Interview with Antonio ‘Tony’ Aguilar of All Souls

All Souls is Meg Castellanos and Antonio “Tony” Aguilar from Totimoshi, Fatso Jetson/Desert Sessions’ Tony Tornay and Black Elk’s Erik Trammell. The LA-based outfit has been playing locally over the last year, opening for acts such as Mastodon and Red Fang. Their debut self-titled album is out tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 9 via Sunyata Records (Barrett from Screaming Trees/Mean Season’s label). tHeARTofla recently spoke to All Soul’s vocalist/guitarist Tony Aguilar about the inception of the band and their creative process.

Q: You all arrive in this band with some serious rock cred. Which makes one think this is a “one-off” project like a supergroup thing. Are you guys in this as a solid entity for a while, or is this more a side project for some/any of you?

A: All Souls came together as a band with full intentions of staying a band. Although some of us have other bands that take precedence when they are active, All Souls to us is a serious as it gets. We all love being in this band, we all love writing for this band, in fact, we’ve already started writing songs for the next record.

Q: How did you guys come together as All Souls?

A: It started in a very organic way. Erik [Trammell], Meg [Castellanos], Tony Tornay and myself have been friends for probably 20 years. Totimoshi used to play shows with Black Elk (Trammell’s old band) and Fatso Jetson (Tornay’s other band). Meg and I moved Totimoshi to Los Angeles in 2009 with our drummer Chris Fugitt. After arriving I got a job touring as a roadie for the Melvins, then tour manager for the bands Sleep and Neurosis. That work kept me on the road literally 9 months out of the year, which eventually led to the demise of Totimoshi.

After Totimoshi, Meg and I started a project called Alma Sangre that incorporates Spanish guitar with dance, which we still do, but I got the want to be in a rock band again. For a little while I was in a band called Last Days of Ancient Sunlight with my friend Ferdie from the band 400 Blows. All the while Tornay and I would hang out and talk about starting a band. We even jammed a few times.

Last Days of Ancient Sunlight imploded right about the time that Erik Trammell moved back to Los Angeles from Austin. I helped Erik find an apartment, and we started talking about writing together since neither of us had a rock band at the time. We eventually did. We sat in my spare room – Erik playing guitar and me mostly singing. We recorded the ideas and I sent them to Tornay to see if he’d be into giving it a go. He liked it, we met and all decided on Meg for bass.

Before we ever jammed we met at Meg’s and my house and discussed what we wanted the band to be – how we wanted it to sound, where we wanted it to go, and that we were all willing to commit. It was very…adult! The first song on the record “Party Night” was the first song we wrote once we got into the rehearsal studio.

Q: For Antonio or Meg, were there different avenues musically that you felt you needed to explore through a different project rather than doing a new Totimoshi record? How long did the process of creating the record take from conception to completion? Can you talk a bit about the creative process as a band?

A: Different avenues – Definitely, and that comes back to the original meeting we had sittng at a table with all the members of All Souls. We didn’t want this to be like our other bands. We wanted something that represented the 4 of us. We specifically mentioned dark, mysterious, melodic – something that incorporated both male and female energy. The entire process took about a year and a half. The great thing about All Souls is that everyone writes. One of us will usually come up with the catalyst – a riff, or a riff plus a change and we go from there. A basic dissection – a cell into a being. It’s not done until all of us are happy.

Q: Society is facing some interesting times, as artists do you feel a need to reflect that in All Souls songs, or do you feel more the music should be a place to remove yourself from those problems?

A: Interesting times indeed. It seems like every day is a new embarrassment . I feel that the process of writing is the process of purging. Sometimes you have no choice but to represent things that are ugly, but that purging sometimes takes you the other way as well. Sometimes negative, sometimes positive. Sometimes you’re Basquiat, Sometimes you’re Warhol. The surrendering to it is the key. With the purge ideas will be presented and things will be represented, but of course in the end it will all be interpreted subjectively, it’s art after all. I’ve never been one to hate a band for being political or non-political. I think both types of bands are important.

Q: As publications, we spend a lot of time in classifying sounds to try and convey what a band sounds like to readers. Seeing music as more than about genre, what is the All Souls sound?

A: To me it’s reminiscent sound wise of California. The desert, the mountains, the cactus, the pine, the oak trees – even the ocean. We get a lot of people saying we sound like Desert Rock, which is fine. We like all the bands that they are referencing, but I feel that we are like no other band that has existed before. We are our own animal. The All Souls sound.

Q: Since the inception of Mp3’s and downloading, every musician is affected by the change in the industry and online streaming. What if anything do you see as a good part of how the industry has changed over the past decade or so?

A: It’s certainly become more independent. I have a friend that has a great approach. Their thinking is that releases have to be more special. Sort of like the art world – low run, special edition, personal items that have been touched or made by the individual members of the band. I think that idea is brilliant. It certainly isn’t something you can anonymously steal.

Q: I missed your residency at Bigfoot Lodge in September. I love that room, but honestly, your sound strikes me as too big for that room. What was it like playing that room and what was the sound like?

A: It was what we expected. We didn’t go into it thinking it was gonna sound like the Troubadour. The ambiance of the place is incredible, the staff was super sweet. We couldn’t have been happier. We even filmed a video during the week that we were there for the song “Never Know” which is going to be released soon. We hope they’ll have us back some day.

Q: As a journalist, I feel it’s my duty not only to bring attention to well-crafted music but to be part of the process that helps build it up. With that in mind, how can publications help you as musicians?

I think just reporting on good local music is enough. We certainly feel honored when anyone takes an interest in us. Thank you by the way!

Q: After your record release this week you are heading up to Washington State for a few shows. What are your plans after that? More LA shows in the work?

We actually have a show in LA at Cafe Nela on Feb. 18 with Big Pig, the Great Sadness, Yawning Man, and Sumo Princess. It’s gonna be a great show! After the Northwest we’re definitely planning on playing as much as possible. Hopefully touring some more as well.

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