When I think back to 2014, a lot of black and white comes to mind. I’m talking bands like The 1975, Catfish and the Bottlemen, PVRIS, Arctic Monkeys, The Neighbourhood–indie groups with identities that were fully interlaced in the black and white aesthetic. To be an artist, you had to have “a look,” which was not a new concept. But, with the rising popularity of Instagram and Tumblr, it was essential to have not just a sound that could go viral but also a style that people could gravitate towards–a style that fans would want to reconstruct on their own social media pages. Merging the essence of Tumblr and the 2014 era of alt-rock and indie is Aaron Marmolejos, also known as Til Now. For the past few years, Aaron has been representing 2014 Tumblr through his music, which consists of the soft, nostalgic hues often associated with the indie bands of that time. He has also been crafting a strong presence online, his “How To” videos and various covers catching the eyes and (digital) hearts of the artists he grew up listening to when he was younger. Even though his popularity is quickly growing, he is still just getting started, so I met up with Aaron to discuss his ambitions with Til Now, his strategy online, and why 2014 Tumblr will always be an inspiration.
I noticed a lot of your first songs were posted around 2020 during the lockdown, is that kind of when Til Now started for you or was it before that?
Yeah, you’re exactly right. 2020 was when I developed the name Til Now. I didn’t really have much material in 2020; they were mainly just remastered songs from when I was writing a bit earlier, so the only two that came out of that were the songs “Save Yourself” and “You’re Not Welcome. “You’re Not Welcome” is actually not available on platforms anymore just because it’s so different from what I release now.
But yeah, 2020 was when I was really trying to hone my creative musician craft, but then I was actually running by a different name. I actually can’t even remember it, but I was trying to figure out something that had to do with time because I treat everything like it’s time crucial, so I figured Til Now made sense.
So, was it a solo thing from the start, or did you have a band idea in mind?
I’m originally from Pennsylvania. Even then, I was doing solo stuff, but I did more of the band life stuff up there. Once I moved to Florida, I was like solo fully. But for live shows, my two best friends help me. They learn my songs so we can put on an actual show rather than just acoustics. So, the art itself is a solo project, but live you get the full thing as well.
You often describe your sound as “2014 Tumblr Era,” so why are you going for that sound?
Mainly because that type of music, personally for me anyway, spoke to me on a deeper level, and you don’t really hear too much music like that today, I feel like. And I love all different types of music. I listen to everything, but for some reason today, things seem kind of formulaic, like you kind of know what to expect. I figured trying to channel some nostalgia to a level and hint at things from that era would be kind of cool. I haven’t seen it done too often, like I said. There’s some bands and musicians out there that have that kind of sound as well… I’ve always wanted to be able to write that type of like alt-pop, electronic type of music, and I think now is when I finally managed to do it correctly because before, I really wasn’t. But yeah, I just wanted to throw it back a few years, write something that was nostalgic and upbeat and fun at the same time, and I feel like a lot of music that came out from there was that type of style and energy.
So, your new song “Change Your Mind” just came out. What I got from it was that it’s about a “falling out” sort of thing and how you want things to go back to before the fallout. Was that inspired by a personal experience, something you saw around you…?
Yeah, I wanted it to be almost like a persuasive song because there’s such a feeling of emptiness when you want to do everything in your power to keep said person around, but they won’t budge, they’ve mentally checked out. So, “Change Your Mind” is pretty much me asking the question like, “Am I able to change your mind to go back to the way that we were and everything that we had in between?” Yeah, pretty much that. Nailed it on the head with that one.
Is it in any way related to your previous single that came out, “where do you go?”
Yeah, I mean they kind of go hand-in-hand too. Because “where do you go?” is just like the process of realizing that they’ve mentally checked out; whenever you needed them, they were never around. They were always somewhere else, or like not mentally all there with the connection. So, that was me being like, “When I need you, where do you go?” I would very much like to work on things and fix things… And then “Change Your Mind” was pretty much the closing chapter of that, realizing that it is done for.
Were they written around the same time?
“where do you go?” I started in April, and I really wanted to take my time on it and write something that I loved. So, I probably spent a month on that song, which is really bad. I try to keep writing no matter what instead of just focusing on one direct target. Because “where do you go?” was the first, it was like me turning the pot in my music career because everything before that was pretty alt-rock-based. Like, it sounded like a band. Whereas with this one, it’s very more on the pop side of things, so it was me testing the waters. I really wanted to make sure I got it at least correct and listenable. So, I took my time on that song, but “Change Your Mind” was where I was really starting to get more comfortable with it. And I’ve written a few songs that were like “where do you go?” and “Change Your Mind” in between. But “Change Your Mind” was the one that came the most naturally. I didn’t spend too much time on that song, thank goodness. And all my future stuff will probably be like that as well.
