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