People often say it’s hard to resist music when you’re born into a musical family. Aris Paul is no exception. His father, Paul Pantelas was a lifelong musician and touring guitarist throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1988, Paul and his brother, George Pantelas opened one of Pittsburgh’s hottest blues bars. Just over a decade later in a house full of dusty, old road cases, Aris picked up his first guitar - he hasn’t put it down since.
Until the age of 15, Aris focused most of his efforts on creating and arranging original, instrumental compositions. By 16, he started adding lyrics to his music. Working with legendary Pittsburgh rocker, Norman Nardini, Aris recalls the invaluable advice he was given; “Find out what you want to say and say it as best you can.” With sharper, focused songs, it wasn’t long before people outside of Pittsburgh began to take notice. At 18, Aris landed a contract with Plateau Records in Nashville, Tennessee. From 2009 through 2011, Aris Paul recorded at several studios around Nashville including the world-renowned Hilltop Studio.
After graduating from Allegheny College in 2013, Aris returned to Pittsburgh and joined a local, country-rock band out of Beaver County, "Ben Benson & the BPs." Touring across the tri-state region, Aris honed his craft as a lead guitarist. Driven to always be cleaner, faster, and...louder, Aris considers his playing to be his greatest asset. His personal guitar hero, Warren “Kingfish” King was a Pittsburgh legend in his time and is still regarded by both Aris and his father, Paul as one of Pittsburgh’s best. Aris recalls his last interaction with Warren.
“My dad and I were obsessed with Warren. He was Pittsburgh blues period. We had this album 'Filleted…Sauteed & Burned to a Crisp.' It was an instrumental album with some of my favorite guitar work. We listened to it so often I had to re-burn it countless times. We went to see Warren one night down at Moondogs in Blawnox and he actually let me jam with him for a while - he died a week later..."
At 24, Aris focused his efforts on his first solo project. Releasing a debut, self-titled EP, Aris continued to push and create while recording his eventual LP, "Drive All Night." During the summer of 2016, Aris won the Dos Equis/WYEP singer/songwriter competition for his bluegrass composition, "Rambler's Creed." Grabbing critics' and listeners' attention alike with unapologetic lyrics and fierce guitar playing, Aris continued to chase down larger events playing Pittsburgh's 3 Rivers Arts Festival and opening for internationally touring acts including the Way-down Wanderers, Davey Knowles, Eric Sommers, Joshua Davis, and the Raelynn Nelson Band (Willie Nelson's granddaughter). While feverishly working wherever, whenever, Aris remains adamant about reviving Pittsburgh’s live music scene as well:
“My dad and uncle were such an integral part of Pittsburgh's blues/rock scene and it was right here on Carson at Excuses – Warren King, Billy Price, Don Hollowood, Norman Nardini, Koko Taylor, Joffo Simmons, Phillip Walker…even Junior Wells and Bruce Willis played harp in here.”
And there are still nights when that little bar comes to life with raw, soul-lifting music. Aris stands in the back of the room, resting his Yuengling on top of the poker machine as he explains just why Bill Toms & Hard Rain are one of the last, great Pittsburgh rock/soul bands. Between mouthing every single word, he tries to hide a wide grin as Phil Brontz and Bill Toms duel back and forth.
Influenced by blues, funk, soul, folk, alt. country, country-rock, and southern rock, Aris’ music is somewhat hard to pin down. It’s a unique blend that Aris is quite proud of. Music is a textural quality to him. And it makes sense as to why - in contemporary music, we all listen to the same chord progressions and hear the same song a thousand, god-damn times. But then a version comes along that makes it all seem new again. That’s what drives Aris: the sound. His music echoes his surroundings and serves as a reminder of everything he’s seen and internalized along the way. He looks forward but is remarkably mindful of where he comes from and who has come before him.