ALBUM MEGALITHIC SYMPHONY RELEASED IN IRELAND ON JUNE 8th
SINGLE SAIL RELEASED ON JUNE 1st
“In bygone times Aaron Bruno would be drowned as a witch for this kind of magic”
-Rock Sound 9/10 album review
Megalithic Symphony #1 Billboard Heatseeker album of 2011 (#1 for 7 weeks)
Sail over 931,000 singles sold (US platinum status)
72 million views of Viral Videos and User Generated Content
AWOLNATION is the brainchild of Californian native Aaron Bruno. The name is a bit of a paradox -AWOL being military speak for gone. Disappeared. Then there’s the notion of the nation – a community of folk living in the same space who are present and accounted for. It’s a contradiction that’s not lost on Bruno, who started this solo project in 2009.
“It’s not about me,” says Bruno. “It’s about all of us. I never wanted this to be about me as a person. I didn’t want it to be the Aaron Bruno record. But at the same time, the idea was to hopefully create something that people could stand behind, that there’d be a nation of people who felt the same way as me and who could relate to the lyrics I was singing or at least some of the music I was writing. At the same time, as much as possible, I want to keep a faceless identity. I want it to be about the songs, the message, the art.”
That’s the dilemma that Bruno and AWOLNATION now face. While the idea of having a nation of likeminded followers may have been a wild dream initially, it is fast becoming a reality since the release of AWOLNATION’s debut album Megalithic Symphony. The album’s lead single Sail has gone platinum in the United States and the band are selling out bigger and bigger venues. And it’s all happened totally organically, when a Texas radio station began playing Sail before it was even a single and things started to spiral slowly but surely out of control.
“None of these songs were written with me thinking, ‘I’ve got to make a song for radio’,” explains Bruno. “There was nothing like that. I was totally free and independent of any label situation when I wrote most of these songs. My intentions were just to make a record that I loved, first and foremost, that if I heard any part of this record, even if it was just for 15 seconds, I personally would say to myself, ‘SHIT, I want to go and check this out! I want to hear more from this guy’. I didn’t expect to make any money or have any commercial success. It’s not my goal to become some sort of rock star or celebrity. I’ve no aspirations for people to notice me when I walk through the mall or the airport.’
Perhaps it’s an unusual perspective for someone in Bruno’s position, but it’s one that makes sense. Because, like everything, there’s a history – a past that existed before AWOLNATION, but which very much shapes Bruno’s attitude towards it. Previously, he had honed his craft in other bands, but they hadn’t quite worked out. The first was a grunge-inspired outfit called Hometown Hero. Signed to Maverick Records, they released their self-titled debut album in 2002 but were dropped a couple of years later, eventually releasing their second album Bitch City themselves through the internet. “The longer I spend on this earth,” says Bruno, “the more I realise that getting a record deal doesn’t mean you’ve made it by any means. When I was a kid and I signed my first record deal, I thought I was going to sell a million records. And when we didn’t even come close to that, it was devastating. It gutted my soul a little bit – especially when you think that your first signed record is one, really, that you’ve been making your whole life.”
Setting aside their disappointment, Hometown Hero morphed, with a slightly different line-up, into Under The Influence Of Giants, a band with a slightly more poppy outlook. They eventually signed to Island Records, but after one EP and an album, they slowly, silently dissolved into nothing.
It was soon after this that Bruno began writing songs on his own, using his mum’s home workspace as a makeshift studio. It’s there that the idea and concept of AWOLNATION began to take shape. The songs soon followed, inspired both by the misfortune those earlier bands had encountered and by the freedom that writing alone automatically brought.
“Going back to the drawing board,” explains Bruno, “sparked a little bit of the flame underneath me to really say the stuff I’d always wanted to say, to make the record as extreme in every way I’d always wanted to, but didn’t have the learning experience or confidence to do so. Or the desperation. But sometimes as humans we hit rock bottom, and you can only go up from there. That was the point I was at when I made most of these songs.”
It’s an emotional ascent that’s mirrored by the remarkable success of AWOLNATION’s songs. Megalithic Symphony is a record that combines rock and electronic music to powerful effect. It’s the musical manifestation of the AWOLNATION paradox, managing – somehow – to be both incredibly abrasive but deliciously poppy at the same time. Musically, it’s imbued with Bruno’s incredibly ambitious aspirations, yet tempered lyrically with his modest, soul-searching outlook. From the glorious poppy hooks of Jump On My Shoulders through the scuzzy, grunge-meets pop sensibilities of Guilty Filthy Soul, and, of course, the gritty catchiness of the first single Sail, it’s that combination – of a variety of genres, of feel-good choruses mixed with sad yet hopeful sentiments, of joy and nostalgia, of elation and depression and desperation – that seems to have ingrained itself in the consciousness of those who have so far discovered it.
“A lot of fans I’ve met have said this record has helped them get through a tough time, and that’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced as a songwriter – more so than selling out venues or having a single go gold or whatever. To actually feel like you’re doing some good in this world is a very humbling experience and a very flattering thing to be part of. Whatever someone’s going through, whether a good thing or a bad thing, I feel there’s something on the record that speaks to that situation. If you’re going through the passing of a friend, which I’ve experienced, or a horrible break-up, which I’ve experienced, or any of these sort of things, I feel that since I’m not 18 or 21 anymore, I’ve been through a little bit more of the real serious life stuff than I had been before, so there’s something on the record for the majority of people to relate to on an emotional level.”
Incredibly, it doesn’t seem that the unexpected commercial success of Sail, of the album, or indeed the increasing profile of AWOLNATION has had much of an effect on Aaron Bruno. For him, the purpose of what he’s doing is just to turn the ideas that randomly but frequently occur to him into songs. The fact that people (and a lot of people at that!) are interested in them is just a bonus.
“It hasn’t changed me at all,” he says, then chuckles. “I’m sure a lot of people say that, but I feel the exact same, in any way that I felt like. If I felt depressed before, I still feel the same way. I still feel like a weirdo, you know. I still feel like my own person. The only thing that’s changed is I have to constantly remind myself that everything’s going good. At the end of the day I’m just a surfer kid from California that was lucky enough to have people support me, even when times were tough.
Most of the time, all I want to do is surf an uncrowded wave and make songs that come into my head. If some of these songs make people happy, then I’m really happy. Whether or not a bunch of money comes my way or doesn’t, it doesn’t change the fact that no one can take away how much it means to me to release these ideas. And I’m happy that I had to go through the struggle to get here.”
The struggle has paid off. The single Sail has achieved platinum status in the US. It was the #2 most played alternative track of 2011 in the US. The album was the #1 Billboard Heatseeker album of 2011 (#1 for an amazing 7 weeks!). Viral videos and fan generated content have had an incredible 72 MILLION impressions. Now Megalithic Symphony is set to be released in Ireland on June 8th (with a pan European release on June 4th).
For more information contact Jenny @ Entertainment Architects firstname.lastname@example.org +353 1 905 6384
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