Check out the song: “Sail”
Welcome to Awolnation. Over the last few months the solo project of Aaron Bruno, formerly of Under the Influence of Giants, has really taken off in the world of alternative rock. Fueled by the hit single “Sail,” Awolnation’s debut record Megalithic Symphony has become one of the summer’s surprise hits. The record goes all over the place in terms of its sound and style, ranging from indie rock to alt rock to electronica to even hip hop beats. In this interview Bruno explains the idea and conception of Awolnation, how he came up with the catchy, modern-sounding name, how he feels about his debut record, plus he let’s us in on his feelings on how he would feel about an Under The Influence Of Giants reunion in the future. Expect to see the live incarnation of Awolnation on tour all across the United States for the rest of the summer and the fall.
Awolnation I guess is a recent endeavor for you. Tell us the background behind this project.
Aaron: Well it sort of feels like I’ve been creating this thing ever since I ever picked up a guitar in third grade, but you know life sort of takes you on different journeys and you never know where you’re going to end up. This project is a result of all the ups and downs and different bands and lineups that I’ve been in from the past and different writers that I’ve written with in the past that were in more of a band format where we all wrote everything and split everything equally and had equal input into song direction and song writing. So getting to this point I feel like all the other bands that I was in and my first punk rock band in sixth grade all the way to my last band Under The Influence Of Giants, it seems like it’s been sort of training me to put out Awolnation. Not that I’m saying that what I’m doing now is better than the other stuff, but it is what it is and it’s why I ended up the way I did.
Awolnation is an awesome and very current sounding band name. Who came up with this?
Aaron: I did, Awol has been a little nickname that I’ve gone by for a while, you know since high school just messing around with my friends doing different freestyle stuff and just joking around out of boredom really and my name’s Aaron so I wanted to pick a name that started with the same starting letter. And also I always tend to get social anxiety about having to leave a situation, be it a social event or being in class and not wanting to be there, basically anything. Half of the time I would just dream of not being there and just leaving without having to explain myself and sometimes I would do it and sometimes I would get in trouble and sometimes I wouldn’t get in trouble. So that’s sort of a nickname for me and I think it was around the time that I wrote either “Burn It Down” or “Sail,” I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, what I was going to call it.
I was just trying to create art that I was proud of and stuff that I would like if I heard it on the radio, if I heard it in a friend’s car or if I saw it live and then I attached ‘Nation’ to it to sort of create something bigger than myself possibly. I like to think of it as a musical metaphor as an escapism from today’s darker times and the struggle of life that everyone feels, some worse than others unfortunately. You know Awolnation is hopefully a disc that you can put in and make your day a little bit better and if you’re having a good day hopefully you can get even more pumped listening to some of that more tempo stuff. Or on your way to surfing or on your way to school if you’re that kid in high school and you want to talk to that girl or you got a football game, all the different things that everybody does, hopefully this is sort of a musical drug that can enhance people’s senses a little bit.
Megalithic Symphony has been out now for a couple of months. How do you feel about the record?
Aaron: Oh I feel really good about it. First and foremost it’s just the fact that I was able to release a full album legitimately and people actually get to hear it. That’s the first goal because being in a few other bands and doing the whole label game where you put out a record, it doesn’t do as good as you thought it would and then you write a bunch of songs for the next record only to get dropped from the label or your A&R guy gets fired or you’re having trouble with your manager or whatever it is and not knowing where the hell to be. So a lot of these songs were written in times like that and I sit back and look a couple of years ago, I was in debt badly living at my girlfriend’s parents’ house which was a great thing and I’m so grateful that they let me do that but certainly as a man it’s not something you wake up feeling good about as far as your pride goes.
It certainly wasn’t where I thought I would be at this point in my life; I was hoping to be a little further along. So when I was writing these songs you know just kind of writing them for fun with no rules and no expectations at all, except just to make music that I love and you know in hopes that other people will feel the same way. The fact that I’m sitting here talking about a record that’s out and starting to do well, starting to chart and all that stuff… We’re able to do our own headlining tour across all of North America and people are actually coming to the shows is an astonishing accomplishment to me. In fact, it’s doing better now than I ever thought it would and we’re still in the beginning of the game. So I’m extremely humble and grateful for this opportunity.
Would you say you wrote this all yourself? Is it completely all your creation?
Aaron: Well without sounding too egotistical I wrote all of it. There were a couple of songs that I had friends of mine or artists that I respected help me along the way with writing with you know, “Burn It Down,” “All I Need,” a song called “Kill Your Heroes,” “Guilty Filthy Soul.” Those were sort of co-writes where I worked with someone else on those songs. A lot of which were song ideas that I had, but I had someone sort of coach me along so I could get a second opinion at that time. Once I got that ball rolling though the rest of the record was written by myself.
