It starts in a quaint and unassuming Chelsea, NY living room…
This space doubles as a creative lab for the three brothers of the critically acclaimed three-piece AJR—Adam [bass, vocals], Jack [vocals, guitar], and Ryan [ukulele, piano, vocals]. It’s here that these young men assemble a handcrafted hybrid of sticky pop hooks, cinematic electronic beats, live instrumentation, theatrical panache, nineties nerd rock energy, and cleverly colloquial lyrics. This unpredictable homegrown style defines the trio’s second independent full-length offering, The Click and is especially impressive given that its viral single “Weak” is RIAA Platinum certified, “Sober Up” [feat. Rivers Cuomo] is RIAA Gold certified and reached number #1 on both the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and the Alternative Radio chart, and the second leg of THE CLICK Tour sold out. “Sober Up” also crossed over to Top 40 radio and charted on four charts at once: Alt, AAA, Hot AC, and Top 40. Inspired by the track, Steve Aoki, Party Pupils and Ryan Riback all remixed “Sober Up” for a new remix EP.
Speaking to an eternally D.I.Y. spirit, the thirteen tracks on The Click rally around a central question from the tune “Come Hang Out.”
“Should I go for more clicks this year, or should I follow the click in my ear?”
“The idea is that society wants me to go for more clicks: more fame and more notoriety, but sacrificing what I want to be on the inside,” Ryan elaborates. “As time went on, we realized it’s the central theme of the entire album. Since we write, produce, and record everything ourselves, the best metaphor to describe the inner struggle of following your own heartbeat is a metronome. Now, the metronome sound bookends The Click.”
First appearing on the 2016 EP and album precursor What Everyone’s Thinking, “Weak” introduced The Click to audiences everywhere with a big bang. The runaway smash has generated over 268 million Spotify streams and counting, achieved an RIAA Platinum certification, and amassed 26 million-plus YouTube views. The guys delivered a hyper-charged live rendition of the single on TODAY in between selling out back-to-back headline tours and garnering praise from Billboard, Time, Nylon, Paper, Pop Crush, and more.
Beginning with solo piano and a delicate vocal, “Weak” organically builds into a rush of keys, synths, and beats fueling the massive chant, “But I’m weak, and what’s wrong with that?”
“A lot of people are faced with temptation and they’re told to be strong and confident,” Adam goes on. “We’re all weak at some point and give in to temptation when we know we shouldn’t. We wanted to turn saying ‘I’m weak’ into an anthem everyone can be proud of and shout together.”
Current single “Sober Up” [feat. Rivers Cuomo] represents a “full circle moment” for AJR as one of the band’s most musical heroes, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo makes an electrifying cameo.
“Rivers followed us on Twitter and said he was a fan of ‘Weak’,” recalls Ryan. “It was such a great moment when he officially agreed to feature on the record. When we’re making decisions about our music and image, we sort of position ourselves as the Weezer of the 2010’s. They’ve been a huge influence. The song itself is about being at a party and feeling too grown up. You get to that moment where you’re like, ‘This isn’t really fun anymore. I’m an adult now.’ This was a true story.”
“We wanted to get back to that feeling when you had a crush on someone in elementary school,” adds Jack. “You didn’t know every annoying thing that came with liking another person, it was just a very visceral emotion. It’s a theme of wanting to return to an age of innocence.”
Punctuated by live strings, “Drama” sharply dissects the modern generation’s preoccupation with gossip, admitting “We act like reality shows, probably cuz reality blows.” The single has quickly garnered over 7 million streams since its release in May and landed them an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan.
Unfurling like a film trailer, the Broadway-style “Overture” kicks off The Click, teasing various choruses and phrases from the songs that follow it over a regal orchestra swell. Elsewhere on the album, tunes like “I’m Not Famous,” “Netflix Trip,” and “Three-Thirty” propel the album forward, speaking to the central theme of following one’s own metronome and are crowd favorites at their vivacious live shows.
On March 23, 2018, AJR released standalone track “Burn The House Down,” which garnered over 25 million streams to date. As “Sober Up” hit Top 40, “Burn The House Down” impacted Alt with its “fiery” (Billboard) sound and was selected by both Spotify and Apple Music as a Song of the Summer 2018. March For Our Lives members heard the song and reached out directly to the band to use it in their video announcing the Road to Change summer tour. AJR was honored to oblige.
Long before they joined Demi Lovato, Train, Andy Grammer, Hoodie Allen, Fifth Harmony and Ingrid Michaelson on high-profile national tours, the brothers began busking in NYC’s Washington Square Park, starting in 2005. At the time, Jack was only eight-years-old as they played covers “well enough to get pre-occupied passersby to actually stop.” Repeating their residency in the park every day for six consecutive summers, they saved enough money to quietly amass an arsenal of recording equipment, outfitting the living room as a makeshift studio. In 2013, AJR’s debut Living Room spawned the hit “I’m Ready.” The song racked up over 52.8 million Spotify streams, soundtracked the trailer to Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, went Platinum in the US and triple-Platinum in Australia. Building a national profile, they later received an invite to perform at the Obama White House for the IT’S ON US Campus Sexual Assault Summit, in addition to crafting the organization’s theme song.
Rounding out a multi-dimensional vision, the three members infuse individual idiosyncrasies into the collective whole.
“We each have a very unique role in the band,” explains Ryan. “I do the production. Jack and I both write. Adam is involved in the business end and management. We’ve built a well-oiled machine.”
Outside of AJR, Adam, Jack, and Ryan are all either current or former Columbia University students. Ryan has also lent his writing acumen to Andy Grammer, co-penning the gold-selling “Back Home” and “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah)” which recently scored him a BMI award. Adam received his Masters from NYU and is in the midst of working on his PHD in Comparative Constitutional Law, while Jack just completed his first screenplay.
As music from The Click and beyond resounds louder and louder throughout pop culture by the day, AJR still harbor quite a few surprises up their sleeves.
“When people hear us or see us live, I’d love for them to say, ‘I can’t explain this, but I know I’m feeling something’,” Ryan leaves off. “We hope they connect to it and want to listen again and again.”