Cute Is What We Aim For
Shaant Hacikyan has come full circle. This is true literally and it's true figuratively. The Buffalo-based musician, although only in his early 20s, has seen his band, pop-rock outfit Cute Is What We Aim For, rise and fall. He's traveled around the world, and after experiencing what the music scene can do to a young musician, he's returned to Buffalo and is starting over from homebase. He's learned a significant amount of lessons than can only be learned through experience, and now he's ready to apply them to a reincarnated version of his band.
Success found CIWWAF quickly. The band formed in January of 2005 and by the fall of that year had signed with Fueled By Ramen. The band's catchy debut, The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch, which was produced by Matt Squire, hit shelves in June of 2006, debuting at No. 75 on the Billboard Top 200. The group was upstreamed to Atlantic Records, and began recording their sophomore effort with John Feldmann in 2008. That disc, Rotation, was released in June of 2008, and this time hit the charts at No. 21. But despite the group's positive press and frequent touring, all was not well within the ranks. In April of 2009, CIWWAF returned home from tour and things began to fall apart. They parted ways with their label and one by one the members decided they didn't want to work together anymore. CIWWAF was officially on hiatus by the fall, and Shaant was forced to come face to face with reality.
This reality was that he had been drunk every day for two and a half years. His drinking had compromised many of his relationships and left a bad taste in people's mouths. He had to decide in what capacity he wanted to continue making music and how he could best do it to fully embrace the opportunities he was being given. This ultimately meant that in October of 2009, Shaant checked himself into rehab. There he got clean and has remained so since. As hard as it was, it was the best decision he's ever made and sobriety has repositioned for a second chance.
"We had such a great opportunity and one that many people would kill for, and I abused it and was throwing it away," Shaant says. "I decided I needed to see if I was worthy of such an amazing opportunity. I eventually came to the conclusion that yes, I am fully capable. It's a very scary thing when you realize your mortality. I was an eighteen-year-old kid who went from my bedroom to a tour bus. Being able to tour the world makes you feel almost invincible. It was such a crazy ride for four years and I found myself thinking 'Nothing can stop me.'"
After rehab, Shaant began informal acoustic jam sessions with some friends, not with the intention of writing a new record but simply to reestablish his connection to music. These acoustic sessions became frequent, nearly four or five a week, and by January of 2010 Shaant felt ready to begin work on what will be CIWWAF's third--and yet to be titled-- album. He began recording throughout the spring with engineer Doug White, electing this time to self-produce his music. The goal was to create a feel-good summertime record that urges its listeners to sing along. Instead of harping on his past tribulations and struggles with substance abuse and depression, Shaant has elected to write songs that embody a sense of hope, offering catharsis and release from both his own issues and those of his listener.
"I needed this music to get me out of a depression," he explains. "You can be that far down, but you can pick yourself back up. I want to make an impact. For a while I was scared to say that. I want to do to those who listen to the music I make what they have done for me, which is keep me alive. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that for anybody but it's my hope, and it's a big hope."
This new album will be released [when?] and CIWWAF will be touring in the spring with support from The Friday Night Boys, The Bigger Lights and Down With Webster. It's a fresh start for an experienced musician who fully intends to make the most of his second chance. There is no drama, only positivity. CIWWAF for has returned home, to its roots, and it's in that way Shaant feels he can best help it thrive.