points. Among other topics, we discussed the band’s latest record, his longstanding obsession with Nine Inch Nails, and what he expects from Blis. in 2018.
What are some the musical influences on the new record?
I was listening to, and always have been listening to, a lot of Nine Inch Nails. I’m not sure if you can pull that from the record?
I was thinking more of bands on the spectrum of Slowdive.
I don’t really listen to Slowdive that much. I’ve listened to Souvlaki. They’re a good band; I’m not going to say they’re bad. Probably a ton of early 2000’s and late ’90s alternative indie stuff, like Chris Staples, Pedro the Lion. More of a singer-songwriter kind of thing with a full band. Pedro the Lion is a huge influence but I HATE saying that because every time someone mentions us it’s inevitable that they are always in the first sentence of our description. It’s obvious that I listen to them.
What about during the writing process?
Actually I was listening to a lot of hip-hop during the writing process, but it was very all over the place. A lot of Kendrick Lamar. It’s weird because that definitely doesn’t shine through on the music. It’s kind of like Blis. is its own thing and we all listen to music that is nothing like Blis. We all hang out and come up with the songs.
Nathan [Hardy] from Microwave once told me something similar to that.
Yeah, it’s kind of weird! I think with me and Nine Inch Nails… the reason they are so influential to me is the way Trent Reznor approaches songwriting. He creates like a basic outline, the skeleton of the song, and then just starts adding all these layers. Every time you listen to it you can hear new things you wouldn’t of noticed on the first listen, which in my opinion is the coolest way to put music together. I tried to pull together something like that; our song “Ugly” has like nine guitar tracks on it.
What has changed band-wise, either musically or with members, from the time of your debut to No One Loves You?
Oh man! We have been playing with a lot of people. Member lineup changes are endless. I would like to say something like 25 people since the band was conceived. I met Nathan from Microwave and Mark [McGinn] from Kelsi Grammar early and then some guy I found off craigslist was playing drums. We started the skeletons of what was going to become Starting Fires. The songs from that EP were very organic, not too thought out. We would add stuff to the recordings and then go home, practice, and come back with more stuff to add to the tracks. After we finished, that’s when Sargent House hit us up and to us that was HUGE. Then yada-yada-yada, tour, another million member changes. Basically everybody had quit the band after that except the drummer Jimi [Ingman] and I. Let’s also throw in there that I was having a kid. We wrote an entire record and scrapped it and wrote what is the record now. We booked time with Travis Hill. It was his suggestion to rent a house in North Georgia, on the Carolina border. We did half the record there and then finished it back at his house. I would spend like a week at a time at his place, recording my vocals or guitars. He spent so long on it and we didn’t finish until we felt that it was right. That pretty much sums it all up!
How do you think the album’s artwork represents the album?
The picture on the front is actually a picture of my son, Atticus, that I took on a disposable on his first birthday. I was really getting into taking pictures at that time—I felt the need to document everything. So I documented his first birthday, obviously. It was just a shot of him with cake all over his face looking right into the camera. We tried to come up with the artwork even before the recording process was done. I kind of already knew what I wanted for it. I wanted something that looked very textured. If you look at any Nine Inch Nails album cover they have this look to them.
Yeah, they are all very distorted—destroyed almost.
Almost gross sometimes to the touch. The way they look just invokes a reaction out of you. I really just wanted to take this beautiful picture of my kid and try to make it look not beautiful. I just thought it would be cool because he’s essentially the entire focal point of the record. Had he not been born, I would honestly probably be in an entirely different place. Most likely I wouldn’t have even written this record, or even be playing in this band still. Courtney Emery, the girl who did the artwork, we went back and forth for months. I had mailed her the photos I had taken to sort through. She did her best to distort them and make them look weird. She lit them on fire, left them on the stove, and even just left them outside to weather. The funny story is the photo on the back cover of the record.
To me it looks like a kid on a couch vomiting?
Yeah! We went on tour with this band Free Throw a couple years ago, and on that tour we stopped at this house party. There was this kid there—I’m not sure how old he was, probably 19 or 20—and he’s just getting wasted. [He’s] confessing his love for everybody at the party, like he’s trying to court everyone. He’s getting out of control and we are trying to calm him down. We lay him on the couch and he passes out. Later, I look over and this dude is just throwing up out the side of his face. We are yelling, “What the fuck! We gotta save this dude!” But, before we saved him, I jumped up on top of the couch and snapped a quick photo of his face. We got him up, cleaned him off, and he has no recollection of the craziness he had done the night before. I even forgot about the photo actually. Years later, when we were working on the artwork, I had all these disposable cameras and developed them, and I eventually found that one picture. But, yes, it does represent the music.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the lyrical content on the record is intertwined, containing the same subject matter. It’s very anti-religion. why is that?
Long story short, I don’t have a great relationship with religion. The way it has affected my life personally has never been in a positive way. My girlfriend’s parents actually run a church in Peachtree City, so they are very religious. So obviously we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things since I’m pretty much an atheist. My girlfriend got pregnant and she ran back to her family in which they gave her an ultimatum that if they were going to help with the baby I couldn’t be involved. Atticus, my son, was born and her family tried to deny my involvement.
Oh wow. Yeah, you can really tell from the record and your lyrics that you hold a lot of resentment.
Yes, of course. That’s why I wrote about those things. Every time I’ve had situations involving religion, it’s always dark. I didn’t try to hide behind the wall of metaphors; I wrote them very straightforward about what had happened and how I felt during the time. It was just great to get it out—very therapeutic. From the recording to the release, I just felt amazing. It felt like I was doing something very positive for myself.
Since 2017 is about to end, what are you expectations or goals for Blis. in 2018?
Well, hopefully to do some really cool tours with really cool bands. For more people to listen to our record so that we may continue to make more records. It’s a very oversaturated market right now, especially for emo bands. Maybe do something to set us apart from being called emo.
Well, what sets you guys apart is there’s a lot more than just emo in there. I expected coming into the record for it to be like Starting Fires, but was surprised at the atmospheric and heavy reverb styles.
We really tried to abandon the sound that we started there. It was something at the time that spoke to me, but I was a completely different person when those songs were written and recorded. I was very naive to a lot of things, and I’ve gotten the fucking full course of what life is in the last couple years.
PBR or High Life?
Make me choose between the rock and the hard place, huh? If I have to drink, I’m drinking PBR. High Life is a little too bubbly and too burpy. But PBR is a little too sweet. I mean I’m drinking Yuengling right now, it’s what I drink. But if I have to, it’ll be PBR. I can definitely handle the sweetness more than the over bubbly one. They are both mediocre beers. They are okay. I mean if PBR wants to reach out and endorse us, we will take the endorsement and say that PBR is the shit forever and ever [laughs]. But right now I’m a Yuengling guy.
If you could only choose three records to take with you on a deserted island what would they be?
With Teeth and The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead’s In Rainbows.
Blis. will perform on Fri., Nov. 3 at the Masquerade (Hell) alongside Microwave and Big Jesus. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $13. All Ages.