Fans will definitely be hearing from AJR again soon: After tabling their touring plans last year -- like so many other artists had to because of the COVID-19 pandemic -- the trio was able to buckle down and put together their next album, OK Orchestra.
"'Bang!' was originally supposed to be for the deluxe version of Neotheater, our last album," Ryan Met recalls of their 2019 project. "Because it was like, 'We need a song out to just get some fresh music because we're about to tour all year, nonstop!' ... Obviously none of that happened. So we ended up putting out 'Bang!' and then we were like, 'This song's actually a little different than Neotheater.' I'm not sure it would have gone on Neotheater, sonically. It feels a little darker, it feels like a next step, being disillusioned a little bit. Neotheater was kind of about putting up a veil, like 'I'm gonna be young forever!' And this was kind of like the next step of 'Oh shoot, what happens after "I'm gonna be young forever"?' So we thought, 'That's kind of the blueprint of this next album -- these realizations hitting you.' So because we couldn't tour, we spent the entire year of 2020 writing our next album."
OK Orchestra -- due March 26 and being wrapped up "right now, like as we speak," Ryan says, "a second before we did this podcast, we were working on the last song" -- is the most "extreme" of their recent albums, the brothers promise. "We've really thought about it as the third chapter in the trilogy that was The Click, Neotheater and now OK Orchestra, which has been both artistically and musically three steps of growing up a little bit," Ryan says. "And they've all been in the same world of these musical swirling trumpets and orchestra stuff. So this feels like kind of the final chapter of that little saga. But more specifically, musically, I think it's the most extreme we've ever been. ... We're just working on a song right now that's very like Americana, like Dave Alvin, Brandi Carlile, that kind of feel. We're going extremely in that direction, and extremely in the hard hip-hop direction, and extremely in the classical direction. It's more extreme than any album we've ever made before, sonically."
In the absence of touring, the guys put together their "One Spectacular Night" livestream concert for fans last month (get a taste of it here), and Adam says it might start a trend for the band. "So many people saw this show that had never been to an AJR show before," he says, and it made them think, "OK, maybe we should do this in addition to touring so everyone can see the show we're putting together even if we're not coming to their city." The guys also talked about performing "Bummerland" at Sunday's We the People Concert as part of Joe Biden's inaugural festivities -- and it wasn't the first time they've been invited to perform at a presidential inauguration.
"Four years ago, when Trump was elected, he asked us to play at his inauguration," Jack recalls. "And I remember being super shocked and then being not so shocked, because I realized what had happened was he obviously went to the A-list artists, and they all said no. And then he went to B and C, and everyone said no. And then he went down to like E or F, which is where we were at the time, and we also said no, fairly quickly, so I'm guessing he just kept going down the alphabet. So now this is a really cool moment that we actually get to do this for real with Joe Biden."
Also on the show, we’ve got chart news about two eye-popping debuts, as Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” explodes straight in at No. 1 on the Hot 100, while Morgan Wallen makes country music history with the chart-topping arrival of Dangerous: The Double Album on the Billboard 200.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard's deputy editor, digital, Katie Atkinson and senior director of Billboard charts Keith Caulfield every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)