Interview by Holly Aker.
It’s been three years since the San Diego folk rock band, Augustana, released the album Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt. In that time the band has grown and matured as people and as musicians, and you can really hear the changes that took place throughout the band in their new album entitled Augustana, which was released late last month.
Augustana is currently on a co-headlining tour with The Maine. Before the tour’s show at La Zona Rosa in Austin, lead singer Dan Layus sat down with us to talk about all the details of the new album including the album’s influences, the cover art, and why it took three years to release the album.
How has touring with The Maine been so far?
Dan Layus: Great. The Maine brings I think a younger demographic than we’re generally playing to, so that’s nice to see some younger, actual kids out there. They were really receptive to us, which was really nice. I wasn’t sure if that would be the case. Yeah, it was great.
So let’s talk about the new, self-titled album. Does the album have any kind of reoccurring theme?
Layus: Yeah, yeah I think so. It’s repetitive in nature I think on purpose. I’ve sort of seem some reviews and stuff where people kind of say it’s very predictable and repetitive, and that was actually on purpose. It was really like a living journal essentially where there were a lot of reoccurring themes. There were a lot of things that were happening that were sort of overlapping, tied into each other but were different at times, but all tied into a story of a couple of years. And so yeah I think at times it definitely reoccurs.
The self-titled album and Can’t Love Can’t Hurt have very differences sounds. Can you tell me what influences helped lead you to this new sound?
Layus: Yeah certainly. I mean, we were and always have been really influenced by Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, The Beatles. I mean there’s a lot of stuff just very normal, just great, classic songwriters in bands over the past have influenced us, and I think that we try to strike a balance between having the record feel modern and feel like it fit today’s standards but still have the classic feel and performance of a lot of the records that I love.
What was the writing process like for the new album?
Layus: It was long and arduous. We took two years or more, maybe even three to write it, and it wasn’t a conscious decision to try and make it that way. It just over time turned into that, where we just realized and figured we needed more songs, and we just wanted better songs, and we had a good set, but we felt like we just needed to keep whittling it down til it was the kind of finished product that we felt happy with.
Why did you decide to title the album Augustana?
Layus: There’s this sort of unspoken kind of thing I think with records, where bands, if they self-title something it’s kinda of like putting a stamp on something or sort of like saying to people that this is a quintessential moment or sound or record or collection of songs that really defines the band at that moment. I would say as like the purest form of the music so far, and I would say that’s inaccurate statement for us here.
Most new albums these days have really elaborately drawn cover art, but it’s refreshing to see just a simple photo of the band. Why did you guys decide to go with that more classic look for the self-titled album?
Layus: Well, I think that goes back to a lot of the things I was talking about earlier, like Petty and Springsteen. I’ve just always loved bands on the cover. I mean I love great artwork for a record, but sometimes I feel like it just makes sense to find a picture of the band at the moment that the record happened. Especially, we wanted the whole layout of the artwork to just be very simple, very, very simple, and just kind of let it be that and then let the music speaking for itself essentially. It’s actually pretty rare to find such simple artwork these days, and I think in a way we wanted it to almost stand out in stores and on iTunes by being so simple. And I think it does sort of pop in a weird way, just the white and the red, just like a poster or something.
Can you tell me a little bit about the concept behind the “Steal Your Heart” music video?
Layus: There’s not much behind it. It’s pretty much just a performance piece. A guy came to us with an idea, and we liked it, and we went with it. We’re not really visually as creative or whatever you want to say…basically, I’m not sitting there writing out video treatments. I kind of wait til they come to us and find something that sort of strikes our fancy.
John Vincent left Augustana earlier this year. Can you talk about what led to that?
Layus: Augustana has gone through a lot lineup changes over the years. Generally what happens is someone will be on the road and making records for months or years, and I think as your life changes, your needs change, and your taste changes, the things you want to accomplish, or whatever it is. I think some people just feel like being locked into one band and one situation can be a bit…it kind of squashes your creativity, and I think he just…it was amicable, it was no big deal, but it was just where he felt I think like he just needed to expressive himself with more music, and other things, and he made a move, and all these things. It’s just a thing where think as your life changes you sort of change there too.
This tour ends in about mid June. What does Augustana have planned for the rest of 2011?
Layus: Pretty much the road. I think we’re staying on the road for the better part of the year. Not all that is in the books yet or totally solidified, but it’s all in the making.
Watch the music video for “Steal Your Heart” from Augustana below: