The inside of Carter Schultz and David van Mering’s shared Brighton apartment is exactly how you would imagine a place where two 19-year-old college kids live would look. There’s furniture of disparate origins strewn about, the creaky floors bear the signs of having been stomped on by partying kids for several decades. If any further college slacker stereotype was needed, Schultz initially confuses me with a delivery guy when I knock on their half-open door.
Except there’s one important caveat: Neither Schultz nor van Mering, collectively known as Aer, are college students, and, having seen their debut full-length LP, “The Bright Side,” debut at No. 1 on the iTunes album charts this past week, they could hardly be called slackers. With a youthful optimism worthy of their infectiously chill, stoner-pop sound, this unassuming teenage pair from Wayland are on the cusp of local and national notoriety, thanks to an album recorded in their makeshift bedroom studio. Aer will celebrate the release of “The Bright Side” with a show at the Paradise Rock Club on Saturday.
Schultz and van Mering became close in middle school, where they bonded over a shared love for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and began exploring music together. As kids both had had some formal training with lukewarm results, but continued experimenting on their own terms with Schultz as the vocalist and van Mering producing. RHCP’s mellow funk-rock sound and the unhurried, stoned-out flow of rappers Curren$y and Kid Cudi were primary influences as the band developed, eventually leading to their first release, “Fields,” an ode to marijuana auspiciously released on April 20, 2010.
“It took about four days to put the song together, working on it a couple hours at a time in David’s basement with a live performance mike and GarageBand on our Mac,” said Schultz, eating salad out of a Styrofoam box after the real delivery guy finally arrives.
As the song spread to new ears, the response was enough to encourage the pair to continue recording, eventually relocating to Boston to pursue music full time after graduating from Wayland High. “The Reach” EP followed in 2011, with songs like “Feel I Bring” and “Another Face” building on Schultz’s easy singsong flow and van Mering’s expansive, understated guitar-based productions. The result was a sound that was an unusual fit into Massachusetts’ hardcore hip-hop vernacular. Nor was it one that could be classified as reggae in the traditional sense. It feels spiritually closer to quintessential California bands like RHCP and Sublime than anything coming out of a New England suburb.
“The way we see it is kind of like we’re the ones having fun making the music and we like being all over the place,” explained Schultz. “So we put it out and we have fans from all different kinds of types. Some people say we should only rap. Other people say, ‘I hate when you do that but I love the chill stuff so keep doing that.’ You gotta find that middle ground. You want to still be yourself and have fun, but also keep the fans interested.”
“We’ve heard a lot of people who were surprised to find out we are from New England,” added van Mering, who spent six years in San Francisco as a child. “I love everything about California: the vibe, the carefree lifestyle, the positivity. It definitely comes out but it was natural. We didn’t try to go reggae or anything like that. The things that did well just tended to be like that.”
The California-via-Cape-Cod vibe, best captured in the video for “Bright Side” lead single “Like the Way,” has earned them enough fans on both coasts to win the coveted No. 1 spot on iTunes for the new album, on which the band gently pushes their aesthetic further into the mainstream.
“It's still homegrown completely,” said van Mering, sitting just outside the bedroom studio where the album was recorded. “I just kind of jacked up on everything I could in terms of learning recording software and microphones and guitars and new equipment. I learn from watching people, messing around, and going on instinct of what I wanted to hear. It was always like, if our friends liked it, we did it. I make a bunch of different styles of music, but it’s always what our friends like that we end up going for.”
But even with fame on the near horizon, don’t expect Aer to pack up for the West Coast just yet.
“All our friends are in the area going to school,” said van Mering. “We definitely want to build our fan base and when the time comes make a move to somewhere nicer.”
Schultz corrects him: “Someplace warmer! Nothing’s nicer than Boston. This is my favorite city, hands down. I’ve seen every city so I know. I still love it, forever.”
Natural, one of the artists affiliated with the “12 for 12” movement, released the first single, titled “Go to Work,” from his forthcoming album, “#20Something.” . . . Teenage blog rap sensation Kitty Pryde sprinkles her pixie dust at the Brighton Music Hall on Aug. 16. . . . Reks celebrates the release of his second album in under six months with a release party for “Rebeloutionary” on Aug. 17 at Church. . . . Leedz Edutainment brings out Akrobatik, Dutch Rebelle, J the S, and a host of other local hip-hop talent on Aug. 31 for the 2012 Summer Hip Hop Festival at the Middle East Downstairs.Martín Caballero can be reached at caballero
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @_el_caballero.