Interview: Angels and Airwaves: “The sum of the album’s parts will create a much bigger whole”

Angels and Airwaves: “The sum of the album’s parts will create a much bigger whole”

Angels and Airwaves have grand ambitions for their new album, frontman Tom DeLonge explains.

Aliens, conspiracy theories and dick jokes; Tom DeLonge’s career has been littered with all sorts of projects and all kinds of fixations. More than anything, though, the Angel and Airwaves frontman – who shares his time with that other small-time band of his, Blink 182 – has never been short of ambition. Now is no different except, with the band’s new project, things are going to be that little bit bigger.

“Angel and Airwaves is part of a company called To The Stars,” begins Tom, “and To The Stars is creating intellectual property that will hopefully last for generations. These properties exist to become mediums: feature films, novels, graphic novels, albums, soundtracks. 

“So, our goals were to set the company up, get all of our resources together, get a collection of artists together, elevate the sound, change the direction of how we’ve been writing songs and what has really evolved the music, and to catch people off guard with the complexity of the art in all the different forms. 

“Hopefully, when all of these things come out together - the feature film, the book, the music - the sum of its parts will create a much bigger whole. I think we’re accomplishing that. I think when people hear this record, they’re gonna say, ‘Oh my god, what a dramatic evolution for the band. What is it that these guys are attempting and how did they pull off so many different things on so many different mediums?””

“We’re doing something that’s very complex and things are falling into place.”

Tom DeLonge

Angels and Airwaves are gearing up to release a brand new album, going by the name of ‘The Dream Walker’. Following their previous double-album project ‘Love’ and based upon DeLonge’s fictional character Poet Anderson and his sleeping patterns – think everything from delving into dreams and being faced by night terrors – there’s also going to be an animated film, a novel, a comic book and a feature film. 

“It’s satisfying in the sense that we’re doing something that’s very complex and things are falling into place,” says Tom, of how it feels to be able to work on such an expansive project. “I get to work with really, really great artists and it’s not just myself doing everything. 

“With the way a band works, a band all work together to write a song, it’s the same with the writers: all these writers work together to create a novel. We’re operating as a team and we’re working on something that’s transformative for the music, film and publishing industries.

“The goal is that every piece can live on its own, but when we put them together, they complement each other. That’s how it has to be: people will watch the movie and say, ‘I love this movie but who’s this band?’ People will say, ‘I’ve always loved this band, I can’t wait to see the movie.’ People will enter in from all different doorways, but it’s all the same party.”

Angels and Airwaves: “The sum of the album’s parts will create a much bigger whole”
Angels and Airwaves: “The sum of the album’s parts will create a much bigger whole”
Angels and Airwaves: “The sum of the album’s parts will create a much bigger whole”

It’s easy to wonder how a band can go on to develop a project down so many different avenues, but for DeLonge his ideas have always been that ambitious. Even with ‘The Dream Walker’, aside from deciding upon his story’s protagonist, there was no clear starting point; it was all about recruiting the right set of artists for the project, and watching as they all seemed to piece together. 

“The first thing I did was come up with a character over a decade ago in Paris on a late night in a hotel,” Tom explains. “Over the years, I messed around with concept art and wrote different screenplays. I wrote two different screenplays for this. I found a writer, a couple different concept artists, some illustrators, and started working on everything. I found a couple of animators a couple years ago and started them working on the short film right away because I knew it would take a long time. It’s a bunch of pieces that started, but when the animations came in and the screenplays started to come to fruition, you really started to see something take shape.” 

It’s not just about creating a multi-media project though. While the collective audience will all find their way to the project through different means, at the heart of all of his creative endeavours, DeLonge has stilled poured his effort into creating an album that ties the whole concept together. This time, it’s a record that saw the frontman – and his musical partner Ilan Rubin – explore different approaches to make it “more tangible” than their earlier efforts. 

“Ilan who joined the band a few years ago,” says Tom, of his collaborator, “he’s the best multi-instrumentalist I’ve ever met. So, working with him, we’re able to take really simple ideas and evolve them to a place where, not only do they feel different, but the tonality is really interesting as to where the band’s at now. 

“We’ve spent quite a long time branding Angels and Airwaves as an atmospheric kind of act, but on this record, we were very confident to use different tools to make it more raw, to make it more aggressive, to give it more angst, to make it more of a real band than these big, epic, soaring untouchable compositions. We wanted it to be more tangible and what that meant was approaching the tonality of the instruments completely different. It’s hard to explain how diverse the record is.”

“People that adopt the thinking behind all this will be a part of something, and have an understanding that life can be created in whatever form you want it to be.”

Tom DeLonge

The beauty of such a body of work, with all its entangled storylines and multi-media outlets, is that is allows the audience to engage with it however they want. After the successes of ‘Love’, DeLonge’s last work of this scale, he’s hopeful that people are going to be able to delve in and take from Poet Anderson exactly the inspiration they need.

“When we put out the movie ‘Love’,” he concludes, “there were hundreds of people who tattooed that on their bodies. Not celebrating the movie, but celebrating the concept and the idea of it, that we’re all tied together by something beautiful. You feel it on the moment of death or when someone close to you passes, you feel it in children or in some of the better parts of life. With Poet, you’ll see tattoos and they would be celebrating the concept that you can be a poet of your own life and create experiences that are conducive to you. 

“In the dream world, this character can manipulate the fabric of time and space to create things and I think that people can do that in real life to some degree as well. I think people that adopt the icon and the thinking behind all this, will be a part of something and have an understanding that life can be created in whatever form you want it to be. The way you want to define it, the way you want to digest it, the way you want to filter it and that’s what a true poet can be. That’s the goal and I’m excited to see where it goes.”

Taken from the December 14 / January 15 issue of DIY, out Friday 5th December. Angels and Airwaves’ new album ’The Dream Walker’ will be released on 8th December via To The Stars. 

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