Aaron Bruno reveals the inspiration behind his band’s new album, including how the Woolsey Fire of 2018 informed several songs
Rock band AWOLNATION are perhaps best known for their 2010 hit song Sail. A six-times platinum phenomenon, it helped power the group’s debut album, Megalithic Symphony to over one million sales. At the heart of the band leader Aaron Bruno, formerly of Under the Influence of Giants, Home Town Hero, and Insurgence. An eclectic songwriter, Bruno is equally adept at creating beat-heavy electro-rock anthems and more classing-sounding acoustic numbers, often with a sense of fun at their core.
AWOLNATION now return with their fourth album, Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders. Though it contains many of the band’s hallmarks, there’s also a serious theme underpinning much of the songwriting, as Bruno explains here…
The Best came to me, strangely enough, while I was running one day and I was thinking about how it’s safe to say that I will never be the best at anything in my whole life. No one really will be unless you’re lucky enough to be Tiger Woods or the Beatles. I came to the realization that I’ll never be the best at anything, so I thought I’d write a song about it, but also hope that it motivates people to try to be the best they can be, but also love who you are.
It’s always fun to aspire to be the best at something even though it’s in fact impossible. Especially in today’s day and age of competing to see who can get the most likes or have the most followers and this kind of superficial world we’re living in.
SLAM (ANGEL MINERS)
Slam (Angel Miners) is a concept that came to me out of chaos and in darkness to say the least. And a huge part of it was the Woolsey Fire [the wildfire which caused mass destruction in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties in November 2018] that came through here and took down my studio.
The Woolsey Fire was the heaviest experience I’ve had so far in my life, and it was an eye-opener to how dark it can get, and how, once again you could look at the world in a really negative way, but there has to be some sort of hope and some sort of positivity that comes through dark times.
Slam (Angel Miners) is the acknowledgement of that moment that sometimes feels a little bit too heavy where the weight of the world is crashing down on you.
MAYDAY!!! FIESTA FEVER!!!
I’ll just say that I was absolutely tickled and honoured that an old friend of mine named Alex Ebert, who is singing in this incredible LA band called Ima Robot and then of course in Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, worked on this song with me. The song is kind of a party anthem for those of us who have never felt invited to the cool club or whatever, get in there and spray paint the walls a little bit.
Throughout this whole experience of the lead up to the creation of this album, there were a lot of things for me, personally, that I went through that were kind of opportunities to start over and move forward.
Lightning Riders is about the old saying of burning bridges and how you don’t want to burn bridges, but sometimes I want to blow the bridges up and move on and not even have a chance to even look at these bridges that I have burned along the way. Sometimes those relationships or circumstances are bad for us, and I think that people should look at situations and have that option to move on from them.
CALIFORNIA HALO BLUE
This song is also about my experience of the Woolsey Fire. So obviously this is very heavy to think about and go through. The song is a look back and telling the story of what I went through that day, because the bizarre part about that fire was that I wasn’t there but my wife was and I couldn’t help. I kept thinking, ‘What puts out fire?’ Obviously water, so the idea I had was this fantasy about California having sort of a halo around it that was made of water, and that would be inevitably what would put out the fire in this fantasy world.
Radical is just a sarcastic notion, a fun rock anthem about saying that I never claimed to be anything. I just put my best foot forward and make these songs that people hopefully relate to. It’s just a kind of an uplifting sort of anthemic rock song for everyone.
BATTERED BLACK & BLUE (HOLE IN MY HEART)
This is a song that was sort of inspired, again, by the Woolsey Fire. I was walking around the property and just looking at all these different dead trees and trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces again with my wife. I was frustrated and really pissed off just going, ‘You know what? I’m just not okay, this isn’t okay that this happened.’ It’s not only about the displaced people that were affected, but also the loss of all the animal and plant life in the area.
PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY IN THE MOVIES
Pacific Coast Highway… is about this dreamy PCH feel that you get when you’re driving on the coast. There’s always been an element of the Pacific Coast Highway in the movies or LA or Hollywood, but it’s a lie, and is portrayed in film as this paradise. I thought it would be fun to have a song that addresses that and the idea that you maybe think of coming and driving the beautiful coast that’s in all the movies, but you get here and it’s actually overcast and gloomy.
I see that as kind of like some sort of a parallel to life that should always keep your expectations in front of you and a bit level and appreciate what you actually have. I think that we’re always searching for more than what we have when quite often it’s right in front of you. I should also mention that one of my favourite songwriters and singers agreed to sing on the song, his name is Rivers Cuomo, of course from the band Weezer.
I’m half Italian and half Swedish, and who cares really honestly? I just thought I’d say something about it. My Italian side of the family happens to be extremely emotional and extremely dramatic and I suffer from that same tendency at times. So, I thought I would just have a self-deprecating song about sort of looking in the mirror and saying, ‘It’s okay,’ because we’re all some sort of result of our parents getting together and creating us and that’s my way of addressing the super dramatic side of me.
I’M A WRECK
I’m A Wreck is the final song on the record and it’s sort of a wrap up of the story and the journey that the listener, myself, and the Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders have all taken us through. In this album, I’m admitting that I have plenty of faults and that sometimes I’m a Wreck. It’s sort of my way of acknowledging that the listener of this album has taken a journey through my mind all along, and now we have to say goodbye until we see each other at the show or the next album or next song or wherever.
Angel Miners & The Lightning Riders is out now on Better Noise Music. Find out more at awolnationmusic.com