American Aquarium at Continental Club in Austin, Texas of January 2015
|Origin||Raleigh, North Carolina, United States|
|Genres||Rock, alternative country, Americana (music)|
|Labels||Last Chance Records, Red 11 Music|
|Associated acts||Lucero, Drive By Truckers, Ryan Adams, Corey Smith, Sons of Bill, Jason Isbell, Jon Lindsay, Jeff Tweedy, North Carolina Music Love Army, Turnpike Troubadours, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers|
Formed in 2006, the band derived its name from the Wilco song, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” and is led by band founder and lead vocalist/ guitarist BJ Barham. A new lineup was announced in April 2017 with new faces joining the ranks: Crooks drummer Joey Bybee, Damn Quails bass player Ben Hussey and guitarist Shane Boeker – all from Texas – along with Nashville pedal-steel player Adam Kurtz, who also fronts Music City's experimental Buck Owens tribute Buck N' Stuff. Bybee left in August 2018 and was replaced by Nashville-based drummer Matty Alger, who in turn left in February 2019. Kurtz left the band after the Mile Zero fest in January 2019, and Hussey left in July 2019.
American Aquarium has released seven albums, including their most critically acclaimed album to date, 2012’s Burn. Flicker. Die.. According to American Songwriter, 'It’s a record for anyone who creates art, even if recognition and a stable living may never come of it".
Their first album, Antique Hearts, was released in 2006, followed by The Bible and the Bottle in 2008. The band continued to tour extensively, playing around 250 shows a year. They began building a wider and more varied fan base beyond their native state.
Their sophomore effort received some critical attention, and that same year the band released the minimalist live EP Bones, recorded in a friend’s living room. Barham wrote the songs in the wake of a break-up, helping to cement a familiar theme of women who either got away or did the protagonist wrong. Their next album was Dances for the Lonely. Released by Last Chance Records in 2009,it featured one of their fan favorites, “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart.” Small Town Hymns, released in 2010, brought more favorable reviews and continued comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, Whiskeytown, and Lucero.
In 2012, American Aquarium released two albums: Live in Raleigh and Burn. Flicker. Die., which garnered considerable praise from music critics and fans. Produced by Jason Isbell, formerly of Drive By Truckers, the album was originally intended to be the band’s last, but they now have no plans for retirement. Barham says,"It's kind of ironic that the record about not making it is the record that helped us make it." "Throughout, the music crackles and snarls with a raw viscerality that carries distinct echoes of the Drive-By Truckers and early-seventies Rolling Stones—boozy, swaggering closing track “Saturday Nights” even sports a signature crunch-riff that’d put a big smile on Keith Richards’ face." Burn. Flicker. Die. was nominated for "Best Americana/Roots Album” and “Best Album Artwork” in the 2013 Lone Star Music Awards.
The band released their sixth original album, Wolves, in February 2015. The band's fans helped raise $24,000 through a Kickstarter project to help fund the album's production, and the album was recorded in Asheville, North Carolina at Echo Mountain.
On November 25, 2016 "Live at Terminal West" was released by the band from a live show recording in November 2015 at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia.
On April 2, 2017, Barham announced a lineup change via Facebook, saying "I started American Aquarium in my college dorm room back in 2005 with the hopes of building a band to bring my songs to life,” Barham says. “Over the last 12 years I’ve played 3000+ shows with 26 different members of American Aquarium. We’ve been to 13 countries, 46 states and have recorded 9 albums under the American Aquarium name. It is with a heavy heart that I’m here to say the current lineup of American Aquarium is no more."
- BJ Barham - vocals, guitar
- Joey Bybee - drums
- Ben Hussey - bass
- Shane Boeker - guitar
- Adam Kurtz - pedal steel guitar
Since that lineup change, all but Boeker have left the band.
- Antique Hearts (2006)
- The Bible and the Bottle (2008)
- Bones (2008)
- Dances for the Lonely (Last Chance Records, 2009)
- Small Town Hymns (Last Chance Records, 2010)
- Live in Raleigh (Last Chance Records, 2012)
- Burn. Flicker. Die. (Last Chance Records, 2012)
- Wolves (Independent, 2015)
- Live at Terminal West (Independent, 2016)
- Things Change (New West Records, 2018)
- Lamentations (New West Records, 2020)
- BJ, Kevin, and Whit appear on the LP We Are Not For Sale: Songs of Protest by the NC Music Love Army (2013, Redeye Distribution). BJ Sings lead with Jon Lindsay on Lindsay's song "Is This Here What Jesus Would Do?". Kevin and Whit play drums and steel, respectively, throughout the album.
- BJ and Kevin appear alongside Jon Lindsay and Caitlin Cary on Lindsay's 2014 single for the NC Music Love Army, "Dear Mr. McCrory" (Sept. 2, 2014, Redeye Distribution)
- from an interview with BJ Barham on Americana Music Show #236, published March 10, 2015
- Pace, Jessica (November 1, 2012) "American Aquarium: The Art of Flickering" (http://www.americansongwriter.com/2012/11/american-aquarium-the-art-of-flickering/). American Songwriter. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- Peterson, Eli. "American Aquarium- The Bible and the Bottle"(http://twangville.com/908/american-aquarium-the-bible-and-the-botte-bones-ep/) Retrieved 12 February 2014
- Howe, Brian. "Interview: Riding high on New Success, American Aquarium's BJ Barham Cues the Strings"(http://thethread.dukeperformances.duke.edu/2013/07/interview-riding-high-on-new-success-american-aquariums-bj-barham-cues-the-strings/ Archived 2014-02-28 at the Wayback Machine) Retrieved 12 February 2014
- Mills, Fred. "American Aquarium: Burn. Flicker. Die"(http://blurtonline.com/review/american-aquarium-burn-flicker-die/) Retrieved 5 February 2014
- "The 2013 Lone Star Music Award Nominees Have Been Announced". KNUE. February 28, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
- Currin, Grayson Haver."On Wolves, American Aquarium and its frontman mature with perfect timing"(http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/on-wolves-american-aquarium-and-its-frontman-mature-with-perfect-timing/Content?oid=4326872) Retrieved 28 January 2015
- "The Current Lineup of American Aquarium Completely Disbands". Saving Country Music. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
- "American Aquarium Impresses with Revamped Lineup". Saving Country Music. Retrieved 2017-09-14.