Aria Fowler, lead singer and pianist for Lafayette rock band The Other LA, talks music and Asperger’s Syndrome.
For a lot of kids on the spectrum, noise is a problem. But a lot of people are calmed by music. How does playing in a band work for you?
Music is my life. My parents told me when I was born the doctor said, “I like the name Aria. Do we have a little singer?” It has always been the one calming force in my life. When I get stressed or things get overwhelming I listen to music. When I am on stage or on tour life seems to make sense.
See, most people think Aspie kids don’t feel or don’t understand things going on around them. The opposite is really true: we feel too much. Too many things going on can overwhelm us. For some Aspies, that includes loud music. I am lucky that the louder it gets, the easier it is for me to calm down all the outside noise. However, I do believe that music can be helpful to all kids, just not always as amped up as we play.
We have done several benefits here in Lafayette and Houston for people on the Autism spectrum. I know it helps. We know each other. I can’t explain it, but we just always click and that makes me feel the most special. I want all kids to know no matter how hard it may seem with whatever you are going through, you can shine.
What do you see when you look out into a crowd?
It’s funny, when I first walk out on stage I see a wall of people. I have talked to CJ (CJ Pierce of Drowning Pool & The Other LA) about it. He says “the sea of people” is very energizing and inspiring. But for me it is different. Don’t get me wrong: Seeing a lot of people out in the crowd gets me really pumped up. But when I get into the performance, I start looking at people individually. If I am not on stage, I would never do that. But on stage, I remember the people I see. It is difficult for me to read people’s faces when I meet them or talk one on one. But when I am on stage, I can see their face, their smile and feel the love. It makes me feel accepted. I don’t have to read or try and figure out if a person is joking or upset. I just get to see joy and love.
When and how did you first realize that performing is something you wanted to do?
I think I have always known that music would be part of my life. This is the one thing I am good at. But it was not until I moved to Lafayette that I realized what it meant to be a performer. I had sung in a rock band for band camp in Greenwood, S.C., when I was 8. It was fun, but on my first trip to Lafayette, I saw Matt Breaux (then with Naybor’s Basement) singing and playing guitar. Our families got to be friends, and Matt showed me what it meant to be a performer. Shortly after, Matt let me play my first real gig at the age of 13 with a good friend from church, Brennan Fredricks. It was during Festival International and I was hooked. It took almost a year later and finding my best friend McKenzie to really put life in The Other LA. I am not sure what the future holds, but I can’t imagine it without music.
What do you want people to take away from your situation as someone with Asperger’s?
That is one of our central messages. Music has helped me, and music can help and inspire anyone. It may not mean that you will be a musician, athlete or anything in front of people, but find that one thing you are passionate about. Passion can help you overcome anything. It can be your savior even when the world looks dark or confusing.