The AlmostDon't cry for The Almost
By Naughty Mickie

The Almost began as a solo project for Underoath vocalist and drummer Aaron Gillespie. He wrote all the songs and sang and played almost all the instruments for his effort "Southern Weather" (Tooth & Nail Records) prior to recruiting a lineup. Gillespie looked to his childhood in the south for inspiration for his work, sharing his struggles and values, as well as his state of mind. The sound is Christian alternative rock with edgings of post-punk and emo, quite the opposite of the hard-core grooves of Underoath. He also stepped out from behind his drums to take on vocals and guitar. Working with his first commitment, Gillespie planned to take The Almost on tour whenever Underoath is off the road and enlisted help in the way of guitarists Dusty Redmon and Jay Vilardi, bassist Alex Aponte and drummer Kenny Bozich.

The entire story intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about The Almost, so I requested an interview with the band. Redmon has the time to share and we had a great chat, beginning with how he became a member.

"I used to be in a couple of old bands," Redmon says. "One of my first bands' tours that ever was was with Underoath back in 2001 or something, Beloved. I've known Aaron for a while and after hearing the demos and everything he was doing with The Almost I was really stoked about it. I was like, 'Dude, I want to jam with you on this.' It ended up working out."

Redmon grew up listening to the Grateful Dead and outlaw country bands.

"(I began playing guitar) maybe in my freshman year in high school, maybe I was 15," recalls Redmon. "I don't have this beautiful story, I played hockey for a long time and then I'm like, 'Oh man, I want to play guitar.' I started jamming with all the dudes in Beloved right after that.

"I guess I saw 'Mighty Ducks' when I was in the fifth grade and like every kid my age I wanted to start playing hockey. I'm from the Carolinas, we had a pro hockey team too. But we played mostly roller hockey," Redmon goes on. "I started playing (guitar) with all my friends who had been playing for a while, I either had to crap or get off the pot. I learned very quickly how to play songs."

Redmon spent one year at the University of North Carolina taking a lot of art courses, mainly geared to illustration.

"I got a .85 GPA my first semester. I was super bored. I didn't really go that much, I didn't really want to be there. I was like, 'Man, I just want to tour,' but my parents weren't really convinced that anything big was really going on with my band because nothing big was going on with my band at all," admits Redmon. "College wasn't really for me, I don't think I have any college credits to my name."

I ask him about returning to college later and Redmon says that if he went back, he "would be an old-timer. I'd be the odd man out."

Like many musicians, Redmon kept a regular day job for most of his career.

"Back in high school my entire band worked at this grocery store," Redmon shares. "All five of us worked in different departments, I worked in produce. It was cool because they would let us go tour. I worked there for six years and they would let us all off at the same time to go tour and then work when we came  back."

"What's you favorite vegetable or fruit?" I ask.

"I kinda hate them all with a passion." Redmon laughs. "I don't know. Every day going into work it's 'I'm going to freeze to death handling produce today.' I'm a citrus guy. I'd like to sit back and snack on those Clementine oranges, those little tiny ones, I'd snack on those all day. But I still pretty much hate all fruits and vegetables."

"You make your wife do all the grocery shopping then," I tease.

"Yeah," He responds."Exactly."

Redmon lives in Philadelphia, while Gillespie lives in Salt Lake City and the rest of the band lives in Florida.

"We rehearsed for this last tour in Salt Lake," Redmon tells me. "We all flew out to Salt Lake and stayed at his place while he was gone. He came back in less than 24 hours and then turned right back around."

Gillespie has a house in Salt Lake, but Redmon thinks he probably spends more time in Florida. He says he would rather live in Florida too.

"Up here in Camden, New Jersey there's drive-by shootings  and stuff, I'd rather fare with an alligator than a gang banger. Alligators don't pack heat," Redmon chuckles.

Redmon doesn't play hockey any more, "I try. Last year I went out and bought a new pair of skates It lasted about a week. Lately I sit around and play guitar and I check my My Space, those are really, really sad hobbies I know, I'll try and think of something awesome for you."

When we spoke, the Ducks were working their way toward their Stanley Cup victory. Redmon said he would root for the Anaheim-based team, not because he likes them, but because they beat Detroit.  He's a long-time Philadelphia Flyers fan, even before he moved to Philly and I share that I like the Islanders.

"You like the Islanders? Nobody likes the Islanders," Redmon said.

"Yes they do, I do," I attest.

"Well, I like the Islanders better than I like the Rangers," Redmon gives. "It looks like the Flyers  may have a decent squad next year, we'll see what happens."

I read on the Internet that Redmon is a noted humanitarian, so I call him on it.

"I don't know why I'm a noted humanitarian," Redmon replies surprised. "That's pretty cool though. I have a dog, I can say I rescued him from, I don't know, the street. Make up something cool, say I do a lot of work with kids and old people too."

I ask Redmon if he has done anything special for charity and he doesn't recall anything outstanding. Then I tease him that it must be his accent that charms people which makes him laugh.

Finally we discuss "Southern Weather" and writing music.

