"WITH THIS RECORD, we were trying to go hi-fi," says Bud Wilson, the guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter for Portland band Aan.
"Higher-fi than what we'd been doing, at least," says Reese Lawhon, the band's bassist, who's been performing with Wilson since the two first played in Eugene/Portland band Avery Bell.
Amor Ad Nauseum is the long-awaited first full-length album from Aan, following a lengthy trail of CD-Rs, EPs, and singles that date back to Wilson's first bedroom recordings in 2006 and 2007, following Avery Bell's breakup. That trail includes some brilliant titles, including the first release, Daddy's Little Horse Lover, and the 2010 EP I Could Be Girl for You. In Amor Ad Nauseum's case, the album title was the band's original name in the early days (my favored translation: "fuck until you puke"), but it was quickly shortened to Aan, pronounced simply as "on," not the cumbersome "A-A-N."
Despite the callback of the title, Amor Ad Nauseum is a long way from those initial bedroom recordings. Aside from showcasing the band's ingeniously left-field approach to rock-song arrangement, it's an immersive spectacle of record production—in large part due to the involvement of producer/engineer Jeff Bond, who also joined Aan's ranks as their guitarist. (Brainstorm's Patrick Phillips has since taken over for Bond; drummer Jon Lewis rounds out the four-piece.) The result is that Amor is one of the best sounding albums to come out of Portland in a long time, the product of many studio hours.
"I think that we realized what's possible when you really get in there," Wilson says. "Before, we would just have a day, and track two songs and that would be the end of it. Then we realized that we could go and waste almost a year and a half of our lives on this."
Some of the songs were even written largely in the studio. "A lot of stuff we had to learn how to play live," says Lawhon. "Where we would make it in the studio, and then learn how to play it. The next EP or record, I'm sure will be different."
The terms "3D" and "cinematic" also come up as the band describes Amor Ad Nauseum's sound, which was indeed slowly and carefully crafted over a long period of time, beginning with a productive five-day stretch on the coast at Lincoln City before subsequent sessions at Portland studios like the Trench and the Dandy Warhols' Odditorium. There's the explosion of sound that bursts from album opener "Wet and Dripping," as it leaps from ominous crawl to whirring time bomb. And there's the diamond-hard fuzz bass and mad-carnival organ on the lurching "I Don't Need Love," in which Wilson's voice vaults to gymnastic heights.
"The whole goal, once we realized what we were capable of, was to make a record that sounds like a movie—a visual experience when you listen to it," says Wilson. "That's why it took so long. That, and just trying to figure out the business end."
During Amor Ad Nauseum's protracted germination, Aan parted ways with a large management company that initially opened some doors for the band, but would then often relegate them to the back burner in favor of bigger clients. Along the way, Aan landed opening slots for Built to Spill and, weirdly, the Smashing Pumpkins, but when the management team couldn't secure the right label for the album, it was time to say goodbye.
Wilson says, "It caused us to regroup and think: You know what, I don't want to do this where we're trying to outsource these people that have one foot in and one foot out. I would much rather bring in people that I trust and I know want to see the success. As far as the public knows, this is our first real piece of music, and I wanted to feel confident in the people that I brought into the fold."
Enter Ben Hubbird and Casey Jarman of Party Damage Records, the new upstart label that's provided a home to excellent Portland bands like Wild Ones, Your Rival, and St. Even. When Aan asked Hubbird about finding the best rates in order to manufacture the album themselves, it became clear to Hubbird that Amor Ad Nauseum had to go on Party Damage's release schedule.
It's a happy ending to the arduous process of creating the album, but of course it signifies a much larger beginning for Aan. Of Amor Ad Nauseum finally being heard, Wilson says, "I wanted to tie a little knot around the past and take all those pieces that had been kind of the jumble that was Aan and Amor Ad Nauseum. I felt like one thing we could do with the title and a lot of those tracks that are older is put them in one place, make them all fit together, and lock it up. And no one is gonna say, 'What does Aan mean?' anymore, which is pleasant.
"I mean, they might ask, 'What does Amor Ad Nauseum mean?' But the interpretation of that is in a lot of the song titles and the songs themselves.