Amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a lot is up in the air for pop band AJR — including their upcoming Neotheater tour that’s been postponed until the fall.
But there’s one thing that’s certain for brothers and bandmates Adam, Jack and Ryan Met when they eventually do hit the road again: They’ve got to be sustainable.
“Even before we get out on the road, we want to do things that are environmentally sustainable,” bassist Adam, 29, tells PEOPLE. “We off set our carbon emissions for when we fly for every show that we do. We don’t use single-use plastic for all of our catering. And we also try and pick companies to work with that do good for the environment, like Delta offsets all of their flights. Chipotle uses local farmers for all of their restaurants. It’s about making those kind of small choices that will have a larger impact.”
In addition to making music with AJR, Adam serves as the Executive Director of his nonprofit, Sustainable Partners Inc., which works with companies and creators to forge partnerships around sustainability. During AJR’s last tour, the band partnered with Sustainable Partners Inc. for a campaign in which they incentivized their fans to watch an online advertisement by planting one tree in exchange for every view.
“The retention rates on the ads were absolutely off the charts, and so were the click-through rates,” Adam says. “So we sold about 100,000 tickets for our last tour and at the same time planted 100,000 trees.”
Along with his work for Sustainable Partners Inc., Adam serves as a Development Programme Advocate for the United Nations.
“The UN has 17 sustainable development goals,” he says. “And when people think of sustainability, they think of going green, but it’s so much more than that. Everything from gender equality to ending poverty, educating people, good health, all of these things are related to sustainability. So I help them to amplify the message of these goals to especially millennials and Gen Zs because communication and education is absolutely the first step to people taking action.”
Adam — who is currently pursuing his PhD in International Human Rights Law in the United Kingdom — notes how much sustainability and human rights are interconnected.
“My PhD is actually looking at sustainable sites around the world: wind farms, solar farms, hydroelectric plants,” he says. “But so many of these places are actually violating human rights, kicking indigenous people off of their lands, contaminating water supplies. So right now we’re in such a pivotal moment and we need to make sure that we’re fighting for human rights at the same time as we’re going towards a sustainable future.”
“As much as individual actions matter, we need to get our governments and our businesses to make the change on a large scale,” he adds. “So the most valuable thing you can do at the moment is to go out and vote.”
Since Adam is working towards his degree in the U.K., he says not much has changed in terms of his academics due to the global pandemic.
“A lot of my courses are over Skype anyway,” he says. “It’s actually not very different right now than it normally would be. I write chapters in my dissertation and I submit them. I attend conferences and stuff over Skype. So that, at least, is some kind of consistency, which is nice.”
Adam says he’s currently social distancing alone in his apartment in New York City since his brothers Jack, 22, and Ryan, 26, share an apartment across town.
“It’s a very strange time,” he says. “We are doing a lot of self reflection because what else can you be doing right now? And thinking about all the people that are less fortunate than we are, and we’ve done a bunch of things to help raise awareness and raise funds for people who are going through tough times. But it’s just been really, really strange.”
Despite all of the strangeness, it has still been a creative time for the brothers, and Adam says Jack and Ryan have written “five or six new songs” in the past month.
“We are definitely working towards a new album, and we’ve been thinking about creative ways to continue to perform, and so we have a few brainstorms that we’re probably going to roll out over the next few months,” he says. “But we really want to get back out there in front of people because we had to cancel so many shows. We were supposed to be on tour now. We were supposed to do Lollapalooza in South America, but none of that happened.”
While Adam says AJR is still relishing in the success of their latest single, “Bang!,” fans can expect more music in the coming months that reflect “what it’s like to be in your 20s.”
“We’re all in our 20s now, and so a lot of our music is about that transition between being a kid and an adult,” he says. “And because we write from experience, you can’t help but incorporate this time into your own experience. So even though there might not be a song specifically about being in a quarantine, it’ll definitely be a product of its time.”
As for what he’s most looking forward to when a bit of normalcy returns? A “very long” walk,” says the musician.
“I walk everywhere because I live in New York,” he says. “I grew up in New York. I don’t know how to drive. So I walk now very short walks because that’s what you’re allowed to do while social distancing, but I can’t wait to just take a few mile walk.”
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