Samuel Wagenaar-Jenkins of Finding Aurora on Origins, Influences, and Post-Pandemic Plans
Finding Aurora is a garage rock band hailing from Newport, South Wales. Since forming in late 2017, this fearsome foursome has taken their music from a bedroom studio to sold-out headline shows around the UK.
Finding Aurora puts on an unforgettable live show, complete with various forms of crowd interaction: call and response, epic mosh pits, and even crowdsurfing.
Members Sean Spiteri (guitar), Luke Simmonds (bass), Nick Williams (drums), and Samuel Wagenaar-Jenkins (guitar, vocals) draw from a number of influences across genres, including several sub-genres of rock. Fans of the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Wolfmother will love Finding Aurora.
Their most recent release, "The Last Call" is a modern punk anthem; the uptempo drum groove and catchy guitar riff make the single the ultimate headbanger. The vocal melodies and relatable lyrical content are a call to kick toxicity out of your life-- and rock out while you're at it. The music video doubles as a talent show, where the band plays to several well-known stereotypes of music industry personalities-- a playful commentary on the nature of the industry.
We spoke to Samuel Wagenaar-Jenkins from Finding Aurora about the band's origins, influences, and post-pandemic plans.
Read the full interview and listen to "The Last Call" below:
Where are you from?
We're from Newport in South Wales, which has a bit of a musical background to it. The scene is sort of rebuilding with a lot of excitement right now-- there’s a lot of great music here, which is really exciting. My other bandmates are Sean Spiteri (guitar), Luke Simmonds (bass), and Nick Williams (drums).
How did you all meet?
The first show I saw was Foo Fighters, Royal Blood, and Iggy Pop, and they all played in Milton Keynes in England. Milton Keynes has this big, glass bowl-- this outdoor venue. I went, and this was before I met Luke, but I remember that I went to school and he saw this Foo Fighters keychain on my guitar bag in school. We were at the same gig, so we just started talking in high school. We started the band in 2018, and we’ve just been going ever since-- we just have a lot fun.
And at what age did you start playing music?
When I was about 12, I started playing guitar hero on my XBox. My friend came over and he chose the Nirvana song “Lithium”. I had the Nirvana bug-- it was just Nirvana, Nirvana, Nirvana, for three years until I was about 15. I was really into a lot of heavy bands too, like Metallica, Judas Priest, I loved Slayer, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath. I loved the classics-- all the stuff from the 70s and 80s. I think the first song I learned on guitar properly was R.E.M. “Everybody Hurts…” I have very vivid memories of coming home from school and just chucking my crap down and going to my room to listen to records and play guitar. I was never into anything else-- I just wanted to play music as soon as I got home.
"I was never into anything else-- I just wanted to play music as soon as I got home."
What inspired the band name “Finding Aurora”?
There's a Foo Fighters song I really like called “Aurora” off their album There’s Nothing Left to Lose-- I think it's my favorite album of theirs. I remember hearing that and thinking, “that is one of the most beautiful guitar riffs I’ve ever heard.” The whole song is constructed really, really beautifully. Another big part of the band name is just looking for something: looking for hope, for something really bright and beautiful. For me, Finding Aurora is the search for something beautiful. It shows up in music, but it also shows up in everyday life-- in the small moments.
"For me, Finding Aurora is the search for something beautiful."
How would you describe your sound?
When we first started the band, we hadn’t had a lot of experience with recording. We set up a little demo studio; we had a recording interface that we plugged into a mix desk, and mics and drums. We were doing it all in Nick’s bedroom, and we’d go over to his place like once a week and write a couple of songs. I think our sound has developed a lot since then; what we wrote back then wasn’t really us. We try to keep things simple, but not boring, in the sense that we let things get to their essence musically and lyrically a lot more now. I think that it’s raw-- that’s a really good word for it. It’s raw, it’s honest, it’s fun, and true to who we are as a band.
If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s a tough one. One song I really like is “Stay With Me” by Faces. I started listening to them in the beginning of quarantine, and I spent a lot of time in the evenings drinking beer, having fires in my garden, and listening to music. I found that song, and I had it on repeat for months.
What is your favorite memory of performing?
I think my favorite memory of performing is the first time I crowd surfed. We played with VANT for a show in Cardiff on their last tour; it was our last gig before lockdown. We played a headline show at same venue on the Friday before Christmas (in 2019) and at the end of the show, I said “f*** it,” threw my guitar down, and just jumped off the stage. It was so much fun.
What is your favorite breakfast food?
I really like chocolate croissants; my girlfriend and I bought a bag of six frozen ones the other day and there’s only one left. My favorite cereal, though, is definitely Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops.
Tell me about your latest single and the inspiration behind it.
We wrote this song around two years ago. I was going on holiday to the Canary Islands for about a week, and I had this riff in my head. I thought it sounded really cool and quite punk; the song really wrote itself. It was written in July 2019, and we recorded it in February of 2020-- right before the pandemic hit. We had played it live a couple of times, but when lockdown happened, we sat on it for months because we didn’t know when to release it. We eventually did a video and we put it out this year. The lyrics were inspired by a lot of toxic people and making the decision to take them out of your life. For the video concept, we had a talent show and each judge represented a different personality of someone in the music industry. We had a big record guy with a suit, cigar, and sunglasses, as well as this very mysterious guy that we were playing to-- I think people really liked it.
What are your plans post-pandemic?
We’ve got a single recorded and mixed, and we’re getting a master and video done soon. We hope to get more music out in the next couple of months and in the future; every time we release a new song, we want it to be better than the last. We’re booking some shows for the end of the year; around December, we’re looking to be on the road for a tour. We’ve got one date booked in Manchester, and we hope it goes ahead; we really don’t know with the way the world is right now. We’re going to have new merch and really go for it once things have opened back up again.
"Every time we release a new song, we want it to be better than the last."
Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming single?
It’s similar to “The Last Call” in some ways, but it’s really different production and vibe-wise. Every song I write has to be different from the last one. In order for a band to be exciting and keep things fun, every song has got to be new. The song is a little bit darker lyrically than “The Last Call” and it’s really riff and guitar-driven. It makes you want to headbang, and it’s really epic… it’s our best song yet.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?
If you like big choruses, guitars, drums, and loud, groovy rock music, you should check us out.