Editors’ Notes Before endeavoring into AWOLNATION’s ferocious fourth studio album, band architect Aaron Bruno almost lost everything in 2018. “My studio burned down in the Woolsey Fire,” he tells Apple Music. “So this record was made in my bedroom.” But lo-fi it is not: The Los Angeles band, best known for 2011’s monolithic single “Sail,” has only become more ambitious in its approach to genre-agnostic alternative. There’s riff-forward adrenaline epics (“The Best”), booming bluesy punk (“Battered, Black & Blue [Hole in My Heart]”), sunny power pop (“Pacific Coast Highway in the Movies”), and vaudevillian electro-pop (“Slam [Angel Miners]”). Even the title, Angel Miners & the Lightning Riders, is representative of Bruno’s enterprising spirit—the album loosely follows a mythology of his own creation, used to make sense of inexplicable tragedy. “In this fantasy world, Angel Miners are responsible for the fire, for volcanoes, earthquakes, and all the natural disasters of our world, though man has a big part of that,” he explains. “The Lightning Riders represent the good—natural elements like wood. I was torn up and flipped upside down by being displaced from my own home and not knowing what survived. I thought, ‘I may was well start over and write like no one’s ever heard my music before.’” And so he did. Below, Bruno dissects the band’s 10-track opus, song by song.

The Best
“It occurred to me when I was starting to come up with the concept of the song, the melody, the blueprint of it rhythmically, all that, that I'm hard on myself. I'm my own worst critic. It’s unhealthy how much pressure we put on ourselves. ['The Best'] is the opposite of 'Eye of the Tiger,' or the Rocky theme. It’s a self-deprecating, sad song when I hear it. But if it inspires people to push a little harder, that's awesome.”

Slam (Angel Miners)
“If there's one song that feels like the soul of the record, it is this one. It’s about my day-to-day grapple with good and evil, trying to look at the world half full. I still struggle at it.”

Mayday!!! Fiesta Fever (feat. Alex Ebert)
“I’ve known Alex since we were much younger and much more wild, [before] he was doing Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. With this song, he dug back into the punk-rock, disco flavor that made me fall in love with his songwriting. Also: People have a hard time describing my music—rock ’n’ roll, electronic, hip-hop undertones—so I wanted a song that was furthering the point: It’s genre-less music.”

Lightning Riders
“You know when you’re in a dark room, when the lights first turn off, it’s scary. You’re going around like, ‘I can’t see shit, this is crazy,’ and then all of a sudden your eyes adjust and you can see in the dark. That’s the metaphor I’m going for here.”

California Halo Blue
“I was lucky enough to have four incredible women sing on the song that also sang for John Williams on some of the Star Wars movies. You can hear them in the distance on the chorus, singing some notes that are so high it's unimaginable. I originally wanted to get children to sing on the song, for an innocent sadness, but those women were too good to be true.”

“It’s a really sarcastic song to me. I don’t belong to any one group or ideal, and maybe that makes me...not necessarily radical. I’m a surfer too, so ever since I was a kid in the ’80s, ‘getting radical’ or ‘being radical’ was not a political thing. It meant pushing limits. It’s more of a sarcastic party anthem; the fantasy of only having one night to do something outside your comfort level.”

Battered, Black & Blue (Hole in My Heart)
“That is an examination of myself taken from an out-of-body experience—looking at myself from a distance, and admitting that I felt really heartbroken about what I’d been through with the fire. At the same time, it’s just admitting and being transparent about the fact that I felt broken in a lot of ways.”

Pacific Coast Highway in the Movies (feat. Rivers Cuomo)
“I’ve loved Rivers and Weezer since I was 15. We met in Canada at a festival, stayed friends for several years, and worked on a few things together. Nothing ever came of it, but when I had this song, it just screamed Rivers, so I asked him if he would join me on it and he did. I’m so proud to have his name on this record.”

Half Italian
“We're all a result of where we were born, who our parents were, our upbringing, what we're surrounded by, and you can't control that. This is my little temper tantrum moment on the record—an exercise in apologizing for not apologizing. I came up with it on a really peaceful walk with my wife and father-in-law—I knew how the riff was going to go, I knew how the cadence of those verses was going to go—and I drifted back like a creeper into a little corner under a tree and recorded the whole idea on my phone.”

I’m a Wreck
“When I got to that last riff, I was like, ‘This has obviously got to be the end of the album. I can't top this emotionally and cinematically.’ This is the final fight between the two sides—the Angel Miners and the Lightning Riders. It’s not clear who wins. We all have our demons or dragons we chase or have to confront, so that's the final moment where good and evil face off.”


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