Aaron Taos is ready to seize his own parcel of the indie pop-rock landscape in 2018 — and Night Thoughts, the Brooklyn resident’s sophomore EP, serves as the blueprint for his takeover. The seven-track effort sees the self-taught artist’s bedroom noodling explode into a full-blown studio project with bolder sounds and bigger production. However, getting to this triumphant phase in his career was no clear-cut task.
Aaron Taos received his first guitar at only five years old. The New Haven, Connecticut suburbanite kid’s affair with the instrument was fleeting as he became more interested in hip-hop and a promising soccer career, even playing in the state’s Olympic Development Program. It wasn’t until he encountered bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes in high school that music re-established its magic hold on his creative aspirations.
“My first instinct is to write songs,” Aaron Taos says of his artistic drive. “When I first got a guitar when I was little, the first thing I wanted to do was write songs. I didn’t want to learn covers; I wanted to make something new. I really like making tangible things out of ideas.”
As a 16-year-old, those ideas first manifested as a garage rock band with some fellow jocks. Still, athletics remained his primary focus — until he took those talents to college. He quickly found enthusiasm for soccer quashed by too much structure and a lack of creativity, so he resolved to turn fully to his true muse: Music. Between classes, Taos holed up in his school’s computer lab, instructing himself in the production arts. “My friends would make fun of me because I was always there watching tutorial videos, learning how to use Logic,” he recalls.
Literally learning as he went, he was resolute in his passionate pursuit. He moved home before relocating to Brooklyn for a Sony Legacy internship, all the while forging his debut EP, 2015’s GUITS. Lo-fi by necessity, the project “was really a bedroom experiment with guitar in a way I wanted to do it,” he says. “Just looping. It was my first time mixing anything from scratch.” Despite its novice DIY nature, GUITS drew attention from publications like Consequence of Sound, The FADER, Brooklyn Vegan, and Pigeons and Planes; it even landed Taos a manager. With minimal assistance or formal musical education, Taos felt himself fast-tracked to pop success.
Until the reality of the situation slowed everything down. His recordings’ homegrown nature made them intriguingly sincere, but ill-prepared him for the actuality of the industry. Taos went from training himself to being thrust into writing rooms from LA to Sweden and shown all sorts of contracts and licensing deals. It was a lot to absorb for someone who just wanted to create.
“It was a double-edged sword,” says Taos of his quick come-up. “It gave me a reason to say, ‘I can actually do this. I’m going to do this.’ But it also stopped my progress in some ways. I met a lot of cool people, I became a better songwriter, but I wasn’t making anything tangible for me.”
Throughout that year of fruitless co-writing sessions, he nevertheless kept learning, refining his craft while awaiting that serendipitous spark to reignite his artful ambition. Without warning, it returned full force when Taos found himself in the right room with the right song and the right producers. The production team was LA duo TÕN and the song was his early 2017 single “Off My Mind”. A hook-riddled groove of yearning desire mixing GUITS‘s guitar sound with “hard-hitting hip-hop-ish drums,” the track catalyzed a new flurry of writing, recording, and releasing.
Yet, just as his music was becoming more dynamic, his personal life was stagnating. His relationship with his girlfriend, who had been there since the beginning of this journey, was coming to a crossroads. Taos now had to find a way to explore his new sonic growth while simultaneously dealing with a broken heart. Ever self-aware, he determined the best way to progress with both was to capture it all on Night Thoughts.
“This EP, for me, is to conceptualize what I am and what I’ve done, what this time meant to me,” Taos reflects. “It’s me retrospectively making sense of my life at that time personally and musically.”
As a result, Night Thoughts plays through the timeline of a relationship. The sleek, sexy tones of opener “Amazing” capture that first rush of attraction. Driving and syncopated, the hard-thumping “Twisted” expresses the dumbfounding anxiety of obsession with psychedelic licks nodding to Taos’ love of Tame Impala. Straightening himself up, Taos gets lost in the cool, carefree joy of true love on “Only One”, only to wistfully stumble on the dance floor as he recognizes a potential end with “Not Over Yet”.
More than just romantic contemplation, though, the EP is truly a time capsule of Aaron Taos’ last three years. It’s the result of a burgeoning musician’s quest to become the type of recording artist he knew he could be. Although it stands as validation that he’s succeeded, it also marks the end of this chapter in his life. It places this young songwriter on the edge of darkness, just stepping forward to meet whatever comes next. There, in those moments before the breaking dawn, live twilight ruminations rich with vulnerability, pleasure, and heartache — the Night Thoughts.