Three brothers, their instruments, and their passion is all the “AJR Brothers” need to succeed in what they love; music. They do it all without a record label, and without a desire for being signed to one either.
Although they are one of the most recent groups to emerge strongly onto the music scene, the three siblings are not amateurs. Despite their young ages (Adam, 23; Jack, 16; Ryan, 20), the trio has been performing together for about seven years. It was only a little over a year ago that they began to really get serious with their music. As fate would have it, it was around that time that they would get their big break.
The simple idea of wanting to sample the “coolest thing possible,” as Jack would say, is how their breakout song, “I’m Ready” came about. Jack said how multiple artists were sampling different things and he wanted to sample Spongebob Squarepants in a song. During a regular elevator trip in their building, Jack brought the idea up to Ryan.
The youngest brother laughed as he remembered telling Ryan, “Someone should really make like a dubstep beat like, ‘I’m ready!’ Boom, you know, with the drums.’ I didn’t expect him to do anything honestly, and then like a week later he comes to me with ‘I’m Ready’ which is exactly what that was. It was unbelievable.”
When exactly was it written? October 28, 2012, Adam had told Teenplicity – right in the middle of Hurricane Sandy! To say their passion has no bounds is an understatement.
The Big Break
“We were retweeted by Sia Furler,” Jack recalled, the excitement still present in his voice despite the time that has passed. He continued, “Our music video for “I’m Ready” was actually retweeted by her.” The group tried their luck, asking the famous artist for a follow and from there, had begun to privately message her. “She invited us for breakfast down at the Bowerly Hotel here in New York City. So we went downtown and had lunch with her.”
It was through Sia that AJR was introduced to record labels, and this became what they call their “main start”.
Adam described the experience in awe and said, “Seeing somebody so well known, so renowned as a writer and a performer enjoying the music that we wrote in our living room was really inspiring.”
Ryan joined in to share about the event. “We started out street performing in Washington Square Park in Manhattan and we kind of had an interest in her because we didn’t know anybody in the music industry when we started; we didn’t have that aunt that was the big producer. So we basically did everything ourselves for seven years. That moment was kind of a huge spiral that got out of control.”
Record Label? No Thanks!
With a way to gain insight into the music industry, and the possibility of a record label looming overhead, the brothers took this as a way to learn.
“We’ve kind of taken (the doing everything themselves) mentality and applied it to what we’re doing,” Adam explained. “We met with a bunch of labels and we decided not to go with a record label even though a bunch of them were interested. So we have our own production company that does everything; we write all of the music ourselves and produce it ourselves – it’s all done in the living room! And even the stuff that’s on the radio right now, only our hands have touched it.”
As of early April, AJR did announce that their self-made label, AJR Productions, has entered into a partnership with Warner Brothers Records. In a letter to their fans, the band stated:
“We are now distributed and marketed by (the Warner Brothers Records’) team… We entered into an unbelievable relationship where the 3 of us have full creative control over all music, photos, videos, merchandise, etc.”
The group continued to thank their fans for their dedicated support from the beginning. The full letter can be found on their tumblr page.
AJR was mostly known for their original music and their creative covers on YouTube, but opening for the likes of R5, The Wanted, and Demi Lovato, to name a few, have definitely helped to expand their reach. The results of their hard work and gaining fans became very evident to them immediately. New fans that had discovered AJR at The Wanted’s New York City show this past fall actually drove out to Long Island less than a week later to see the group open up for Fifth Harmony.
The only word the brothers could use to describe such an experience? Incredible. Their voices were full of wonder and awe, still in shocked at the dedication that came about so prominently in such a short period of time. “It’s like the greatest feeling in the world,” Ryan said. He shook his head in disbelief and a wide smile was clear on all of their faces.
“When we were in Montreal, people came to see us and drove three hours to see us. And they were our fans!” Adam exclaimed. His smile had only gotten bigger and the sense of shock had increased as well. “They had AJR signs! And I mean, we were an opening act but to get that kind of support from fans is really inspiring.”
In previous months, AJR has headlined a number of their own shows, moving to bigger venues each time. And with each concert they find fans that drive longer or wait longer, just to see them. Some fans had driven over five hours to see their most recent New York City headlining show in March, with other fans waiting outside the venue since the early morning hours.
“We feel like we’re just going up there, making a lot of jokes, and we don’t feel like we have this whole production plan.” Ryan commented.
Cutting in, Jack said, “We’re just being us!”
A shrug in addition to a goofy, blissful smile was all Ryan had to add, as well as, “We do something different every night, it’s just really fun and it’s really great to see that they’re receptive to it.”