Yeah, that’s what I was wondering; it seemed like that’s where you were going direction-wise, that kind of sound.
Yeah, funny enough, you know Post Malone, right? Yeah, he said something that sticks with me today. He said in an interview that artists today are just kind of throwing twenty goops of goop at a wall and one of them’s gonna stick. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with my singles; just trying things out, throwing them at a wall and seeing which one hits the most, which one people relate to the most or are vibing with, and generally is well-received by the audience. So, I definitely know what kind of music I want to make, but also throwing in some fresh things and things that I enjoy, things that other people enjoy as well, and seeing what stays out there and what people resonate with, you know?
It’s kind of like with the “I’m Just Ken” cover that you did. I think people were really into that.
It was crazy. I saw the Barbie movie, and it was phenomenal. You know the artist Meat Loaf? “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling and them reminded me of something like that. It sounded like something from the 80s rock era, and I generally like that stuff. And one day I was sleeping, and because I’ve made Arctic Monkeys videos in the past, I thought, “What if Arctic Monkeys wrote ‘Barbie Girl’?” You know, just because the movie was fresh out and it would be fun to make. And someone suggested like, “Dude, you should do Arctic Monkeys and ‘I’m Just Ken,’ like if they wrote it.” So, I tried it out, and the internet lost its mind, I guess. It was a really cool and out-of-body experience because I had never had that kind of perception in my career, and I’m very grateful for it. It was insane.
You create a lot of content, like your covers and the Midwest Emo videos. How much time do you spend per week doing all that?
For the first couple of months of 2023, I spent a lot of my time doing that. I must have been making videos like four, five times a week. Just trying to spit them out as much as possible. And yeah, I’d be up ‘til like 6 A.M. some days just filming and trying to get multiple videos done in a day. I definitely spent a lot of time with that, and then as the summer picked up, that’s when the shows started picking up too, so I had to try and prioritize and divert a little bit. But then slow season hits and I’m able to start making videos again; that’s when “I’m Just Ken” and the other videos came out, so I was like, “Sweet, I have some free time again.”
Yeah, as much as I can because we live in a content-based creative world now where you have to really be on top of it, and sometimes I slack a lot with my content. But I’ve been trying to stay on top of it. I usually like to film a few videos in one day, and multiple days throughout the week as well.
How many takes do you go through trying to get the perfect one?
Oh my, especially with the Midwest Emo videos, so many. [Laughs] Oh my gosh. And it’s only when you hit record too. Like, I can practice it fine, but when I hit record, I mess up a bunch. I think it’s because you want to get the best take possible and your brain kind of overthinks that, so therefore, my fingers don’t work as effectively. And especially because, are you familiar with Midwest Emo? Yeah, so that music is very twinkly guitar-inspired, so I’ll be using my fingers, and sometimes I’ll hit a string and my finger will slip off the string and make a sour note. It’s a lot of like [imitates sour note], record, [sour note], record. A lot of that. Like, my camera’s delete roll looks pretty gnarly. [Laughs] So yeah, quite a few takes. The covers, not too too much because there’s some where I film on the spot, and if there’s a little mishap, I’ll just kind of leave it in there. But some of them I pre-record and just film theatrics, just to try to get something cinematic going for the viewers. So, those don’t take too many tries. But the Midwest Emo ones, definitely. Those have a couple of retries and takes, absolutely.
Is there any type of video you like making more than the rest?
Covers are always fun. That’s what I enjoy doing. And they’re just generally fun to make. I like being able to show what I can do besides all the other stuff that my algorithm shows. The Midwest Emo videos are fun too. It’s been a while since I have done one, not gonna lie, just ‘cause I’ve been trying to shift my algorithm to fit more of the music that I’m making, so I can hit that audience as well. So, it’s been a while since I’ve made one, but when I was consistently, those were super fun and really enjoyable.
Do you just make everything yourself in your room?
Yeah, it’s kind of hilarious. I think on it sometimes because I look at an artist sometimes, and I wonder if that’s literally all they have is all of them because it’s very hard to tell what’s behind the screen. You can look at an artist, and they have marketing agents, producers, and others behind them. When I say I’m literally a solo artist, like I’m legitimately a solo artist. I just do everything myself. My fiancée helps me a lot as well, too, she’ll generate some ideas and help me film stuff. If she is unavailable, then it’s just me, some tripods, and my dogs in the room just looking at me do these goofy things. But yeah, I’ll film the videos, I’ll put them together, I’ll master the music, and literally everything you hear is all my doing. Which can be quite a task sometimes, but it’s so fun and so worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I noticed on your social media, like when I go to your Instagram, it says that Ross from The 1975 follows you? I don’t know if you knew that.
