Spirits in the Sky: Adam Willard on Angels and Airwaves celestial stadium sound

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Angels and Airwaves, the breakout band of 2006 formed by former blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge, dropped its third studio album February 12 of this year. Entitled Love, the album seeks to place attention on some of the root reasons why DeLonge chose to form Angels and Airwaves (AvA) in the first place.
“The whole idea behind the band itself . . . is basically spreading love,” says AvA drummer Adam Willard. “I mean, that sounds a little bit fruity, but at the end of the day, we’re all about trying to make the world a better place.”
Although the release of the album coinciding with Valentine’s Day weekend was purely coincidence—“The Valentine’s Day thing just kinda happened to work out,” says Willard—the manner in which the band released it dramatically challenged the norm, even in today’s music world of single downloads and YouTube plays. Following in the footsteps of Radiohead, AvA made Love free to download (while allowing listeners the option to donate as much or as little money as they’d like to the group), a move made possible once they managed to free themselves from their record label contract.
“We were real excited about getting out of that contract and [having] the opportunity to do whatever we wanted to do,” says Willard. “The theory behind [Love] is, you can make more fans and get more people interested and in love with your band if you give them the music and give them the opportunity to just experience it. Here’s a free record, try this out.”
Now on tour with Say Anything through the end of May, Angels and Airwaves plans to heavily promote their new album through the summer months. College magazine recently had the opportunity to interview Willard on the new album, AvA’s songwriting process, what the guys do in their spare time and . . . French bulldogs.
Your new album, Love, has gotten more than half a million downloads. When you hear that number, something like 500,000 downloads, how’s that make you feel?
Oh, man, it’s awesome. You really have to go, ‘OK, people are paying attention to what we’re doing, and they’re liking what they’re doing, and they’re telling their friends’ . . . because the numbers are hard to fake and hard to ignore. So it’s an encouraging thing and it makes us feel like we’re doing it the right way. It’s awesome, man, we’re stoked.
Angels and Airwaves has a very different feel and a very different sound from a lot of bands out there today—
—Thank you.
Really, it’s very stadium-esque, very bigger than life. When I listen to it I feel like I should be doing something, like running a marathon—
—Yeah. Dude, that’s rad.
When Tom had this idea for a band, for something larger than life, how did he communicate that to you guys?
(laughing) Well, I don’t know. Tom’s a wordy motherf–ker. He can talk. When he first called me and told me he wanted me to be a part of this band, it was like, ‘Well, what’s the deal? I don’t want to be in blink-183 and do the same thing that you’ve been doing.’ He was pretty adamant about the fact that everything was going to be done differently . . . but you can never really know until some of it [the album] is done. And we didn’t even know how it was gonna flush out or how it was going to end up ultimately until we got the first mixes back on that first record. Once we had that first record, we had realized we had created our own sound, and it was pretty exciting.
When you guys are on the road touring, where do your song ideas come from?
The song ideas, what really happens is there’s parts. Somebody will have a really cool part, and we, uh—Aw, dude, this guy’s got a French bulldog. It’s so cute. I have two at home. Oh my God, that’s a good looking little dog . . .
Have you ever seen that YouTube video, where it’s the French bulldog on its back trying to roll over?
Oh, dude, that’s so funny (laughing). I might have to say hi to this dog. Oh he’s walking the other way. Anyway . . . [For song ideas] it depends on what we’re doing. If we’re out on the road or something, we’ll just f–k around at sound check, and I’ll just play something. And you never know. But in the studio, Tom will have something, be like, ‘Check this out, check this line.’ And then I’ll say, ‘I’m hearing this,’ and then I’ll program in a drum beat [with a drum machine], and then it basically evolves, layers on top of layers. And everything changes as it goes too. It’s a true collaborative and everyone’s ideas are heard. Everybody’s very open to input. That’s the f–king coolest way to make music. So many times, you’re working with people who are just like, here it is, here’s the song, play it.
What do you guys do in your down time?
Um, well, shit I think everybody’s got their own habits. Matt’s (bassist Matt Wachter) habit is he’s got a baby girl, so, er, I mean, that’s a hobby really. His habit is because of his baby girl, and that’s called Jack Daniel’s—no, no. He’s got a baby girl and a wife, and he’s a f–king insane computer editing maestro. I don’t know what the f–k he does. But it’s magic with a keyboard.
David (guitarist David Kennedy) is an extremely accomplished motorcycle rider. And he’s actually been racing streetbikes and been doing really well. He entered only 3 races last season, but he won 2 of them and got second in the last one. And he’s way into fitness, too.
I’m way into fitness, into running, and f–king mountain biking and all that kind of shit. Plus I also ride the motorcycles and work on hot rods and my other hobby is my wife . . . And Tom, he lives in a weird cocoon, it’s kinda slimy on the inside, but he’s naked in there, and he has this kind of weird music that plays—no, I don’t know what Tom does in his spare time. He’s crazy. A good crazy.

College Magazine Staff

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