With 100 Years of Song, The Sound of Aja has chronicled a moment that is both deeply informed by history and intensely personal. The project manages simultaneously to celebrate a century of music, speak to the challenges of living through a global pandemic, and document the blossoming of an enchanted love story.
The Sound of Aja is a collaboration between singer/actress Aja and creative producer/manager Hugo. They were introduced by a mutual friend who suspected that they might share a musical sensibility. But immediately, things took a dramatic turn. “Three days later we were planning our wedding, and three weeks later we were married,” says Aja. “And then we started talking about music.”
After commissions for cover song renditions for a close friend’s project, and greatly enjoying the process, they began hashing out selections to represent each of the past ten decades and then determining treatments— radically reworked, from ambient to bossa nova to electronic indie pop, inspired by their love of each song and faithful to it… but not its time period.
For Aja, who has a form of synesthesia (a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color) working out the approach to each song involved a different process; she often created mood boards inspired by a composition. “I’m very visual,” she says, “and Hugo can quickly translate what I’m saying with color or design or artwork into musical inspiration, genre and sound palette.”
But then, soon after they committed to the 100 Years concept, COVID shut down the world, and recording methods instantly changed for the newlywed musicians.
“The question became, how do we get through this weird period in a three-room apartment?,” says Hugo. “The idea was in place and then came lockdown, and we had to learn quite a few new skills. And overcome my lifelong fear of tech!”
Despite the obstacles, there were creative advantages to working in isolation in a New York apartment. They could do it in a very intimate way. It allowed for a different kind of performance because of their relationship, and the privacy of not having to be in a studio.
To flesh out, deepen and realise their colourful musical concepts, the duo called on accomplished dear friends, who worked brilliantly by remote from Los Angeles to London to Scotland. These talents – co-producers, arrangers and players – include Gregor Philp (Deacon Blue, Modern Love), Christopher Given Harrison (Arora), Ben Christophers (Bat for Lashes) and Gary Clark (Sing Street, Danny Wilson).
100 Years of Song is The Sound of Aja’s love letter to music, and to each other. Honoring the origins of each song and applying those insights to the current culture, you see how the humanity stays the same—history can feel so long ago, but when you explore these details, you realize it’s just a blink of an eye. After a #2021-enforced hiatus, they have rebooted to release a single and video every 6 weeks from May 2022 through to the album drop in early 2023…when you can also see previews for a theatrical narrative show based on the album.