Bikini Lets the Good Times Roll

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Published August 12, 2011

BIKINI. PHOTO BY CHAYSE IRVIN

Aaron Aujla is one half of Bikini—an electronic collective based both in New York  and somewhere in the forests of British Columbia, where his partner, Kieran Magzul, plants trees. After an action-packed year filled with both big wins—SXSW; blog-prized EP RIPJDS; a remix by fellow Canuck Grimes—and a few “band brawls” and “logistical pangs,” Bikini’s first LP, tentatively titled No Blond Jokes, is set to be released later this year.

With music equal parts twitchy, poppy, hallucinatory, and deeply dreamy, Bikini wants you to remember the good old times—even while you’re experiencing them. We met with Aujla at his Bed-Stuy studio, where he paints and enjoys mini-escapes from the Lower East Side.

DURGA CHEW-BOSE: So where are you from originally?

AARON AUJLA: Victoria, BC.

CHEW-BOSE: And Nigel is from Miami?

AUJLA: Yeah, but I’ll just be straight up with you about the whole thing. We’re both from Victoria, we both went to school there, elementary and high school. Kieran is another guy in the band—this new record that we’re working on, he’s now in the band and will be on the new album. Nigel’s doing something else.

CHEW-BOSE: And that last EP? RIPJDS?

AUJLA: Yeah. JDS as in JD Salinger, because he was a huge influence. He died February 2010, so it was right around that time that we were working on it. And so [on] that one I was working with Nigel, and now this new record I’m working on with Kieran.CHEW-BOSE: So Bikini is in flux.

AUJLA: Yeah. And [Kieran]’s tree-planting right now. He’s up to planting 3000 trees a day!

CHEW-BOSE: The album is being made long distance? I know with the last EP, you would write the songs and Nigel would accompany them with beats—working remotely seems to be how you work best.

AUJLA: Absolutely. Do you use Dropbox?

CHEW-BOSE: Yeah.

AUJLA: That’s been the thing that’s saved us! That’s how we do it. It’s all right. It works. I’ll record the rest in Victoria.

CHEW-BOSE: Will Kieran’s tree-planting summer play a part in the music?

AUJLA: I hope so.

CHEW-BOSE: And to clear something else up—you used to perform under the name Olivier Olivier?

AUJLA: Yeah, Olivier was this kid I used to babysit. I really liked him. I guess it was a way of representing home in a way. It was also  just a way of making it more of a narrative—the whole thing, that whole EP.

CHEW-BOSE: What was the narrative?

AUJLA: It was about home and departure from home, but how Salinger would describe it. We were reading a lot of that, like the Glass family. We both went to school on the water and it has a good program for music and that’s when we made the video for “Cheerlaeder.” It’s a concept video.

CHEW-BOSE: You mean, “ACheerlaeder?”

AUJLA: Yeah, it’s just called “Cheerlaeder.” It was a mistake in sending it on Dropbox where we did so many drafts that somebody put the letter A in front so it would be the first file, and then we just left it. And it’s also spelled wrong.

CHEW-BOSE: So what’s that video about? There’s girls, naked girls, a naked girl resting on a stack of National Geographics, speedboats, cards, debauchery…

AUJLA: We had to shoot way after the EP was done. We got Canadian grant money to do it, so we were like, we might as well use all the resources we got. We got enough money to ball out for a second. It was tongue-in-cheek, in a way.

CHEW-BOSE: Right. Looks like fun.

AUJLA: Yeah, it wasn’t very serious. I don’t really know what it was about—it was just a lot of fun.

CHEW-BOSE: So when you’re not making music, you paint?

AUJLA: Yeah. So I work for Nate [Lowman] and I do my own work. I met Nate when I came to New York. It’s been such a good job. I usually just go in the morning [to his studio.] He’ll text me when to come in, and we talk about what he has to do. He’s working with these re-interpreted Marilyns, and he’ll set up a painting and I’ll paint it. It ranges a lot.

CHEW-BOSE: And has working with him changed or influenced the music you make?

AUJLA: It’s actually awesome in terms of my music too, because Nate’s a really good DJ and he’s really interested in hip hop but he’s also really interested in early house and The Belleville Three, and we end up talking about electronic, techno. And in that regard it’s really good to have a sounding board at work, at my day job. It doesn’t really feel like work. When he did art for the EP; that was a fun process too. I also think I wouldn’t be making music if I was interning at a label or working with musicians.

CHEW-BOSE: Can you describe what your creative environment is like, in terms of all the types of creative friends you have and the world you’ve become accustomed to here in New York?

AUJULA: Sure, sure. Totally. I mean, I enjoy hanging out with all the artist assistants on weekends—it’s a funny thing, actually. And I enjoy bouncing ideas off of all these guys. I feel like there’s a new resurgence going on right now of young artists, and I think it’s going almost in the opposite direction of how Nate’s friends were.

CHEW-BOSE: What direction do you think it’s going in?

AUJLA: Maybe less about a fast lifestyle, maybe it’s more about—[Laughs] I don’t know, I don’t know how to really explain it, but I feel like it’s becoming a little more quiet. It’s cool.BIKINI PERFORMS WITH WINTER GLOVES AND SELEBRITIES TONIGHT AT CAMEO GALLERY IN BROOKLYN. TICKETS ARE $10 AND DOORS OPEN AT 11PM.