Learning to ‘Sail’

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First Posted: 3/18/2013

Like his nickname, Aaron Bruno could have gone AWOL from the music industry completely after his bands Home Town Hero and Under the Influence of Giants broke up. Instead, he took some time alone to write the most honest and personal songs of his career, laying the foundation for Awolnation.

The group’s debut album, “Megalithic Symphony,” thrust Bruno back into the limelight when the first single, “Sail,” went double platinum and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Before his highly anticipated stop at the Sherman Theater on Friday, March 22, Bruno opened up to The Weekender about starting over, hitting it big, and remembering who your friends are.

THE WEEKENDER: What was the catalyst for starting again with Awolnation?

AARON BRUNO: Nothing much except just life happening. Our last band broke up. It was time for us to part ways. We were at that age and that point in our career, if you will, to go our separate ways. I took that as an exciting opportunity to put together these songs that I had in my head for some time and put them out there without anyone sort of giving their two cents about what they thought about the song either way.

W: You worked with guitarist Drew Stewart in your previous bands and you’ve known each other a long time. How has that friendship carried over to Awolnation?

AB: It’s a pretty special friendship. There’re always those couple people, if you’re lucky enough, to have as really good friends, or best friends I should say, that last a lifetime. We went through so much together with being in the other bands and having all the hope in the world and dreams and aspirations and ambitious intentions to write the best songs we could write and be the best band we could possibly be and so forth and so on. When that didn’t necessarily work out for us, it was pretty devastating, so we went through that together. When the last band broke up, I think it was time for us to take a break from each other. Not that it was intentional or anything, but he went one direction, I went another, and I think Drew was more able to function in, I guess, normal society than I was possibly.

I kind of was stuck in music because I didn’t know any better; I didn’t know what else to do. So I just stuck to it and as a result became even more in debt and more broke, but that led to the inevitable success that we’ve had now. A year into this whole run, I called him up; it was time for him to join back up, for us to reunite, so it was a really nice feeling for me to be able to kind of give back in some way.

W: You guys have a very interactive, fan-centric website. What are your fans like?

AB: I really don’t know. I can’t say. I was just talking to my manager about this earlier today. I still don’t really quite know how to describe them in one way. We have all sorts of different kinds of folks at our shows, so it’s really hard to say what an Awolnation fan is: all different age groups, for sure. We’ve got plenty of little hipster kids and plenty of just extremely mainstream-looking folks as well, so it kind of covers a little bit of everything. I wouldn’t say it’s more girls or boys or anything like that.

At the end of the day, I really am extremely lucky. I’ve written hundreds of songs in the other bands, and they didn’t connect with everybody. A lot of folks around us believed in them…but for whatever reason, the stars didn’t align for us to make sense to have a real successful career out of it, and this time around, it did.

I think going through a lot of the ups and downs helped to sort of give material to speak about, whereas in the past, I just turned 21 years old, got a deal with Maverick Records, put out a record. What was I going to talk about, how f——-g awesome I was at that young of an age? I was cocky and didn’t really know how hard it really could be. A lot of bands were having success around us. Incubus, Hoobastank, Linkin Park, even bands like Maroon 5, the Deftones – all these different bands from southern California, so I figured we could just be another one, another success story, but it wasn’t. Man, I learned a lot.

W: What was going through your mind when you were writing “Sail?”

AB: Not much. It just kind of came out of me. I mean, I was just trying to make a song that I thought was great, something that felt heavy and incredible and cool to me and a song that my peers and friends around me would respect.

Lyrically, that was just sort of an outpour or a result of the times I was going through, but I wasn’t conscious of what I was saying at all when I wrote those lyrics. It just came out of me. Looking back now, I was obviously venting as if I had made the song like a journal entry.

W: What do you think it is about that song that people latched onto?

AB: I think it’s a great song, if I may say so myself now. I think it’s very simple, unique at the time; there was nothing like that at all when it first came out, so I got lucky in that way.

Maybe in the past, I wasn’t as focused on or not capable or vulnerable enough, I suppose, to be able to write down lyrics that people could relate to. I think in the past I was just trying to say sarcastic, quirky little things that were cool or poetic, whereas this time around, I had nothing to lose, and, not to mention, I really didn’t think anyone was going to hear it, so I had nothing to lose. I was telling it like it is.