Hit singles are great, but for every real artist the dream when they go into the studio is to make music that reaches people, songs that strike a deep chord and resonates with audiences well after the track ends.
For Aaron Bruno, the architect of white-hot new rockers AWOLNATION, hearing that his brilliant Megalithic Symphony has achieved that lofty ambition with anyone is the greatest reward of the success the band is enjoying now.
“There’s a good amount of word of mouth stuff going on with this record where I meet fans after the show and they’re like, ‘Oh man, I hadn’t heard of you guys and my friend turned me on and it’s my favorite record in the last 10 years,’” Bruno says. “People are saying stuff like that to me, which is obviously the goal and it blows my mind.”
To make that connection you need two things, the first being a hit song that brings fans into the music. AWOLNATION has that with the unlikeliest of radio successes, “Sail,” a dark, infectious tale of angst with an unmistakable and unforgettable hook where Bruno wails at some point, “Maybe I should cry for help/Maybe I should kill myself/So blame it on my A.D.D. baby.”
As we said not a likely radio hit. In fact, Bruno is as surprised as anyone by the success of “Sail.” “It has been charting and still climbing, but it was never intended to be a song that was on the radio,” he says. “I think I just struck a nerve in people and caused a visceral reaction with the sort of the nursery rhyme aspect of the melody and how simple it is.”
The second ingredient for a lasting impression is originality, something that stands apart from the banality of top 40 radios and dares to speak to people’s true feelings, both musically and lyrically. Bruno has definitely done that with Megalithic Symphony, an album whose uniqueness is evident right from the ambitious title and carries on throughout the 14-song collection.
From the opening title piece, a mishmash of computerized sounds and keyboards that culminates with a robotic voice calling out the band’s name twice, and the following 22-second sound bite, “Some Sort Of Creature,” Bruno invites fans in on a journey into his musical Wonderland. And it is a dizzying soundscape, one that moves from the frenetic paces of the hook-laden “Soul Wars” and the vaguely Nine Inch Nails-esque “Burn It Down” to the engaging upbeat feel-good dance hooks of “People,” a song that begins with Bruno thanking fans for listening and saying, “I am grateful for this,” and the hard grind of “Kill Your Heroes,” a song who vivid imagery starts with Bruno singing, “Well, I met an old man dying on a train/No more destination, no more pain/Well he said one thing before I graduate/Never let your fear decide your fate.”
Among the tracks that fans are picking up lyrically the most are the soul/pop gem “Not Your Fault” and the more than 12-minute closer, “Knights Of Shame,” which informs listeners from the outset, “Dance, baby, dance, like the world is ending.”
For Bruno, that fans are picking up on that song is as gratifying as the success of “Sail.” “A lot of people seem to know that whole thing and that was like the most fun time of my life making that song,” he says. “And when we play it live it’s so enjoyable, so I’m stoked that people are into it.”
Like “Not Your Fault” “Knights” is an amalgam of styles, something that bridges techno, soul, a lullaby feel, rock, rap, and pop into one 21st-century anthem. That much diversity in one song can blow the minds of an industry still used to the compartmentalized mentality of the 20th century record stores where every genre had its own bin.
But you won’t pigeonhole Bruno into one style of music. “I like so much music. I love old country music, I love a lot of kind of silly pop stuff, I love all hip hop, all different eras, obviously metal, punk rock, indie rock, there’s no one genre that I love more than another one. So I think that comes through in the music,” he says.
That does lead to some memorable, occasionally confusing, and very flattering descriptions. “I’ll talk to one person and they’ll go, ‘I hear Nine Inch Nails meets Aretha Franklin.’ I’m like, ‘That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. How does that even make sense?’” he asks. “I’ve heard the Nirvana comparisons, Nirvana meets Outkast meets Prince, that’s a comparison I love obviously.”
All of those artists have achieved the dream that Bruno has been striving for since he started making music. “It’s always been a goal of mine to make that special record people remember as sort of like a landmark in time.” With Megalithic Symphony Aaron Bruno has proven that he is the unique talent that can make that dream come true.