Sunday, October 14, 2012

It Truly Is An AWOLNATION.......

Wednesday night (10/10/12) brought AWOLNATION to The Observatory in Santa Ana. While this band could still be described as up-and-coming, the mad devotion of the fans at this show would make you think that if it isn't already an AWOLNATION, then the revolution is definitely coming. With kids shouting back every word, and crowd surfing with reckless abandon, it was clear that this is indeed becoming Aaron Bruno's nation.

AWOLNATION, for the uninitiated, is the project of Aaron Bruno, formerly of Hometown Hero and Under The Influence of Giants. While AWOLNATION has alternately been described as electronic rock, power pop, and indie pop, the kinda great thing about them is that they really defy categorization. This was among the things we discussed with Aaron a couple of hours before the show.

In a world where so much music sounds alike, I can safely say that AWOLNATION doesn't sound like anyone else. Is that a conscious effort to be really unique or is that just comes out when you write? It's just what comes out. I definitely embrace it, and enjoy writing stuff that hopefully seems different. But you can't force that to happen so it is what it is. Learning what you don't like about your songs is equally impactful as learning what you do like.

Your videos are super unique, as opposed to a lot of bands, where I can watch a video and tell you that the same director did videos for bands x,y,z because it is so close in stylistic duplication. Are you coming up with these ideas yourself, rather than handing over the visual power? It's a little bit me, but it's also the director we used. His name is Cameron Duddy and he's one of my best buddies. I kinda gave him a chance on the video for "Sail" when he hadn't had experience doing a video that had been supported in the way that this one was supported. It was kind of a big opportunity for him and a big opportunity for me to showcase him, and a strong chance it wasn't going to look like anything else. 

It seems like over the last year or so that you've sort of become the overnight sensation that actually took that hard for you to accept? It doesn't really happen that way. If someone assumes something like that, within the first ten minutes of meeting with us, they see that it's not our first rodeo. To get to this place definitely was a long journey, and we appreciate it. If it were to have happened to me quickly, with my first project, I probably wouldn't have known how to handle it as well, or appreciated it as much.

I love that in other interviews you've done that you don't seem to make any bones about wanting major mainstream success. Rather than all the absurd posturing people do about it all being for the music and not wanting commercial success, you seem to take the attitude that you want the brass ring. Well, you know it's a business. So, if you can find a way to have success on the business aspect of it, without feeling sick when you go to sleep at night because you've changed your vision, or anything like that, then I think it's all good. I think we're all hyprocrites. We all want to be successful, but we all want to act like we don't want to be successful so we seem cool and genuine, but we all want the same thing.

This is functionally your third stab at label success. Do you ever picture going off completely independent, as seems to be trending now or do you feel you're more of a work within the system kind of person? This is an independent label, even though it's a label that has money, obviously. It's still not part of Warner Brothers or Sony, or anything like that.  We don't have any sort of ties or connections to that world. It's a very fortunate situation for me because it's an indie label but they're really supportive. The best thing they've done for us is support the vision and stay away from the creative process. As long as they let me do what I wanted to do, I was able to reach my potential. So we had a product that they were able to believe in, whether or not they'd admit it, more than if they'd gotten too involved. That's what happened in the past with other bands I'd been in.

I know you are a devoted surfer. Have you had any opportunities to play any of the big surf events here in So  Cal? No, the surfing world is crazy cause I love the ocean and I love surfing itself, but the surfing "scene" can sometimes be a bit hit or miss for me. Where my friends and myself surf, it's a more mellow situation, and we kind of do it for ourselves, and it's not a flashy thing.

I've heard you tell a few different stories about the AWOLNATION name....from a very zen explanation about music being an escape, to it being your rapper nickname? Is any of it or all of it true?
It's true, I went by AWOL when we would freestyle rap, to entertain each other on the way to the beach and back. We had a lot of fun with it. It was just sort of a creative way to stimulate the brain and tease each other at the same time. So that was my nickname for a long time, and it seems like attaching NATION to it, there would possibly be a bunch of people that felt a bit isolated and strange about the world like I did and as it turns out I was right. 

Frankenweenie has finally come out (for which AWOLNATION contributed "Everybody's Got A Secret"). Did you get a chance to see it yet? Yeah, I actually got to see it six months ago. I got to see it before it was done, and before all the scenes were in. I got to see it where there were illustrations in place of some of the scenes, and stuff. It was really cool to get into the Tim Burton/Danny Elfman world for a time, to get to go behind the scenes a bit. 

(interview has been edited for length and clarity)

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