Rapper Joey Aich invites the community to come together and ‘Paint’

The Columbus musician is set to release ‘The Full Painting’ EP on Wednesday

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Joey Aich

On new single “Paint (P.4.L.),” Joey Aich raps about the days blurring into an endless haze, echoing how he experienced time through much of the pandemic.

“Last year, the only thing that made me realize what day it was were the sirens on Wednesday,” Aich said recently by phone. “You could tell me it was Sunday, but to me it might have been Friday, to be honest. It was just that kind of feeling.”

During the early spread of the coronavirus, Aich said he had little interest in writing or recording, burdened not only by the weight of the unfolding pandemic, but also by the resurgent Black lives matter movement that swept through Columbus and the nation following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. While Aich said he felt compelled to write songs that spoke to that moment, he didn’t want it to appear as if he was using the protest movement for self-promotion, and so he found lower key ways to contribute to the push for social justice, attending protests and sharing educational materials on social media.

Additionally, Aich spent a lot of time walking, starting from his home in King-Lincoln and tracing long arcs through the city, hoofing it from the campus area down through German Village, and developing a particular fondness for the area along the Scioto River near COSI. The walks helped the rapper clear his head, offering needed distance from doom-scrolling social media, in addition to the strain that came from having his music career temporarily obliterated by COVID-19.

“With music being my only job, I needed to make money, but I couldn’t perform,” Aich said. “And then I’m starting to write songs about just living in my room and talking about COVID, which I was totally against, and it started stressing me out. So it was like, OK, let’s stop music for right now, or at least stop the writing process.”

In logging countless miles, Aich eventually started to find some distance from the subjects that he didn’t want to relive in his music, and in the early fall of 2020 he started writing raps again, with “Paint” being among the first new songs to emerge during what Aich described as an initial overnight “word vomit.”

“I started at 8 [p.m.] and stayed up until 4 o’clock in the morning just knocking out as many songs as I could recording-wise,” said Aich, who released a video for “Paint” last week and this week releases The Full Painting, an EP that includes the original track plus four remixes by different producers, who, working with different palettes, manage to draw out varying shades in the track. (The EP releases on Wednesday, Nov. 3, timed to the siren Aich has used to demarcate time throughout the pandemic.) “It was just an exercise for me to finally just start making [songs], and so I just rolled with it. … It was a session to just clear myself, to get everything out.”

While Aich initially approached the remixes included on the EP as a throwback to the era of music he grew up with, where artists would release extended singles featuring remixes by varying producers, it also reflected the return of some sense of community following a year-plus lived largely in isolation — a spirit Aich has embraced recently in concert, setting up a canvas and brushes by the merch table and inviting concertgoers to paint whatever they feel, many hands collaborating on a single work.

“The way my room is set up, it’s my bed and I’m looking at a TV and microphone, and I would just spend a lot of time in there alone, like, OK, let’s go create. And then I’d sip some whiskey and play the [instrumental] track over and over to get ideas,” Aich said. “The whole healing aspect and the whole communal aspect [of the new EP], now I’m really starting to feel that way. … I needed to start having a little bit more fun.”