Going All In 

With life over as a Young Professional, Aaron Robinson pulls out the stops

Aaron Robinson felt it was time to plunge in. As the frontman of Imaginary Baseball League from 2001 until their breakup in ’05, and Young Professionals after that, Robinson played CMJ and made the indie-rock rounds. But he ultimately felt cheated when Young Professionals broke up abruptly last April.
by Chris Parker Aaron Robinson felt it was time to plunge in. As the frontman of Imaginary Baseball League from 2001 until their breakup in ’05, and Young Professionals after that, Robinson played CMJ and made the indie-rock rounds. But he ultimately felt cheated when Young Professionals broke up abruptly last April.

“I think I’ve spent the majority of my musical life really half-assing it, whether or not I was intending to,” Robinson says. “I have always been in collective band efforts where everyone has a lot of say and input, and nobody can get onto the same page. So I said, ‘To hell with this, I’m going to do this myself, throw it all into the pot, and see what happens.’ Now I’m figuring out what that’s like.”

Robinson laughs nervously, adding, “And that’s very expensive, for the first thing.”

He admits he had “sort of a freakout” when Young Professionals broke up. It was exacerbated by reaching the end of his 20s with nothing to show for his musical pursuit. So he took up a collection from family and friends, and sold most of his possessions. Young Professionals hadn’t been cold for 48 hours, but Robinson had contacted producer Neilson Hubbard (This Living Hand) and booked studio time. He even swallowed the nostalgia and sold the guitar he’d written all of his songs on, having secured an inexpensive replacement from a neighbor who works for a guitar company.

“I got a pretty decent sum for it, which helped me out a whole lot,” he says.

We Are Racing Ghosts is Robinson’s payoff. The 11-song disc, released tonight locally but nationally on April 15, balances lilting, heart-on-the-sleeve emo-pop with AC sophistication. His anxious ambition is apparent from the opening tracks—the yearning, shimmer of “All us All,” where Robinson aches “to give a damn before I waste away,” and the swelling, cello-aided “The Road,” where he promises to “catch the next comet out before this place blows.” The album’s highlight may be “Painful Fee,” a cantering C&W-tinged tune with a rock edge, inspired by the death of his uncle.

Supple piano-driven treatments such as “The New A.M.,” with its violin ache and dramatic sweep, or the frilly folk-pop “Broken Heart Empty Room” are more down-the-middle than his indie-rock pedigree. (Robinson jokes that the Daniel Johnston T-shirt he’s wearing on the back cover is to attract indie rockers who might not otherwise buy the music.)

“[Hubbard] definitely took a different interpretation of the songs than I was probably prepared for or expected, but I like the results. It’s a pop record,” he admits. “That’s sorta what I wanted. I wanted to reach out to a bit broader audience and put the songs out there in a way that wasn’t terribly distracting because I wanted it to be about the songs.”

In a couple weeks, Robinson will play his first SXSW date, opening the Undertow Records showcase on March 13 at Habana Calle 6 Patio, starting another new chapter.

“The payoff is not necessarily the album taking off and becoming massive, but just getting my songs out there,” Robinson says, unable to disguise the hopeful tenor of his voice.

—Chris Parker

Aaron Robinson felt it was time to plunge in. As the frontman of Imaginary Baseball League from 2001 until their breakup in ’05, and Young Professionals after that, Robinson played CMJ and made the indie-rock rounds. But he ultimately felt cheated when Young Professionals broke up abruptly last April.

“I think I’ve spent the majority of my musical life really half-assing it, whether or not I was intending to,” Robinson says. “I have always been in collective band efforts where everyone has a lot of say and input, and nobody can get onto the same page. So I said, ‘To hell with this, I’m going to do this myself, throw it all into the pot, and see what happens.’ Now I’m figuring out what that’s like.”

Robinson laughs nervously, adding, “And that’s very expensive, for the first thing.”

He admits he had “sort of a freakout” when Young Professionals broke up. It was exacerbated by reaching the end of his 20s with nothing to show for his musical pursuit. So he took up a collection from family and friends, and sold most of his possessions. Young Professionals hadn’t been cold for 48 hours, but Robinson had contacted producer Neilson Hubbard (This Living Hand) and booked studio time. He even swallowed the nostalgia and sold the guitar he’d written all of his songs on, having secured an inexpensive replacement from a neighbor who works for a guitar company.

“I got a pretty decent sum for it, which helped me out a whole lot,” he says.

We Are Racing Ghosts is Robinson’s payoff. The 11-song disc, released tonight locally but nationally on April 15, balances lilting, heart-on-the-sleeve emo-pop with AC sophistication. His anxious ambition is apparent from the opening tracks—the yearning, shimmer of “All us All,” where Robinson aches “to give a damn before I waste away,” and the swelling, cello-aided “The Road,” where he promises to “catch the next comet out before this place blows.” The album’s highlight may be “Painful Fee,” a cantering C&W-tinged tune with a rock edge, inspired by the death of his uncle.

Supple piano-driven treatments such as “The New A.M.,” with its violin ache and dramatic sweep, or the frilly folk-pop “Broken Heart Empty Room” are more down-the-middle than his indie-rock pedigree. (Robinson jokes that the Daniel Johnston T-shirt he’s wearing on the back cover is to attract indie rockers who might not otherwise buy the music.)

“[Hubbard] definitely took a different interpretation of the songs than I was probably prepared for or expected, but I like the results. It’s a pop record,” he admits. “That’s sorta what I wanted. I wanted to reach out to a bit broader audience and put the songs out there in a way that wasn’t terribly distracting because I wanted it to be about the songs.”

In a couple weeks, Robinson will play his first SXSW date, opening the Undertow Records showcase on March 13 at Habana Calle 6 Patio, starting another new chapter.

“The payoff is not necessarily the album taking off and becoming massive, but just getting my songs out there,” Robinson says, unable to disguise the hopeful tenor of his voice.

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