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AWOLNATION plays Grand Rapids, talks new album release

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Photo: Courtesy photo / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Courtesy / AWOLNATION

Aaron Bruno, lead singer and creative mastermind behind AWOLNATION, is finally getting to make the follow-up sophomore album he always wanted.

The electronic rock band from Los Angeles broke into the world’s spotlight with their multi-platinum single, “Sail,” which has been featured around the world in media outlets, including several TV shows, Hollywood films and ad campaigns. Since the release of their first full-length album, “Megalithic Symphony,” AWOL has been selling out shows in a series of tours, for more than a year straight, including their March 26 stop at the Intersection in Grand Rapids. But Bruno said they haven’t lost their sanity, yet.

“We aren’t touring just to do it, people actually want to see us,” he said.

Released off of their first album, Bruno said the success of “Sail” was an accident. He wrote it for himself, but said it’s a song people are able to easily relate to. The emotion it brings to fans varies, but he said it’s humbling to hear their experiences with his music.

“I think it’s really cool too when you meet random people,” he said. “I was at this bar in Cleveland last night and I was talking to this guy, the bartender, and he was asking what I do and I was telling him, always honest about it, and he told me how much he was affected by himself having ADD and how much the song helped him through this time with his parents. And so that was kind of a special moment, a random place I was at, not even playing a show that night, to have that happen was really cool. So when you meet folks that have heard the song that are so far away from you, it’s a beautiful thing for sure.”

With almost two years since their last release, AWOL has started teasing fans with new songs during shows, which might be off a second album. Bruno said the album is still undergoing some work, and he isn’t quite ready to release it yet, which won’t be until he feels it’s ready, or they make him release it.

The album will have songs similar to the uniquely AWOL style of “Sail,” he said, but doesn’t expect anything to be as popular. He doesn’t use a formula to write any of his songs, including “Sail,” but said he’s just amazed people want to hear him.

“I didn’t expect anybody to like us at all,” he said. “I just knew I loved it and I thought it was really good. Being such a huge scholar and fan of all different kinds of music, it’s difficult for me to discover music I haven’t already heard. You know, I do my best every day to find something new and I do, I still find – and there’s plenty of stuff out there in the world I still need to hear, for sure, but its become harder and harder because that’s my obsession, is finding music I love. So therefore I can’t say, necessarily, what this next record is going to necessarily sound like, or if people are going to identify with it or not.”

With an unconventional start, recording for free in the Red Bull Records studio, Bruno was able to write the music he wanted. And being with a smaller label, while sometimes making it harder in terms of immediate awareness, has given him the creative freedom to develop AWOL’s style.

“We were lucky enough to be able to build it brick by brick and kind of take our own slow and steady pace,” he said. “It’s like the tortoise and the hare, you know, and we’re clearly the tortoise, but a pretty decent-sized tortoise at this point.”

Although there are a few things he would have done differently, or possibly not at all, such as releasing a few songs that weren’t exactly AWOL’s style, Bruno said he’s keeping his focus forward.

“I try never to look back because I’ll smash into what’s in front of me,” he said. “So I’m really focused on the next record rather than worrying about mistakes I’ve made in the past.”

He’s liked the success AWOL has had, and appreciates fans that have help sell-out venues or purchase records, but it’s making the music that he really loves.

“My main thing that gets me off, truthfully, is when I write a new song. So when I’m sitting back here, where we are right now, … and I come up with a new idea and it’s that moment where I realize, ‘Oh, this is special, I like this a lot, I’m proud of this, I can’t wait to show people, but I don’t care what anyone thinks,’ all in one. That’s the moment for me that keeps me going.”
arts@lanthorn.com



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