—by Mick Sandoval
Out rocker Aris (pronounced like Paris but without the P) grew up in Brooklyn, the product of a belly-dancing mother and a Greek immigrant father. Music played in his home all the time: mostly Doo-Wop and Motown, his mother’s favorites. She particularly loved Elvis and through him, introduced her son to Rock & Roll. In his teenage years, Aris began to explore the genre more deeply, listening to rock radio for endless hours.
He gravitated toward singer-songwriters that bared their souls in their work—artists like Chris Cornell, Paula Cole, Joan Osborne, Poe, and Nikka Costa. Kurt Cobain was especially significant. To young Aris, Cobain exemplified the duality of rock. “I love how soft and hard rock can be,” he says. “Its powerful and vulnerable at the same time.”
Aris hopes fans will feel he has captured that duality on his own album, Twilight Revival, hitting stores this month. It was inspired by the tragic death of his mother in Hurricane Sandy. Many of the songs read like entries from his journal, reflecting his personal journey toward healing. But there is celebration in the album too, recounting a mother who accepted her son’s homosexuality and allowed her young boy to play with make-up and wigs. The album’s title track is about music’s power to lift people out of dark times and reignite the fire in their hearts. Two variations, a rock and an EDM version, are releasing simultaneously. Both comprise the artist’s gritty vocals and minor key refrains, and both exude the drive-for-life passion Aris has found through his loss.
How has the album helped your healing process?
Writing and recording Twilight Revival has been my saving grace. I had been gathering ideas for the album for several years, but things took on a new dimension after the passing of my mother in Hurricane Sandy. I found great comfort while in the studio recording it. There are several songs that my mother loved, such as “Pray for Change,” a song about the state of the world and yearning to lend a helping hand to make it better. My mom appears in the video, shot just a few weeks before her passing.
“Twilight,” the first release from the album, actually sounds pretty celebratory. Was that intentional?
It was definitely intentional. The song’s about not wanting the night to end, and living in the moment. I had been through a series of difficult events that left me feeling mentally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. It felt like a really long, dark winter. I had to remind myself that winter soon turns to spring.
The EDM version is a new sound for you. Are you branching out from rock?
Believe it or not, I was once a club kid and even worked in dance clubs doing event production. Though I’m a rocker at heart, dance is in my blood. I love experimenting and blending genres, so it felt like a very natural progression for me. There is still a spirit of rock in the vocal approach and the guitars.
How did you get involved in the rock scene?
Thanks to my mother’s record collection, I grew up around a lot of rock music. In the eighties, it was Blondie and U2. In the nineties, I loved Nirvana, Soundgarden and Bush.
As a rocker, Dd you find it difficult to connect with a disco-loving LGBT community?
Sometimes. People aren’t so sure what to think of me. I’ve had long hair and a beard for a long time, before it was trendy. But times are changing. There is more of an understanding of sexuality and the different types of men who make up the gay community. We’re a diverse tapestry of personalities and tastes.
Emotionally, where are you at today?
I’m still grieving the loss of my mother, but I’m also celebrating her legacy of love. I’m living in the now, in a state of gratitude, and taking in each breath with passion and purpose.
Would you be open to dating?
It’s taken awhile, but yes, I’m ready now. The biggest thing that’s happened for me is learning what it really means to love myself.
What do you look for in a guy?
I find intelligence very sexy. A great sense of humor is so important. I’m attracted to compassionate, kind hearts. I’m also a sucker for blue eyes and well trimmed beards.
Is spirituality important?
Yes, but not mandatory. I find it very attractive when someone cares deeply about something greater than themselves, but I think an open mind is more important. You don’t have to agree with what I believe in as long as you respect my right to believe it.
I’m preparing to shoot the videos for my next two singles. I’m also launching an initiative called “Operation Inspire” in April which will gather creative minds to influence, affect, and shape the world for the better.
Aris’ album Twilight Revival and single, “Twilight,” are available now on iTunes and other online music retailers.