ABOVE: ANDREW (LEFT) AND DANIEL AGED. IMAGE COURTESY OF NATASHA GHOSN
We weren't surprised, when we hopped on the phone with Daniel and Andrew Aged last week, to find that they are exceedingly soft-spoken and thoughtful in conversation. Together, as the band inc., the Aged brothers make slow-burn R&B music that feels like an intimate conversation in a dark room. Perhaps more than some of their contemporary-R&B colleagues, though, who traffic in hazier jams, inc. is interested in precision. "It was pretty deliberate," Andrew Aged explains of the duo's debut full-length, no world.
Though it's only their first LP, no world still represents an important signpost in inc.'s musical development—the LA-based brothers began to release funky, Prince-influenced music together under the name Teen Inc. in 2010, after spending some time recording and touring as session musicians for artists like Cee-Lo Green, Raphael Saadiq, and Elton John. Several years and a name change later, no world is a powerful and self-assured statement from a pair of musicians who, as our conversation with them revealed, are feeling pretty Zen these days. We're also pleased to offer the exclusive US premiere of a live video of the duo performing their song "Black Wings," courtesy of Yours Truly.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: Did you have a good Valentine's Day?
DANIEL AGED: We were on a plane for most of it.
ANDREW AGED: Yeah, we were in transit, so we slept through it. We don't really actually condone or support Valentine's Day— or at least I don't. I prefer a more natural or maybe pagan love holiday. It just feels weird to me. That's my situation.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: Do you have a different view, Daniel?
DANIEL AGED: I went to dinner on the 13th.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: That counts.
DANIEL AGED: But it wasn't really a Valentine's. It was because we were going out of town for a week.
ANDREW AGED: Yeah. You had a good one. Daniel had a good one—Andrew didn't. [laughs]
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: The two things people bring up most about you guys are that you're brothers and that you make "sexy" music. Is that weird for you, those two in combination?
ANDREW AGED: I mean, the brother thing—that makes sense. It's not really something that we consider, I think, when we make music. [As for sex,] there's certain things I think that there's not much context for in this culture. Like, for people to process something that vulnerable or that's a certain type of energy—I think they immediately think it's sex because it's the closest place in this culture that people go to be vulnerable. Maybe it says something less about us and more about something else. I think it's a processing issue.
DANIEL AGED: I don't know why that is. I think there's something about sexuality in this culture, maybe, or in this time, that's really interesting—it's so distant for some people, and so strange to them, that maybe there's not a lot of comfort with it or something. All music that's touched me, there's some semblance of that, whether it's Mozart or Marvin Gaye, or D'Angelo. But the way we make music, hopefully there's a spectrum of feelings involved in it. It's not like we're trying to make some kind of sexual music or something—I'm sure there's a piece of that, but there's also a lot of prayer and fighting. Not fighting, but strength.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: I think all three of those things can be bound up with one another.
ANDREW AGED: The only thing I struggle with, or don't love, is when things get converted into aesthetics—they become a sexual aesthetic or something. Which I think is kind of dangerous, or not healthy, you know? There's so many sections of what can be sexual.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: What do you mean by a sexual aesthetic?
ANDREW AGED: Like, when people hear a certain sound and associate it with something sexual. I think a lot of things now can be converted into aesthetics, so people can process them—and in that process, they kind of lose the emotion, the inexplicable. It becomes this distillation of aesthetics. It's fine when people call us sexy, or sexual, but so many different things can be sexy or sexual.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: What were you guys like as little kids?
ANDREW AGED: I was kind of a little brat. I had a lot of energy, and I didn't, for a long time, know where to use it. So I would always push my limits, to the dismay of a lot of people around me. I was not a good kid by any means, until I found music. I didn't know where to put that energy, so it went into weird places. I would do a lot of bad things. And when I look back on my childhood, it's kind of that. There was also good things. I could be kind, also.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: Were you breaking stuff?
ANDREW AGED: I would break things. I know when I was about four, I threw my mom's earrings out the window. When they took my pacifiers away, I climbed under cabinets, threw her earrings out the window. She had all her friends come over and look for them, and each one of them basically spanked me and told me I was a bad boy.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: Aw.
ANDREW AGED: But I deserved it. I would get into fights, or I would make fun of people—a little bit of a bully. I think I could either help people or hurt people, and I often chose to hurt them. And I feel bad about that. It changed when I started playing music. And I'm grateful I found a place to put that energy.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: When did that happen?
ANDREW AGED: About 11. As soon as I picked up a guitar, I knew there was something in it. About 11 or so.
DANIEL AGED: I think Andrew was maybe more destructive and I was more constructive. I was really interested in fixing things, or learning how things worked, or playing sports. We spent a lot of time outside. The area we grew up in was really beautiful; we spent a lot of time at the beach. We lived by this place called Big Sur, and growing up there, we spent a lot of time there, hiking and stuff. Monterey is where we grew up, but it's near a lot of nature. A lot of old hippie guys that were weird. That was the NorCal culture. Stony old men. They're cool, though. A lot of wisdom and confusion.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: You both played as session musicians for various other artists in the past—was there anything about playing with those really major-label, high-profile musicians that turned you off from going that route?
ANDREW AGED: Somewhat. I think we've always wanted to be in a really open place. We didn't even consider it, early on. We did some meetings with some major labels. I think at the time, it just seemed like, there's certainly something about that culture that we are not. It's good to see, even experiencing. Some of the stuff I did was a lot of just being kind of wide-eyed to that culture, and being really thrown into it. Robin Thicke, I played with, for a while, and I remember being like, 21, and going to the club with these people in Miami. And I was from a small town. Stuff like that was a trip, you know? And a few years before, I'd be at, like, the high school dance.
It was cool. It was good to be able to reach that point. I also remember walking home from something like that, and being completely unfulfilled, too. The lonely-at-the-top feeling is really, in a sense, true. We did a tour opening for Beyoncé. We've seen the guts, and I think that's a good thing, to know the beast, a little bit. And it's not all bad. It is what it is. I'm glad to have seen it, coming in.
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: You've changed your name once since you started playing, and the sound on this album is maybe subtler, or simpler, than what you were doing a few years ago. So how do you guys think you've grown up musically in the last two years?
ANDREW AGED: I think understanding both palette and context—where this music could go, who we are, what our place in this whole thing is—that started to formulate in this album. We're always on a search and journey, and I think the earlier stuff was experimental and important in going far and then to deciding to come back to a certain center. I think context, even the way we see it as being a band, in our eyes, really kind of happened on this album. We play live, with two drummers. Remembering that bands we grew up listening to, bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, it was bands that early on really touched us, and seeing things from that context has really come into play. That's a difference; we see it as a band. Just kind of formulated that way, and I'm not sure how, or why. The world, also, is maybe in a certain place.
inc.'S NO WORLD IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT ITS WEBSITE.