Photo: Matt Lambert
Rock/prog-rock outfit Elsewhere recently released their music video, “Life… is a Fraction: VI. Realization,” a track from their album, Life…is a Fraction, which probes the concept of the increasingly rapid passage of time, from moment to moment.
The brainchild of Bostonian Michael Aroian, Elsewhere shreds full steam ahead at topics like addiction, disease, politics, and religion. With Aroian at his prophetic pulpit axe-in-hand and mic-to-mouth, he’s flanked by percussion professor Adam Soucy and bass boss Jay Raffi.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and a shocking cancer diagnosis for Aroian, the band evolved into its modern form. Their most recent release Life… is a Fraction marks a shift towards more concept-driven work from the trio.
Life is a Fraction embodies Aroian’s exploration of his recovery from cancer and the phenomenon he experienced throughout: each day seems faster than the last, as it represents a smaller fraction of the life we’ve lived thus far.
Like a segment from Orwell’s 1984, the video depicts a female vlogger denouncing church, state, and the status quo. Once finished, she rises from her chair and walks off elsewhere.
Tattoo.com spoke with Elsewhere to find out more about the video’s inspiration, the evolution of the band’s sound, and their writing process.
What three things can’t you live without?
Mike – That’s easy… music, sex, and chocolate… I guess that’s kind of a rock and roll answer, isn’t it? Should we try this again? Well, music and sex is accurate. But honestly the third and likely most important ‘thing’ would be friends and family. Life is meaningless without relationships and being able to share experiences/adventures with the closest people to you.
Adam – I’d personally be completely lost without my cats and my coffee grinder. There’s also a particular K Custom ride cymbal I own that just has such a one-of-a-kind type of sound that I would absolutely run into a burning building to rescue it if I had to. It’s become something of a sonic identifier for me, and it’s a really important part of my voice behind the kit.
Mike – Okay so I’m now officially changing my chocolate answer to dogs…Can’t believe I forgot about the dogs…
What inspired your single/music video, “Life… Is A Fraction: VI. Realization?”
Mike – We tried to tackle this video in a different way and treat it as if it was a standalone single removed from the 10-track wider concept. That greater work is something we hope to tackle visually via other means…but in isolation, this track was inspired by the notion of being fed bullshit and lies that are pushed by certain ‘corrupt institutions in our society. In the video, the theme really is that of being awakened and then becoming resolute in trying to affect change.
What do you want viewers to take away from the video?
Mike – The video can be interpreted in isolation as a standalone single or as a pivotal part of the greater work ‘Life…is a Fraction.’ In isolation, ‘Realization’ is about indignant rage and defiance against institutional corruption. For years, people have tried to do in their life what society dictated as they were told that as long as there was compliance, everything would work out. You can trust in God unequivocally. But we know this not to be true and, in many cases, the institutions that preach this message are just lying. With this illumination, we all have to be protagonists in our own lives and decide to take control. Over-dependence on things like government or overreaching religion may lead to our own failure to self-actualize.
You’re a cancer survivor. How did your cancer diagnosis impact both your life and your music?
Mike – For me, the greatest cost to life is now regret…And that dovetails with the notion that time is our most precious commodity. Without health, we have nothing and what my cancer diagnosis did was create in me even more of a sense of urgency in terms of following dreams and living my best life. I think we try to do this with our music as well by pushing limits as much as we can both in terms of subject matter and what we do technically and emotively. I don’t think a lot of other bands out there are writing about the fractional theory of incremental time perception…
Did Elsewhere’s sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
Mike – I think it’s been a little of both. At the outset, we wanted to have a different approach to our type of rock in that we applied some prog-rock aesthetics, but not so much so that it would totally alienate people. That being said, as our lineups have changed there’s been sort of a purposeful evolution that’s occurred with our sound and I think for the better.
