Another Lost Year frontman Clinton Cunanan celebrates his 34th birthday Friday by kicking off a national tour with Artifas at Amos’ Southend. It’s a long way from where he imagined he’d be a decade ago.
Although he’d wanted to be a guitar player since watching “Eddie & the Cruisers 2” when he was 8, a career writing original music hadn’t seriously entered Cunanan’s mind until his mother died six years ago.
“I realized you could die doing something you hate,” he says.
At the time he was a veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and doing well playing acoustic covers at places like Midtown Sundries and La Paz. But once he formed Another Lost Year, things took off rather quickly.
“We started (touring) in Battle Creek, Mich., on Super Bowl Sunday. There were four people in the audience. A year and a half later we were headlining Rockapalooza for 3,000 people,” he says of the early momentum that appears to be continuing. In June, “Alien Architects” debuted at No. 8 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. In January the band embarks on the Shiprocked Cruise, with Breaking Benjamin and Papa Roach.
But that momentum didn’t build in a vacuum. Tracks like “War on the Inside” received airplay on SiriusXM’s Octane channel while others gained traction at sporting events, on MTV shows, and during NFL highlight reels.
Stephen Herbster, manager of creative services and post production for the Carolina Panthers, was a fan early on and befriended Cunanan after seeing ALY open a famously disastrous Days of the New Show at Amos’ (its set was not the disaster). “They acted and sounded like the main act, but were the opening act,” says Herbster, who “wanted to help any little way I could.”
“He hit me up with some tickets,” remembers Cunanan. “They were on the 50-yard-line in the second row. I’m sitting there minding my own business and I hear ‘War on the Inside’ in the bowl. I’m freaking out to the woman beside me. ‘That’s my jam! I wrote that jam!’ ”
Going into the band’s latest album, “Alien Architects,” Cunanan’s mindset started to change. “When I was doing (ALY’s album) ‘Better Days’ I was playing the way I thought a rock band should be playing,” he explains. “(With ‘Alien Architects’) I had no expectations.”
By that time Another Lost Year had already thrown fans a curveball by covering Keith Urban’s “Cop Car.” So recording at 3 Years Hollow’s Jose Urquiza’s home studio in the middle of an Illinois cornfield was more of an anything-goes experience.
“The new album goes from extremely active rock to pop-infused country riffs,” says Cunanan. Uninspired by the onslaught of aggressive radio rock, which his band had been very much a part of, he decided to take a different approach.
“I realized I’m a songwriter, not a hired killer or a UFC fighter. I don’t need to intimidate anyone with my songs. It’s about artistry. It’s about getting the world to see things maybe differently than they see them.”
That said, “Alien Architects” addresses heavy topics. “We All Die Alone” is about post-traumatic stress disorder and the album’s next single, “He Took Beautiful Away,” focuses on domestic abuse.
Another Lost Year may make a brand of Southern hard rock that appeals to all sides of the political line, but lyrically, Cunanan – who has a 9-year-old daughter – comes down on the side of togetherness, social awareness and responsibility.
“I hope people take a hard look at themselves and start working together as a human race. We would like to see the world become a better place.”
Another Lost Year
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St.