The Megalithic Symphony of AWOLNATION:
Aaron Bruno Rocks The House of Blues while Working on New Music
Words by Nicole Calascibetta
Prior to hitting the stage at The House of Blues in Atlantic City, lead singer of AWOLNATION, Aaron Bruno, slumped further into the plush chair, his hands tucked neatly behind his head. After releasing three top ten Alternative singles off of their debut album, Megalithic Symphony, Aaron had reason to be sitting comfortably.
Thanks to “Sail,” “Not Your Fault,” and “Kill Your Heroes,” AWOLNATION are one out of only five groups to have three top ten Alternative singles from a debut album in the last 15 years. Other bands include The Killers, Cage the Elephant, Foster the People and Mumford and Sons. When asked how he was reacting to his success, Aaron replied, “It’s still an ongoing reaction now, it’s a wild ride you know?”
Online reviews for Megalithic Symphony include some pretty creative descriptions. Personally, I would categorize the band as aggressive electro-rock, but Aaron doesn’t see his music that way. “I’ve heard some descriptions that were so off and so amazing and terrible, that I would hate to say it because I would hate for someone to look for that comparison in [our] music, I mean…it’s just me, I don’t know how to describe it, you know if someone were to be like ‘describe what you look like’ I could give you my height, my weight, my color I suppose, but I couldn’t describe [much more] to you…It’s also asking to sort of sell yourself I think and that’s uncomfortable for me.”
When asked what made the singles stand out apart from the rest of the album, Aaron revealed the success behind “Sail” was sort of an accident. After a radio programmer had plugged the single into rotation, people began calling in and it wasn’t long before “Sail” took off and became a hot tune to remix. So much in fact that last year, Red Bull Records released the album, RE/Sail, consisting of nine remixed versions of the song.
Now that AWOLNATION are working on their upcoming album due sometime next year, I wanted to know where the bar stands for new music. “It sets it extremely high, but I never really thought that way about writing, so you know if the next record doesn’t have a song that’s as big as “Sail” that’s fine too. Just write the best songs I can write and try to make it make sense,” said Aaron. As for what to expect on the album, the singer explained, “I can see it not being as electronic, but then again the song I’m working on right now has plenty of electronic elements to it, I just think it’s hopefully going to be really good.”
With only the ocean view windows providing light in the incredibly quiet, Asian-inspired backroom of the House of Blues, there was a certain calmness surrounding the singer that was almost chilling. Right before performing in front of an audience, he mentioned, “I try my best to be alone a little bit and just stay kinda calm.” As for turning up the energy on stage and keeping it going, he said, “The music provides that feel I suppose, but also the crowd and the responsibility you have that people spent their hard earned money to come to attend, so the last thing you wanna do is act like you don’t want to be there. If you’re having a bad day, you gotta figure out a way. There’s always a point in the set where something clicks and you’re reminded what all the hard work was for, a celebration of music is a great thing.”
While currently on their 2013 Spring Tour, AWOLNATION’s hard work continues. Aaron described his constant motivation to write made creating new material the best part of being on tour. “You could write a couple songs that aren’t that great or as good as others, so you gotta have the mentality that you can always improve,” he stated.
In return, I asked what then defines a “good” song. Straightening up a bit and furrowing his brows, he replied, “It’s very complicated…I think melody is the most important thing to a great song, production is very important…the way it sounds and in the groove, it has to have that low end of course, I mean I could talk about it for an hour at least, but it starts with melody I would say.”
As for his sources of inspiration, he described, “Everybody that I’ve ever listened to, even the music I don’t care for so much has been a big influence on what not to do as well, but you know everything from Michael Jackson to Harry Nilsson to Radio Head to NWA to Nirvana, to all these hardcore bands that most people don’t know about, to just the ocean behind me right now or a conversation like this or something that could happen, so there’s no one thing.”
When it comes to overcoming obstacles, Aaron stated the biggest challenge in his career is simply getting people to listen. “It wasn’t until now that I actually had the opportunity to understand if people liked the songs or not, so that whole game, that’s the most difficult part about it all, is just getting people to even hear it to begin with. You can have the best song in the world but if no one really hears it it’s not gonna get you very far.”