BYT Interviews: AVAN LAVA
Megan Burns | Jul 31, 2013 | 9:00AM |

A while back, I talked to Ian Pai of AVAN LAVA about the band’s then-upcoming live show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. But guess what? The band is set to play anew tomorrow night at Bowery Ballroom w/ Body Language and Computer Magic, and so we thought it was an ideal time to re-familiarize! During our chat, Ian and I talked about whether or not he thinks we’re in for a sneak-attack apocalypse post-December 2012, about the creative process behind the buzz-worthy video for “Sisters,” and about the full-length which is due out later this year. I am beyond excited for the performance (as you should be, too, and which you will better understand momentarily), and I highly suggest you snag tickets before they’re all gone. In the meantime, sit back, relax, and learn about all things AVAN LAVA:

So what’ve you guys been up to? You’ve been recording (or maybe have already completed recording) a full-length, right?

Yeah, we’ve been working on it. I’d say we’re probably about halfway through it at this point, so we’ve been doing that and preparing for our big show at Music Hall on March 2nd. We’ve been so busy; I don’t know what’s been going on, but it’s like the last few months we’ve not had a free second, ever. Which is great!

Yeah, I guess that’s how you want it, but at the same time, that can be a lot!

Yeah! (Laughs) It’s hard to get stuff done. It’s really hard when we’re in the city to finish anything; it’s almost better if we leave to get stuff done.

Totally, that makes sense. And so you do stuff occasionally with fashion photographers and brands…have you done anything super recently on that end? I feel like I was just in a cab watching that Juicy Couture ad on loop!

Yeah, we did a remix for them of Blondie’s “Rapture,” and that was super fun because it’s such an iconic song. But they had to approve of our remix in order for it to get shown, and we spent all this time trying to make the remix faithful to the song but different enough and modernized, so it was kind of nerve-racking; we didn’t know what they were going to say or if they were going to like it, and we didn’t hear from them for a few days, so I was like, “Oh my god, we’re going to have to redo this whole thing.” But luckily they were into it. It was really fun.

So how does that normally work? Do they just give you a brief or a pitch and then you sort of work it out according to that?

Yeah, it depends on the job, but in this particular case we’ve done enough work with them that usually stuff like remixes will come our way. And so they talked to Blondie because they really wanted to use that song, but they wanted it to be more modernized; fortunately Blondie was up for it!

Amazing! Now, in terms of the full-length, then, what can we expect?

It’s definitely a continuation of a thought for us, I think; we have a bunch of songs that we feel are really specific towards the live show, like big dance club bangers that are designed to make you get up and dance, but then we have a couple curve balls, I think. They’re all songs, you know, but I guess these are a little bit different for us; we’re definitely taking some chances and trying to stretch it out as writers.

I think part of the fun of the group for all of us is that it’s constantly evolving, and we’re always finding ways to challenge ourselves. You know, we each came to the band with our own styles, but to learn how to write together takes time, because we’re trying to figure out what the identity of the band is. I mean, it’s kind of funny because we have a bunch of songs that we all loved maybe about a year ago / year and a half ago, and we thought we should have just released the full-length then, but we were kind of holding onto it. And now the identity of the band has changed so much that the songs don’t make any sense for us, so I don’t know what we’re going to do with them! (Laughs) We might give them to somebody else, see if somebody else wants to do something with them, but that’s the way it goes.

Right, that makes sense.

We do have a tendency to gravitate towards where the energy is and where things are exciting for us; we feel that that kind of enthusiasm always translates to the music, so if it’s a little bit of a stretch for us, it’s usually a good thing, because it means we’re really excited about it. I think part of the fun right now is that we’re growing exponentially, and I do feel like it comes across in the music, if that makes any sense. (Laughs)

Well, so when you’re writing things, do you usually keep in mind what’s going to be practical to do in a live setting? Or do you tend to have to tweak things later to make them workable?

