Gemini Syndrome’s Aaron Nordstrom
The melody, harmony and range of Aaron Nordstrom’s voice, as well as his songwriting, is a reflection of Nordstrom as a person. The front man for Los Angeles’ Gemini Syndrome is a key factor in the sensation that the band is causing.
At first glance, the 28 year old vocalist raised in Chicago, commands attention. Born with Albinism, his white hair and tattoos may cause some pre-conceived notions…until you hear him sing or even talk to him. I took the opportunity to do just that; talk to him.
Many fans may recognize him as the former guitarist of OTEP, which was subsequent to his vocal role in Synapse as well as guitarist in another project, Anome. He truly is the epitome of the cliché that he could sing before he could talk. Although a product of a musical family, whose mother was a singer of big band, jazz and gospel, music wasn’t pushed on him as much as it was just what came naturally. Children for the most part “feel” music at a young age, some dance to it, but Aaron harmonized to the songs on the car radio as early as 2 years old. Of course, hearing his mother sing all the time, it seems like a natural progression of sorts. Yet, just because you have those influences doesn’t necessarily mean that is where your talents lie. Vocally trained by operatically gifted vocal coach, Ann Perillo, who has toured with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, while at the same time taking piano lessons, where his musical talents manifested instrumentally; Nordstrom was immersed in music as a youth. While he would sing back-up vocals, and in choirs growing up as well as a vocal group for hire to deliver singing telegrams, he never saw himself as a front man, be it fear or just not seeing himself in that light, until he came to Los Angeles at the age of 21. A student of Musicians Institute (MI) and looking for a bassist and a singer for his band, Nordstrom was poignantly asked by a friend, “Who do you trust more than anyone?” The expected response from Nordstrom elicited the rhetorical question, “Then why would you trust the vocals for your band to anyone but yourself when you have something to say?”
Perhaps not widely recognized, the screams of metal are an art form in itself and something you must learn. Influenced by bands like Mudvayne and American Head Charge, Aaron started taking lessons to add that scream to his proverbial vocal tool-belt. Among other influences in his progression as a rock vocalist, a huge influence on him was Maynard James Keenan (Tool). While you can easily hear similarities between Nordstrom and Maynard vocally at different points, Nordstrom clearly has set himself as merely influenced by the rock legend and in no way an imitator. Additional influences he cites in his development include the late Jeff Buckley, Imogen Heap, Sade and Motown artists like Boyz II Men, who brought harmonization back to the limelight, in addition to the rock/metal influences that include metal legends Pantera. This all-over-the-map range of influences contributes heavily to his unique vocal styling. While GS has made a huge splash in L.A. and soon to be nationally/globally, when you first hear them you are drawn in by Nordstrom’s diverse voice. The melody and rhythm are hypnotic and soothing yet always retain a bit of an edge as the cleanliness of his pitch preface still legible and perfectly placed screams.
As much as his voice can be heard in the excellence of Gemini Syndrome, the instruction by GS producer Mikey Doling for Aaron to “find his voice” shouldn’t be without merit. If he were a solo performer, it is common practice for producers or management to hold back the performer; however, with a band, while the release of the talent as a whole may be measured, Doling recognized the immeasurable value to having each member, none less than Nordstrom, bring their “A” game…the range of pitch, the melody and harmony, the growls and screams. The entire catalog of Gemini’s debut record really pushed Aaron to what would seemingly be his vocal limits. Yet, through performing those songs repeatedly over the last 7 months, he feels his throat has gotten stronger than ever and has added at least a ½ octave to his range.
A challenge in writing songs is not only writing a song that connects with people, regardless of what the writer was thinking when he wrote it; but also, the right lyrics and timing that fit the voice of the vocalist. Aaron Nordstrom is a brilliant songwriter. The first single released by Gemini Syndrome is “Basement” and when you listen to the lyrics almost anyone that has gone through youth can identify with the message, the awkwardness of finding your identity in life, being different, would seemingly be the message of the listener; which is accurate; however, for Nordstrom the lyrics take on a very personal meaning.
Going back to my July story about Gemini http://hollywoodmusicmagazine.com/whoshot/gemini-syndrome-if-you-dont-know-them-you-will/, the approach to the music by the band is personal in itself, recalling that they live together and live for the very music they create collectively. With every show, I can walk up to GS “virgins” so to speak, who all react the same, something along the lines of “These guys are amazing!” Those exact words were uttered by more than one at the Hollywood Music Presents show at The Slidebar, September 4, 2010, whether the individuals watching were loyal fans, newcomers that wanted to check them out or locals that just happened by, there is no mistaking that they were now Synners.
Since they came out of the gate swinging and so widely received, with appeal across genres, the band as a whole has the freedom to really explore the gamut of what they can do creatively. They are not pigeon-holed into making metal records and can test the limits of what they can accomplish musically. They are already in discussions of what they may want to experiment with in future albums. If they want to put out an EP of acoustic material, they have that option and undoubtedly would do it well. They can put out an album of pure American metal jams and they would knock it out of the park. Pretty sure that if they wanted to put out a hip-hop album, they could do that too. Each individual of the band has such a variety of influences to draw from and each are so talented in their respective role, none less than Nordstrom, that they come together to create the perfect musical storm.
It may have taken that storm for Nordstrom to truly realize that he is the quintessential front man. Although the music alone can carry GS, it is that coupled with their live performance that will catapult them. With his incredible voice and the memorable white hair and looks, who better to be leading the way for the band than Aaron Nordstrom.