Meet Aer, a Couple of Beach Bums Making Rap Music in the Big City
On a spring New York afternoon, scruffy-faced, all-smiles Carter Shultz meets me in Tompkins Square. His short-sleeved sweatshirt puts his forearm tattoo on full display: a French adage meaning "Victory without risk is a triumph without glory." Next to him is blonde-haired, bright-eyed David von Mering, who, fresh from a performance in the SoundCloud offices, carries his acoustic guitar close to his side.
Now, the two happy-go-lucky beach rock rappers are settling into their new home, New York City. The funny thing is they grew up in a suburb of Boston, so beach living has never been part of the equation. I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at this—how can you make music about breezy vibes and palm trees when you’re surrounded by subways and skyscrapers?
“While writing the last album, the excitement of moving to this city definitely overcame some of the grimy realities of being in New York,” Carter says, as I sit sandwiched between the two personalities on one of the park's benches. “I’m happy here. Feel-good music comes when you’re happy, not when you’re sitting on the beach. That doesn’t necessarily define it in my opinion.”
Carter, the more charismatic of the two, fires a round of small-talk-y questions on my right, while the more reserved David takes up the open space on my left. Their contrasting energy levels continue when they get on stage; Carter is typically the frontman, all flailing arms and jumping about, while David usually finds comfort behind his guitar, shyly thanking his audience in between songs.
The disparity is also evident in music videos; in their latest edit, “I Can’t Help It,” Carter climbs in trees and boogies jokingly on the beach, while David holds an arm around his girl and keeps his dance moves to a minimum. I wonder if this variance has a effect on the duo’s dynamic.
“We’re two humans doing one thing, so naturally we’re going to butt heads,” Carter. “It’s not something scary, but it’s something that naturally happens. Walk away, move on, try again later.”
“It’s easy to forget that we wouldn’t be this far if the other person didn’t know what they were doing. I trust him, he trusts me. We just need to be in the same head space.”
“It’s a marriage,” David adds.
The two have been “married” for a while now, having met in grade school and making music together ever since. When they were 16, they released their first album as Aer, titled Water on the Moon. Seven years and six projects later, they're putting the finishing touches on an album, which they claim will carry the duo’s most definitive sounds to date.
“The new album is gonna be Aer, but it’s gonna be one of these moments: ‘Woah! … Oh yeahhh.’ You’re gonna be surprised at first, but after a week of listening, you’re not gonna be able to put it down, and you’ll be reminded why you love this band,” David says.
“This next album is my favorite thing we’ve done,” adds Carter.
On a typical Aer track, Carter takes care of the verses. Delivering soft, slightly melodic rap lyrics, he covers a handful of the expected topics: girls, growing up, and staying positive. Bridging his bars are David’s consistently catchy hooks, which take on a more beach-rock aesthetic. Aer finds itself in the middle of a genre Venn diagram, appealing to pop lovers, hip-hop heads, and beach bums alike.
“[The new album] is gonna sound new, and sonically it’ll be really exciting, but it’s still gonna have this thing you connect with, you’re comfortable with, and you’re familiar with,” says David. “[It's] what should everybody should be thinking about, worrying about, keeping you up at night. But not in an annoying way. Just be excited for it.”
Images: Tyler Mitchell for Green Label