It’s been a fun ride for AWOLNATION. The band has been touring incessantly since the release of their debut LP Megalithic Symphony released in the Spring of 2011. You may have heard the hit single “Sail” everywhere (on TV, movie trailers, ESPN highlights) but Megalithic Symphony is filled with great songs that show that AWOLNATION is not just another screaming rock band. We recently had a chance to check in with the band’s frontman Aaron Bruno before a show. Check it out below:
By Matt Arena
How’s the tour going so far?
It’s going very good, we’re like six shows in. We’re in Detroit right now, having a great time and all the shows so far have been very energetic and great.
You played a show in Hartford, CT the other day, in the middle of a train station, what was that like?
Yeah, it actually was in the middle of the train station, literally. It was a really cool experience; the previous time we played there it was only in front of maybe 20 people. So it’s great to see progress. You always want to play to more people each time, so it’s a good sign that word’s spreading and all the hard work pays off. It’s always the more the merrier at a show.
The shows have been selling out pretty consistently so far this tour, even in place like Hartford, how’s it feel to see that people are digging your music nationwide?
It feels really, really good, man. It wasn’t something that I ever expected to happen. I’ve been in a lot different bands and put a lot into the record and didn’t expect much in return. I just tried to put my head down and do as best as I possibly could. There have been a couple people out there who dig what’s going on. The expectation never was to have some crazy success. I never even thought any of these songs would be on the radio, really ever. But you always hope for those things and a lot of it is out of your control. The mentality is I guess expecting the worst and hoping for the best, ya know? I continue to feel like the underdog in a lot of ways, because I put out a couple records with bands I made before, neither of which saw the light of day. They had a chance but definitely didn’t get near where we would have liked. Even more devastating were the records that my last band made that didn’t even get to come out. Any time you put it on the line on creating something and putting it out there, and you can’t even release it because of legal problems or label stuff it’s pretty devastating because you put a lot into it. When you create this thing and no one gets to see it or even decide for themselves whether they like it or not. Not that I’m saying it was the best record or not but it would have been cool to let it have a chance. So my goal with this thing was to release it. I didn’t want it to sit on a hard drive somewhere. I didn’t expect anything really, so maybe that’s why it’s gone so good because expectations are so low.
I’ve noticed you’ve always had really good support acts, last year with Twin Atlantic and this year with Imagine Dragons, what goes into making that decision?
It’s actually not as complicated as it sounds. It’s usually whatever packaging makes the most sense at the time. You want to be able to tolerate the music for however many shows you’re on the road for, so you try to have bands whose music you’ll enjoy. Sometimes it’s just whatever makes the most sense and creates the best atmosphere for the show. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day; trying to give the fans the best show possible.
The video for ‘Kill Your Heroes’ was just released, and it’s a pretty wild one, where did you get the concept for that?
I think my buddy Cameron who directed this and a couple other videos as well, and we always wanted to do this Mr. Rogers parody thing. Or something along those lines of the children’s television we were forced to watch growing up. He had the idea and I kinda just took it to another place. There was a lot of back and forth before it got to where it’s at now. We wanted to do something a little light hearted, but it ended up being taken a little more seriously than I though at first. Clearly ‘Not Your Fault’ was a good time and it followed that direction. So I think next doing something really, really serious it the way we’d want to go (laughs).
It was also released in 3D. Did that influence the concept or production at all?
No it didn’t. It just seemed very possible and so we did it. I don’t think that every concept is right for 3D, but that one was at the time.
There was also a song you recorded for the Frankenweenie soundtrack, what was it like being part of that? Especially a kid’s movie, not something you’d expect an AWOLNATION song to appear on.
I got asked to go see the movie, saw it, and was asked to write a song that was inspired by the movie. I was very flattered that I was asked by that camp, to be associated with Tim Burton or Danny Elfman at all was such a huge moment for me. I had an idea that seemed like it would make sense for what I saw and put some lyrics together. It was cool because it was somewhat of a challenge for me to take myself out of the movie to write a song. I’d never been asked to write specifically for the film. It was really cool to think outside of the norms of myself in order to come up with the song. Then when I wrote the song, I was really happy, thinking, “well ok, if they don’t like it like it, I can use it on the next record.” But it turned out they really liked it and I’m excited to hear how the other songs came out too and see where my weird song fits in.
Do you have solid plans for a second album?
The only solid plans I have is just to continue writing and make sure that the record is better than this one. I push myself to become a better songwriter and sound better. I would hate to take a step backwards so hopefully they’re satisfied as the needs and expectations of the fan base grows with us as we push the boundaries of where we were at before. But I don’t know when that’s going to come out, with this record everything felt so good. As soon as we can record we will, but we’re kind of in the middle of it right now.
Being that you’re much more popular now, is that something in your head when writing? The expectations that come with an established fan base?
I write no matter what. It’s probably in the back of my head, the pressures and expectations. To follow up something with this much success is not something that I ever thought would happen, that sophomore record. I guess the advantage I have is that I made a bunch of records that people didn’t hear. It doesn’t feel so much like a sophomore album, more of an extension of this weird journey I’ve been on. When I wrote Megalithic Symphony I tried to make something that I’d personally love and hope that people feel the same way. What I love now may be different from what I loved when I made that record, so it may be a little different but hopefully it’ll grow in an area that people will enjoy.
You’re on the forefront of Red Bull Records, what’s it like being on that record label? Is there ever any pressure that you feel?
No pressure at all. They definitely don’t need my help. The coolest thing about it is that they don’t really want you being in the mix too much. If they can have their opinions, they try to do in really hands off. They want it to be very successful, but also are equally proud that they can back, which I know sounds too good to be true, maybe it is, but for me it’s worked out. It’s been very hands-off and supportive when we need it.
You guys played a lot of festivals this past summer, what about that environment appeals to you?
Um, what appeals to me is just getting able to see a variety of different bands. Like now we’re playing with the same two bands for a month or so. When you drop into a festival one of your favorite bands may be playing that night. We’ve been lucky enough to see some great, great bands over the summer festivals. Collectively we’ve been able to see some of our all-time favorite bands. It’s been very special. It was a summer I’ll never forget, I don’t know how it’ll be topped. I got to see Refused on their reunion, Metallica, who I’ve never seen before, Slayer, and Radiohead. It was great.