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I Am The Avalanche: The long road to Wolverines

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If you’re going by stereotypes, going to get a new guitar for your 60-something father is about as un-punk rock as you can get.

Or maybe it’s as punk rock as it gets. Either way, Vinnie Caruana isn’t about to stop doing things his way, and on this particular winter day, the frontman for I Am The Avalanche was mixing a little music business with family business as he and his dad did a little guitar hunting.

“My dad was in a band when he was a kid,” recalled Caruana. “He was an art teacher on Long Island for years, but he’s retired now it was time for him to get a new guitar. It was a good experience to bring him into the world.”

In a lot of ways it was a way for Caruana to let his father know that ‘hey dad, I made it; everything’s okay,’ something that wasn’t always a foregone conclusion for the Long Islander.

“My parents have always been very supportive,” he said, “but I’m sure they’ve been worried here and there.”

Like when the 19-year-old Caruana, who was getting into trouble like most teenagers do, let his father know that he and his band at the time, The Movielife, were going to go all in on their budding music career and tour.

“He took it pretty well. As an artist, he understood that we need to do what we need to do and we’re only happy doing art and music.”

The 34-year-old has been at it ever since, whether solo or with a band, and as I Am The Avalanche’s third full-length album, Wolverines, garners critical and popular acclaim, it’s safe to say that Caruana is in a good place these days. That’s not to say the road to get here was easy. But hey, at least this time around he won’t get asked about the six year delay between the band’s first and second albums.

“We won’t have anything to talk about,” he laughs. “That’s a question I hopefully won’t ever have to answer or be asked again.”

These days, the questions will focus on the making of Wolverines, a stellar 10-track punch in the face that hits on all levels. Whether you’re looking for hooks, energy, heaviness, or lyrics that mean something, it’s here. But it took plenty of setbacks and heartache to get to this point.

First up, a herniated disc in his back put Caruana on the shelf in October of 2012. Three days later, Hurricane Sandy hit.

“It was bad down here,” said Caruana, who lives in Long Beach. “The bay and the ocean met, and everybody’s stuff was destroyed. I live on the second floor of a building, so my stuff was fine, but I had to move out for a month until heat, electricity, and clean drinking water were back, and that’s when I started writing this record.”

In pain and in the midst of a town devastated by the storm, the frontman looked out his window and began putting his thoughts together.

“Everything down here was really destroyed,” he said. “The boardwalk was washed into the streets and sitting on people’s lawns. Everybody’s houses were flooded and cars were completely wrecked. I sat down and started to write the new record, looking out the window at the town trying to assess the damage. It was a weird thing to balance and a weird thing to go through at that time. It (the record) is a hundred percent due to that situation and the whole environment.”

Yet doom and gloom isn’t the name of the game on Wolverines. Yes, there are plenty of hard truths on the record, but there is also just as much optimism, something Caruana takes pride in.

“The uplifting songs on the record are ones where you triumph over adversity, or over pain or over loss, and those are hopeful songs,” he said. “I don’t want to always be negative (Laughs), but it’s easier to write negative than positive, and that’s probably across the board in music. But I like to find the bright side of it, and I like our records to be balanced.”

Even if he has to dig deep into his own life experiences to get there.

“When I started as a musician, that’s the way I started writing lyrics,” he said. “I’ve added some depth to that and tried to not make everything exactly about my life, but it’s what I know and how I know how to do these things. This has always been my approach, so there’s always going to be a level of personal stuff going on on the record. The fans expect that too, and it’s not something I feel pressured to deliver; it’s just something that comes naturally. I think it comes from growing up on Long Island and being a part of the scene there and in New York City. The heart on your sleeve thing was very status quo for bands on Long Island, and I started that way.”

But he’s far from finished, and with his back in working shape again, Wolverines showing I Am The Avalanche in prime form, and the reception to the record the strongest yet, these are good days for Vinnie Caruana. But it has to be asked…how does his dad like the band’s music?

“I think he likes some of my songs, and he’s skipped some of them,” Caruana laughs. “But men in their late-60s are not my target audience, so I don’t get offended if he has to skip a song.”

I Am The Avalanche play the Marlin Room at Webster Hall on Friday, March 28. For tickets, click here

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