Of Mice & Men’s Aaron Pauley on their Zoom rooms, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and their latest album

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Of Mice & Men’s Aaron Pauley on their Zoom rooms, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and their latest album

of mice & men aaron pauley
Words by Benjamin Lamb

The vocalist and bassist also discusses producing with David Bendeth

There’s not too many other metal bands out there that are tighter than Of Mice & Men. Their unique brand of metal is one of a kind and has garnered them a great deal of fans from all corners of the globe, as their many releases since 2009 have been lauded for their energy, power, and emotion.

Read all the latest features, interviews and how-to columns here.

But when the whole world shutdown back in 2020, we all went to different ways of doing things; Zooms, phone calls, and emails, which was the case for Aaron Pauley and his band of rockers, who still were amazingly able to maintain their tight sound and great flow.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact we spend a lot of time communicating with one another, I think in any setting and not just in any creative setting, learning to effectively communicate in constructively critical ways, instead of destructively” he says.

A tight knit relationship and minimal amounts of negativity have been an integral element to the group’s longevity and success throughout their seven releases to date, while being great compatriots off stage has served as a special sauce for the band’s successful sound throughout this album spawned out of lockdown.

Pauley said constant Zoom calls and being in contact with each other regularly was a key reason why the group found success in Echo.

“We’re basically best friends, so that helps. But when we come together to work collaboratively and creatively, the way that we communicate with one another is always so positive and uplifting.

“We also have a philosophy where, if you don’t like something, suggest something else. If you can’t think of something else, well, then you don’t talk. I know that sounds like harsh or whatever, but when everybody adopts that sort of mentality, it takes out any sort of toxicity or negativity.”

David Bendeth is the producer behind many Of Mice & Men releases and is someone who Pauley notes has shared his years of experience with the band and guided them to become the band they have become today.

As Pauley took the producing reins for Echo, the band maintained the ways of working that they have learned over the years.

“The way we were taught by David when we were in the studio, they were the best ways of handling things; never say that you don’t like something, if you want to hear something different, say that you want to hear something different, and then come to the table with that creative idea.”

“I really think that a lot of what we do, and a lot of our symbiosis when we’re working creatively is because we are very effective at communicating with one another, it’s not great for making juicy stories out of, but there was really no friction, when we made the record, everybody brought different creative elements to the table.”

Another important element of understanding the music of Of Mice & Men is artwork.

Looking through the Of Mice & Men discography is like looking through a gallery.

Since the early days of hair metal and the new wave of British heavy metal, artwork has been an extremely important and tangible experience, something that continues for metal groups today

For Echo, the group worked with popular artist Derek Hess, who ensured there was respect paid to the meaning of the art, and it would represent the music and emotion throughout the album.

Pauley notes that there is a clear correlation between the heavy music world and world of art, mainly due to the emotion both of them bring.

“I think that metal and heavier music comes more from a place of wanting to express very sort of primal and visceral feelings. I think it all it really comes down to wanting to express a human emotion that is more complicated than just talking about it. I think the art side of it does exactly the same thing, but in a visual way instead of an auditory way.

“Something like grief is a very complicated emotion, it’s not really one thing, it’s kind of five or six things happening all at once. I think visual art does the same thing, in that you can see an image and it will make you feel something.”

Echo is full of the Of Mice & Men flavour many of their worldwide fans have come to love over the years, but has a unique conclusion, Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s ‘Helplessly Hoping’, a song that holds great importance to Pauley and drummer Valentino Areteaga.

It’s the epitome of a perfect cover, the group paying full respect to the original release but also putting their own heavy vibe in it, truly making it their own. Pauley notes that this cover has been a long time coming.

“The song was really important to me growing up, and it found me again during a time when I was losing my mother-in-law, and Tino lost his mom while we were making the Bloom EP. I think a lot of it was just sort of understanding the importance of it, and not overthinking it.

“I wanted to do it orchestral with just a cello, violins, and some guitar. I talked about it for a really long time, and then one day, I had a few hours where I could just sit and programme the strings out.”

“That sort of maintains the humanity, if music is supposed to be an honest, genuine, expression, then I really believe you’re not supposed to put too much of your thinking brain into it, just let it out.”

Echo is out now via Sharptone Records. Grab it here.