As the United States slowly but surely returns to life post-COVID, Wall of Sound was lucky enough to be invited along to cover the return of Chicago’s most recognisable music festival Lollapalooza with our US Correspondent (ex-Aussie) Alison Northway flying the flag for us all down in Australia. Alison’s mission was simple, to go behind the scenes of the festival and give us an idea of how the live music scene has returned in America and infiltraite backstage to get us closer to some of our fav acts from the 2021 lineup…
I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Ilan Rubin and Matt Rubano of Angels & Airwaves, before their evening set on Day 3 of Lollapalooza 2021 in Chicago USA.
We started off by chatting about all the things we love about Australia, Vegemite and Tim Tams, then dove straight into what fans, old and new, can expect from their forthcoming album Lifeforms (pre-order here), what touring Down Under can be like, Ilan’s recent induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, and how the band feels about Matt’s comedic talents…
Welcome to Lollapalooza 2021! Have you performed at Lolla before and what are your favorite moments?
Matt: Thank you! Yes we have, but with different bands. Tonight is going to happen, which will become one of our favorite moments
Ilan: Definitely tonight will be a favorite. Since it hasn’t happened yet, the only other time I played here was 2014 with Nine Inch Nails, which was great!
Matt: I played here with hometown boy, Patrick Stump, from Fall Out Boy. Did his solo record tour, which was fairly close to the beginning of the run, and with him being sort of Mr Chicago, it was a really good time. Same sort of thing as us right now, came out of rehearsal straight into Lolla.
Let’s chat about the new album Lifeforms! What can we expect – for the old fans, and also the new ones such as myself?
Ilan: I will say there is definitely something for both. Obviously any time Tom sings, it is very much Tom and fans of his and ours will enjoy that. But there’s a definite evolution and progression that has taken place since our last full length, which I think was a big step in a different direction. So without being too vague, I think there’s enough that keeps it anchored that old fans will enjoy, and there’s something new that will either surprise them, and/or bring new people on board, which I think should always be the point of new music
Matt: As the new guy on the ship, when I look back at the previous records and this new album, I feel I am really able to identify the difference. I knew the band as a spectator and touring together with my old band, so being a part of this record and seeing what it looks like on the inside, it feels very much like we have honored the catalogue and the fan base, but also moved forward. So we’re pretty proud of it.
I’ve got some Australian based questions for you
Ilan: Tim Tams
What Australia would love to know is, when are you coming Down Under next (pandemic aside)?
Ilan: Well I wish we had the answer because we both love to tour Australia! It’s been a while since Angels has been in Australia in general. Maybe 2012 or 2013 at Soundwave, which I understand hasn’t been happening now for a few years. Festivals like that made it easier for people to tour Australia. As you know, it’s not the easiest place to tour, especially if you’re not from there. So, we are looking at the next best opportunity that makes it feasible for us. But we’d love to!
There’s a new touring festival down there called Good Things Festival. I was at the last one in 2019, and it took me back to the golden years of the Big Day Out!
Ilan: We’ll pass this up the ladder. Any excuse to get to Australia!
What are your favorite memories of touring in Australia?
Matt: Oh man! I think all the stuff that makes Americans coming down to Australia that is really cheesy. Like going to Brisbane and the koala petting zoo and seeing kangaroos and all that Australian stuff.
Ilan: I love the kangaroos and wallabies!
Matt: The first time you visit Australia, you do all that and it’s great. Then when you chill the fuck out, you realize that’s not everything that’s going on in Australia. City by city, I really love Perth. Also love Adelaide, and one night got to do a harbor boat cruise in Sydney. When I get off the plan in Australia, I immediately feel like the air is cleaner, and the food is incredible. Just give me a coffee and a vanilla slice and I’m happy.
Talking about your entry into the band Matt, how did that come about? You mentioned you had previously toured together.
Matt: I was in taking back Sunday for 8 or 9 years, and the first Angels tour was with Taking Back Sunday. So it was Angels, TBS and Head Automatica. We did a big North America tour when Angels debuted. Before that, Blink had taken Taking Back Sunday on tour a number of times and Tom in particular, along with all the guys, but Tom in particular was very supportive of the band, and he had directed one of our early videos. So when the phone call came to have a chat with Tom and he asked if I wanted to make some music, it was a very easy decision to make. Not only because I had known him for a long time, and David, and had met Ilan once or twice, but as a bass player, joining a rhythm section with someone like Ilan, it’s a very, very easy decision to make
Ilan: Oh stop it!
Matt: And that’s being modest, I’m not even gushing. If you want the gush version of that answer, I was like “is Ilan in the band??!!!”
Alison: I think you’re blushing
Matt: Yeah I am a little. It’s the seltzer
Ilan: We have a lot of fun playing the songs. But i think the real magic is in between the songs in rehearsals, when matt and I kinda go off on our own musical odysseys
Matt: Yeah the jamming you’ll never hear
Ilan: It’s a secret
That’s a good pathway into my next question. Matt, on your website, it has your bi-line as musician, actor, comedian?
Ilan: He’s a very funny guy. But it’s sophisticated humor. You have to be on his level to really appreciate it
Matt: I don’t know what makes me fully, but…
Ilan: A lot. A lot.
Matt: I did a couple of years of taking a bit of a break from playing music. I had done some time with the All American Rejects, and after that touring cycle wrapped up, I wanted to do something completely unrelated to music. Of all off things, improv comedy really caught my attention so i spent a couple of years at the ucb theater in New York, then i started acting in the odd thing here and there. It was all pretty organic, coming from things my friends were writing, directing or working on, including tom. Tom made a feature this year, I’m in it for 3 or 4 minutes tops, maybe more like 1 minute. I enjoy doing a lot of different things, and having that time to not be so focused on music, that when i refocused myself entirely on music, it’s a very refreshed and reinvigorated vibe for me and that was about when i got the call to start playing with Tom
Matt, what do your bandmates think of your comedic talent?
Matt: They don’t like me very much
Ilan: That’s not true. He’s obviously speaking about the other 2. I thoroughly enjoy Matt
Matt: I think all 4 of us have a pretty good time together because there really is a pretty deep coded special language that we communicate to each other with. A spicy brew of respect, sarcasm, animosity, love
Ilan: Respectful shit talking
Matt: And we’re all kind of the age where we know ourselves fairly well, so there’s nobody walking around with a big insecure chip on their shoulder, which for guys in a rock band, it’s fucking amazing!
Speaking of age, Ilan, you are the first person born in the 1980’s to be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, as a member of Nine Inch Nails. Talk me through that.
Ilan: It feels good! I have to say, during quarantine, I got to experience some pretty great things, and that was one of them. I did also get engaged and married during the quarantine! The award was something I had always wanted when I was older. I didn’t think it would be when I was 32 at the time and it’s definitely a nice honor. I am forever grateful to Trent and company for making me a part of that. I have the trophy on my piano, so can always catch a glimmer of it.
Good luck with the show at Lollapalooza and your upcoming tour! Thank you so very much for spending time with me and Wall Of Sound!
Matt: Thank you Australia! We’d just love to get down there, and we’re also excited about our upcoming fall tour.
Angels & Airwaves