The Grand Rapids duo created its vibrant new recording at Detroit’s Assemble Sound and will bid farewell to fans at a star-studded Saturday release party.
For Grand Rapids electronic pop duo AOK, the band’s long-awaited new EP, “WAVES,” was all about taking things “to the next level” by recording the project at Detroit’s renowned Assemble Sound.
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“Ever since first setting foot in Assemble, we really wanted to record it there. There is such a cool atmosphere and a constant stream of really creative people going in and out,” said guitarist Kyle Sullivan, noting the duo was introduced to producer Jon Zott by dynamic Michigan artist Tunde Olaniran.
“I think one of the things we tried to do was blend current electronic sounds with heavy guitars and R&B-influenced vocals, which we haven’t seen a lot of. That’s what made it exciting for us.”
But finding that next level as a popular West Michigan band over the past seven years also came with a price: AOK’s release show on Saturday at The Pyramid Scheme will also serve as the group’s farewell, with singer Angela Teeple (aka Angela B) saying it’s time to step away.
“Even on a small scale, being in any kind of spotlight can start to wear on you,” she told Local Spins. “First of all, trying to figure out what you want to say – and then saying it in front of a bunch of people – it takes a lot out of you. We took our time and poured a lot into this EP, so it feels like a work of catharsis. It’ll be good to release this and then let it exist on its own.”
Saturday’s release of the EP on Hot Capicola Records takes place at 9 p.m. at The Pyramid Scheme with sets by Lady Ace Boogie, Lipstick Jodi and Bevlove. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 day of show. Get details and tickets online at pyramidschemebar.com.
Local Spins interviewed Sullivan and Teeple about the new EP, the bittersweet ending to AOK and what the future may hold.
Q: It took a while for this album to be completed and finally get released. Describe the challenges in finally getting it released.
Sullivan: Going into this album we really wanted to take the production to the next level. Luckily, we met Tunde Olaniran and he introduced us to Jon Zott (he’s helped produce his last couple albums) and Assemble Sound. We starting having some writing sessions with Tunde and recorded them at Assemble with Jon. We decided to work with Jon for the rest of the album to give it a more cohesive sound. He was also working on Tunde’s new album and moved from Detroit to L.A. in the process, plus he goes on tour for weeks at a time, so getting time where we could all be present proved to be difficult at times. Plus, the fact that Angela and I both have day jobs I think contributed to the time it took to make it happen. In the end, we didn’t want to put anything out that we weren’t completely happy with.
Q: Of what are you most proud in terms of the new album and the tracks you folks recorded at Assemble Sound?
Teeple: This album is more personal than the last. I think part of what took so long to create it was my obsession over the authenticity of the lyrics. There are a couple of songs on this EP that took me a while to finish writing – and we would play them live, unfinished – because I didn’t know how to tell the rest of the story. I knew … I would have to go back to that place and recall all the sensory activity and anxiety tied to those memories, and I just avoided it. So, I’m proud to have gotten it out. And I’m also proud of the presentation. Lyrically, some of these songs are kind of depressing, but the beat slaps, so you might not notice it right away.
Q: In your view, what makes AOK stand out from other bands in West Michigan?
Sullivan: Our songs have an intensity to them so they can give the listener energy or get them ready to have a fun night. From the beginning, the sound we were creating was a big part of the band, so we knew unless we had a large backing band, we wouldn’t be able recreate that sound live. That’s why decided to use backing beats and synths, to not compromise on the sound we were going for. For our live shows, we always wanted there to feel like an extreme amount of energy that we put out, and made it fun for the audience and hopefully encourage them to let go and have a good time.
Q: How would you describe the musical direction of AOK on this new recording, and how has your music changed since forming the band?
Teeple: On our first EP, we were still defining our sound. But it was just the two of us, for the most part. This time, we had a pretty clear vision of where we wanted to go, and we knew who to connect with to see it come to life. We collaborated a ton on the album and that was a little intimidating at first. When Tunde first came into the studio with us and was giving me ideas for vocal runs, I remember trying desperately to silence that little voice that says, “You can’t.” But I’m happy for the challenges and proud of what we created.
Q: What’s the plan for Kyle Sullivan after the farewell show is in the rearview mirror?
Sullivan: I will keep producing music in the near future. My wife, Angie Sullivan, and I perform as Heartwell and we are also in the Irish rock group The Wild Sullys along with my dad, Michael Sullivan. I really enjoy producing electronic music, so I’ll continue to do that and figure out where that takes me.
Q: What’s next for Angela Teeple? Any other musical projects?
Teeple: No plans yet. I think I’ll ask Luke (Schmidt) if he needs an assistant at Hot Capicola.
VIDEO: AOK at The Pyramid Scheme (2017)
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