AWOLNATION have scored a pretty decently-sized modern rock radio hit with Sail, from 2011's Megalithic Symphony, the band's first proper full-length record. The song, a blending of electronic, synth-based beats and a radio-ready hook, is the product of Aaron Bruno, a dude with a unique, grabbing vocal style. If you're unfamiliar with the song by name, try this on for size:
The purpose of this BtH reflection isn't merely to say "hey, check out AWOLNATION, they're great!". Rather, it's more of a message of "if you like AWOLNATION, check out Bruno's past work too!"
A little backstory: on August 10th, 2002, at the Concord Pavilion in Concord, California, I went to see Weezer play a show. Alongside them on the bill were Dashboard Confessional, Sparta, and a side-stage featuring AM Radio, Rooney, and a Southern California-based band called Home Town Hero. Bruno was the lead singer, and their brand of aggressive and extremely melodic post-grunge rock resonated with me. I bought their debut album at that show, and it was in solid rotation in my car for a few months afterwards.
I looked forward to a follow-up to the album, which had been released on Warner Bros. amid a strong promotional campaign behind the song Questions (featured below). Yet, a follow-up never materialized, although the band did self-release an album in 2004 called Bitch City (which has proven to be exceedingly difficult to locate).
I would occasionally remember how good the self-titled debut record was, and then wonder what happened to the band, assuming they had just folded as so many good bands do before their time. I was right.
A few years later, I started hearing about a band called Under the Influence of Giants. Their impossible-to-classify blend of indie-pop, alternative rock, and classic rock, with influences as far-reaching as the Beatles, the Who, the Bee Gees, Prince and so on. Their 2006 self-titled debut album proved to be their only full-length release, despite its pretty successful reception by audiences. Something about them seemed oddly familiar to me, and after some research I discovered why: Aaron Bruno was the singer for this band, and he and HTH's guitarist Drew Stewart had formed UTIOG in the wake of HTH's demise.
Yes, the guy who was yelling in a post-grunge band with Home Town Hero was now singing to synth-soaked dance beats, and it sounded great. As with HTH, I longed to catch UTIOG live, but that never happened before they broke up. Sadness, again.
Fast-forward to 2011. I'm hearing this "blame it on my A.D.D." song everywhere I go, and once again I have that sinking suspicion that the song sounds weirdly familiar...yep, it's Bruno.
To put it bluntly, Aaron Bruno is an incredibly versatile singer. His talents have allowed him to be in three pretty impressive bands over the years, and personally I'm really glad that he's finally getting a decent amount of airplay and credit for what he's been doing.
If you currently are enjoying what you're hearing from AWOLNATION, I encourage you to delve into Bruno's back catalog, if you can find it. I don't assume it's hard to find UTIOG's album in a used record store, but I have no idea about HTH's availability (although the record is on Spotify).
And again, good on you Aaron Bruno, glad you're finally getting the attention you've deserved for a while now.