Michigan-based indie singer-songwriter Josh Kemp launches his new music project Au Gres with the release of his warm and carefree debut single, "Nervous." Formerly one-third of the impressive, yet short-lived alt/indie rock trio Steppes, Josh conceptualized the Au Gres moniker under modest, unpretentious circumstances, or as he relates, "in a bedroom, on a flimsy desk, with unimpressive equipment." Now reimagined out of Adrian, Michigan at the Social Recording Company (Michigander, Leland Blue, Stay Outside), Au Gres (pronounced: 'aʷ grā') exists to bring ever-changing perspective to the indie pop genre.
Combining elements of indie rock, lo-fi, and synth pop, "Nervous" leads off with crisp, spacious acoustic guitar and a gentle, yet confident tempo that establishes the relaxed, upbeat vibe of the track. Enter the clever, bending guitar hooks, Josh's smooth, melodic vocals and a catchy chorus that warmly rings, "'Cause you ought to know, nothing about you makes me nervous. I feel right at home." This simple, but profound statement reflects on the comfort that is possible in being vulnerable with someone, celebrating the relationships that "go deeper." Au Gres clearly hits the ground running right out of the gate with this stunning debut single.
SoundThread Music Blog recently caught up with Josh to talk about the Au Gres project, his creative process and inspirations, and forthcoming new music.
Congratulations on the release of your debut single! How did your new project Au Gres come together?
[JK]: Au Gres has sort of been in the works for a while now, but I really started to dig in when COVID hit. I was home a lot more than usual and had more time to tinker with things and really figure out what it was I wanted from the project. It was one of those unique things where everybody around me had time for things again, so I would ship off ideas to friends and between the few of us we had a pretty cool collection of things written.
Is there any story or particular inspiration around the Au Gres project name?
[JK]: I went back and forth on the name for a long time. I fully expect people to mispronounce/misspell it, but then again, everyone does/did that for Bon Iver and he does just fine. The name has Michigan roots (Au Gres being a city in northern Michigan), and is french for "of sandstone" or the clay-like substance found underwater. I feel like this works on a couple of levels for me personally and sonically, as clay can be molded into anything. I like to think I'm constantly evolving as a person and I want the music I make to take a lot of different shapes.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
[JK]: My writing process varies all the time, but I often start with instrumentation first. 'Nervous', for example, was written around that bendy hook in the instrumental. It was catchy and it had some good movement to it, but it also felt very warm and sort of comforting. I think it set the tone for everything that came in after.
As you were growing up, were there any particular musicians, influences or other events that inspired you to become a songwriter and musician?
[JK]: I think a pivotal moment for me growing up was when I was gifted a bunch of CDs from my sister. As a kid I was OBSESSED with video games and she told me that music was "better than games". I was, of course, very skeptical, but for Christmas one year, she burned me a ton of CDs. The catalog included albums like Passion Pit's 'Manners', Damien Rice's 'O', a few albums from The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers, Band of Horses, and various mixes. Some of those albums are still my favorites.
What plans are in store for Au Gres beyond "Nervous"?
[JK]: The plan for Au Gres is to keep creating. I'm sitting on a lot of songs I'm really proud of and now it's just a matter of saving up for studio time.
Thanks to Josh for providing the insightful responses! While we eagerly await the release of more great new music from Au Gres, check out the lyric video for "Nervous," created by Josh and Linsley Hartenstein.