aldn Settles Into Alt-Rock on 'sydney'

aldn Settles Into Alt-Rock on 'sydney'

by Payton Dunn

In April of last year, aldn first caught the attention of PAPER for his glaive collaboration “what was the last thing u said,” a heart-throbbing digicore ballad that pushed hyperpop's limits.

Just as the public had gotten wise to the fast-paced glitchy beats that aldn himself helped champion into the mainstream, he completely flipped the script, morphing them into something that was structured more like an indie song than the emo, rap-tinged tunes he and his friends had been writing for years.

Now, aldn’s shaking up the narrative yet again, shedding the fast tempos and hyper-synthetic production in favor of a driving bass groove and pounding alt-rock drums on “sydney.”

The sound isn’t new for aldn. He first dipped his toes into the alt-rock world earlier this year on good grief, an EP loosely structured around the seven stages of grief that was a delicate balancing act, keeping one foot in the hyperpop world while branching out into rock, letting the synthesizers take a momentary break as the guitars took precedence. ​

Having already found great success with it on good grief, which he played in New York City and Los Angeles to sold out crowds, aldn is settling into that sound on “sydney,” with mind-melting synth licks and drums that pound harder than ever.

The song comes alongside a music video directed by Tommy Bauer, who’s most well-known for his work on the music video channel Overcast, having been the VFX editor for the music video of aldn’s breakout single “glittr.” The “sydney” video has artist and music video director kahre and hyperpunk singer and producer aldrch appearing in the opening scenes, a clever nod to a burgeoning hyperpop scene offshoot that just might be the scene’s next evolution.

Below, PAPER caught up with aldn ahead of his premiere for “sydney” to talk about the new single, his recent move to New York City and just what he was up to with Travis Barker over the weekend.

What was the inspiration behind “sydney”?

I wrote the first verse on it a long time ago, and it was originally about my friend Sydney, but I just came back to it recently like a month ago when I actually fully finished it up and rewrote it about anybody, you know? It’s about someone who’s super cool — someone that you look up to, someone you want to be like.

What inspired the general delve into alt-rock earlier this year with good grief?

What really kicked it off was Yves Tumor because I got really into [their] music around the time I started getting into alt-rock stuff, but I’d always been into alt-rock stuff from growing up around it with my brother and my dad with The Cure and The Smiths, which is not so much alt-rock but there’s a little bit of that in there.

What was it like watching the whole digicore scene go from SoundCloud pages and Discord servers to real live venues last year?

It was definitely really weird because I’ve been through so many SoundCloud scenes. I’ve been using SoundCloud since I was like 12 and I’m 21 now, so I’ve seen the dubstep era of SoundCloud, I’ve seen the lo-fi era of SoundCloud and just everything in between. It was interesting to see this one be the one that breaks out of SoundCloud and becomes something real.

And then you moved with fellow digicore legend midwxst to New York in May, right?

Yeah, basically. It was end of April I think.

What was that like?

It’s been really fun! He’s been introducing me to a ton of people actually because he just knows a ton of people. We’re always just going to a studio or something or there’ll always just be random people at our place making music, so it’s been really fun!

And what was the tour like when you went with him and glaive earlier this year?

That was definitely a life-changing experience for sure! Especially because we had a tour bus too, so I got really close with both of them and I feel like I learned a lot about myself too. I don’t mean to sound corny, but it was a little bit of self-discovery too.

How are you preparing for the upcoming glaive tour — “america is a place that exists?”

I’m just going to go into it, you know? I can’t bring my band with me this time so I’m probably going to prepare by setting up some kind of set with an Ableton LaunchPad.

And you’re going to be going through your college town, Richmond, on that tour.


What’s that going to be like? How do you feel about that?

That’ll be interesting for sure! It’ll be really cool to see friends and people I haven’t seen since I dropped out, but I also have a lot of bad memories from Richmond too so I’m a little nervous about it.

Me too, me too! I lived there for like 18 years, so it’s a very mixed bag with Richmond! Was there anything you liked about it in particular or disliked about it in particular?

I really enjoyed the early college experience, like the dorms and stuff. That’s probably the most fun I had in Richmond. After I moved into an actual townhouse with my friends and another person we just kind of met, that’s when shit went downhill because it was a bad roommate situation. But yeah, definitely the most fun was the early years.

You released “worse” and “i_follow” from the archives last month on to SoundCloud. What prompted that?

I don’t know, I had so many old hyperpop songs just laying around and I’ve been wanting to just let them out — let people hear it but without fully releasing it, you know? The whole label release takes a couple of weeks and shooting a video and stuff... so it just kind of made sense to release it as a little unofficial thing, and it seems like people really like them, so I plan on doing that more!

You were on Travis Barker’s Instagram story over the weekend. Is there anything you can say about what was going down there?

Yeah, we were making music! And we made one really cool idea and then another one was basically a full song, so we’ll see if that ends up getting released, but I really liked what we made. It was also with Nick Long and Suzy Shinn, who are producers and writers, so there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but it came out really cool!

Nice! I’m excited for that! Are there any other special surprises for aldn fans in the near future?

Hopefully the next song will be with Riovaz. I’m excited for that one! [For the EP], I’m still putting together how I want everything to flow for it, so I don’t have a full idea around it yet, but I think since the last EP was kind of depressing and about heavy topics, I wanted this one to be a contrast to that and be much more upbeat and happier, lyrically and sonically too.

Photography: Joe Perri