New EP teases the 2020 Band to Watch performer's forthcoming full-length, which he expects to release in late May

Two songs on rapper Joey Aich’s just-released Castle EP play like accidental flipsides of the same coin.

Written and recorded long before words such as coronavirus and COVID-19 entered into the public lexicon, the songs, “Rossi on the Deck” and “Castle,” now seem to trace competing realities.

On the former, Aich, a 2020 Alive Bands to Watch artist, balances verses about tirelessly chasing his musical dreams with a chorus that plays like a fantastical alternative to our current reality, conjuring images of a crowded summer balcony party.

“Castle,” meanwhile, encapsulates the claustrophobic reality currently forced upon much of the planet by ongoing “stay at home” orders, Aich lyrically painting the picture of a socially isolated existence within the walls of a remote, moat-encircled palace, far removed from the failed policies and violence that have ravaged the black community. “How you 24 and so carefree with Congress fucking us?” Aich asks atop a warm beat that runs counter to his simmering anger. “Black … murders on HD cameras/It’s like we carrying all this baggage,” he continues, a few bars later adding, “I’m desensitized/I want to survive.”

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Aich, a boisterous, outgoing performer prone to mid-concert backflips, said the introverted impulse at the core of the song, which builds around the hook “I’m remote, chilling in my castle,” stems from a childhood predilection toward shyness and is rooted in a past concert appearance that he deemed a failure.

“I wrote [‘Castle’] probably two years ago. … [Friend and fellow musician Sarob] had his first headlining show at the Basement, and I performed a song with him and completely botched it,” the rapper said. “I had a mental breakdown after that and everyone was like, ‘It’s fine. It happens.’ It was like I was putting so much pressure on myself, and I really needed to step back and take the mental space away from people. … Most people see me like, ‘Oh, Joe’s super outgoing,’ but I grew up super shy unless you knew me. … Moments like that [concert] take me back there.”

Though seemingly reflective of current events, the songs on Aich’s new EP, as well as a recently completed full-length that the rapper intends to release in May, largely deal with issues that date years back, since Aich generally requires time to process events before committing them to tape. “I have to live out the next chapter of my life in order to write about it,” Aich said, tracing part of this to a desire to avoid repeating himself. “So now I’m in this period where it’s like, ‘OK, we wrote about this chapter. What’s next?’”

The turbulence of recent months is sure to provide ample fuel down the road, particularly since Aich quit his day job in order to pursue music full-time just before a global pandemic hit and stalled out the music business, along with numerous other industries. Aich recently canceled a series of scheduled April concerts, and he envisions that a planned May 21 record release show at Rumba Cafe is next on the chopping block.

At the same time, the rapper is trying to remain upbeat and focus on those things he can control, embracing this unplanned free time as an opportunity to experiment in the studio and to stretch himself into new arenas, such as video creation, filming a lyric video for “Rossi on the Deck,” which you can watch below.

“I’ve been doing as much as I can,” Aich said. “As far as the music, anything I can do online, I want to continue to do. … It’s helping my creativity, and helping me find new ways to approach this. I don’t want this time to pass and then be like, ‘All right, now we have to build momentum back up again.’”

Watch the video for Joey Aich's "Rossi on the Deck"