The band Ainsworth has managed to contribute to their local music scene in Whittier, California and fight for their artistic vision in the midst of the “pay to play” era that has plagued young bands in recent years. With Tristan Puig as their lead singer/guitarist, Derrick Cortez on bass, Gabriel Perdomo on guitar, Micah Cortez on keyboard, and Ryan Kozycz on drums, Ainsworth delivers expressive lyrics and haunting music that embodies anti-establishment vibes, as well as heartache. Before the band embarks on their first tour across Arizona, New Mexico, and California, Creeper Magg got to sit down with the boys and chat about Ainsworth’s journey from being a single frontman to a full fledged five-piece band.
Creeper Magg: Originally Ainsworth started out as a solo project right, so can you explain how the other band members came about, and a how a new Ainsworth emerged from that?
Tristan: Well I had played shows for a little while by myself for about four months and then I saw this other band called ‘The Freedmen’s Bureau.’ I saw them play music and I thought they were really good [so] I wanted to play more shows with them. I also had my eyes kind of open to what a band could offer because the shows I played with bands were a lot of usual bands, with a bassist, 2 guitarists, and a drummer, but this was the first time I had seen people that seemed to actually build off each other and make something unique. I thought that might be interesting to try, so I started off with a three piece, and then went by myself for a little longer, until I decided to make a big push, and have a big band, and this is the best I’ve felt on music for sure.
CM: When did you guys release ‘Cage in Search of a Bird?’
Tristan: May 27th.
CM: What was the process for recording the album?
Tristan: We got a studio for the last day I was in the states [and] we had the files immediately. I had a fourteen hour layover in Istanbul so I was just listening to the songs over and over and making notes to send back to them because they were going to go in soon and change the mixing.
CM: Did you all write the music together?
Tristan: They were all solo songs and then when I asked them to play with me I just came into the room and had them just listen and play whatever they felt like playing.
CM: In the future are you all going to write songs together, or do you think it’ll just depend on the song?
Tristan: I guess it just depends because the songs are a lot different then when I brought them in. I have a big passion for writing the words and chords tend to go with that and some melodies. Once it’s brought in with four others super talented and unique musicians it’s gonna sound different, it’s gonna transform.
Micah: Let’s try to write two songs on the tour.
CM: Where will you be going on the tour?
Tristan: We’re going to go through Arizona and New Mexico and we’re going to stop in Utah.
CM: Are they house shows or are they in bars?
Tristan: A couple are house shows, the rest are DIY venues.
CM: Are you all going in one car?
Gabe: Yeah, okay, the band situation we talk about pretty much every single time that we get together, we’re still working on it.
Tristan: We’re gonna try and fit, well us four will be alone for most of the tour, and he [Gabe] has to jump in halfway, so we’re going to try and take two cars with us, and then when he comes he’s going to be in a third car.
CM: You also said that you are releasing music videos for all of the songs on your album?
Gabe: Oh yeah, we have them all.
CM: What was the process for the videos?
Tristan: I didn’t participate in almost any of them actually, I just gave them out to friends.
CM: So they aren’t of you guys playing?
Gabe: One’s of him [Tristan].
Tristan: I’m in one of them.
CM: Are they more like short films?
Tristan: My favorite music videos aren’t of bands playing music, they’re of like just anything in the world besides that.
CM: Do you guys have a favorite music video or song from the album?
Gabe: I like the ‘Tumult’ one.
Micah: I think we can all say ‘Tumult’ just because Tristan’s so handsome.
Derrick: It’s out already ladies.
Micah: And your heart will be broken because that jawline.
Tristan: I feel very strongly when I watch them because I asked my personal friends because I was at the film school so there were a lot of people who were passionate about collaborating and making things so most of the people who made a video were from there, some were from here and they’re all so different and you can tell a lot of thought went into them, all of them are just so good.
Micah: One thing I really realized about this project Ainsworth, there’s been a lot of artistic freedom inside of it, and something that I really appreciate, just the approaches that we make, like Tristan kind of allows us to kind of just do whatever we want and there’s kind of just this trust there.
