Pop-rock band A Story Told has returned with their first full length album since 2017. After taking time away to work on side projects, the band reconvened with a fresh mindset and 12 tracks to go along with it. Atlas spoke with Alex Chaney and Josh Allen about making the album, rediscovering their love for AST and what’s on deck for 2021.
Atlas Artist Group: This is your first album since 2017! What’s the story behind this record and what were you drawing on for inspiration?
Alex Chaney: I’m trying to think where to start. When Josh and I first moved up to Columbus, we basically started a little side project. It was called Kids Amen and we released three songs for that. After that, I think we were kind of frustrated and burnt out a little bit with A Story Told- not that anything was wrong. Long story short, the timing felt right to come back to A Story Told- that’s what’s still home to us. It was just a weird time. Like we talked about, we’re from small town, West Virginia, and Columbus is actually pretty close. But we were living in this new city.
I think our generation- I’m talking about the meaning behind the album now- is stuck in between two schools of thought on what the “American Dream” means. There’s such a traditional route, and then the Internet has given us access to literally everything and any one. It’s a weird time to be in the middle of that, and especially where we come from being a more traditional route. For us, we wanted to do something- make music and write music and be rock stars and stuff. It just felt so unconventional and it’s always been a push and pull thing with us. So I think that that’s what this record American Made means- this generation stuck in the middle of several different ways of life.
Atlas: After hearing the album, it definitely has a nostalgic vibe. Was that a conscious choice for you in the studio or did that flow naturally as the process continued? Do you view this album as more nostalgic?
Josh Allen: I think how the music always sounds [is] definitely a natural thing for us. I feel like our band has always kind of been in the middle of a pop band and a rock band, and then thrown into this whole pop punk world. I feel like we’ve never really fit in with our peers. With this record, specifically, I think we’re definitely trying to go more of the alternative pop rock route.
I get the nostalgic vibes because- me personally- I grew up on bands like Blink-182, Simple Plan, Third Eye Blind. Obviously the art that you create is going to be drawn from some inspiration. I think that’s where mine comes from. When you get Alex involved- obviously he loves those bands as well- but I think he comes more from a pop background. I think you can kind of see that shine through as well. In the past, we’ve really shied away from the whole pop-rock thing, but I truly think that that’s what our band is- a pop-rock band. We’re trying to hit the nostalgia vibes with also a modern twist with it. I’m paying paying homage to the greats of our genre and then just trying to do our twist of it.
Atlas: Which song off this album resonates the most with you?
Josh: I think it’s probably the first single that we put out- “I Don’t Mind”- just because I think lyrically it’s saying everything that we want to say right now and also musically, it’s how we want to sound right now. Like Alex was saying earlier, I do think our generation is the generation that’s stuck in between the past “American Dream” as well as trying to figure out what this new “American Dream” is. We grew up being told you can be whatever you want and that’s made it that much harder with the internet because you can truly be whatever you want. I think that song encompasses that whole theme. Alex does a good job of putting what we’re thinking in our head into a song and I think that’s a perfect example of what we’re trying to get across with the record.
Alex: Yeah, I definitely agree as far as picking one song to encapsulate what it all means. I always cling to “Start”. It’s not necessarily a favorite track but I think it really sets up everything we’re going to say and sets up the whole record in general.
Atlas: What are you hoping that listeners will take away from this album?
Alex: I think relatability. We’ve always really prided ourselves on creating a message that resonates. For me, so much of it’s personal experience. I think it’s every artist’s hope to have fans relate, but it’s always been from the heart sort of thing. And talking about the message of the record, we are not the only ones that feel that way. It’s a topic that’s not really discussed a lot- being overstimulated and over-consuming and that flooding your brain while you’re also just trying to be a normal human. Just trying to put that in music form was a really fun and challenging and cool experience.
Atlas: When you went back to the band and you started writing again, what had you learned about yourselves or the band that really cemented this as the next step for you and the path you’re going to be on?
Josh: Yeah, I’ll back up a little bit- we put out a record in 2017. We toured on that through all of 2018 and at the end of it all, it was just like we’ve worked so hard that it was almost like exhaustion. We didn’t want to stop creating music, so that’s what Alex was talking about with the side project Kids Amen when we moved to Columbus. We started doing that throughout the fall of 2019. The key motivator for this record was we kind of went away for a year, trying to do our own little thing. But the band continued to grow, and people continued to invest. People truly cared about it. I think we really needed that year off to look back on everything that we had done prior. The first EP was put out at the very end of 2014 so we had been doing it for a good solid four years- head down, just releasing music, touring, sacrificing our lives to create this band from nothing.
We’ve never had a label, no management. Truly, it was built from the ground up and I don’t think we ever took a second to appreciate what it meant to people [and] what it meant to us. I truly think that was the start for the record at the end of 2019. The initial plan was to put out a Kids Amen record. While we were writing that record, the AST was seeping back out of what we were doing creatively. Also, mentally, we were able to really figure out what that band meant to us or what it means to other people, and I think that was really what sparked the inspiration.
Atlas: Now that things are starting to go back to whatever normal is becoming, what’s up next for you?
Josh: The big thing is the record and, like you said, things are starting to open back up. It almost felt like it happened so quick from shutdown. For the rest of the year, we’re gonna focus on the record. We will probably be playing select shows throughout the rest of the year, but I don’t think any big touring plans until next year. We just want to make sure things keep on trending the way they’re trending now in the world. So yeah, it’s just really focusing on pushing this record- both virtually and physically, hopefully.
Atlas: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about your music or is there anything you wish you could talk about more that you may not get asked?
Alex: I love that second question.
Josh: We still have so much room to grow with this band. Obviously we want people to check out the record. The listeners really drive this thing. Like I said, we’ve never had management or a label or anything like that. I think that’s what makes the band so special is because it truly is just a collective group of people that believe in one thing. So I would say just keep on sharing that love [and] spreading the word around. I feel like word of mouth is the biggest thing with music. Check out the record, keep telling people about the band [and] come to a show when we can play shows!
Check out American Made, out July 16!
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo courtesy of A Story Told