- Shaant Hacikyan and Co.: New skin for an old ceremony.
Cute Is What We Aim For singer Shaant Hacikyan isn't shy when talking about the internal tensions that have been a big part of life in his group. In fact, he says, "I'd be really interested if other bands are this candid, because they fucking lie all the time about how they're best friends and so tight. You really never know."
The singer doesn't spare the details in discussing the chemistry within Cute Is What We Aim For, and one particular personnel change that has improved the dynamic at least to a point.
The Buffalo-based group has certainly enjoyed a good deal of success in a short time. At ages when most of their peers were thinking about SATs, Cute Is What We Aim For was completing a 2006 debut CD, The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch, which earned it a spot on Rolling Stone magazine's 10 Artists to Watch list, a cover story in Alternative Press magazine and sales of more than 100,000 copies.
Even so, the band members haven't particularly enjoyed each other, either during the time Same Old Blood Rush was recorded with producer Matt Squire at his Maryland garage studio, or at the Bel Air mansion where the group's recently released second CD, Rotation, was made with producer John Feldmann. Or during the two-plus years between the projects.
"We hated each other when we were in a garage," Hacikyan says. "We hated each other when we were in a mansion. So I think we just have that within ourselves. We don't really get along very well."
Actually, Hacikyan modifies that statement slightly, saying that these days "we all love each other well, a few of us love each other."
It appears many of the internal problems involved clashes over musical direction with bassist Fred Cimato. That situation was resolved when the group replaced him during the Rotation project with Dave Melillo. (Drummer Tom Falcone subsequently left the band as well.)
The singer says that, for the most part, they didn't have such a bad time making Rotation.
Chances are, fans of the first CD will enjoy the result. The group's knack for catchy pop-rock melodies once again becomes quickly apparent, be it on songs like the hard-charging "Doctor," the epic "Safe Ride" or the horn-laden "Hollywood." Overall, the songs and performances are more polished, especially on a lyrical level, as Hacikyan explores some deeper and dare it be said more mature emotional territory.
Rotation's musical growth seems only natural considering Cute Is What We Aim For had only been together for about a year when Same Old Blood Rush was recorded.
Hacikyan says that musical growth is apparent in the live show as well.
"We were chickens with our heads cut off," Hacikyan says of the initial touring. "I think this time we've stepped it up. We've figured out what we really want to do live and how to do it."