Augustana

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A few days ago, I got the rare opportunity to talk to the lead singer of Augustana Dan Layus and it comes at an incredibly exciting time! While spending over two years out of the spotlight, the band went through highs and lows including losing a member who had been there for the last few years but out of that time came their great new self titled record that hits stores on April 26th. Following the band through this time, there were so many expectations I had and when I got the first chance to listen to the record the other day I was sold on the idea that this is by far the most beautiful material I'€™ve heard from the band so far!

During our interview that followed the next day, I had the opportunity to pick Dan'€™s mind about everything from how the songwriting process went for this record to maybe their stranger inspirations to what they went through making this new record. The boys grew up a lot it seems through this process and despite being three records deep, the boys are still incredibly young in their mid twenties Dan himself being only twenty six and having this band for six years. Be ready darlings, this extremely passionate band who never gives up despite all the hard times and life experiences they'€™ve been given are ready to break their way back into your hearts this year!

With so much going on right now, let'€™s start with a soft one. Being a band that does steadily tour, what would you say are the three touring essentials you must have to survive?
After a long time holding out, it would have to be an iPhone for sure. I was holding out for a while and I got one. Why did I wait so long (laughs)? It can kill time that needs to be killed efficiently for sure on the road. I would need it, especially for the pod casting it'€™s very nice. I don'€™t know, I don'€™t really use a computer on the road. I guess coffee (laughs)? I don'€™t know, man, I don'€™t know..do you got any ideas? I'€™m trying to think. It'€™s been a minute we'€™ve been at home for a while.

Then I know that the record has been in the works for a while. For the third record it'€™s at least been over a year and a half.
Oh yeah definitely two years.
So obviously you guys have gotten older and I'€™ve heard the record it still has that Americana folky side but how do you think it'€™s different maybe then the last release (Can't Love, Can't Hurt)?
I feel, in my opinion I might be right or wrong, but I feel like finally we'€™ve achieved the bridge between what we do live which is I think way more earnest and kind of unapologetic and less safe I think. I think we finally put the bridge and made it make sense like onto a record. I think that there was for a lot of years and a couple records a large disconnect between the two and it'€™s difficult but I think we finally got it. Like we got what we do well on stage and got it on a record. I think it makes sense (laughs).

Perfect, and then with this record I believe it'€™s your third release and it'€™s the one you decided to self title which some people may find strange. Is there a certain reason for doing that? Calling it '€˜Augustana'€™?
Yeah it just kind of felt like necessary. Like everything'€™s been building up towards sort of this moment as far as being the people in the band. We'€™ve been doing this for six years and we wanted to just put a sort of period at the end of a very short sentence. Make it not a statement because that sounds kind of arrogant but you know what I mean. It just felt natural. I felt like there was so much that was said on the record lyrically and all these things and it would sort of work itself out. I don'€™t why it just felt natural.

Perfect, and then obviously this is something that the fans have been waiting for for a while and I know it was a long process for you guys. Maybe what was like the biggest difference? From what I understand, there'€™s a member loss (John Fredericks), is that correct?
Yeah in the band there'€™s been so many member changes (laughs). Well basically the good majority of the band that we'€™ve been playing with as Augustana for the last three or four years, well both of the last records, have been basically the same five people. Me, Chris, Jared, Justin and John Fredericks. So we were all involved, all five of us, we pretty much made the whole record together and just recently in the last three or four months John left us and it will be sort of interesting to see where we go from here. We don'€™t have a keys guy yet but we'€™ve been playing with a pedal steel guy. He'€™s really great. We have an extra guitar player now. I think we'€™re going to end up being like a seven person band on this tour (laughs) which is great. Takes the pressure off of everybody'€™s shoulders.

Then is touring something that'€™s in the near future? I know it'€™s been a while for you guys. You were out with the Counting Crows I believe on your last tour but is touring something that'€™s going to be coming pretty soon?
Oh yeah definitely! I think it'€™s booked for May and June something like that. That'€™s the first run. You know just small rooms, hopefully people will you know show up but we'€™ll be there.

Being that it'€™s been a while, I actually saw you last a while ago when you were out with Wild Sweet Orange, but that was the last time so it'€™s definitely been a while. What can they look forward to coming out to the shows now that'€™s maybe changed? Like how are you guys going to go about the show.
You know I don'€™t know if we go about it any differently. I think that'€™s just what we do. We were 23 and here we are now 26. I think just many tours later and a lot of experiences later, I think naturally just the music has changed. I think that just as life changes the music changes. You know all sorts of different things have happened. I don'€™t know what it will be but I think it will be creative, interesting, fun for sure.