Behind the Scenes and On Stage
AJR really doesn’t have a production plan when it comes to going on stage. Unlike many other artists of today, the group of three does not rehearse their speeches or what they say between songs before the concert. Nearly everything that is said on stage during their set is completely coming from them, on the spot. It adds a sense of realism to the group, as well as helps to strengthen the connection with the audience. It gives the sense that each member is talking directly to you, which in most cases, they are.
Beneath their growing rock-star statuses, AJR is simply that – brothers. They are three down-to-earth guys that are just having fun and enjoying life.
While Jack has a maturity level that exceeds his years, he lets his younger, energetic side out while on stage. There is not a moment while they are performing that you can see Jack not jumping, or at least not itching to jump. He is constantly moving on his feet, adjusting his actions to each song. Seeing him maneuver about the stage is contagious and the crowd can’t help but copy his actions. But off-stage, there is a slightly calmer side to the sixteen-year-old and it almost makes some fans do a double take, wondering how he holds in all that energy. His personality is sweet though, and his humor is found in every situation.
Ryan, the main songwriter and producer of the group, has an extremely funny side, as do both his siblings. His humor is a bit drier, coming out in silent moments and causing an entire room of people that are silent to break out in laughter. While on stage, Ryan can get lost in the music, his face turning serious for a few moments. But that is quickly broken and with a short laugh, a smile is back on his face.
The oldest, and possibly the sweetest of the group, is Adam. On stage, his eyes are constantly sweeping the audience, trying to connect with each member. His smile is a constant and he, just like his brothers, radiates the joy and love they get from performing. Off stage, his nice personality is only seen in a brighter light – he even moved a couch to a different wall in their dressing room to get a less awkward angle for the interview!
Reigning true to their song, AJR will not forget you, though they may forget your name. Their appreciation for their fans is overwhelming and they have pointed out fans that they’ve seen at previous shows, even trying to remember which show it was. But after being thrown thousands and thousands of names from different people across the country, don’t be offended if they can’t remember yours off the top of their head. They’ll get it eventually.
The respect and love they hold for their fans is loud and clear in everything they do. And it is doubtful that it will lessen in time to come, but rather it will grow larger.
Ten Years From Now…
“Ten years is a long way away,” Adam joked.
Ryan shared a laugh with his older brother before he spoke. “I would hope that we are still our own bosses because we kind of consider ourselves our own bosses now, doing everything.”
“I mean, I know everyone says it but definitely world-wide,” Jack told everyone, his brothers nodding in agreement. Despite everyone having said it before him, and many more to come, Jack’s voice and eyes truly showed his passion for what the three of them do. At such a young age, his maturity, professional attitude, and sense of understanding is astounding. His words were laced with the desire for the group to be known worldwide but not for the fame or fortune, but for the fact that more and more people would know their music and would see them perform.
“Every continent,” Jack added in a joking tone, lightening the mood.
Though, music isn’t the only portion of the arts that Adam, Ryan, and Jack are interested in.
Jack and Ryan in particular would love to branch out with their AJR webisodes. “That’s another one of our passions,” Jack mentioned. “Cause we love making those so much like film or comedy writing or something; that would be so funny.”
“Or turn it into a TV show or something like that,” Ryan joked.
“That would be a good idea.”
Adam jumped in and added, “Not your typical kind of band TV show but something-”
“Weird,” Ryan finished for him.
Adam nodded his head in agreement and tried to hold back his laughter. “Weird, comedic skits.”
What They Look Forward To
“Having opening bands for us,” Ryan immediately said. “Finding people that are kind of like us and need a break. We’d kind of get to give them their break. I’m looking forward to that.” The gentle smile on his lips was a tell-tale sign that they hold no selfishness when coming into the music industry, and no ulterior motive.
“I’m along those lines. I’m looking forward to working with other bands who are growing their style and kind of writing with them and producing for them,” Adam expanded. “Helping them grow as artists.”
“I have to take Adam’s answer as well,” Jack said, a small laugh emerging from the room before becoming serious again. “We have so many influences and these artists that we want to meet so badly just to talk about music and that’s exactly what I cannot wait to do.”
With their fame blossoming more and more with every day, and their impending tour with Lindsey Stirling as well as radio sponsored events, the group of three still manage to stay grounded. They know what they want to do with their careers and how they want to get it done, while still staying true to the three brothers they were just prior to their internet fame. Be on the look-out because it is without a doubt that AJR’s stardom is about to explode even more. Are you ready?
You can keep updated on all things AJR with their Facebook, tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram accounts. These links and more can be found on their website, AJRBrothers.com! A list of upcoming tour dates can be found on their Facebook page. Their EP “I’m Ready is available on iTunes now.