Tristan: Yeah that was a pretty important part of the project, pretty much anytime I asked someone to participate in a video project I said I’m not going to have any input, I just want 12 different people to come at it completely using their own creative vision and see how it works out, when they’re all laced together, and it’s worked out really great.
Derrick: I haven’t seen all the videos, but my favorite song to play is ‘Congressman’ because it’s anti-gun and it’s fun to dance to.
CM: Yeah, you make references to the government sometimes right?
Tristan: Yeah pretty heavily in that song I’d say. The first EP I wrote freshmen year of college was almost all not personal feelings and then the one song that really survived from that besides ‘Congressmen’ was ‘Trash Treasury,’ which was the only one that was introspective at all. This was a few years ago and I hadn’t felt comfortable enough, it was the first time I wrote a song, but the one song that really did stick was about myself and that was the direction I went in from there and now I very rarely touch on that, I just think ‘Congressmen’ is so fun that’s why it’s stuck around.
CM: Is there anything that specifically inspires your songs?
Tristan: Pretty much all varying methods of heartbreak I guess.
CM: Is there a lot?
Tristan: Yeah, so I did the count on this album and there were, there are songs based off of feelings that came specifically from 6 different people of this 12 song album. Those are people that made me feel strongly in some way, either I was in a romantic relationship with them or in a friendship or in something more ambiguous, and it wasn’t like I was writing to them necessarily but they mostly just sometimes you get the people in your life that make you feel a way that you haven’t felt before and sometimes it’s bad.
CM: Are there any happy songs? Or are they mostly sad or angry?
Tristan: I was considering the title for the album something like ‘11 Songs About Dying and One About Guns.’
CM: Can you explain what the actual title ‘Cage in Search of a Bird’ means?
Tristan: ‘Cage in Search for a Bird’ is kind of like an excerpt from Franz Kafka’s notebooks, the third one is really good and ‘Cage in Search for a Bird’ is one line, but I just think that imagery it’s inspiring. It’s relatable to me personally because sometimes you feel like you need someone in your life even though you know you would restrict their freedom or not allow them to live as freely and happily as they could be.
Gabe: So are you the cage in a way?
Tristan: Yeah it’s about feeling selfish for wanting happiness for yourself.
Derrick: I thought it was about you [being] a cage, but you’re just a shell of who you are and you’re looking for meaning, so the bird represents meaning and when the bird enters the cage, because that’s like life, like the cage is dead by itself, when the bird comes in it’s life.
Gabe: The way that I was thinking it was you’re a cage and you take something beautiful, like a person, and make it yours to keep. Like if you could capture a rainbow, people would make it so we could buy rainbows.
CM: What’s on the cover of the album?
Tristan: It’s a picture of a window and a chair, taken by a friend of ours.
Micah: I almost like it because the title goes with the picture too and you see the trees outside and kind of like the outside world and then you feel like stuck inside.
Tristan: Definitely, when the pictures were run by me, it’s part of the reason I was attached to it immediately.
CM: So what the best part about being in this band?
Gabe: That were all kind of specially picked kind of in a way, we all kind of picked each other to be in this band.
Derrick: Like when we had to get a replacement for guitar, we all hand picked Gabe to be in this band.
Gabe: My first instance playing with this band was filling in for Derrick on bass.
Tristan: Yeah the first show with this kind of line-up, [Gabe] was on bass because he was going to come to just check it out just to watch, but he came early and Derrick wasn’t going to be there.
CM: So you knew the songs already?
Micah: He’s just that good.
Gabe: I’m not even that good, bass you can play quietly.
CM: So you guys have mentioned your local music scene, you wear their shirts and everything, can you describe more about it? Or what you like about it?
Micah: It was interesting being in 8th grade and going to house shows and kind of like little local scenes. I remember looking up to these people in the bands and being like, ‘Man, if I could only play shows or like be in a band.’
CM: Did you play instruments back then?
Micah: No, I like I kind of just messed around on keyboard and I actually started on bass.
Gabe: You joined ‘The Freedmen’s Bureau’ as the accordion player.
