Formed in Raleigh, North Carolina -- the unofficial headquarters of alt-country -- the band focused on the songwriting of B.J. Barham, who fleshed out his lineup with pianist Zack Brown, bassist Bill Corbin, guitarist Ryan Johnson, drummer Kevin McClain, and pedal steel player Whit Wright. Despite an active touring schedule, the group also visited the recording studio regularly, and released a pair of independent albums before partnering with Last Chance Records for 2009's Dances for the Lonely. Fellow North Carolinian (and former dB's frontman) Chris Stamey produced the record, which also featured guest vocals from Whiskeytown alumna Caitlin Cary.
Arriving a year later, their fourth record, Small Town Hymns, further established their penchant for gritty, Springsteen-influenced anthems. American Aquarium had a banner year in 2012, with the release of both their first concert album, Live in Raleigh, and their fifth (and most critically acclaimed) studio album, the Jason Isbell-produced Burn.Flicker.Die. Originally intended to be the group's swan song, the album instead ushered in a very successful period. Reinvigorated, they collaborated with producer Brad Cook (Megafaun) on their more alt-rock-inspired 2015 follow-up, Wolves. A concert album, Live at Terminal West, appeared at the end of the year, documenting a show in Atlanta.
About a year later, Barham released a stark, reflective solo album titled Rockingham, which earned positive reviews. American Aquarium continued to play out, and told fans they'd be recording during 2017. However, Barham dissolved the lineup early in the year, choosing instead to embark on a solo tour. He eventually re-formed American Aquarium with a different group of musicians, and returned in 2018 with the album Things Change. ~ Andrew Leahey & Timothy Monger, Rovi