Dan Layus of Augustana isn't sure which metaphor best suits his band's new self-titled album: On one hand it strikes him as "the final word at the end of a very long paragraph"; on the other, it resembles "the beginning of a brand-new chapter." Either way, the 10-track set, due April 26 on Epic, "feels like a milestone for me personally and for the band," he says. "That's why calling our third record 'Augustana' just felt right."
Augustana's "very long paragraph" began with the band's plaintive 2005 hit "Boston," which cracked the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and led quickly to high-profile tours with Maroon 5, the Fray and Counting Crows, among others. And the rest of the story? "Learning to forge our own path in a way that would make this career sustainable," Layus says, as opposed to the stuff of one-hit wonderdom. "All of this got handed to us on a silver platter when we were 19, and in a lot of ways I wish it hadn't been; I wish we'd had to fight a little bit harder to get noticed. Instead, it went in reverse." According to Nielsen SoundScan, Augustana's major-label debut, "All the Stars and Boulevards," has sold 345,000 copies; 2008's "Can't Love, Can't Hurt" is at 121,000.
"They had all this radio success while they were still figuring out who they were," says the band's manager Rich Egan, who also heads Vagrant Records. "So we went about building this as though they didn't have a hit. Now we're seven years and a couple of thousand shows down the road, and they've been able to build and become a much better band. If radio comes to the party, great; if not, we're still going to do what we do."
Egan says Epic has been "immensely supportive," though he admits that Augustana has been through "a lot of transitions," including the label presidencies of both Charlie Walk and Amanda Ghost. "I can bellyache like any manager that we're not getting this or that from the promo department," he says. "But the people at the label support this band like they're family. That's why we're still there."
Epic product marketing manager Arjun Pulijal says the label's campaign emphasizes the group's live show ("It's their best asset") and the "Americana/Petty/Springsteen vibe" emerging in Layus' songwriting. In February the band performed at triple A radio confab Sunset Sessions, and on March 10 it played New York's Rockwood Music Hall for an audience of fans and gatekeepers; Augustana kicks off a month-long North American tour with the Maine on May 12 in Dallas.
Pulijal and Egan also point to licensing as an important revenue stream for Augustana. "We got music out to everyone before the Christmas break so they could really sit with the record and understand it," Pulijal says, noting that the CW's "One Tree Hill" is scheduled to feature two songs from the album (which was helmed by Kings of Leon producer Jacquire King) the week before release. "Dan's voice just fits when it's put to a picture," Egan says, adding that Augustana might be his most-licensed client. "We're often the [place-holder] band that ends up staying," he says with a laugh. "We'll take it."