Ari Roar’s gorgeous debut album ‘Calm Down’ was a beautiful blast of DIY guitar pop by a songwriter rooted in – but never confined by – an innate sense of classicism. But while his debut was built during spells in both Seattle and New York, sophomore LP ‘Best Behavior’ is marked by a return home, to the landscapes of Texas and the familiar streets of Dallas.
“I felt like I was in a totally different headspace and environment,” says songwriter Caleb Campbell. “Texas is definitely not like anywhere else that I’ve lived before. It’s always going to be home to me so it’s got that nostalgic feeling to it.”
Working from a converted shed in his parent’s garden, Caleb Campbell began constructing the second Ari Roar album on his trusty Tascam 388 tape recorder. Working quickly, feverishly, he used two six month spells to get his ideas down on tape – spartan but endlessly beautiful pieces of melody, exquisite in their bittersweet execution.
“Everybody likes time to themselves, something that’s meditative or a place where you can really just shut everything out,” he explains. “It’s an ongoing process that will never quite be complete. I’ve been doing it so long now it feels part of my personality.”
Sonically beautiful, ‘Best Behavior’ is unafraid to deal with remarkably personal topics – love, loss, self doubt, the panacea music can offer. “I guess it’s where I was at the time. My relationships. Things I was feeling or reflecting on,” he recalls. “A lot of the songs are brief so it’s only a few lines here and there. If you got down to it, it’s more personal, like a journal or a diary.”
Curious vignettes that layer simple sounds to conjure complex emotions, Ari Roar is dedicated to the craft of the classic pop song, a skewed take on 60s bubblegum reconstituted by an awareness of the modern US underground, like a lost Guided By Voices compilation left to take root in the Texan soil.
“My parents used to play me The Beatles, The Monkees… it’s how I started to begin a relationship with music,” he recalls. “Then I thought, I should start writing my own songs… and I felt the most at home doing that kind of stuff. It’s one of my strengths, I guess.”
Released by Bella Union in 2018, debut album ‘Calm Down’ won fulsome praise on both sides of the Atlantic, including key support from 6Music and lavish reviews from tastemaker sites such as Paste Magazine, Best Fit, and Clash.
‘Best Behavior’ fits into this universe, but charts out its own distinct space. Opening song ‘My Luck Is Up’ was a “breakthrough moment”, with Caleb taking greater risks in the writing process. ‘Learn The Trick’ is a simple, affecting acoustic moment, while title song ‘Best Behavior’ was so daring, and so complete, that it felt “like somebody else wrote it”.
Immersing himself in music, Ari Roar is careful to leaves spaces for the listener to follow, unfinished elements that invite you to chart your own path in the record. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, so I guess it’s more a reflection of me personally – because I’m not perfect at all!” he laughs. “I start to get a little bit depressed if I don’t have any means of being creative. It definitely makes me feel more normal.”
Ari Roar’s perfectly imperfect guitar pop creations contain all the dirt of everyday life; for every joyous, soaring chorus, there’ll be a middle eight that can pull your heartstrings into wonderful origami shapes. “I find songs that are just the same emotion all the way through don’t have any kind of context. It’s just like life. It’s not all one emotion. It’s constantly changing.”
With its colour, melody, and unfiltered emotion ‘Best Behavior’ is the finest vista yet on the journey of a committed, feverish songwriter, a lone, bold voice from the plains Texas.