Did you work with an outside producer on the record?
Aaron: Those songs I mentioned, again, were co-produced with the individuals I wrote them with. Those three songs I mentioned were done with a dear friend of mine Jimmy Messer and he believed in me as a solo artist before I believed in myself and kind of gave me a lot of wisdom and a lot of good friendship stuff to sort of help me move in the right direction. But the overall sound of the whole record was really produced by myself with the help of my friends.
You signed with indie label Red Bull Records last year. What attracted you to signing with this label?
Aaron: There were a couple of other labels that were interested, but they were more of the typical major label thing that I’ve been through before so that didn’t make sense to me. Then Red Bull came out of left field and wanted to do it straight out of the box and not give it away and let me make the record I always wanted to make and provide studio time for that. Basically you know they wanted to partner up with me as opposed to sign me and tell me what to do so that was a really touchy thing for me after having what I’ve been through.
So far they haven’t gotten in the way, just like any other relationship you get your couple of bickering moments where they want you to do something and you don’t want to do it or whatever. But for the most part it’s been a really smooth ride and they’ve been very supportive. We’re starting to chart with our single and stuff is going really good.The weird thing about the success that’s going on it’s for a song that I wrote at sort of a darker moment in my life when I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I was going to try to write pop songs or be a pop artist and get into that game or if I needed to get a job or go back to school or figure it all out… And then I wrote the song “Sail” kind of for fun with my keyboard player.
We engineered it, I wrote it and that’s the one that’s giving us all the success on radio. You hear your whole life of all these cool bands that have blown up and the song that ends up being the single wasn’t the one that anyone thought it would be. That’s the story I always heard about other bands and thought was so cool, but never thought that would factor for my career. Now that it’s happening that way it makes a lot of sense and I kind of see why that is, you know what I mean. I’ve been in plenty of songs that I thought were hit songs and they ended up not being at all and this one “Sail” I didn’t think would be a hit song and it’s looking to be that way now.
What are your touring plans like for the summer? Where can we expect to see you out on the road?
Aaron: I think that tour starts July 10th I believe. Right now we’re doing a bunch of radio festivals and stuff like that. We were just in St. Petersburg, Florida and Jacksonville and before that we did this huge thing in Bakersfield and we’ve just been kind of going to the radio stations and the cities that have been playing our song a lot and doing their big summer festival. In a couple of hours we’re going to get on a flight to go to Chicago and do the same thing there and then in San Francisco and then we’re going over to London for several days to do some stuff over there, the song is starting to do things over there as well. Then we come back and we have like a couple of weeks off and then back on the road and we’re doing that headlining tour as I mentioned.
What is the status of Under The Influence Of Giants? Do you see any future left for that band or is it on a permanent hiatus at this point?
Aaron: Well you know the other two guys who were the other writers in the band were literally like brothers to me and you know it was sort of a divorce or a breakup of a relationship you put all your passion into so it was sad and it was kind of hard to figure out who was going to go what direction. It would really depend on the state of mind of the other two guys and myself. Obviously right now I’m focused on this, but I’m extremely passionate about the music that we made together and I wouldn’t rule it out at all. Maybe this project I’m doing right now will cause an opportunity for us to make a record comfortably one day, in a year or two or something like that.
It’s weird because it seemed like when we were in the band, I was just talking to my manager about this, it seems like we could never catch a big break but it seems like the more interviews I do the more people seem to know about that band. And I’m like “well where were you guys when I was doing that record?” So part of me believes maybe that that record has grown a little bit than we anticipated since we broke up. So it could be one of those cool things where we get back together and you know make an EP or another record and just put it out for fun you know. I love these guys, I don’t think there are any hard feelings, there are a couple of personality conflicts I’m sure that as we get older and mature wouldn’t be there anymore.
What’s the future hold for Awolnation? What do you have planned for the fall?
Aaron: Well I’m always in the studio making new songs and stuff and you know the record just came out so we expect to be kind of getting this out to the public for some time so there’s no date in the foreseeable future that I have to release new songs, but hopefully next year we drop another EP or a single just for fun because it gets a little bit monotonous playing the same songs and I’m obsessed with song writing so I always have new songs. But it’s tough to say you know, things just started like I said and we’re only on our first single and it’s just now kind of opening the door to make it so we’re a legitimate touring entity so we’re going to ride that out and this first headlining tour will be anywhere from two hundred people to two thousand people depending on the market. So if we talk sometime next year, if the world doesn’t end it’ll be two thousand to ten thousand people so that’s ultimately the goal. We’re in no hurry, we’re just letting it go organically and people seem to identify with this record more than I had ever thought they would so I’m very grateful for that.