Micah: I actually joined ‘The Freedmen’s Bureau’ not really knowing anything, so they really took me under their wing and I actually started playing music because of that band, but it’s been really interesting kind of being part of the local scene, and playing and collaborating with different bands like ‘Desert Woman’ and ‘Echavox.’
Gabe: The thing with the local scene is that we had to build it up ourselves.
Micah: We started the local scene.
Gabe: We put on the Holloway shows.
Derrick: There’s a lot of different local scenes.
Gabe: This is the really small one, the Whittier scene.
Micah: We’re not like The Burger sound.
Gabe: And there’s some other bigger bands in Whittier than us, but they play bigger shows.
CM: Do you attend those bands’ shows?
Tristan: Well it’s not really the same kind of music and environment.
Derrick: Yeah, our scene is pretty sober.
CM: Can you describe the differences?
Tristan: Well that was a big one, I feel that when I go to shows that our friends’ bands are in, it seems like people are there for the music.
Gabe: We’ve played some shows where people are just in it for the party. There’s a party and there’s a band.
Derrick: It’s mostly just them hanging out and us playing.
CM: Like background music?
Tristan: You know there are dozens of bands totally cool with that that’s what they want, they’re after the party atmosphere and they want to make a party better but, you know, we want to be the center of attention.
CM: How would you describe your music?
Tristan: I don’t know, I don’t know how I would describe it, I’ve gotten a lot of different, I don’t think about that, the only time I think about it is when you sound like this.
CM: What have they said?
Gabe and Ryan: Bright Eyes.
Derrick: We got Arcade Fire once.
Tristan: I guess I see where they are coming from, but I don’t know about that, every time someone has said something it’s made me very happy so that’s like my favorite thing, cause I know were not deeply derivative of any one band so I’m not afraid of somebody coming up and saying you sound like this cause it’s not like we’re trying to steal from another band.
Ryan: I’m unabashedly trying to steal from Kanye West [laughs].
Micah: We’re pretty much just a Kanye West cover band, that’s what we are [laughs].
Tristan: The idea that somebody could listen to our music and think about a band, even if I’m not a huge Arcade Fire fan, the fact that they could, I don’t dislike them, but the fact that they could think or hear our music and think of another band as accomplished as Arcade Fire or as The Replacements, it just always feels really good. On our bandcamp I put emo in the tags cause the sound isn’t there, but the content is. So for any emo fans that aren’t completely committed to the sound of emo I think we could really get in on that.
Gabe: I’ve heard the term ‘bedroom’ as a genre, so what’s up with that?
Tristan: It’s like home recordings, like half this album was recorded in Andrew Eastmen’s bedroom so that would be a bedroom type sound. Baroque pop is like singer songwriter but with depth, singer songwriter not on the counter of Starbucks.
Micah: We’re like the better Mumford and Sons [laughs].
CM: Can you tell us where we can find your music?
Tristan: On Instagram @Ainsworthless, we’re on Facebook, maybe I’ll try to use that, but I have no idea, ainsworth.bandcamp.com, it’s available there. It’s on Spotify as well, so it’d be cool if people listened to it on there that way we could get like 1/10th of a penny or something, that’s more about the exposure, so I really do like getting the word out on there. [The] music videos are going to be on YouTube on my channel Tristan Puig, [and] you just pay at the door [for their shows on tour].
Gabe: Everything we do, we’ve never had to sell tickets for.
Tristan: I could fill an entire voice memo on the iphone about pay to play.
CM: Can you explain what ‘pay to play’ is?
Tristan: [The vendors] basically say each band has to sell 25 tickets or more and basically all the tickets cost $10.
Gabe: And anything you don’t sell you have to pay back.
Tristan: So you’re responsible, say you have to give [them] $250, it’s up to you whether or not you sell tickets.
CM: So either way they’re going to get the money?
Tristan: The tickets are worth $250, and that’s terrible because that’s how a lot of the shows go on.
Gabe: All the Chain Reaction shows are like that.