"We didn't write anything before The Almost, so Jay, our other guitar player and I and Aaron too, we'll riff around," Redmon says. "If I'm in the shower or just before I go to bed is when I have epiphanies, I'm like, 'I've got a sweet riff in my head.' I'll hum it out a couple times and I'll grab my guitar quick and try to riff it out and find the notes. If I can find a sweet riff I take it to Jay, like, 'Check out this riff.' It should probably go from there."

"Do you write any lyrics?" I wonder.

"No, no.. I would probably be the worst lyricist ever. Ohhh," moan Redmon. "I mostly come up with sweet guitar riffs. I used to write lyrics in high school and it was the lamest thing. At least I didn't think they were awesome."

Not having written anything on "Southern Weather," Redmon has to find a way to make the music his own.

The Almost"That was one of Aaron's big things," Redmon affirms. "I guess a lot of people to hire a band out, to hire musicians, I think a lot of people would be real sticklers on keeping the songs as true to the original form as they could be. Aaron's real big about making the song your own. I play guitar a certain way, I'm not like Jimi Hendrix and I'm not like the Edge, I play guitar like I play guitar. So playing the songs I add a few little things that tend to flavor it. As time goes on, I'll probably screw around with them a little bit more, but I've never been in the position where I've had to learn songs of somebody else's, so I guess it adds some goof ups or bad notes when I play live, like when I mess up, that's about it."

I'm currently in a cover band project to raise money for a memorial for the Gold Star Recording Studios in Rancho Cucamonga, where many bands had done studio time, including Frank Zappa and a clutch of surf groups. Unlike my previous groups that did a lot of original material, I am learning old cover classics, some which I hadn't even heard before.

"That's totally weird, I think that would be totally more difficult than what I am doing. Those are totally big cheese. No pressure, " Redmon teases and  laughs. "No pressure or anything."

I giggle at his quip and ask him about his take on today's music scene.

"There's not many new bands I'm really into," Redmon admits. "I'm a huge Beatles fan. The Beatles and U2 are my favorite two bands ever. I don't want to sound all cliche and be like, 'Oh, no one's doing any original anymore.' But I think the best songs have probably already been written, honestly, unless something comes up and blows me away.

"Do you like Ryan Adams a whole lot?" Redmon continues. "Not Bryan Adams at all. Ryan Adams, I think he's pretty awesome. He's totally my Bob Dylan. The Academy just put out a new record that I really like. I like a lot of metal, but I like Converge a whole lot. I think Converge is still doing cool stuff for aggressive music.

"It's cool to see bands doing different stuff," Redmon goes on. "I'm into the Academy, their last record totally sounded like, I don't know, I guess I would compare them to Fall Out Boy. It's all this kind of new mix of stuff all this new pop, this 'cute guy pop' that's out, it's like the new sound I guess. But their new record has so much of the cool '70s rock into it, it's cool to see a band like that break away and do something awesome and different."

"After two months on Warped Tour I am going to relax," Redmon states. He explains that The Almost gets eight weeks off while Underoath goes out on tour. He plans to use his time to to relax and then start going through his riffs. "Before long we'll have to work all that out. We'll see how that goes, I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I'll be a tired guy that's for sure."

Although The Almost is a Christian band, their music is appealing across the board and not necessarily aimed at a Christian audience.

"We've always played in bars and played for people that probably wouldn't listen if they knew what we were about," says Redmon. "Everything's been received really, really well so far. I think people are a lot more open minded than I probably think sometimes."

I offer that perhaps their music opens people's minds to a different point of view.

"I think for some people," agrees Redmon. "Some people it won't, but it will for others. That's the cool think about music, it has totally different effects on different people. I think even a band like U2 is a good example of that. They have some of the most blatantly spiritual lyrics, but at the same time they can be the most vague lyrics ever, it just depends on how the person sees them. And they've been around for 20 years, so."

Preparing to finish our talk, I ask Redmon if there's anything we missed.

"Let me see, we talked about the Stanley Cup, we talked about being lazy, my poor college reputation. No, I think we pretty much covered all the bases," Redmon says.

"Do you want to tell your fans anything?" I ask.

"I'm just there to party," Redmon replies. "We just want to hang out with everybody for as long as we can. It's going to be the summertime and it's going to be Warped Tour, it's going to be hot."

"Are you ready for the screaming girls?" I tease, knowing full well that Warped Tour brings out this particular type of fan.

"We played Bamboozle Fest in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago and last weekend we did a radio show in Tampa, this weekend we have a show just outside of Atlanta. We did this signing deal where you sit at this table and a line comes through and at every single one of them there's been at least one crier." Redmon shares, "That's been the weirdest thing I've ever sat and watched, it's right in front of my face. These girls are just crying and crying and me and the guys are like, 'Do you need anything? Do you need anything?' and they don't say anything, they just cry while we draw on their poster. It's strangely uncomfortable."

"They're excited about meeting you," I say.

"Yeah, I would cry if I was meeting me too I guess," quips Redmon. "Maybe you could put that, please refrain from crying. Bring tissues if you're going to cry because we've got nothing but Sharpies. I feel so horrible, so helpless. And Thanks for a cool interview."

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