Halfway through “Believer,” the debut single from Brooklyn-by-way-of-Boston indie rock quartet American Authors, frontman Zac Barnett sings, "I’ve never been lucky. / I’ve never tasted fame. / I’m always lookin’ for something, / But I hate changin’."
For a group signed to a major label (Island Def Jam) and about to embark on a national headlining tour (which rolls through the House of Blues on Oct. 2) -- surely Barnett must realize how ironic those lyrics must seem now, right?
"Actually no," the singer told us by phone. "‘Believer’ is talking about how we all have these insecurities in life and that that’s OK because that’s what makes you who you are. You should know that you can make it through these hard times. The whole idea is that the world isn’t perfect -- there’s craziness going on all over the place, but you can’t let the negative influence you.”
To be fair, American Authors weren’t exactly an overnight sensation; they’ve paid their dues. After the band (which also consists of James Adam Shelley on guitar/banjo, Dave Rublin on bass and Matt Sanchez on drums) initially got together back in 2007, they actually released two albums and performed under their original moniker, the Blue Pages, before eventually changing their name, their style and their home base in 2010.
"We had moved from Boston to Brooklyn [New York] and were being influenced by so many things," Barnett explained. "We were coming from a different place, and it was just the right time to start fresh and new."
The group is walking proof that change is definitely good. If you’ve turned on the radio over the last year, you’ve most likely heard their addictive, chart-topping pop single, "Best Day of My Life." Coupled with “Believer,” [watch it here] their major label debut album, "Oh, What a Life,” has gone Gold in Australia and multi-Platinum in Canada and the U.S. Still, success has been known to breed a certain amount of pressure from record industry execs eager to cash in repeatedly. Have the powers-that-be tried to exact any influence over their sound?
"We’re fortunate that we have a supportive label that allows us to write and record what we want,” Barnett enthused. "An artist is going to change -- that’s always going to happen. But we’re pretty stoked on where we’re at right now. We’re creating what we want to create.”
When asked if they’re temped to drop a “Kid A”-type style bomb on their fanbase now that “Oh, What a Life” has been such a universal success, the singer shrugged it off.
"We’ve always wanted to be a rock band, and we’ve always recorded rock music. But we write what we like to write and like to listen to. On [“Oh, What a Life”], it was the first time we were able to really let loose and say, ‘Screw it -- we don’t have to conform to one scene of rock music.’ It’s just a mix of so many different things. We were being influenced by everything from classic rock to modern rock to electronic music and hip-hop. We made a point to not overthink things and try to fit into one kind of scene or be like any other band."
But are we really to believe that Barnett and Co. aren’t enjoying the benefits of success and fame in a notoriously hedonistic music world? Surely, he has to at least acknowledge that they’ve come a long way since the days of the Blue Pages.
"I’d be lying if I said as far as a career goes that we haven’t moved at all,” Barnett admitted. “It’s just a dream to play music for a living though. We love music; we’re musicians. Playing live is incredible -- it’s a moment and a rush unlike anything else. When you come to our show, it’s a party, so get ready to have a good time. But us, as people, haven’t changed at all. We’re very genuine. We’re the same dudes and the same friends who just love to play live."