Interview with Imran Xhelili of Awake At Last

Photo by Tom Flynn
Photo by Tom Flynn

Listening to Awake At Last is like listening to a fusion of 2005 alternative, old school pop punk and a modern 2015 edge all tied together into one sonic boom of melodic energy.  When the five piece takes the stage at Staten Island’s esteemed underground venue, Hashtag Bar, a hush echoes over the audience as the entire stage turns dark, pausing to relieve the dramatic tension as the first few chords come in.  Cue spotlights.

Awake At Last are living proof that musicians can still bear their souls to a crowd, even in today’s world of manufactured media.  There’s nothing fake about AAL.  Whether it’s tracks like “Love You To Death” or an amped rock cover of  “Rude,” watching the five twenty-somethings on stage is one of the most honest performances you’ll ever come across.  “We definitely always bring our A-game as far as energy and stage presence,” explains guitarist Imran Xhelili.  “We’re really interactive with the crowd, getting in the crowd’s face, getting everyone excited while always trying to be as tight as possible with our set and having everything well played.”

Xhelili not only has one of the coolest last names out there, but also has one of the coolest jobs as a key part of Awake At Last’s rhythm section.  Brought in to Awake At Last after meeting vocalist Vince Torres through various shows with his previous band, Xhelili helped round out the group when Torres decided to move from rhythm guitar to just vocals.  This new lineup would eventually help saturate the overall visually aesthetic of the group’s live performance. “Awake At Last has a very high energy stage presence,” explains Xhelili. “We’re definitely rock at the core of it and there’s a lot of alternative and pop punk influences,  a lot of musicality behind it, but at the same time it’s very accessible and catchy to your ear.”

Greene (left) and Xhelili (right) live at the Hashtag Bar, photo by Taylor Markarian
Greene (left) and Xhelili (right) live at the Hashtag Bar, photo by Taylor Markarian

The five piece is known for their intimate club shows as they’ve been touring across the country spreading their sound with new and old fans alike. “Usually when we play there isn’t a barricade,” says Xhelili, “so we just get to be nice and up front with the fans.” Standing in the crowd, it’s always captivating to watch as Torres jumps into the crowd during the performance of the single, “King of the World.”  With Xhelili, bassist Tyler Greene and guitarist Eric Blackway owning the stage like they actually rule the world, “King of the World” is easily the fan favorite for best live track.

Though constantly touring, the guys in Awake At Last still find time to write as they are currently working on their next, still untitled release. “We’re doing a lot of writing for the new EP, a lot of demoing back and forth,” explains Xhelili.  “We each contribute to the writing process, so it comes from a lot of different perspectives.  There’s a lot of really cool musical stuff going on, but it’s still really punky and catchy. Then there’s some that’s more heavy, but still kind of pop-ier, so a little of everything sprinkled in.”

Awake At Last are proof that honest, hard work pays off and that there really is no need to sell out or ever compromise musical integrity in the music industry any longer.  “I feel like a lot of people like to complain about what’s currently going on in the music scene and have nostalgic feelings for like ten years ago or when record sales were going well, but there’s always going to be change and obviously CD sales aren’t strong now.  But I think there’s always going to be good live shows and you can definitely still build a fan base and do everything.  I just feel like there’s a lot more going on in 2015.  If you know what you’re doing, you can really just push your career forward and you have more tools than ever in 2015.”

With new music on the horizon for fans to look forward to blasting in their cars and seeing live, you can currently catch Awake At Last on the road this spring for their headlining King of the World Tour.  In the meantime, sit back, relax, and check out the group’s new video for “King of the World” right here!

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