AWOLNATION is sexy, modern, edgy and tremendously heavy popular music.
An active and respected musician since the early 2000s, singer-songwriter Aaron Bruno’s major breakthrough came in 2011 with the release of AWOLNATION’s “Sail,” which is now certified double platinum in the United States.
Funny thing is, Bruno, a Los Angeles native, didn’t even think people would like the song. The High Plains Reader caught up with Bruno over the phone to find out more.
HPR: You’ve once said, “I just hoped that there were other people as strange as me that they would maybe relate to the struggle and passion of this record.” In what ways are you a strange person?
AB: Well, I guess we’re all a little bit strange, right? I guess it was just really my way of saying that I didn’t expect people to necessarily like the music. But when they did like the it, it was an extremely surprising and flattering moment in my life.
We’re constantly striving, or at least I’m always striving to be exactly who I am. Most of life is about conforming to some way of life and I’ve never been into that. So I felt like I wasn’t sure, just because I wrote these songs and I love them, that anyone else would.
And there has definitely been times in my life where I’ve felt a bit misunderstood. So I think when we are misunderstood as individuals, that normally makes us feel a bit strange or alienated.
More than anything I guess I meant that I am just extremely humbled and flattered that people appreciate, at all, what I’ve done.
HPR: Is there a certain life experience that drove you to write the song “Sail”?
AB: I don’t really know, still. I get asked that all the time … It’s definitely a combination of multiple life experiences I’ve went through. But I’d say that song more than any song was a reflection of the hard times I was going through. It was more of a journal entry at the time of how I was feeling and I really didn’t think anyone would hear it so I didn’t put thought into, “Oh shit, maybe I shouldn’t say this lyric because it’s too heavy.” I just kind of wrote it and I didn’t look back.
And I remember at a certain point going, “Man, these lyrics are kind of intense. I wonder if it’s just too much for people. Well, no one is going to hear it and I don’t care what anyone thinks anyway, so I may as well just keep it.” And that was my mentality – that was my mentality on the whole record to be honest with you.
HPR: Many people have a tendency to think or say, “I don’t like music with screaming.” But somehow you are able to effectively incorporate it into your music in ways that make sense and are attractive. What are your thoughts on that? Or what brings you to sing the way you do?
AB: A lot of the music I loved growing up had certain urgency to it – the energy was undeniable, and that could be anything from the punk rock scene I adored so much growing up to the hardcore scene to what started the underground scene and crossed over to mainstream and Nirvana and all that jazz.
I say that, when someone’s giving their all, vocally, it almost sounds and feels like they are going to blow out their voices at any point. That’s sexy to me, that touches me. That makes me really feel like, whoever it is, he or she is really giving their all and that really strikes a chord with me.
I wasn’t a pop singer growing up. I wasn’t someone who could sing a bunch of licks and runs and stuff. I figured out who I was. I’d much rather listen to someone who gives all they have rather than some like Adam Levine or something like that.
HPR: You used to rap battle your friends when you were younger …
AB: That wasn’t a serious thing, though. That was just me and three other buddies going surfing and when you go to search for waves there is a lot of time where you spend hours and hours trying to find the best spot to paddle out, basically.
So in order to kill time what we would do is just creatively try to diss each other … it wasn’t like I was the next Eminem or something meticulous like that. It was just what we did. And you’ve got to come up with a name, right? So, I came up with Awol because my name is Aaron ... We would always flow to this DJ Shadow record called “Endtroducing.” That was a big one for us.
HPR: What drew you to electronic music?
AB: I don’t really think of it as electronic music. It’s just music. And if I use electronic instruments to create these sounds, then I guess you can call it electronic. But what is a guitar? It’s an electric guitar, right? So that could be considered electronic music. The whole recording process itself is an electronic experience. I just don’t care or think of it in any way or any genre or specific way. It’s just, it is what it is.
I think about these songs and I do my best to make them come to life and try to make myself and my love ones proud. And that’s all I really think about.
If I use a synthesizer to do so or if I use a sampled beat to do so or if it’s an organic live drum kit – it’s all the same to me. I just don’t think too much about it. It is what it is, I am who I am.
So whatever it is that I’m recording, it’s just an extension of what I thought of at the time. I try not to get too caught up in all of it.
HPR: Do you think AWOLNATION would have ever come to be if Red Bull Records had not approached you?
AB: I don’t know if it would have been the exact same journey, but I was going to put a record or at least EP for free no matter what anyone thought. I didn’t really want to sign another record deal but they offered to partner up and not get in the way of my vision so I was very comfortable moving forward with them and trying this whole circus ride … but I don’t think I would have done it, though, if they said, “OK, I want you to work with this guy and that guy.”
HPR: So what’s the word on the new album? Is it in the works? It is going to be released soon?
AB: There’s really no word. I’m just creating it and when the time comes, I’ll release it.
HPR: But there’s no time frame?
AB: There’s no time frame. I mean, I want it to come out as soon as possible but this record is doing so well for us, it seems like it’d be self-deprecating to stop the growth of this beautiful life that is the first record.
HPR: How’s the tour been going? Or long has it even been going on?
AB: It’s been something like three or four weeks. We’re just on the other side of the halfway point and it’s been great. We’ve been through a bunch of secondary markets, some of the smaller places that a lot of people don’t go to. So you can really tell on these people’s faces that they appreciate us coming through their city. It’s been an extremely rewarding experience and the shows are a little bit more intimate then maybe some of the other markets we’ve been to. And it’s just been a really fun time and we feel very grateful, for sure, to have the opportunity.
HPR: Is there anything else important you’d like to add that we might not have covered?
AB: It’s important to me that anyone who is reading this article understands that I am very grateful that they are reading it at all and I am very appreciative that anyone took the time to care about any of this music. I am extremely flattered. And I take part of the responsibility that I have now very seriously, that people put their faith into these songs I’ve written. So I will always do my best when I am given the opportunity to play some new stuff.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: AWOLNATION with Blondfire and Mother Mother
WHERE: The Venue at the Hub, 2525 9th Ave. S.
WHEN: Wed, April 10, 7:30 p.m. show; 6:30 p.m. doors
HOW MUCH: $23, $25 day of show; available at tickets300.com or 300 Broadway, Fargo
INFO: Call (866) 300-8300
August 24th 2023
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