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American Aquarium

North Carolina band, named after Wilco song, who have released 8 acclaimed albums

For a decade, American Aquarium have spent their days on the road, burning through a sprawl of highways during the day and playing hours of raw, rootsy rock & roll at night. And it nearly didn’t happen.

When they travelled to Muscle Shoals to record Burn.Flicker.Die in 2012, they were convinced the album would be their last. Even though they had enlisted the help of award-winning singer-songwriter Jason Isbell to produce the sessions, they were exhausted; weathered and whittled to the bone by more than a half-decade of heavy partying and heavier touring. BJ Barham, the band’s frontman, was so poor that he’d been living out of a storage unit for months, unable to afford an apartment in the band’s hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. Clearly, something had to give. Maybe it was time to make one final album – an album about failure, desperation and disillusionment – and then throw in the towel.

As fate would have it, Burn.Flicker.Die proved itself to be the band’s most successful release to date. Critics loved it. Fans rallied behind it. 500 shows later, the band has travelled the world, quadrupled their fan base and reinvented their passion for the road. When the time came to record another album, it made sense to do something that celebrated survival rather than failure.

The result? Wolves, which Barham describes as “the sound of a band firing on all cylinders”. Produced by Megafaun’s Brad Cook and recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, Wolves was funded entirely by fanbase. The album represents a departure from the band’s signature twang, drawing more from the alternative rock sound that inspired their name a decade ago. Wolves blends the twang of the pedal steel with the dark, dirty swirl of two electric guitars, creating a sound that’s fit for the roadhouse, the honky tonk and the dive bar. Barham has certainly spent time in all three. It’s also a record that reaffirms his faith in American Aquarium, a band he started in 2006. Since that time, more than 25 musicians have passed through the group’s ranks. In recent years though, things have felt a lot more stable. Ryan Johnson, Bill Corbin, Whit Wright, Kevin McClain and the newest addition, Colin Dimeo, round out the group, turning Barham’s songs into fiery, fleshed-out compositions.

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