Interview with Kevin Whelan

Written by Divine Magazine

Aeon Station’s Observatory is an epic statement more than a decade in the making, with miles of timeless melodies and the kind of overpowering songwriting that will reaffirm your belief in life itself.

Longtime Wrens member Kevin Whelan’s first solo album draws heavily from the perseverance of the soul, resulting in rock music possessing an infectious and inspiring sonic uplift. If you’re familiar with Whelan’s past work, these ten tracks bear a certain and unmistakable familiarity—but they also mark an exciting new chapter in Whelan’s musical career, as he steps out with more vulnerability than ever before.

Observatory came together carefully for Whelan—over the course of 14 years, specifically, as clusters of demos and sketches were eventually assembled and recorded largely by Whelan himself, with assistance from Wrens’ bandmate Jerry MacDonald and Greg Whelan as well as Tom Beaujour in his Union City recording space. Additionally, his wife Mary Ann provided backup vocals. “It’s the best I’ve done and may ever do frankly,” Whelan states. “It’s written over such a long period of my life. Music I did in the past was tinged with expectations or presumptions, but this time, it was just for me.”

What led you to become a music artist and what advice can you give to others aspiring to make a hit?

I started music when I was 13 – I was drawn to music because my mom brought home an old piano.  It sat in our dining room, and I remember looking at it like it was this magical box from some older time.  It had a bunch of broken keys, but it looked so tough.  I was your typical isolated, lonely teen and music because my badge, my gang.  The part about writing a hit? I’ve dreamed about this for over 30 years and don’t expect it will be coming my way in this lifetime.  But that is 100% cool with me – I realized a very LONG time ago, if you are able to create something and even one person likes it, you’ve got a hit.  So, for advice? Write for you plus one. 

In your opinion, how do artists in this industry stay on top of the game when faced with so much competition? What’s the secret to making yourself noticed?

I’ve been very lucky to have this extremely unique career – A balance of music and a regular job.  Many times, along that journey, I took my swing at the “big time”, but it never came. A life supported solely by music never materialized.  However, I’ve never not been in music or the pursuit of music.  For me, the more I didn’t care about the industry the better I did.  And in terms of competition, its art not the Olympics.  There are no medals. The competition is to make great music and share it.  That’s the real competition. 

Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction, or did it simply gradually evolve in whatever direction it found?

My musical journey has been completely crazy, and I wouldn’t change it at all.  I am lucky enough to be part of ONE band since I was 19.  I have never played in another band, side project or anything up until now.  And since I was 19, maybe to my detriment, there has never been a plan.  It truly has been a wandering journey through cool highs and tough lows. 

Have you always been interested in music? Was there a particular song/performance that made you say “Woah! I want to do that!”?

I’ve always loved music – It is an amazing art form to be in because almost everyone loves music.  Not everyone loves ballet or painting, etc.… but everyone, everyone loves at least one song or piece of music.  For me, it was watching a Hard Days Night

Are you planning any videos for your music?

Yes.  Through a friend I was introduced to this insanely talented director, Laurent Briet.  He made a video for the song Fade.  I’m sorry, I must admit, I love what he did.  It was all his vision and talent that created this almost mini movie like video.  He’s made videos for The Strokes, Beyonce and others…. And I’m like, “holy shit, I can’t believe he made a video for me/Aeon Station” –

What are your ambitions as a songwriter and musician from here?

Per my earlier question, it’s never certain nor mapped out.  I will continue writing music and enjoying for myself and if it comes together and I think it’s good enough, I might try to share it. 

When you create music, what is your personal purpose or goal?

The goal is always to just enjoy the moment.  To enjoy that feeling of escape into the music, the process and just trying to feel your way around the dark of a potential song.  Often frustrating but always rewarding. 

Where was your last song recorded?

My whole life I’ve recorded in basements, bedrooms and living rooms.  But this year I was able to record with Tom Beaujour at his studio Nuthouse Recording in Union, NJ.  It was so cool – such a great vibe and so good for creativity. 

If we were to peek over your shoulder, what does your studio look like? What gear do you typically use?

Ummmm, you would laugh.  For half of my new album “Observatory”, I recorded everything (vocals, guitars, keyboards, percussion, etc,) using ONE Peavey 3 channel key board amp my parents bought me in 1986 and ONE Peluso 2247 microphone – Straight into a 2004 MAC running 2009 logic. 

Photo credit: Ebru Yildiz

Do you have a cherished childhood teddy bear or other stuffed animal sitting on your bed at home?

Its long gone but when I was 7 or so and I won this stuffed “Snoopy” doll.  It immediately lost both of its ears so it was a bald headed Snoopy, but I had that thing for a few years – It would rip open, and all those white stuffing beads (polly-pellets) would be everywhere – I would ask my mom to stich him up again and again. 

If you were a member of the Spice Girls, what would your spice handle be? 

I’m answering this one especially for my friend who is driving the publicity for Aeon Station, Rey Roldan.  We’ve been friends for many, many years and he know I’ve had a secret Spice Girls love for quite a while. In fact, a few weeks ago he gifted me a specialty Spice Girls vinyl.  My name would be: Old Bay Spice. Spice up your life. 

 If you could ask your future self-one question, what would it be?

Besides some lottery ticket numbers, I would ask, “where did I leave my keys?”

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

The greatest invention has to be the potato chip.  It goes with anything at any time. 

What’s your favourite children’s story?

Ferdinand the bull.  Written in 1938, the book has never been out of print since 1938 and at one point it was the number on best seller in the United States.  It has a pacifist hero with a message of, “be who you are” –

Following his return to music after more than a decade, Kevin Whelan of AEON STATION is offering another look into his upcoming debut album Observatory (release date: December 10, 2021, via Sub Pop) with the release of the second single “Leaves.”

“Whelan is as equally expressive and in command on the minimalist piano ballads as on the full-blown rockers… the best music Whelan has ever made.” – New York Times

“This is exciting, dynamic, hooky indie rock and if it’s not quite a Wrens song, that doesn’t make it any less great.” – Brooklyn Vegan

“… a heartening return to form from Whelan.” – Consequence of Sound

© 2021 – 2023, Divine Magazine. All rights reserved.

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