Isthmus – Aero Flynn Feature
Back on track: After years of isolation, Josh Scott makes music again as Aero Flynn
by Joshua M. Miller
July 17, 2015
Things haven’t been easy for Josh Scott. The Eau Claire-based singer-songwriter has dealt with depression, an autoimmune disease and self-doubt about finding the right outlet for his music. But he’s had a positive breakthrough with his latest band, Aero Flynn, thanks in no small part to Justin Vernon.
The Bon Iver frontman convinced his friend to record at Vernon’s April Base studio, and he signed on to produce Aero Flynn’s self-titled debut album, which came out in March.
“It wasn’t until I walked into the studio that I realized that it was magical and that I felt better and healthy and inspired,” says Scott. “And I realized it was the voice I had been trying to pin down.”
Scott and Vernon, both Eau Claire natives, have known each other since the early 2000s when they shared band members Brad and Phil Cook and Brian Moen: Scott fronted a band called Amateur Love, while Vernon headed up DeYarmond Edison.
“Amateur Love became one of the most enigmatic and electrifying bands I have ever known,” Vernon said in 2012, when his label imprint, Chigliak, reissued Amateur Love’s 2003 album, It’s All Aquatic.
As tight as the Eau Claire community was, Scott felt the need to move. So in 2005 he broke up his band and headed south.
“I went to Chicago intending to keep it going and find different personnel,” says Scott. “It was a very naive way of thinking. I was either not finding the right people to play with or maybe vice versa.” Feeling discouraged, Scott resisted for years his friends’ attempts to reassure him. “I ended up not feeling good about anything and got sick and was confused about my life,” says Scott.
Starting Aero Flynn and recording the album changed his outlook. The record features a number of musicians who had grown up or lived in Eau Claire, including guitarist Matt Sweeney, pedal steel player Ben Lester and bass player Adam Hurlburt (another friend), along with Bon Iver players Mike Noyce, Sean Carey, Rob Moose and C.J. Camerieri.
Hurlburt says the personal connection drew other players into the project. “People were excited that Josh was making music, or at least recording music again. A lot of great musicians really wanted to come out and play on the record.”
The live band for the current tour, which includes a July 20 show at the Frequency, features Scott, Hurlburt and drummer Dave Power. Noyce and Lester join them when they are able. Hurlburt says figuring out how to play the songs live “took as long as it took to make the record.”
Having Vernon produce the album helped the band members find their vision, Hurlbert says. “He was a great help in making it make more sense, because there’s a lot of layers to each song. He had the wherewithal to step back and see what the essentials were, and we’d all go in and edit things.”
The new album finds the band exploring a diverse range of genres, from richly layered songs that approach psychedelic folk territory to more ambient tracks. The recording took a year, with players gradually adding to each song, layering over Scott’s vocal melodies. “Josh would have a song written in a way where he’d bring it to us in the studio and do a demo, and upon hearing the first vocal melody we made sense of where things would go,” says Hurlburt.
Scott, who now lives in Minneapolis, feels his songwriting has improved and matured since the days of Amateur Love. His older songs were confrontational and fueled by youthful rage. For the new album, he found himself focusing internally.
In the end, Aero Flynn produced an album they’re proud of while enjoying the process. “Essentially, the record is us high-fiving,” says Hurlburt. “There really was no struggle with us coming together and having a good time and being inspired by each other.”