Then obviously like we said a few times before, this record has been a while in the works so maybe I know you'€™ve done the songwriting in the past but how did it go for this record? Maybe if it changed?
Well in the past, you know, I always kind of had taken that on myself and sort of for this one I felt like I have these guys and I have to write everything from front to back. It just kind of became something where I realized there'۪s nothing wrong with wanting or needing help. It'۪s a good thing. It'۪s a really good thing and I really opened myself up to it and thought whatever makes, this is so clich̩d, but really whatever makes a song the best song it can be..that'۪s what I should do. So having a different eye and whether it'۪s with the band or not with the band, if that'۪s what brings out the best ideas that push me further into writing the record then that'۪s the right thing to do and that was a really nice relief off my shoulders. Just kind of letting myself let it go. Just being like there'۪s other people that can take responsibilities for this along with me. At least for this particular record you know what I mean.

For this release, so '€˜Augustana'€™, maybe where was like the strangest place you found inspiration?
Strangest place we'€™ve found inspiration?
Yes.
I don'€™t know if this is the strangest but I feel like it'€™s one of the most interesting. One of the most unique ones was for the song called '€˜Hurricane'€™ that'€™s on the record. We were actually on tour with the Counting Crows at the time and me and John, the keyboard player at the time, we were playing on a casino riverboat basically. Like, you know, that kind of thing. I don'€™t want to say Biloxi but somewhere in Mississippi and we basically just had a lot of down time before the show and started writing a song. It was very much something that was that time, that place but it felt right. It just kind of happened in an hour and we wrote it by the river side (laughs). It was pretty cool.

Perfect then once again as repeated over and over, it'€™s been a while since the last release so maybe what are you most looking forward to having this record out and having your fans be able to hear that since it has been a while since new material has been out?
Just that right there. Just that it'€™s been a long time and to still be able to like finally put it out there. We'€™re probably really self indulgent but I guess that'€™s the nature of doing this kind of thing (laughing). We just really want people to be able to hear it. I don'€™t know why it'€™s a really weird thing but if you put out a record you obviously want people to hear it. You want to hear what people think about it or you want to affect somebody in some way. I'€™m just glad that this is finally going to be out and out of my hands and out of my car and in somebody else'€™s car you know. Just to see if it does do anything exciting for somebody but I don'€™t know what that is. At least it will be out and we can move on you know (laughs)!

Then these ones are kind of different and it'€™s definitely bringing it back but maybe do you remember what your first CD or cassette was and then the first concert you ever went to?
One of my first shows I ever went to was when my step-dad took me to Tom Petty. It was out in San Diego during the Echo tour which was my favorite record. A great album and I think it'€™s overlooked now and I was probably well I might have been a freshman in high school. I don'€™t want to say that'€™s my first show but it'€™s the most memorable one and you said my first album? The first album I ever bought with my own money, my own allowance money (laughs) when I would take out the trash, was that Nirvana acoustic EP. You know the album everyone had. Yeah that Nirvana unplugged album and I loved it. That'€™s what started it all (laughs).

Then maybe do you think, well the Americana maybe from Tom Petty, but do you think those experiences have an influence on you like what you'€™re doing today with the band or just you personally?
You know I think it does actually. I think that what we wanted to do was sort of challenge ourselves not to go so heavy in one direction and what ever that direction may be like Americana or, you know, sort of really big rock or really stripped down or really alt-country or really pop. I think it'€™s a really challenging thing and I don'€™t know if we did it but we wanted to accomplish sort of a mix of all of those. I just kind of felt like if all the songs were right, that the right things would come to it at the right time and give the right sound and all these things but I would say that absolutely. You know I don'€™t want to call it Americana, whatever that is, yet it'€™s always in the forefront of playing and certainly in the songwriting and I'€™d say about half of our production. It'€™s just the most natural thing. Especially '€˜Boston'€™.

Then obviously you have the record coming out but it'€™s still a little under three months away so maybe are you going to be touring with the record a lot this year? Are you going to go back to the old ways? What'€™s going to be going on this next year?
Well I hope we tour a lot. To me, it'€™s been a long time since we'€™ve done it but I would just say that we are again. I don'€™t know how long we'€™ll be touring but hopefully if things go well, we'€™ll be touring a lot!

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