Catch up with singer-songwriter Aria Wunderland and listen to her latest single "Coup D'etat" off her upcoming EP Paper Gowns.
What got you interested in music and in songwriting?
Aria: It actually started with classical music, I was really, really drawn to music from Europe: basically, Chopin, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky when I was a kid, for some reason. It kind of went hand in hand with Disney, too - I was obsessed with both and I just wanted to study piano. I was playing piano by ear and, maybe around 5, I started just playing Disney songs and whatever I could figure out on my own. My mom had given up because my brothers tried piano lessons and hated it so, with me - I was the third born and I was 5/6 years younger than both my brothers - she was just like, "well, let's just see what happens". I was begging her basically, I wanted piano lessons so badly, so it all started with piano. Then, I was also singing separately, singing to Disney and annoying the hell out of my brothers singing every song you could imagine [laughs]. It wasn't until my early teens that I realized, "wow, I can actually merge the two and this could be really cool if I sang and played piano at the same time". I started just playing around with melody - I would say melody was always the first thing for me, being that I was into classical music - and then I slowly began to take some of my journal entries and see what I could come up with writing-wise. Yeah, that's how it started. [Laughs] It started on the piano.
Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were happy with?
Yes I do! I wrote it as a teenager and I had a lot of rock influences and hip hop influences, but this one, because it was done with live instruments with the band that I had at the time, it just came to life in more of arock way. But, I was like, "wow, this is it". I knew it was good. I'll never forget, it came out so easily, I wrote it really fast, and I was like, "this is good," and I just knew it, so I was so excited. I was working with a music producer at the time - this was just in the very beginning, kind of just developing me - and I called him and Iwas like, "I think I wrote a really good song" so, yeah, I remember that [laughs].
Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?
I grew up in the '90s so, at that time, I feel like it was really interesting; rock was Top 10 and so was Biggie and Tupac, so I definitely was influenced by that. Jay Z and that kind of music. I was really into No Doubt and Radiohead - I loved Radiohead. Later on, I got into some more contemporary artists - or the new wave of people - I listened to Florence + The Machine, Imogen Heap, and I loved Sia, I was listening to her a lot when she was part of Zero 7. A lot of early Coldplay influenced me too. And earlier Kanye West.
Is there anyone you're hooked on now and excited for in 2017?
Yeah! I've been really digging Twenty One Pilots, I really like what they're doing. I like that they've been able to take a more alternative sound - which is kind of what I feel like I represent - and they make it accessible. I've been listening to them a lot.
How would you describe your own sound to someone who had never heard your music?
It has pop sensibility but I would say heavy/synth, hip hop/urban drumming and 808 bass, but also a little bit of an alternative rock element, too. I always say pop alternative. I'm excited about where music is right now because I feel like there's a place for me finally [laughs].
What were your inspirations behind your new single, "Coup D'etat"?
I finished writing "Coup D'etat" right when all the buzz surrounding our current election started, so maybe a couple of months ago, leading up to Trump becoming our president-elect. At the time, I wasn't feeling pressure to write anything new, we pretty much had most of the songs that I wanted on the E.P. We started off listening to A Tribe Called Quest, just randomly we were blasting their music, so we kind of had this bit of a jazz/rap vibe going on. I was thinking a little bit more out of the box and I was like, you know what, I love the concept of coup d'etat - I love history and I've studied a lot of history of rebellion and revolution - and the word 'coup d'etat' always resonated, this idea of overthrowing government. We were just having a very philosophical conversation in the studio [laughs] and I was like, "why don't we just use this as a metaphor and let's just hypothetically say, 'what if we could overthrow government?' since we don't really know what's going on, we don't really know if what we're being told is real..." we got into this whole conspiracy space in our minds while we were vibing out and I was like, "I want to write this song and let's see what happens". When Trump did win, I didn't have in mind to release this song - I was going to release another song - but I was like, "you know what, this song really fits right now and it fits what I'm feeling". I was just feeling that I wanted to express myself and I don't want to rant on social media - I hate that, like, when Trump won I was inundated with all these people on Facebook and everywhere and I was, "I don't even want to get involved in that, I'm just going to release this song because I feel like this song speaks to what I want to say" - its release was just kind of to vent my frustration.
Where would you say your inspiration usually comes from while you are writing new songs?
It usually comes from personal experience. I also am very inspired by romantic experiences, not just the sad ones. I've spent a lot of time in LA and New York recently in the last 5 years - I'm going back and forth doing the bi-coastal thing, like every month we go to LA - and before we started doing this last year I was only in LA and I was going to a lot of parties and really getting into the lifestyle of Hollywood or Beverly Hills and looking at it from the outside in and I get inspired by that: the parties and rags to riches. I was really, really intrigued by how everybody there can feel like they're a celebrity even if they're not. They embody that and live that. Those are things that I explore in my writing and this is specific to Paper Gowns, it's something that I recently really got into, just being in LA and observing it - and New York, too, Manhattan. I would say it's a combination of politics, some personal relationship experiences, and then just parties and debauchery and people and all of that that really influences me - and it'll make more sense when I release some of my later music; the lyrics and stuff will tie in, I think that "Coup D'etat" speaks more to the politics.
Could you tell us more about your upcoming EP Paper Gowns?
I use this idea of a gown made out of paper to tie in what I was saying before about this idea of living lavishly, regardless of how much money you have. This idea that you could get invited to a party, you're just a young 20-something-year-old living in an apartment with 3 other roommates and you get invited to this awesome party and you're able to just figure out a way to put on a fabulous dress and go and have a great time. Paper Gowns, as a whole EP, I play into that a lot, this idea that everyone can be a rockstar, everyone can feel great regardless of their situation. I feel that it specifically targets people in their 20s living in metropolitan cities that are living check to check but they still want to have fun so you figure it out; and in that, also just exploring yourself and accepting yourself - you hear that a lot in the songs. But, yeah, the title is Paper Gowns because I was like, this is exactly what I'm trying to say, I'm trying to say that even if you don't have anything, you can still figure out how to have a great time and make a gown out of paper even if you have to, so it's like a metaphor.
Is there one song off this EP you're most excited to get out there and share?
Yeah, I would say it's "Paper Gowns", I have a song titled "Paper Gowns" [laughs]. I think that one really ties everything in. I feel like "Paper Gowns", the song itself, really speaks to the themes and inspirations of [the EP].
How would you sum up Paper Gowns in one sentence?
It is a fun, lifestyle EP to listen to and get lost in.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I want everyone to feel like superstars regardless of who they are or where they come from, I want them to realize that being rich or feeling great, it's all a state of mind so it's a choice and it's not circumstantial. I want everyone who's listening, regardless of their walks of life, to be inspired in that way, to just listen to the album and be like, "you know what, I'm going to have a fabulous night tonight, I'm going to go out and just be the best version of myself I can be, nothing's going to stop me," that's basically what I want my listeners to feel when they listen.
Is there anything you want to add?
There are some songs that do explore going through some things and discovering yourself, so I want people that are maybe going through something similar to really find solace in my music and just connect to it in that way. For me, I feel like I listened to so much music growing up and it always got me through difficult times, so I would love that; that would be a dream come true, for my music to do that for someone else.