Interview with AWOLNATION

In May 2015, I had the chance to interview Aaron Bruno, the mastermind behind musical project AWOLNATION on the phone before he started off his tour for his album “Run.” This interview was done on behalf of VIES Magazine, run by a friend of mine, Daniel W Young.

Alexis Dayfoot: While watching many of the interviews that you had done, you mention how important surfing was as a part of your life. While on tour, have you had the chance to take advantage of travelling to certain parts of the world to go surfing?

Aaron Bruno: A little bit. I surfed in Florida, surfed in South Africa, which was cool, but not as much as you would think, and not as much as I’d like, but it seems like every time we’re in a surf destination, it’s the wrong time of year, or the swells aren’t lining up, or just the weather is weird, the wind was bad, and the tide’s wrong y’know. So I must admit, I have been extremely spoiled and blessed with incredible waves here in Southern California over the last, I don’t even know how many years, but especially this last winter, and the one before that. I just got really lucky, and I was always in the right place at the right time. The surf gods were definitely on my side, throughout this time period. I stored up enough time, for me to be able to reflect back on some of these waves I was able to catch, and these conditions that were so beautiful and memorable that I think it is okay that I am not going to be able to surf as much for the next couple of years, ‘cause I just got so many great waves.

Alexis: Yeah, yeah

Aaron: By the way, it was really hard to admit that, but I did it.

Aaron Bruno performing at the Commodore Ballroom, May 28, 2015.

Alexis: Is there any place that you would love to surf in the world that you haven’t had the chance to yet?

Aaron: Of course. I mean, you name it. I would love to surf anywhere. I’ve kind of become a jack of all trades, as far as surfing and surfboards are concerned. I’ll take anything I can get, I mean any chance to surf anywhere that’s new or especially in a different country, that’s a beautiful thing.

I wouldn’t even know where to begin if you were to give me a golden ticket to surf any wave I want, anytime. I mean, part of me as a regular surfer, would love to go to Cape Saint Francis, even though the wave doesn’t work anymore like it used to. The scene from The Endless Summer was so impactful to me growing up, it would be neat to go back there and surf that wave. Or Jeffreys Bay… They both are in South Africa. Yeah, J-Bay would be pretty cool but I bet it is pretty crowded as well. I mean, mostly I would want the locals to take me to the secret spot and get exposure there.

Alexis: Cool. So, I asked those questions about surfing because I wanted to know if surfing has impacted the way you make music.

Aaron: Of course. You know, anything you do in life is going to affect what you create I think, and everything about surfing has been largely impactful to my song writing, from the mood I’m in to the way the weather can kind of push you in one direction or another. As far as the mood of the song or your energy that day, I may get a heavier, darker session, if the weather is probably a little bit more hectic, colder, and windier, but then if a wave is bigger and kind of scary, you know, maybe I will come into the studio and have a scarier sounding tone, and whatever instrument I am recording that day, or maybe if it was a super hectic session, maybe I would want to calm down and go the opposite direction in the studio, so it definitely dictates everything. I mean, it is the same thing as a relationship that you are in with someone, how much it could affect your work, and so forth and so on, so I mean, surfing and music are almost the same to me and I love them equally, but it’s just one I’ve figured out a way to make a career out of it and the other I just do for pure enjoyment.

Alexis: Yeah. I guess that kind of goes both ways with each of them.

Aaron: Yeah it does.

Alexis: In past you’ve mentioned an interest in scoring movies as a second phase of your career. By having your music from AWOLNATION featured in movies, soundtracks, and many TV shows, and, of course, recently the cover you did of “I’m On Fire” in the “50 Shades of Grey” film… Did it give you a taste for what scoring a film might be like?

Aaron: No, not at all. It was a different kind of experience to trying to figure out what kind of sounds and mood would go along with the scene. In those other situations, you mentioned film and TV, for me that has been more based on different music supervisors, either liking the sound of the songs or the records being put in the films because it makes sense or because they were popular, rather than them coming to me and saying, “Hey, write an original song for this movie.” It has actually been the other way around, so I can’t say honestly that one has had anything to do with the other. I do look forward to that opportunity, and you know, there are some talks about that happening sometime in the next year. I wouldn’t necessarily want it to be the second phase in my career, it is just something that I would love to do because I feel like I would know how to handle it and look forward to the opportunity.

Alexis: What was the decision? Why did you choose, or possibly they choose, the song “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen?

Aaron: Well, I met with a woman high up in the supervision of the music for that movie, and she was listening to earlier versions of Run other stuff, and she just kind of casually mentioned that was a song that was going to be in that movie, and how massive that soundtrack would be, and they were looking for a couple covers of some of the songs from the book, which I had not read, and when she mentioned Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”, that’s a song I always loved so much so I figured at the very least it would be fun to just do a cover version of that in the studio, so I did that the following day after talking with her, and didn’t spend too much time on it, I just did it. I mean, it was honestly very easy to record a song that was already written. The hardest part is writing the lyrics and melody, and coming up with the whole feel of the song, so I mean, he already did that, so it was easy for me to take a legend and, you know, do my strange version of it. It was very fun and therapeutic, and no pressure on me, you know, I mean he was one of the greatest, so all I could really do was get in the way and I just kind of took a darker, stranger, lo-fi approach, and that was a way of feeling that day, you know, maybe I got some strange waves that day and ended up being that way and she ended up liking it. I didn’t think that they were even going to use it, and I think eight months to a year after the fact I heard that it was in the movie and on the soundtrack, so it was just a bonus for a lot of women, I think mostly, that maybe had never heard me sing, so I just guess it was a good advertisement for that the other side of my music. Especially with Run about to come out, it all worked out nicely for me.

I know a lot of guys saw the movie too, but it is safe to say it was mostly female.

Find the full package with show photos on the VIES Magazine Website.