Today we’d like to introduce you to A.J. Vincent.
A.J., we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I started taking piano lessons from my elementary school in Austin at age five. I started taking lessons from UT students getting their Master’s degree in music at age six. Bounced around teachers and continued piano lessons until I joined a music school in Austin that did rock band camps, so in 7th and 8th grade I did two rock camps along with piano lessons that helped me learn how being in a band works, and how performing on stage in a band feels.
At 15/16, I started playing in bands, songwriting/lyric writing, original composition, etc., and I started to take less piano lessons, and focus more on creating new music.
At 17/18, I started a band with some friends in high school, and we started booking shows around town and playing house shows for friends. This band was called Poor Man’s Opera.
Poor Man’s Opera broke up after high school because we all went to college. I went to Texas State from Fall 2005-Spring 2007, and that’s when I started making a lot of solo music, I started a band, I joined a couple bands, and I jammed with tons of musicians during this time, and did various shows in San Marcos and Austin.
I decided that I wanted to pursue music full time after two years of college, but didn’t know how to do it. My dad then helped me organize my thoughts and plans to make that a reality if I were to leave Texas State so I had a plan going into the music industry. Summer 2007 after leaving Texas State, we read in the newspaper that there was a new academy opening up at UT called the Austin Live Music Academy. I ended up going to ALMA for a year (Fall 2007 to Spring 2008) at UT learning all sorts of very helpful info about the industry and did more composition/collaborating with the other musicians there.
During that time after Texas State and during ALMA, I ended up setting up my solo piano music shows and found random piano gigs around town. I also joined a few bands, including The Bright Light Social Hour. I knew the TBLSH guys already because I was good friends with Alex (Jack from TBLSH’s brother) from high school, so one thing led to another, and we started working together in 2007.
The Bright Light Social Hour went on to play a ton of shows and gain momentum in Austin. We didn’t have an album yet, but we played shows and released an EP and a single leading up to the first album. We started to get bigger crowds that started expanding beyond Austin, released the album, toured a ton all over the US and Canada, did some big shows, and we ripped stages from 2007 to the very beginning of 2013. Right at the beginning of 2013, we parted ways. This was a tremendous shock and surprise. This point in time was a very defining moment in my history, because the day before that, I had just found out my father had kidney cancer.
After those two days, my entire world changed completely. The band I had committed to for five years was no longer the thing I did, and my Dad started treatment for cancer. Safe to say it was a very terrible time. I ended up being primary caretaker of my father along with my mom during the year and four months my dad fought against cancer, and unfortunately he did not make it. He passed away in April 2014. He was a wonderful person, we were very close, and I miss him every single day. He was an enormous influence on my music and my music journey, and I would not be doing this interview if he didn’t help me during my journey in music.
Before my Dad passed away, one of my absolute favorite bands ever, Black Taxi (from NYC), was in Austin doing some recording and some shows in Austin for a bit shortly after TBLSH and I parted ways. They invited me to join in and do some recording, shows, and eventually we did a tour on the East coast together. It was an absolute dream to get to play with Black Taxi and work with them for a bit. Not only because I was already a huge fan of the band, but also because I was going through some hard stuff with caretaking, and just getting to play keys and do band stuff was a good distraction from all that at that time. Love those dudes.
After TBLSH and aside from working with Black Taxi a bit, I didn’t really know where to start or what to do with my new situation as a musician, so I just started creating as much music as I could solo, and decided to record a whole album to kick things off. Instead of only doing rock and roll or EDM, I wanted to do both. I started tinkering with Ableton Live and more synths/drum machines/fx/etc., and that led to my first album. That album is called Thief of Fire, and it’s released under my name. I didn’t really know what I could do as a hybrid EDM/rock musician, so I didn’t really name my music yet, and just sort of released it to the world wondering what would happen now that I was in this different chapter of my career.
Once my father passed away, I decided I needed to do a solo tour since I hadn’t toured much since TBLSH. I booked a solo tour across the US and Canada, and my girlfriend Brenda and I took off and toured my album Thief of Fire for a while. It was a wonderful escape from the darkness and very terrible vibes of caretaking and losing my father, so it was one of the best tours of my life. I will never forget the feeling of getting back out there again on that tour. It was super hard though, because I didn’t have a booking agent, manager, press, etc., so Brenda and I had to do everything ourselves, and safe to say it was tough, but so rad at the same time.
