AWOLNATION: Ain’t Bailing Anytime Soon

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The woes of struggling musicians are exactly what it’s made out to be; they come from everywhere to converge in the big leagues to try to stand out amongst a smattering of hopefuls who all measure similarly in talent and drive to succeed, the chances to ‘make it big’ are undoubtedly bleak. Aaron Bruno knows all too well of that ceaseless narrative. After being in several different bands that eventually met their respective demise, Bruno finally broke his unfortunate streak with AWOLNATION. The band has had a few well-received singles but none more pervasive than the industrial mega hit ‘Sail’, which shone a glaring spotlight on the LA band. However, after years of being in a band, it seems that Bruno is experimenting with a new vision with AWOLNATION’s sophomore Run. JUICE snagged some time to discuss with the humble guy about the new album, his past, and his thoughts on surf rock.

Prior to AWOLNATION, you were a part of many bands, the music moved from punk to grunge to rock that’s influenced by different eras, and currently it’s synth-heavy electrorock. Was the change a natural progression or did you distinctly decide that you wanted to challenge yourself with a new sound?
I think it was a natural progression. Each different band that I was in or each different song that I’ve written was sort of like a time capsule of that period in my life. So, not any of the songs or the sounds that I created were over thought or designed in my head. It wasn’t necessarily the decision I made, it was just the natural progression of the music that I wanted to make, to write and record, it was just simply the next step of my songwriting. I guess that has evolved as I got older and listened to more music and learnt more about songwriting, and hopefully, you know, got better. That’s my main goal – I was just trying to write better songs than the last one that I wrote. And that’s all I focus mostly on.

After years of trial and error with different bands, where do you find the strength and determination to soldier on?
Thank you for saying that it was strength, but I just didn’t know what else I was going to do besides music because I sort of put all my heart and soul into that craft and it’s what I know best. So, I just kept plugging away and it ended up working out. It was definitely scary at times but like I said, it’s like my favourite thing to do and it’s what I do best.

We’ve read that Run was created by you alone? Is this true? What was the reasoning behind that decision?
Yes, it is true. Well, on the first record, the songs that I looked back and enjoyed most are, I think, the songs that I recorded myself and produced myself. I would like to extend on that on this new record and sort of accomplish this dream scenario, which was to have no else touch the album besides myself and the engineer I worked with. It was a really great experience and challenging. It was a great opportunity, so I’m glad I went that direction.

The new album is a concept album, and you associated it to a Rage Against The Machine album, would you care to explain? 
No, I don’t know if I said that. Maybe what I said is that there are elements that maybe were as heavy as some of the Rage Against The Machine parts that I enjoyed in the past and I was a huge fan of them growing up for sure, but I wouldn’t say that it’s like a Rage Against The Machine album necessarily. But I’m a huge fan.

Also on your sophomore, you got to work with Steve Perry? How was it working with a legend like him? 
It’s not true, we’re just really good friends, maybe one day we’ll do something together but it hasn’t worked out that way yet. That’s something that’s kind of been exaggerated.

Did you have a theme in mind for Run?
I don’t know if I necessarily had a theme as much as a feeling that moved throughout the record in the process of writing and recording it. But it’s much more of a personal record than the first one and tackles a lot of subjects lyrically that are difficult to address in life at times, so I guess that was my way of expressing myself and entertaining all the questions that I have about life in a lot of ways.

Since there is a level of pessimism and nihilism in your lyrics, is conveying a message through your music something that you consider when you write? 
Nothing is very intentional with the lyrics. It’s kind of what’s in my mind at the time and sometimes words come fast and sometimes it’s very easy and sometimes it’s very difficult because of the right things to say to set the mood of the music or the melody that I’ve written, so it’s more instinctual again, rather than thought out. But I tried to make sure that throughout the record, I choose the songs that tie together emotionally and sort of tell the story, in hopes to feel like the listening experience is similar to watching a great movie of some sort.

Now that the band finally found fame after struggling so long in the business, how do you balance that underdog quality in the music along with the notoriety?
That’s a great question, I don’t know. I don’t know how to balance that. I’m kind of in the middle of it right now. But regardless, all I can really do is go with my gut feeling on the direction of songs that I’m writing, you know, better myself and push the limits as far as my capability is of recording, and be really sure at the end of the day I feel like I did the very best that I’m capable of doing.

AWOLNATION’s music is used in tonnes of TV shows and film soundtracks, how do you pick those kinds of projects?
This whole music process has been incredibly lucky for us and there’s not necessarily a formula to how those moment happens, sometimes it will be, you know, a director will like one of the songs and thinks it’s appropriate or maybe an immediate supervisor or maybe someone who has simply heard the record due to a word of mouth or the radio or whatever or maybe through a friend. There’s never necessarily one way that would happen, but I feel sincerely grateful and lucky that it did because it has been helpful for us to reach as many ears as possible.

Seeing that you have varied musical influences and have a passion for surfing, what do you think of the reemergence of surf rock a la Best Coast and Wavves?
Oh yeah, that’s great because that’s a style that has been around for a long time and anytime someone does it good, it’s nice to hear, so yeah. I’m fine with it, it’s cool.

AWOLNATION’s sophomore album Run is out now via Red Bull Records