Aediles is Coleman Sullivan and Owen Sullivan, two unrelated Boston natives whose high-school friendship evolved into an electronic music project during the depths of the pandemic. They released their debut LP, The Mystery of Eels, in August of this year. WRBB’s Fenner Dreyfuss-Wells met up with the duo to talk about stir-craziness, obscure techno, and what comes next for the Aediles project.
Fenner Dreyfuss-Wells: Do you want to tell me a little bit about your origin story?
Owen Sullivan: So, we’re both Sullivans from Boston; we went to Boston Latin [School] together. No relation at all.
Coleman Sullivan: I think we both had a lot of music taste in common throughout high school, but we also were into very different things. And then we went off to college and didn’t really talk to each other for a while, and when we came back together, we realized our tastes had really kind of –
OS: Coalesced, yeah.
CS: We had both gotten really into electronic music and synthesizers, and making music on computers, kind of independent of each other. And then when we got back together, we were like, oh, fuck.
OS: Yeah. I think we went out to get dinner, and it ended up with us kind of walking all around Cambridge. And then at the end of it, we were like, yeah, we should do an album. And we should do a live show. And at the time, I was like, I really hope this works out. But it was the middle of COVID.
CS: Yeah, like the depths. Shit was just about to get bad.
OS: Yeah. So we were kind of like, oh, shit, how is this going to work? And so we kept a correspondence up. And then we just started sending each other audio files back and forth. And there was an objective from day one – we wanted to finish an album. And we both stuck with it pretty hard, which was great. It was good to have unity of purpose in music, which was something I had seldom experienced, especially in high school, where I hadn’t really found a genre that I had really gravitated towards or felt that I could express myself through, if that makes sense. I spent a lot of time listening to trap music. And I liked it a great deal at the time, but I just felt angry and upset. It wasn’t artistic impulse that led me to the music that I enjoyed at the time. And so it wasn’t until I was able to really sit on my own for long periods of time, just listening to music for myself, and not to give myself energy or to induce a certain emotion, that I kind of found what I liked.
CS: And then, yeah, once shit got really bad with COVID, we were basically just confined to our rooms for a few months. So I’d say we formed in early October [of 2020]. And then throughout the spring, we were both kind of on go mode. When I wasn’t in classes, I was just, like, fucking making songs on my computer, and he was the same thing.
OS: Yeah, I was going crazy. I mean, I was in a single [room], and I had never been to Tufts, so I had no friends there. My only friend from high school who went there was gone for the semester. And so I was just sitting in my room, alone, for months at a time.
CS: Yeah, I was on the same shit. I was just at home with my family, or going to work, or just making music.
Would you have described yourself as electronic musicians before this project?
CS: Absolutely not, no. I’ve played in indie bands with [Owen]. And I’m also in a punk band. So all my stuff up until then was very much punk- and hardcore-based. That’s also a lot of what I listen to and stuff, but COVID really drove me into electronic music. I started wanting to make it. It was very strange. It was definitely a product of isolation.
OS: Yeah, yeah. Totally. I don’t think I would have gotten into it, otherwise.
Do you guys want to talk about your electronic influences a little bit?
CS: There’s a handful of bands that we really bonded over initially. Arthur Russell was a big one.
OS: Arthur Russell, for sure.
CS: Stereolab. This band called This Heat from the ‘80s. Who else? Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, the obvious ones. Everything off of Warp in the ‘90s. Four Tet, Autechre.
OS: We would sit down and be like, these drums, they have to be just like Autechre.
CS: A lot of weird funk from the ‘70s. Funky punk. Like Lizzy Mercier Descloux.
OS: Lizzy Mercier Descloux, a lot of post punk and no wave artists, that was huge for me. Who else?
CS: Some contemporary stuff. Dean Blunt, ESG, Hype Williams.
OS: Yes. Hype Williams is huge. For live sets, those guys are a big influence.
CS: There’s a Hype Williams live set video where we both watched it, and we were like, this is exactly it.
OS: Yeah, absolutely. Also, generally I think we draw a lot from techno and stuff too, at this point.
CS: Yeah, just random techno.
OS: I’m pretty particular about it, though. A lot of it I find very monotonous. It’s kind of rare that I find one individual techno song that I like. Generally I like the sounds, you know what I mean? Not necessarily the whole tracks.
CS: Shinichi Atobe.
OS: Shinichi Atobe. Oh, that’s a huge, huge influence. That’s one of the big ones I always forget. Yeah, he’s fantastic. Also, oh, what’s his face? Galcher Lustwerk. He’s great, man. He’s fantastic. He just produced an [Azealia Banks] song. Very, very good. I had been listening to his music for a little while, and then he came out with that song. And it’s like, fantastic. And very popular.
I’m curious about the thematic process behind the album. How did you name everything, and is there a deeper meaning you want to communicate?
CS: It’s very nautical themed. There’s like a nautical thing. Which, I don’t know, where did that even come from?
OS: Oh, the DVD. We were jamming one day. Yeah, in like, January. And I used to have this DVD that my girlfriend’s mom gave to me, because she found me a huge package of these PBS documentaries in the basement. So I had like, eight of them, nine of them, maybe even 12. And they’re all like, “The Mystery of Eels” or like, “The Story of Lions” or some absurd thing like that. And I gave them out as presents, but I kept this one because I thought it was so funny. And I just had it on top of my speakers and [Coleman was] like, that’s a sweet album name.
CS: And then I sent you a song one day, and you were like, “this song is ‘The Mystery of Eels.’” And that ended up being the song “The Mystery of Eels” on the album.
OS: Yeah, and then the naming was kind of all over the place, but I think, thematically, it’s consistent.
CS: The song “Seamstress” is called that because we used a sample of a sewing machine.
OS: Oh, yeah, I should say that my mom is a quilter. And she gave me this one that’s blue, kind of like an ocean. And [there’s] all sorts of nautical themed stuff on it. And it kind of rocks. And so all the samples of me speaking on [“Seamstress”] are just me listing sequences of the things on the quilt. And then yeah, we used the sample of the sewing machine too. That was a cool song. That was one of the first ones we did as a jam session. We just recorded it straight up, which was very fun.
What are you guys looking forward to in the future for this project?
CS: Playing live is gonna be amazing. Just getting cracking on new music, too, honestly. I have so many different directions I wanna go [in], and just getting started on LP number two would be cool. I mean, I just want to be as prolific as possible, honestly. And, I don’t know, just get more people to listen. Yeah, getting more of a following. And being able to play live and have people come up to you and be like, oh, that was cool.
OS: Yeah. That would be my biggest reward in doing it. And yeah, performing live will be so fun.
CS: And then getting rich.