Interview with AWOLNATION

Jake Craney

Favorites: Bloc Party, 3EB, Gaslight, Tokyo Police Club, The Kooks, Pete Yorn, Andrew McMahon

GroundSounds recently got the chance to chat with Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION about the band’s upcoming tour, Megalithic Symphony, and what he is currently working on. If you’re in LA, be sure to check out AWOLNATION at the Sunset Strip Music Festival on August 3rd before they head overseas.


GS: You’re about to head overseas to some great places. What are you most looking forward to?

AB: We were overseas in the dead of winter the last time we went over there, so I’m just excited that it’s not going to be as cold as it was. I can’t wait to go back to Portugal. That’ll be a nice way to kick things off.

GS: Absolutely. So, just for some background, how did you meet the other guys in the band?

AB: Our guitar player Drew—I met him in high school. He was 15, I was 16, we met in Spanish class. We were both wearing punk rock t-shirts and we kind of hit it off, and he’s been my main musical soul mate ever since. The other guys I met in different various random scenarios. Dave, our bass player, was in my last band (Under the Influence of Giants). Our drummer now I’ve known since this band called Hometown Hero I was in, and Kenny our keyboard player was in the studio when I was trying to write pop songs for other folks about four years ago.

GS: You’ve got some pretty powerful imagery and concepts in the video for “Sail.” What was your goal for the video in terms of what you wanted viewers to take from it?

AB: I just wanted to make a video that I didn’t hate, that was the first goal. I didn’t necessarily want to tell some sort of story or force any ideal down anyone’s throat, and truth be told I didn’t think anyone would even care to look at the video. I was just trying to make something that I could hang my hat on and be proud of, and it was the first real video that I got to make with my best friend Cameron.

We had always been fans of more classic-looking films and sci-fi, so we wanted to make a little bit of a slightly sarcastic journey, which interestingly enough people took the video way more serious than was intended to be. Certain parts mean certain things to me, but to each his own. Much like music, I think it’s up to the viewer or the listener to decide what a song or video is about. I like a little bit of mystery and it’s nice to keep stuff up in the air.

GS: One of my personal favorites from Megalithic Symphony is “Wake Up.” What’s the story behind that song?

AB: That song was called “Wilbur Road” for about a year or so, that was the street I lived on at the time and I didn’t know what to call it. I had that verse, the more aggressive part, for a long time, and the verses were so heavy I didn’t feel like I could go any heavier in the chorus. So I decided to go the Jackson 5 route, I don’t know how I did that; it just ended up happening that way. It’s a very unique song, a very strange song, so I’m glad you like that one.

That one was one of the more difficult ones to figure out what do to with. I’ve always been really hard on myself as far as songs go, so I won’t just settle for a chorus that isn’t as good as the verse or better. One thing that is good about me writing on my own is that egos get in the way of writing when you’re writing as a band. We can become extremely short-sighted when we write in groups of people unless you just throw the ego behind, but let’s face it—you get a bunch of songwriters together in a room it’s impossible to not have ego.

GS: I also want to ask you about the inspiration for “Knights of Shame.” How did that song come together?

AB: It really started with the acapella intro, the vocal chants. That came into my head one day after surfing as I was driving through the canyons. When I started to record that, I felt like I had enough songs on the record that if something were to be commercially successful, I had covered that ground. So I thought “why not just go berserk on this one?”

I thought it’d be cool to have a song that was between 6-8 minutes long that wasn’t too self-indulgent or didn’t have some sort of four minute guitar solo or unnecessary noise or elongated parts just for the sake of it. Basically, I wanted to make a long song for the short attention span of our youth today. My only goal was to write a song that you would listen to one time all the way through, and it ended up being a fan favorite of ours. I never really looked back, I just kept adding new parts, and once I finally got to that last part, it occurred to me that there was probably nowhere else to go. It was kind of sad to end it, I could have kept going. I could still be writing that song if I wanted to, but I had to move on.

GS: After such a successful album, do you feel any pressure on you for the next album or is that something that you don’t allow yourself to think about?

AB: I really don’t know the answer to that. As much as I want to say there’s no pressure, there obviously has to be some, but I don’t really think about it. I haven’t set any goal for when it needs to be done, so I imagine if that happens, maybe I’d feel more pressure, but I’m writing this thing the same way I wrote the first one, which is to go with the flow and let the stars align properly for the record to be completed.

Another thing that has really helped me to not feel any pressure is I’m working on multiple projects with other artists. I’m collaborating on various projects where I’ll provide input or someone will send me something for me to sing on, so it’s not all up to me in those scenarios and that takes pressure off of me. So then when I do get to AWOLNATION songs I’m fired up because I’ve stretched my musical mind in other ways.

GS: So what can you tell us about what you are working on now, both with AWOL and your collaborations?

AB: New songs for AWOL are always happening. I have a studio blocked out specifically in the fall to finish that up. The other projects—a couple of them are young artists that I’ve discovered and I want to help get their foot through the door. Also some stuff that I’m going to be singing on, different little side surprises that are going to be mentioned soon enough but I can’t really say yet. I’m really excited about it but I’ve had instances where you announce things and for one reason or another it ends up not happening, so I’m superstitious about saying that stuff too early. But there’s going to be a lot of music coming from me before the year is over.

GS: That sounds great—and that was basically my last question, what are your plans through the end of this year?

AB: Just so much music I have to complete and I’m looking forward to having the time to complete. I’m grateful to go on tour but I’m mostly looking forward to coming back and focusing on becoming a better songwriter and hopefully pushing myself to another dimension as a songwriter. 


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