Augustana should feel like they’re on top of the world. The California-based indie rock quintet unveiled their compelling self-titled fourth studio album a few months ago, shot a smashing video for their single “Steal Your Heart” and were slated to close out the summer with Jack’s Mannequin and Guster.
Those plans, however, changed rather unexpectedly.
In late July, the five-piece dropped out of the tour for unspecified reasons. Just a few weeks later, in a phone conversation with Red Bull USA, the group’s lead vocalist and pianist Dan Layus broke his silence and provided some clarity on the situation.
“Basically the two original members with me as well, Justin [South] and Jared [Palomar], have parted ways. It’s a sad thing, but it’s been an amicable split and it’s just kinda tough,” Layus reveals. “It’s hard to keep a band together. We had a good run and it was a blast while we could do it, but everybody is good. Everybody is friends. It’s just tough to sustain a business like that.”
The news comes at an unfortunate time as Augustana recently released their self-titled fourth studio album, which is quite arguably their best effort to date. All throughout the ten-track collection, the California troupe maintains their modern rock vibe and incorporates more of a rootsy flare into their sound. That comes across on records like “Wrong Side Of Love,” “Shot In The Dark” and “Counting Stars,” where Layus tenderly sings about heartache yet undyingly holds onto a sense of hope.
“Relationships have always played a big factor in my songwriting because it’s one of those first things where I get an idea, I sorta reflect and express what’s going on in my head [and] my heart,” the singer explains. “Musically, we really draw from songwriters like [Tom] Petty, [Bruce] Springsteen and [Bob] Dylan. [They’re] these guys who have longevity and a unique nature of their songwriting where they can put something down and be just as relevant in 2011 as they are in 1972. It’s something we certainly shoot for.”
Formed in 2002, Layus launched Augustana with a couple of friends while attending Greenville College in Illinois. In early 2003, they self-released their debut album “Midwest Skies and Sleepless Mondays,” moved to California in 2004 and toured with the likes of Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls and Maroon 5. They signed with Epic Records the following year.
Augustana (then also comprised of guitarist Josiah Rosen, bassist Jared Palomar, keyboardist John Vincent and drummer Justin South) achieved their initial fame to claim with 2005’s “All The Stars And Boulevards,” which featured the mega smash “Boston.” The band’s popularity rose in 2008 with the release of their third full-length “Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt,” thanks in part to their single “Sweet and Low.”
Despite their previous success, Layus is most proud of their new effort. “We felt that this was the most accurate portrayal of what the band had to offer up to this point,” he says. “I felt like this was really [sort of] a pure sound and the best way to experience the band so far.”
Also, it might be the last release coming from the indie rock collective. Augustana have a couple of shows left to fulfill and the California troupe is still operating. But the fate of the band is certainly in question.
“We’ve got gigs that we have to do contractually because we’ve been booked for months to do ‘em. The timing is never right when you’re talking about ending a working relationship with somebody you’ve been working with for [nearly] ten years. But like I said, there is no love lost and everybody’s happy to move on,” Layus explains.
“It’s tough to tell the future of Augustana at this point,” he continues. “I don’t think I’m looking for any permanent members or anything. We’re just sorta assessing where to go with the band. It’s not a new story. It’s tough to keep bands together for really long periods of time. I have to say all of us are really proud of how far we were able to take it -- especially because we had our backs up against the wall from day one. It’s been a long fight to even stay alive this long, but we’re really proud of what we were able to accomplish and I don’t really know what the future holds for Augustana at this point.”
While the band’s future is in doubt, this isn’t the last of Dan Layus. He plans to soldier in some sort of fashion. As he reassuringly says, “There will be more one way or another, whatever it is.”
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