Aree Ogir is a man of many hats- father, husband, artist, musician. But we only really get to see a few of those labels. Ogir writes and performs under the name Aree and the Pure Heart; a rock n’ roll band shining amongst the current crop of great American songwriters writing the next page of Heartland music.

The new album, Never Gonna Die, is 9 songs of pure rock n’ roll bliss. Beautiful songs, heartbroken songs, contemplative songs, all songs about being alive and living. But as we spoke to Ogir about the album and what went into writing it, we find out that he is indeed a man of many talents. But we found out that his most important ones are the ones closest to him, that of father and husband, the side we only see partially through his music. We are lucky then, that we have songwriters like Ogir, who amongst all the undertakings that devour time, has found the days, months, and years it took to create Never Gonna Die. Sometimes when we search for clarity and understanding amongst the stars, we find that the words we’re looking for are here, down amongst the streetlights.

Congrats on the album. How does it feel?

Thank you! It feels pretty good to see it finally float out into the world. It took a long time to make it happen. I actually started recording the LP in 2016. I wrote a few dozen songs and recorded a handful of them at a different studio. I essentially trashed the whole first attempt at a record, because it just wasn’t right. I went through a very rough patch of personal problems that I brought on myself, which further just slowed down the whole process. Finally, I pitched the project to Joey Jones who did the Heartsongs EP and he agreed to do it. Thank God, because he is a true wizard and made the record what it is.

How did you celebrate on release day?

Nothing at all. Ha! I was teaching all day, and then just checking up on the response online. Nothing fun or fancy.

Did you expect the record to be this good?

Well, thank you so much. I honestly start to feel a sort of distance from the songs once the recording process gets going. What I mean is that I start to realize along the way how the songs have an intrinsic trajectory and energy and that I just happen to be along for the ride. I really do believe that I don’t have much ownership in the creation process. I’m just a willing participant in a bigger picture. Plus, I’m outnumbered. There is one of me and many listeners. At the end of it, it belongs more to everyone else than to me, and I’m just happy people are enjoying it!

Never Gonna Die

How did you first get into music- your first records, bands that made you become a musician?

The most pivotal moment in that story is me buying Dookie in 1994. That record set it all off. From there I discovered Lookout! Records, and then started writing letters to all my favorite punk labels. I feel very privileged to have caught that last wave of pre-internet music culture. It was a beautiful experience just pouring over xeroxed catalogs and guessing what bands might sound like.

Aree and the Pure Heart
Photo by Nicole Kibert. Click to enlarge.
Do you have a favorite song on Never Gonna Die? (Mine is maybe an unconventional choice- but I love “The Feeling I Get”)

Wow. Thank you. Quite a few people have brought that song up. It was a last minute addition to the record. I originally had 8 songs going on the album, and then after that was done, I couldn’t get “The Feeling I Get” out of my thoughts. I felt that it really needed to go on the album to balance it out. I think my favorite is probably “Crash Into The Sun” or “Tiger Champagne”.

What’s the story behind the song (“The Feeling I Get”)?

I wrote a different version of that song about 5 years ago. It was inspired by my wife. The chorus was the main idea that I used to rewrite into this song. It is just an ode to the fact that real love can’t be shaken. Regardless of the circumstances, you will always be coming back to that truth that you can’t escape it when you really love someone.

How do you normally write a song- like “The Feeling I Get”- it’s just you and the piano- was this similar to how you wrote the other songs or was the process different?

I write all the songs on an acoustic guitar. A lot of them go through various forms before they get to the album version. My process doesn’t really change that much from song to song. I wrote a lot before this album, and I could’ve easily made this album a lot longer, but I felt that it took so long to get this far, that we needed to just get it out there.

In our review, I talk about how your work and music closely resonates the way The Gaslight Anthem’s music does. How do you feel about these comparisons?

I hear that a lot. When Heartsongs came out, almost every reviewer brought Gaslight up. Prior to that, I had never heard anything at all from them, or Springsteen (other than his big songs). After the comparisons, I went and listened to most of the Gaslight discography, and I couldn’t hear the likeness. [laughs] A lot of people seem to really love them, though… so I’ll gladly accept it!

Where does the inspiration for your music come from- travel, books, people, or?

I don’t ever think too much about it. Just to give a few examples…

“Tiger Champagne” was inspired by a story my friend told me about when he and his wife got wasted on champagne and listened to Heartsongs over and over. “Fifty Dollar Bottle of Wine” was inspired by me seeing an expensive bottle of wine at Trader Joe’s. “Gasoline Heart” and “Work for Your Love” are songs about my kids. “Under a Streetlight” is about me and my best friend falling in love with punk rock as young teenagers.

So it is just all over the place.

Wiretap Records have a pretty great roster of bands- how did you connect with Wiretap?

Rob is like a ninja. I should probably ask him, but I am not sure how he even heard Heartsongs in the first place, but he was one of the first people to reach out to me after I put it out. He told me from the beginning that he wanted to put out my music. I’m not sure how he keeps so on the pulse of upcoming bands, but he does. He’s an amazing guy.

Name two things Aree and the Pure Heart want to do in 2019.  

In 2019… I wish I had some cool plans, but I don’t. I’m quite focused on developing my visual art interests and on becoming the best father and husband I can be.

Aree and the Pure Heart’s new album, Never Gonna Die, is available now via Wiretap Records. All photos by Nicole Kibert.