So some time passes where I’m working on solo stuff, teaching some music lessons to students on the side to make ends meet, and playing solo gigs around Austin and Texas. One random day, I was playing a solo electronic show at Stubb’s Indoor, and the door guy that day was a crazy and rad dude named Hutch. Hutch took notice that I was playing keyboards through a 122 Leslie cabinet, and asked me if I knew of the band Scorpion Child. Turns out Hutch was good friends with Scorpion Child, and he said he would say something to them about me playing keys. One thing led to another, and I joined Scorpion Child in 2015.
Scorpion Child and I went on to do their second album, Acid Roulette, and right after joining the band, we went into the studio for a month at The Bubble in Austin. We did a wild session of songwriting and recording that led to the album that is Acid Roulette. During and after that time, we started doing shows and touring all over, but in November 2015, we booked a European tour, and all of a sudden I was back in the touring saddle again. From 2015 to 2017, we slayed stages all over the place, and ended up doing a bunch more touring in Europe and in the US. After a while, the band didn’t end up staying together, but it was an epic time, and fun as hell to shred with those dudes.
During Scorpion Child, I started rethinking my solo music, and after making my first album, I upgraded my gear a bit, and started recording album two. I still wanted to make a rock/EDM hybrid album, but I wasn’t content with releasing my solo music under my name anymore because I feel like my music and I are two different things, so I needed to name my music to distinguish it from me. I decided to name my music Party Wolfe, and I released my second album Electric Kind of Love under the name Party Wolfe. I released Electric Kind of Love in 2017, and played some shows around Austin, and had fun with it. But also during that time, Frenchie Smith asked if I’d be interested in working with Matt Gilmour on his music.
I joined forces with Matt Gilmour, and we decided to call what we were doing The Matt Gilmour Band. We started working on songs, playing shows, did a couple tours, live streaming, putting together EPs and single releases, we recorded at The Bubble and at my house in Austin, and just had a good time making and releasing tunes while playing shows. Then in the summer of 2019, the band… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead asked me to do a show at Stubb’s outdoor doing keys/vocals, and we had a blast shredding that day. That led to me joining… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and we started working on prep for a couple tours in January, February, and March 2020.
During that time with The Matt Gilmour Band and starting to work with… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, I decided to change Party Wolfe into 100% EDM music, and change up the way I perform live. I started building a whole new chapter of solo dance music, and started releasing singles like “Love Will Take Us Far” and “Do You Feel This Moment?”… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead took off for two months of touring early 2020, and we went all over the US and Europe/UK and demolished every stage we set foot on. It was an absolute blast, and right at the end of it was when the COVID-19 pandemic was really kicking off. The day we left from the UK after the tour was over, was the day before Europe stopped all travel in and out of Europe due to COVID-19.
During the pandemic I ended up building a whole new live set for Party Wolfe, and started live streaming live shows weekly on Twitch.tv (twitch.tv/party_wolfe). Now I have an hour and a half full dance/EDM Party Wolfe live set to play around Austin that I built during the pandemic, and once the pandemic ends, I can’t wait to get back on the stage as Party Wolfe. I’ll be booking shows as soon as things return to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic…. And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead is doing another album, and we just started the pre-production process for that album, so currently, I am in… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead songwriting/recording mode. I’m super stoked to dive into another album recording session, and it’s gonna be rad to see what we end up making because it’s still early in the creation process right now.
After the pandemic officially ends, it’ll be back to touring for… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and I’ll be booking as many Party Wolfe shows I can between tours.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Touring musician & recording artist-
Keyboards – synth, piano, organ, rhodes, etc.
Vocals & Harmonies
Songwriting/Music production – songs/albums with bands or solo
Ableton Live – music production/live performance integration/tempo synced stage lighting rigs
What I am known for:
Live performance with bands or solo
Songwriter/Music production with bands or solo
What I am most proud of along the way:
– Doing bus and sprinter van tours across Europe and the UK with… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead and Scorpion Child
– Playing Festival d’été de Québec with The Bright Light Social Hour opening for Aerosmith
– Winning the “Best Keyboardist of Austin” award two years in a row during SXSW at the Austin Music Awards
Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
For networking in general, find people who also do what you are trying to do, and work with them towards common goals. A network will naturally form while getting the common goals done.
For mentors, always hard to say where one will come from, but if you can truly trust someone and they’re in the position to mentor you, then let them help, and try to help them. However, just make sure they aren’t mentoring you to take advantage of your success if things go well.
Roger Ho, Stephanie Bujold, Nicole C. Kibert, Deneka Peniston, Ross P. Vincent