Combining upbeat tempos and melodies with optimistic lyrics, American Authors is a gleeful band, as they should be after catapulting into pop success in the past year.
Following in the footsteps of rock-pop and alt-pop heavyweights such as Paramore and Panic! at the Disco, American Authors will be headlining this year’s Honda Civic Tour, their biggest headlining tour to date.
The band will be in the Southern California area next week, with shows at The Observatory in Santa Ana on Oct. 3, as well as at Club Nokia in Downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 4.
Formed in 2007 at the Berklee College of Music, the band consists of singer Zac Barnett, guitarist James Adam Shelley, bassist Dave Rubin and drummer Matt Sanchez. As Barnett tells it, the group came together organically. They have since seemed to similarly float along the path to widespread success.
Their two hit singles, “Believer” and “Best Day of My Life,” have been making waves through the pop world, with “Best Day of My Life” peaking at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Pop list.
Barnett describes their sound as diverse, a result of the band members coming from different corners of the nation. They draw inspiration from Latin, blues and classic rock genres, and each member brings a different perspective to the band’s overarall musical direction.
“An author is not someone just who tells a story through written words. We tell our story through lyrics and music,” Barnett said.
Concertgoers can expect an upbeat, enthusiastic rock performance with less polish than their high-production songs. Fans will find it easy, however, to tap into the energy of the event.
“Our show has a lot of dynamics, it goes up and down and it’s a rollercoaster,” Barnett said. “But we really try to make sure that energy is there.”
On first listen, the band easily slips into the niche of happy indie-rock that is taking over commercials, movies, radio and television. Their sound is similar to that of of The Lumineers and Magic!, but with a little more synth and a little more lightheartedness. For such a young band, the levels of production value and polish are impressive, showcasing their knack for putting out hits.
“We’re always very aware of the other bands in our scene, and we’re big fans, too,” Barnett said.
Their enthusiasm for the process and business mindset led to them dropping out of school in Boston and moving, unsigned, to New York City in hopes of expanding their reach.
“It was definitely a little scary at first, it was a big deal to drop out of school something you’ve become comfortable with,” Barnett said. ”You’re just kind of moving with a dream really.”
That dream appears to have come true for the foursome, who now have a record deal, hit singles and a headlining tour in the works.
American Authors is a testament to a new kind of success in the changing musical landscape. Much of the band’s popular exposure is tied to the usage of ”Best Day of My Life” in commercials for Lowe’s, Hyundai and Telecom New Zealand, as well as the trailer for the Vince Vaughn film Delivery Man and ESPN’s 2013 coverage of the World Series of Poker.
Radio airplay has also featured the band quite often, with Barnett attributing the popularity of “Believer” to word of mouth referrals that placed them on the radar for alt-rock radio.
“Those two songs organically taking off really spurred us on,” he said. “Not only did they get these opportunities, the success kind of stuck.”
The songs were licensed in a number of other ways as well, cementing their status in the public eye and giving the band legitimacy in a competitive music world.
The band walks the line between classical and contemporary success, having been signed to Island Records in 2013, but also promoting their music via streaming services and commercial licensing.
Barnett describes the process of getting signed as a landmark achievement.
“It’s something that we’ve dreamt of and thought about since we were young kids,” he said. “It’s not the end-all, be-all, but it’s definitely such a milestone reach.”
He acknowledged that today, streaming services put musicians under a keen microscope, and said that the band uses that as motivation. American Authors cites bands such as Mumford & Sons and Imagine Dragons as inspiration for a successful musical model in their genre.
“If you want to be an artist that stays around for a while like them, you need to be making a truly great product,” he said. “Every song needs to be good.”