Aaron Skiles 'Whistle Past The Grave'

Whistle Past The Grave

Aaron Skiles

Produced by Aaron Skiles and Ben Bernstein // Aaron Skiles: vocals, guitars, bass, piano, keys, percussion |Ben Bernstein: drums, percussion, backing vocals, guitars, keys, bass | Taylor Hollingsworth: lead guitar| Rebecca Skiles: vocals | Alex Hillmer: lead guitar on "Before Before"|Dermot Erwin: lead guitar, guitars on "Ain't Been Luck"| David

Produced by Aaron Skiles and Ben Bernstein // Aaron Skiles: vocals, guitars, bass, piano, keys, percussion |Ben Bernstein: drums, percussion, backing vocals, guitars, keys, bass | Taylor Hollingsworth: lead guitar| Rebecca Skiles: vocals | Alex Hillmer: lead guitar on "Before Before"|Dermot Erwin: lead guitar, guitars on "Ain't Been Luck"| David Rabkin: drums on "Ain't Been Luck"// Recorded at Petting Zoo Studio, Oakland, CA |“Ain’t Been Luck” recorded at Tiny Telephone, Oakland, CA | Mixed at Tiny Telephone, Oakland, CA//Engineered by Ben Bernstein, www.benbernsteinmusic.com |“Ain’t Been Luck” Engineered by Colin Christian |Mixed / Mastered by Colin Christian, www.wiresandnoise.com

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Americana Rock Infused With 90s Grunge—Crunchy Guitars With Catchy Choruses—
“A Heavy Country Weezer”

Aaron Skiles:  vocals, guitars, bas, piano, keys, percussion | Ben Bernstein: drums, percussion, BGV, guitars, keys, bass | Taylor Hollingsworth: lead guitar | Alex Hillmer: lead guitar on “Before, Before” | Dermot Erwin: lead guitar, guitars on “Ain’t Been Luck” | David Rabkin: drums on “Ain’t Been Luck” | Rebecca Skiles: vocals


Oakland, CA June 2023— Aaron Skiles is still riding high on the critical praise heaped on his  recently released album Wreckage From the Fire (April 2022).  The album was co-produced and written with Matt Patton of the Drive-By-Truckers and recorded at Patton’s well-known studio, Dial Back Sound, in Water Valley, MS. The album received an 8/10 from Uncut magazine and was on several of last year’s ‘Best Of’ lists.   

Whistle Past the Grave follows a similar raw, rocking tone as his previous release. “I do think that this record is a logical follow-up to my last record,” Skiles acknowledges. “I consulted with Patton on some of the record sequencing details and he told me that Whistle Past The Grave is ‘pretty rocking, still raw’ which is exactly what I was going for.”

Co-produced with the Bay Area’s Ben Bernstein (who also engineered), it again features the incredible lead guitar work of Taylor Hollingsworth (Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Dead Fingers), along with an assortment of other talented musicians. “For this album I really did the bulk of the instrumentation myself, which was truly a first for me,” he admits. “I did multiple layers of guitars, bass, piano, keys, lead and backing vocals.  As always, I got contributions from some amazing musicians, but this album is more all me than any previous work.” 

Skiles, who typically plays bass, did almost all of the rhythm guitar work himself.  “I had a vision of the sound I was looking for.  And, as it turned out, it required a lot of guitars, pedals and various amp set ups! Ben was great about that and really helped me find exactly what I was after.” Another important factor in this recording is the work of the lead players, primarily  Hollingsworth,though Alex Hillmer, and Dermot Erwin each take lead on one song. “I feel very lucky to have made connections with all three of these outstanding musicians many years ago, and my record wouldn’t be the same without them.” 

Whistle Past the Grave is a prime example of the song-writing style, Skiles has been leaning into the last several years —letting the songs speak for themselves.  “I think my time at Dial Back Sound for Wreckage really helped me to see the value of being succinct and keeping the focus on the raw beauty of the song. I feel as if this is a tight group of songs that flow well together.” 

A crunchy guitar sound leads the way on "Don't Take it From Me", a brief song about human shortcomings. It then kicks into “Rubber Raft” a song based on Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste. It’s about a historical event that occurred in 1951when the lone black member of a little league team wasn’t allowed to celebrate the team’s city championship win at a public pool. “As a former baseball player and coach, and just as a human being, this story struck me tremendously and actually brought me to tears when I read it,” admits Skiles. “Musically, this song has what I call a ‘reverse chorus’ in that it gets quieter in the chorus than the rest of the song.  What I think really ties it all together is the repetitive lick that Taylor plays in the front of each line of the chorus, this sort of simple up and down riff that frames the lyrics just right. And when we get to the solo of the song, Taylor wailed on it like only he can.  That sequence of chords and guitar solo—an organ playing underneath, building up to what sounds like a huge crescendo but ends up quiet by the final chorus—is probably my favorite sequence of music that I’ve yet written.” 

“About You” is a duet with Skiles’ wife Rebecca singing the second verse. “Ain’t Been Luck” was written as a 50th Anniversary present to Skiles’ parents. “I wanted something upbeat and timeless, maybe something that had some 60s vibes to it since that was their musical heyday. And it had to be danceable.”  

The high energy of “Before Before” almost didn’t make the record, but Skiles had a feeling that the power and vibe he and Bernstein had established in the studio with the other songs would give them just the spirit they needed to lay down the track successfully.  “It was originally written in a slower tempo, to be more of a brooding mid-tempo number vs. the break-neck punk-flavored song it became.” 

“Bad For You” was written for Wreckage, but wasn’t the right feel for that particular album. Skiles remained fond of it and thought it fit well with this record. “My favorite part about this song is how we built on that riff that ends each section of the song,” he shares. The title tune, “Whistle Past the Grave” is taken from the phrase, “whistling past the graveyard” which refers to the feeling of being lucky to remain alive and standing despite some close calls. “The piano work I did takes a page from Jay Gonzalez’s work with Drive-By-Truckers. I learned a ton from working with him on Wreckage, and although I’m nowhere close to the pianist he is, I paid attention to the way he uses piano runs to add spice to the song, hitting in-between beats and tying various parts together.”

The album ends with “Keep Me”, a song Skiles says he wants played at his funeral.  “I’m actually not kidding,” he affirmed. “It’s based on an ancient Jewish meditation for mourners.  It talks about the fact that when someone is gone, the love they left behind, remains.  And rather than mourn their loss, pass that remaining love onto others.  It’s a poem I stumbled across a few years ago and it stuck with me. So, in my style, I took a heavy topic and brought some energy and distorted to guitars to it, as I’m known to do.” 

Whistle Past the Grave is a cohesive group of songs that fit well together.  It’s a fast-paced tour of introspective songs taking on themes of justice, or the lack thereof, in the way that one lives their life.  “When I set out to make this record, I kept thinking back to my experience releasing my previous album.  It received way more critical acclaim than anything I’d previously done , and so I was a bit nervous about how Whistle Past the Grave would be received.  While I’m always striving for growth, and my goal is to outdo my last work, it’s hard to know when I’ve succeeded—it takes time to know really.  But I will say that I poured my heart and soul into this work.  I was quite proud of what I did with the Wreckage record, and I think Whistle Past the Grave stands up to it and provides the same sort of high-energy, rocking vibe that will hopefully be accessible to those who give it a listen.” 

Whistle Past the Grave releases on September 15th, 2023



For more information: https://aaronskilesmusic.com/ 

Press Contact:  Kim Grant | KG Music Press | kim@kgmusicpress.com | 626-755-9022