TikTok breakout Aidan Bissett redefines what it means to be a heartthrob with his nostalgic pop-rock
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Having grown up in an era when movie star charmers like Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey played the leading man in iconic romantic-comedies, Aidan Bissett knew the ins-and-outs of being in love at an early age — and you can hear it in his music.
Launching his career on TikTok, 20-year-old Bissett is among the ranks of young musicians that are redefining what it means to be a heartthrob in 2022. The LA-based artist gained a fierce following of young fans with the release of his single “More Than Friends” in late 2020, and has continued to capture hearts by dropping more tracks about unrequited and unconventional love in the two years since.
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His new EP, I’m Alright If You’re Ok, which arrived in October 2022, finds the young singer-songwriter navigating various relationships over instrumentals that are reminiscent of mid-2010s Bleachers — bright and upbeat with layered vocals and light electronica elements. With lyrics like, “I fall in love like every night / A little salt in the cut,” Bissett channels the quintessential 2000s rom-com lead as he explores the strength behind being a hopeless romantic. Bissett joined AltPress to discuss the importance of embracing nostalgia with his tracks and Freaks and Geeks-inspired music video, Sugar Ray, growing as a lyricist, and more.
The last time you talked to AltPress two years ago, you were a senior in high school. Looking back, what are your thoughts on the progress you've made with this project, lyrically and emotionally?
With every song we put out, it’s like taking one baby step forward with figuring out how I want to establish my sound and my place in the scene. I knew that when I put out the first EP, I wanted to know exactly what my sound was, and I feel like we really did that. We took the time to get it right. I tried a bunch of different sounds with different singles to figure out what's working.
Since the beginning, your music has always sort of had this through line about yearning and being in love, and you have this connection to very early 2000s rom-com nostalgia. Can you talk about your experience with love as a young person?
I've had a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to love. I've only been in one really serious relationship, and I learned a lot throughout that experience. Now that I live in LA, I've tried to explore things and get back out there. I feel like with each person that I've been involved with, I constantly learn about myself. If I do have a little fling and it doesn't work out, I try and write about it because I feel like that's the only way I can process it. Writing allows me to take the time to understand what's going on in my head. I feel like I move so fast, and being able to sit down and be forced to explore your feelings in a session for hours helps me figure things out.
You accompany this early 2000s vibe with a visual aesthetic, like with your Freaks and Geeks-inspired music video for "Twenty Something." Can you talk about your relationship with that kind of nostalgia?
With this project, we wanted to take a step forward into maturity, and show that I'm not just a high school kid anymore. I feel like that Freaks and Geeks video was the last chapter in that era, and it was like closing that book.
With the rest of the EP, it was [like] entering a new visual era of maturity, but with roots of that historically rock 'n' roll heartthrob character. It was like finding a nice blend of desirable and cool, but also nostalgic, and young and fun.
Songs like "All That I'm Craving" and "I Can't Be Your Friend" also tap into nostalgia, in terms of their really melodic synth sound that feels like something you might hear in a montage in a movie. What was it like working with producers like Chase Lawrence of the band COIN and Andrew Wells on those tracks?
COIN is such an inspiration for me, so working with Chase was a dream come true. When he hit me up on Instagram, I freaked out. He would Zoom into sessions [while on tour] and he had such a clear vision when working on things, which was so inspiring. Sometimes you’re just playing around with stuff until it works — but when we're working with Chase, he knows exactly what he wants and he brings it out of you. It can be challenging because I've never worked like that, but it brings the best out of you. We wrote “All That I'm Craving” in our first session with Andrew, which is nuts because you don't just write a song that you both really love the first day. Being able to write with people like Andrew and Chase, it creates different dynamics and allows you to not box yourself into one specific way of writing.
You've mentioned being a fan of indie-rock bands, but were there any specific groups that you gravitated toward in your formative music years?
I didn't go through a full emo phase, because I didn't grow up during the peak ['00s] emo scene. I was probably like three or four years behind that, which is so sad because I love Paramore and [all of the bands that were on] the When We Were Young festival lineup. I wish I had grown up with it.
I grew up on a lot of classic rock because that's what my dad liked — a lot of '70s and '80s music — and then I started venturing into the '90s. I love the Pixies, and people are gonna hate me for this, but Sugar Ray. People hate Sugar Ray, but I love them! [It also] sounds like the Red Hot Chili Peppers really influenced the way I play guitar.
Jumping forward, what are you listening to right now?
I’m really all over the board. There’s not one specific genre that I feel like I listen to the most. I like listening to everything to get a firm grasp of what's going on and what people like. I had to listen to the new Taylor Swift album, [I've been listening to] the new 1975 album, which was pretty fire, and Joe Keery’s new album [as Djo] is my album of the year. Those are the three that I've been rotating.
You've worked with GROUPLOVE, you've worked with COIN. What would you say is a dream collab moving forward?
I really want to work with somebody who's a true singer-songwriter because I would like to build upon my lyricism and be able to tell stories better with a bigger vocabulary. Instead of being direct and to-the-point, I want to use similes and metaphors and alliteration. Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift are so great at telling stories without being so direct, and in such a beautiful way. I would love to work with someone like them to strengthen that side of my music.
Does that mean the future is looking more poetic? Softer, more romantic? How do you see the next step?
I’m definitely not straying away from the direction I'm heading in right now, but I think finding those singer-songwriter moments are important to grow. I want people to know I have range and it's not just the same songs over and over again. I'm really trying hard to find a blend of crazy, upbeat singles and being able to tell stories in a way that's more coherent and beautiful.