[Nods head] Freaked out. I freaked out. There’s actually a few of them, which is insane to think about. It was definitely a full-circle moment. I was actually just talking about this the other day with a friend. There’s a band called Framing Hanley that I was super into in like 7th and 8th grade, like they really pushed me to want to do music. I used to fall asleep to their music every night, and their vocalist liked “Change Your Mind,” so it was a full-circle moment. And they follow me on IG too, which is really insane, super gnarly to know. And yeah, I love The 1975 as well, so when I got the notification about Ross, I thought I was buggin’. I was like, “Is this a vibe? Is this real? What’s going on?” So, that was really cool. He liked my Arctic Monkeys impression too, which I thought was hilarious. I’m like, “Oh they probably toured or know those guys personally,” so yeah, definitely a strange, star-struck moment, absolutely. That kind of thing will never get old because it’s just like, you know, when you look up to these bands and you listen to them and they recognize you for your art, it’s insane. [Laughs] Really crazy feeling.
Is there anyone you would like to see slide into the DMs?
Man, what a dream. What a dream. I can’t even pinpoint… Back when I was younger, I loved Bring Me The Horizon too, and it was kind of crazy because Lee, their guitarist, followed me as well–I’m assuming from the Midwest Emo videos. That one kind of blew me away too, like I never thought that would happen. So, probably something like that, like maybe another guitarist that I follow. I can’t really pinpoint one right now. I’m waiting for the day that, for some reason, Halsey or Lana follows me, so we’ll put that out there into the universe.
Yeah, manifest it.
Yeah, manifest it, yeah. Exactly. [Laughs]
Has anyone ever come up to you and said you sound like a certain artist? Because to me, I listen to you and I get Chester Bennington?
Yeah, like more the melodic than the screamy stuff.
That is such a compliment, and it’s very funny you say that because Linkin Park was the reason that I thought music was so awesome. My dad put on “Crawling” one day when I was maybe six years old, and I instantly fell in love. Yeah, it’s such a shame that he passed away, but I used to strive to want to have Chester’s voice. Like, his tonality, his power is insane, and his lyrical ability and stuff. But I’m such a bass, too, that I can’t hit the notes that he hits, and it’s frustrating. But what a guy. And thank you so much for saying that.
Sure! Yeah, I was like, “He sounds like someone. I’m getting…Linkin Park?”
Oh, thank you. That’s so awesome you say that. I’ve been told, because Arctic Monkeys songs are on my set list for shows, and some people have come up to me and told me that I sounded like Alex Turner. I imagine it’s because we have kind of a similar, deeper tonality. So, people have told me that I sound like that. I want to say, no, I’m sorry, I’m thinking about looks because I get the Pete Wentz thing all the time. But we’re still floating around with people seeing what I sound like. Recently, I did a cover of “Daddy Issues” by The Neighbourhood, and somebody said I sounded like Jesse, and that I would be a good fit if he ever left for some reason. I thought that was kind of cool because they’re a big inspo for my music as well. So yeah, so far, I’ve gotten Alex; Chester, as of now, thank you; and Jesse from The Neighbourhood. Pretty gnarly.
What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I want to be able to put out a new single by the end of this month. Hopefully that can happen because I have a lot of shows planned. And that goes hand-in-hand with this question as well, a lot more solo gigs. And I’m planning on building an EP with all the songs that I’ve released so far. I know “where do you go?” and “Change Your Mind” are gonna definitely be on those. And then I just wanna write like maybe two or three more songs to bang out an EP and figure out a name and stuff for that, but I definitely want to write some more songs that are based around “Change Your Mind” and “where do you go?” So yeah, we’ll see. I feel like I have to hone my release strategies a little bit, so it might take some planning. But definitely at least one more single before the year ends, hopefully two, and more EP details to be announced. [Laughs] And playing more content as well.
I was gonna say, are you mostly gonna be doing the gigs and live shows?
Yeah, it will probably be a lot of gigs and online videos, and then in my off time, trying to track as much as possible and write. And yeah, so I want to make some more covers for online presence, and maybe I’ll do some more “How To” videos and skits and what not.
Is there anything else you wanted to add or share?
Just stay tuned. You can definitely expect the new single. I literally just came up with lyrics for it last night. We’ll see. I’ll just test some waters and keep throwing goops at the wall. Stay tuned for some new Til Now stuff!