Adam – Totally, and that’s just what happens, right? The sound of any given band is always going to change naturally when you bring new voices into the room. We’ve been fortunate to have some amazing guests contribute to this record as well in Josh Sacco, Anna Madsen, and Mark Needham, and they all brought so many unique ideas to the table that we never would have come up with ourselves.
How did you get started in music?
Mike – For me, it was being influenced as a young boy by what I was hearing on the radio in the ’80s and what my cousins and the neighborhood kids were listening to. Eventually, I decided to pick up a guitar and go for it and while my first loves were classic rock, prog rock, and new wave, punk, and hardcore made me realize that it was easier than initially believed to start a band.
Adam – There’s never really been a time in my life where I haven’t been completely surrounded by it, honestly. I come from a musical family so there was never any shortage of inspiration growing up and I’ve been playing in bands since I was probably 14 years old. I’ve gone on to get my bachelor’s degree in music business and have now been working professionally as a performer and producer ever since I finished school.
What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?
Mike – Honestly, in many ways, just life experience inspires us. Both in terms of what we internalize and what we experience on the outside.
Adam – Yeah, there’s really no substitute for a lived experience, good or bad. Life really has a way of giving you things to write about, whether that’s to excise pain, revel in joy, or contemplate this crazy world we exist in.
What can you share about your writing process?
Mike – Our writing has evolved over time. In earlier phases of the band, I felt more compelled to come up with new material as a songwriter and present a finished product to the band as much as possible. Now, I think I have matured and become more democratic in the writing process as we all desire to ultimately ‘serve the song.’ Presently, I really see myself as a co-writer with the other members and will rely particularly on Adam to refine, expand, and streamline ideas and arrangements. That’s really what we did for this whole new record and as a result, I think we’ve achieved a new level of creative accomplishment.
Adam – There was definitely a lot of back and forth between just the two of us in those early stages to kind of get the songs structured out and demoed. Once we were able to get our roadmaps locked in, we’d take those ideas into the studio and try to run with whatever the most inspiring idea was in the room, regardless of who was bringing it to the table, be it myself, Mike, Dave (Minehan, producer) or any of our guest players. Worked out a treat in the end!
In your opinion, which music artists are killing it right now?
Mike – For me I am incredibly impressed with Royal Blood. Who would have thought two guys could create such sonic power?! I’m also into the new Young The Giant album ‘American Bollywood’ and the band Nothing But Thieves. I also have a guilty pleasure for Tame Impala.
Adam – I was over the moon to see Porcupine Tree return last year after such a long hiatus, it’s so great to have them back. Aside from that, Metric and Paramore have both put out really excellent releases recently that have just completely blown me away, and Sleep Token continues to fascinate me with their specific blend of stage theatrics, pop production, and the lowest-tuned guitars you’ve ever heard in your life. Really looking forward to their next release.
What is your definition of success?
Mike – That’s such a hard question…the music industry is infinitely more challenging and from a ‘money’ standpoint it is harder than ever to turn a profit, even if you’re on a major label selling decent volume. I guess you almost have to think of it in terms of steps. Can you play a 300-capacity room, a 500-capacity room, or a 1,000-capacity room, how about 2,000? Can you turn a profit touring? Can you have a number of your songs licensed in a movie or TV? Can you perform live on TV?
Adam – For me, it’s kind of simple actually. It’s impossible to impose any numerical or quantitative system of measurement on your life or career, so I try to use my own happiness as a gauge for success. If I feel good about what I’m doing and it makes me happy, then it’s easy to rule it as a win. Just as easily applies to performing a great show or finishing a piece of music for me.
What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Live gigs? New music? Music videos?
Mike – I think for right now we are really trying to proliferate the message of this album to whoever is open to hearing it. It took us a few years to complete and we think we are just scratching the surface in terms of an audience and people that can relate to it. In terms of immediate plans, we’re currently working on scheduling some more high-profile shows and festivals, and we’re toying with the idea of making this 10-part album concept into an animated mini-movie. If you guys know any good animators, feel free to send them our way!