Aaron Bruno – AWOLNATION ‘Music Has Always Been Therapy For Me’

At Wall of Sound, we’re all about celebrating diversity. Especially when it comes to music. No one likes a gatekeeper – as long as the song lures us in with a catchy melody and invokes emotion, that’s enough right?

Whilst AWOLNATION isn’t too familiar to many Aussie metal fans, they are quite the act in the alternative/electronic realm, having performed on some of the world’s biggest festival stages (Coachella). Like many musicians around the world, the last two years haven’t been easy. However, AWOL’s main lyricist Aaron Bruno managed to keep his world turning by coming up with a unique, eclectic mix of iconic covers with his fellow artists as a way to pass time in lockdown.

Their latest covers collaborative album, My Echo, My Shadow, My Covers and Me is a massive tracklisting of songs through time, which saw Aaron team up with his friend Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) for an iconic Aussie rock classic as well as many others that managed to invoke many emotions for Bruno himself.

Hey Aaron! So how did the overall album title come about?

It’s a play on an old folk song called ‘We Three, My Echo, My Shadow on Me’, and it was a song I was listening to at the time. I thought that’d be a fun way to play on words if you will. It was my acknowledgement that this record was made at a time where we were isolated in a state of isolation. And I suppose my echo is hearing the music I’m creating. Of course, I was so blessed to have these other artists agree to join me in St. Louis. The album was a way to not feel so alone at the time.

So you worked on this record throughout the last two years, while in lockdown. What was that experience for you, to be working with other artists through these new methods of communication? Would it have been much different to how you previously worked on music?

Well, I just don’t think this record would have been possible 5-10 years ago. And I certainly don’t think that anyone would want to do it now that everybody’s out and about and touring again. But it was awesome. It was so great to have other people’s voices and open up their files on just a simple email. I’d open up and have a back vocal; it was like Christmas every day to have a new vocal from an artist I loved and looked up to. It was a great way for me to stay focused and escape a scary time in the world through music. Music has always been my therapy and my blanket when times get too cold, you know?

Music is what kind of makes the world go round pretty much, especially in those dark times! 

I mean, it makes the world go round, right. But at the same time, the world stopped spinning around, because we couldn’t do it anymore. So again, I am just so grateful that everybody agreed and that I’m talking to people like you now all about it. 

The opening track ‘Burning Beds’ (Midnight Oil) is quite iconic in rock, and bringing on Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) to help reimagine in this day and age was super impressive. Did you guys collectively select that song together?

I just recorded it on my own and then reached out to Tim. I know Tim pretty well, whereas some of the other artists I don’t know as well. But I’ve known Tim for a while and he’s been a good friend, very supportive, helpfuI. I think I’m a year older than him but Rise Against became huge way before AWOLNATION came out. He’s been a good guy to talk to and ask for advice, you know, as I navigate the terrain of music.

Anyway, I sent him a text and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to sing on this Midnight Oil song’, and he sent me a photo of the cassette tape of that record and said ‘Amen’. He just did it and sent it to me and it sounded awesome. It really was that simple.

It is probably one of the major highlights of My Echo, My Shadow, My Covers And Me. Aside from Tim’s collaboration, were there any others in particular that you enjoyed working on? 

The Gilbert O’Sullivan song, ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ was my favourite song to do. Actually, it was certainly the most challenging and the most emotional due to its lyrical content and how difficult it was to sing. Tim and ‘Beds are Burning’ was certainly fun but that has heavier weight to it. Lyrically though, ‘Material Girl’ with Taylor from Hanson was probably the most fun and lighthearted song along with my buddies from Grouplove when we did the Fugazi song ‘Waiting Room’. The whole thing was pretty fun to create.

As a musician whose performed on some of the biggest festival stages like Coachella, what are your thoughts on DJs and producers like Illenium, essentially blurring the line between rock-oriented tracks and the EDM world together on the live festival stage?

I’m all about the blurring of any genres from any walks of life. That’s kind of how I made a career with this. On my first record, I didn’t even know what genre it would be considered. I just knew I loved so many different forms of music, and I wasn’t going to limit myself or put any boundaries around the sound. I loved hip hop music growing up, but also love metal, I also love pop, dance music, and alternative, and guitar-based music. Nothing is gonna hold me back from putting it all together, and it seems to be a very normal thing now. I think that’s a very good thing.

It’s definitely great to see a diverse range of artists working together. Since you also love a bit of metal, can we expect AWOLNATION to team up with the likes of say, Metallica anytime soon? 

I don’t know about anytime soon, but I would love to do anything. I love Metallica so much. I was just talking to my engineer about The Black album even though the pure Metallica fans really hated on that album. But I think it’s great. Of course, I loved every album before that, but The Black album was really, really good. And we’ve been lucky enough to be able to play with bands like Slayer and Metallica at some of those international festivals. I’ve had the honour of playing the same stage as Metallica on a handful of different occasions, so I’m a huge Metallica fan.

Well, I’m sure the Metallica lads are mad fans of AWOLNATION too! Thanks so much for chatting to us all about the latest AWOLNATION release. Hopefully we’ll see you in Australia soon!

Interview by Tamara May @citylightstam

AWOLNATION’s new album, My Echo, My Shadow, My Covers and Me is out now
via Better Noise Music.

Listen to it here

AWOLNATION – My Echo, My Shadow, My Covers And Me tracklisting:

1. Beds Are Burning (featuring Tim McIlrath of Rise Against)
2. Eye In The Sky (featuring Beck)
3. Take A Chance on Me (featuring Jewel)
4. Maniac (featuring Conor Mason of Nothing But Thieves)
5. Just A Friend (featuring Hyro The Hero)
6. Material Girl (featuring Taylor Hanson of Hanson)
7. Wind of Change (featuring Brandon Boyd of Incubus & Portugal The Man)
8. Waiting Room (featuring Grouplove)
9. Drive (On digital only)
10. Flagpole Sitta (featuring Elohim)
11. Alone Again (featuring Midland)

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About Tamara May (1034 Articles)
Wall of Sound's Head of Album Reviews. Weekend Content. Pop Punk Enthusiast.