Tristan: It’s usually taking advantage of the kids that are like 16, you know these kids just want to play shows and they don’t know any better, they’re getting taken advantaged of by these venues who know what they are doing and they’ve been doing it for years and as the new class of high school bands comes out they are the ones recruited saying ‘hey.’ House of Blues sounds so prestigious, you know it has the name value so actual good bands have played there so when you find out that you can play House of Blues you’ll do anything to do that, you know, even if it’s selling $400 worth of tickets or not selling.
CM: So you’re basically promoting them, and they don’t have to do anything?
Micah: When I first joined the band he said to me ‘Oh, you never have to worry about playing pay to play shows because we don’t want to do that’ and there’s actually an Instagram post where he wrote an email.
Tristan: I screenshotted a message from a booker from one of the pay to play places and I responded to him, like he said ‘hey would you like to play a show here at this date, presale would be this much’ and I just said something like ‘thank you for the offer but I think what you do is a cancer upon the local music community’ and he was like ‘okay, thanks.’
Gabe: It’s probably just some poor intern asking all the bands.
Tristan: Yeah, cause I feel so strongly about it because kids could be spending time trying to build actual relationships with local musicians rather than rely on some big bar that’s trying to take advantage of them.
Micah: We could probably plug DIY Bridgetown or OC DIY, there’s a lot of DIY groups that are very much like for the musicians.
Tristan: And that’s so beautiful, my first shows were at Bridgetown DIY in La Puente and I played monthly shows there until I started getting into ‘The Freedmen’s Bureau’ and ‘Desert Woman.’ It was a really nice place [the La Mirada scene] because they had people touring from all across the country and everybody was there to just listen to the music and it was a really small place, it was a sober place, which is so important. Sober spaces are so important because they can be all ages and people that are in middle school and high school can go there and it’s a safe place for them to listen to music without having to worry about the people, so that’s why The Smell, I don’t know if you’ve heard about The Smell recently, it’s a DIY, all ages, sober space in LA.
Gabe: In the one of the sketchiest parts of LA, which makes it awesome.
Tristan: It’s a couple blocks from Skid Row and it’s hard to think about something more important to the LA music scene in the past 20 years beside The Smell, it opened up in the late 90s and a lot of great bands have played there, but it got a notice for demolition this past week and that’s a big problem because at any point they can be kicked out.
Gabe: The places that care about the musicians don’t make money because they aren’t stealing from the musicians, so they need volunteers.
Tristan: Any place worth playing at this level runs on volunteers and that’s why it’s so hard to keep a place like that afloat, OC DIY are working on opening a new venue over the summer in Lake Forest and I’m so excited for them. I really hope it goes well because there’s nothing harder than opening a venue that actually cares about the musicians because you can’t take advantage of anybody for your own financial gain.
CM: And lastly, where did the name Ainsworth derive from?
Tristan: It’s the last name of a child psychologist named Mary Ainsworth and she was really big in the attachment theory, which basically states that a human can’t develop properly unless it has an emotional attachment to something or to someone. If you grow up in isolation you’re brain isn’t going to be where it needs to be, your emotional state isn’t going to be where it needs to be. There was a test with a monkey and they had a baby monkey and then there were two metal monkeys and they put a bottle of food on one of the metal monkeys and the other one they put cloth so it was soft. The monkey would opt for bonding with the soft cloth monkey over the food that it needs for survival.
Micah: Would you even go so far to say that playing music is your attachment so this kind of act was kind of what’s giving [you] warmth?
Tristan: Definitely, it’s kind of what I need to survive.
CM: Any final thoughts?
Micah: If it’s tweetable, I said it.
Gabe: Whatever, forever.
Derrick: I can’t wait to quit my job.
Ryan: Ill at ease.
Tristan: I just can’t wait for Derrick to quit his job.
Ainsworth Band Members:
Tristan Puig: Guitar & Vocals
Gabriel Perdomo: Guitar
Micah Cortez: Keyboard
Ryan Kozycz: Drums
Derrick Cortez: Bass
Interview by Emily Kimura
Photos by Kelsea Cadena