11 Questions: Aaron Guest
interview by Brent Cole
Polecat is one of the most hardworking bands out there, and are set to celebrate their fifth anniversary later this month. This month’s 11 questions is Aaron Guest, the band’s principal songwriter and singer, who also recently toured with Kat Bula and Coty Hogue. He shares some stories from the road, thoughts on music and more.
Who are you and where did you come from? Tell us about yourself.
I’m Aaron, a Bellingham musician. The main thing for quite some time now has been Polecat. I also tour with Coty Hogue and Kat Bula. A brief Bellingham musical history includes The Growers, Vantage, JuiceBox, 20 String Band, Halo of Bees, Grandpa’s Guitars, a solo thing (a. guest), and weekly piano gigs at Boundary Bay.
When did you first pick up an instrument and what prompted you to play?
I was 4 years old, my Dad had a UW football game on the radio, I went downstairs and plunked out the melody to one of the fight songs on the family piano. So they say…
Polecat spends a lot of time on the road – what is your favorite part of being on the road, your least favorite and why being on the road is important for musicians.
Yay for fun crowds, friendly and competent venue staff, late hotel check-out, and clear dry roads. Boohoo on random and questionable eats, sketchy travel days, and bad stage sound. Gotta keep things moving, it makes for a more developed perspective on performance and keeps things interesting for sure…every night, every town is different!
What is the last great book you read and what did you enjoy so much about it?
I sure loved Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. So cinematic, a great love story unfolding over many decades and continents. I’ve always been a fan of his; maybe it had something to do with him letting me drive his 60s lincoln convertible around with his daughter in high school.
If you weren’t playing music full time, what would be doing and why?
I actually drive a van for a living, and Polecat lets me yell into a mic and strum a guitar loud a couple hours at night. So… long haul truck driver?
Of all the different towns you’ve played, where was your favorite and why?
Polecat sure loves Bend, Oregon. Outdoors kind of folks, young energy, music lovers, great beer, free parking. Missoula gets real close. But ah, Bellingham. So much love from this town over the years, pretty great feeling here…I’ve had several chances to move, and I’m glad I stuck around.
If you could change one thing about Bellingham, what would it be?
Nothing! Actually, clean up all that waterfront space already…c’mon, all the money is going toward Barkeley. We live on the water, people!
What is the worst experience you’ve ever had on the road? Are you able to laugh about it now?
Hehe. See I’m already laughing. One Monday night in Weed, CA, Vantage played for one person in a big room and got paid in hot dogs. Not brats, like the worst bar hot dogs ever. We wondered where the action was; it was the bowling alley bar down the street, duh. A few days later we played for a Capital Records scout in L.A. – her advice was to move down and spend a few years building there and hope to get noticed. Nope! But the lesson here is the ups and downs – always plenty of both in a traveling band.
Do you have a musical inspiration that might surprise people?
Hmm… Daniel Lanois (ambient), Katatonia (progressive metal), Trampled by Turtles (newgrass) to cover some ground. I’m listening constantly. Old, new, doesn’t matter. The last few overplayed albums on my system would be Beck’s Morning Phase, Tom Petty’s Into the Great Wide Open, and Washed Out’s Paracosm.
If you could have lunch with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Mark Knopfler comes up first. Dude has had an incredible career, love his songs and of course that guitar tone, bro. Seems like a great guy to just hang with, have a pint. Although I would be babbling like an idiot I’m sure.
Favorite kind of ice cream?
Cookies and Cream, duh.
Where do you see yourself in five years – in all aspects of life… family, home, music?
Married to Cayley, maybe a kid on the way. Wow! I’m so exciting!
Any last thoughts?
Geeeeeeez I’m sick of talking about myself. Bellingham, I have so much love for you. This town has been my haven, my home. But seriously, come celebrate Polecat’s 5th year as a band on Feb. 28 at the Majestic Ballroom! It’s all ages, booze available, dancers, jugglers, marching bands, pipe bands, full bands, etc. It’s been five years and 500 shows with all five original members; I am proud of that.
Published in the February 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine