Stomping Grounds: Aaron Quillen (Congress) on Ypsilanti, Michigan



Mastering an angularity, edge and knack for catchy repetition akin to the projects of Justin Moyer (El Guapo / Antelope / Edie Sedgewick), Ypsilanti, Michigan’s Congress are far more promising than their namesake currently are – I mean, fuck politics, right? Having just released their first EP, Maker late last year, the band has recorded another couple of tracks with the intent of sharing a split 7” with fellow Ypsilanti band Green Lights. Beyond that are unspecific writing and recording plans, maybe an LP, definitely some drinking, and all interspersed with weekend warrior roadtrips around the Midwest.
Ghetttoblaster caught up with the band’s talented drummer, Aaron Quillen to talk a little about the place he, his band and Eastern Michigan University call home for this Stomping Grounds.
What’s your town’s nickname?
What’s your nickname for your town?
It is sometimes drunkenly referred to as Tipsislanti.
Why do you live there?
I just moved back to Ypsilanti after taking a year-and-a-half break. The rest of Congress lives there, I have a core group of friends who live there, my girlfriend recently moved there, and it puts me about ten miles closer to work. The social life there is excellent.
Did you grow up there? If not, what brought you there?
I did not grow up there. A large number of my friends migrated to Ypsi after college, and I followed suit.
What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you there?
From fall 2009 through summer 2011, I lived in an apartment with two friends near the Ypsilanti student ghetto, across the street from a group home. One evening, one of my housemates and I were watching a movie when one of the residents of this group home escaped, we assumed due to lack of sufficient staff, and knocked on our door. We answered and he was completely incoherent and tried to come in. When we wouldn’t let him in, he pissed his pants in the hallway right in front of our door. My housemate then walked him back to the group home and shared some words with the staff working there at the time.
What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?
Ypsilanti is known for its historic giant penis-shaped water tower. Its marker states that it was ERECTED in 1890.
What is your favorite local event or festival?
Mittenfest, a five-day music festival that takes place around the New Year, is always very fun, even if the lineup is usually a little too folk-y for my taste. The Michigan Summer Beerfest at Riverside Park is always the best, especially when you volunteer and get to drink free craft beer for six hours straight.
What is the best time of year to be there?
Ypsi summers are amazing, but in my honest opinion, it is fall. But that’s probably due to fall being my favorite season.
Who is your favorite local celebrity?
Andrew W.K.
Where is the best place to drink and what’s their specialty or happy hour?
There are several. Sidetrack has good selection and an amazing late night happy hour ($3.25 25 oz. beers and half-off liquor from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM). The Tap Room always has some liquor and beer on special for $2.75 or less, no matter when you go there. Corner Brewery’s $1-off Mondays is great. Wurst Bar, which has quickly become the new “it” watering hole in Ypsi due to its unique food menu and constantly changing craft beer selection, has an awesome late night happy hour on Fridays featuring $2 pints. And supposedly Red Rock, which is also new, now has the best late night happy hour in town, but I am yet to experience it.
Who has the best jukebox (and what’s in it)?
Pretty much every jukebox in Ypsi is an internet one, so this non-applicable. 
Do you play music there? If so, where is your favorite place to play?
We play in Ypsi too often, almost exclusively at Woodruff’s.
Does where you live influence your music?
Sometimes lyrically, but otherwise, not really.
What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite show there?
Probably the Magic Stick in Detroit, I guess (Ypsi is 30-ish miles west of the city). The sound is not great, but I enjoy the atmosphere. Most recently, the best bands I’ve seen there have been Title Fight, Real Estate, Fucked Up, and Algernon Cadwallader, all on separate occasions, of course. I also had the pleasure of seeing The Sea and Cake there a few years back.
What is your favorite local band?
Without question, the Detroit bands Zoos of Berlin and Javelins. In Ypsi, I’d say Green Lights (whom Congress are releasing a split 7″ with hopefully in the summer) and a newer band that we all recently saw called Radiant Marks.
What is your favorite diner or restaurant and what is their best dish?
Sidetrack and the Tap Room both have fantastic pub food. Red Rock is a new barbecue place, and I just recently ate there for the first time and it pretty much destroyed me. Honestly, the best mac ‘n’ cheese I’ve ever had.
What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?
No record stores in Ypsilanti, but Ann Arbor is only five miles west, and there are three awesome record stores there. My favorite find at Wazoo has been a used, original copy of Beat Happening’s You Turn Me On on vinyl. At Underground Sound, it’s probably a used, albeit reissued, vinyl copy of Elliott Smith’s XO. And at Encore, I think I picked up each of R.E.M.’s first five LPs for $5 or less. I mean, you can pretty much find them used anymore, but its hard to beat that price.
What is your favorite local publication (alternative weekly, zine, website or blog)?
I don’t really keep up with the local publications.
What is your favorite local shop?
Cross Street Book Shop. Unorganized, overwhelming, but totally great.
If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?
I intend to make the move to Ann Arbor at some point down the road. In a more ambitious way, Chicago is always appealing.