We started doing that right after we finished Flex Fantasy, because when we made that we weren’t really thinking of a live album at all, we were just trying to make songs that we liked. But then when we tried to do them live we realized that there were severe limitations as to how you can execute certain things, because you can’t really show up and have four kick drums and five snare drums for every song, and each of them has to be different. So we started writing grooves that are simpler; I don’t think a non-musician would listen to it and be able to tell the difference, but we definitely simplified the instrumentation to be more performable. That’s been in practice for a while, though, and we always think about the show now; that’s definitely a big part of how we write.

Right. Okay, so now I’m going to ask you a few questions based on your song titles, starting with “It’s Never Over.” Obviously the world did not end in December; do you think we’re in the clear, or are we in for a sneak-attack apocalypse in the future?

I actually think an apocalypse has occurred, we just don’t know it yet. (Laughs)

Amazing, it’s like Lost.

I actually do, though! (Laughs) I think there was a major shift (personally…I don’t know how the rest of the band feels) in December; a lot of friends are going through major transitions in their lives, and I felt like I went through a major transition as well, so I don’t know whether the Mayans were right or what they thought was going to end, but I do feel like there was some sort of shift there. I don’t know if it was an apocalypse, but there was definitely the death of something and the birth of something, and I think we’re not going to know for a couple of years what exactly that something was.

Totally. Okay, so the next one is for “Easy Way”; can you think of anything off the top of your head (musically or otherwise) that you’ve had to learn the hard way, and that you wish someone had just tapped you on the shoulder to say, “You’re doing that all wrong! THIS is the easy way to go about it.”

There’s a lot of stuff! I feel like I’ve learned everything the hard way. You know, like when I was a little kid, I remember my parents bought this house and were renovating it (I think I was maybe eight or nine at the time) and of course I put my finger in an electrical socket, and I got a major electrical shock. That was alarming and insane, and I think I did it again maybe two days later, not really putting two and two together. I think that’s the way I’ve learned a lot of things in life; there’s a big glaring sign saying, “Don’t put your finger in there, because this is what’s going to happen!” and I have to do it a bunch of times to learn something. So I think it sort of applies to everything for me. (Laughs)

Oh man! Well, at least you eventually learn! Now, the last one is for “Sisters”; if you could choose anyone in the world (dead or alive) to be your real life sister, who would it be? (SO MANY OPTIONS!)

Yeah, so many options! I mean, it could even be a dude! I don’t want to say something boring like Tina Fey just because she’s funny and brilliant…why is this so hard?! (Laughs) Maybe that girl Annie Clark from St. Vincent. We were doing a festival together when I was playing with Frankie Rose this summer, and MAN that band is awesome. She gets crazy on stage, and it’s funny because you see her and she looks almost like an Audrey Hepburn kind of classic beauty, but then she gets on stage and completely loses it, completely owns the crowd and stage dives and moshes around. It’s wild! I would like her to be my sister. (Laughs)

http://vimeo.com/54545072

That’s a good one! Okay, while we’re on the topic of “Sisters,” the video for that one generated a lot of buzz, and rightfully so since it’s so well done. Who came up with the concept for that video?

The concept was from our friends Weston Auburn and Dan Gutt; Wes produced the video and Dan directed it. We’ve been friends with them for a while, but Wes approached us months ago and said, “I want to give you guys a treatment for the video.” It was funny, too, because we’d been pitched different things by various people, and a lot of them were friends since it was early and no one really knew us. So it was kind of getting a little painful, because friends were pitching us with good ideas, but they didn’t really get what the song was about (they didn’t really understand it) and it’s hard to say no to friends, especially if they’re offering stuff for free; you know, they’re your friends and it’s an awkward situation. But then those guys came in, and they just nailed it; I could see the whole video in my head as they were talking about it, and they really nailed the story of the song.

The amazing thing was that when the video was finished, it really looked exactly how we all thought it was going to look. I was prepared to be let down, because you know, sometimes when you have a vision of something it’s grander or better than it could ever be in reality, but these guys definitely delivered the video that they pitched and went beyond. That video was such an amazing project for us from beginning to end, just from writing the song to having those guys come in and do that video. And it’s also amazing because that song wasn’t really even on the radar; it was a favorite of all our super arty friends, but it just wasn’t a big song off of Flex. That video really changed the way people saw and heard the song, so now when we play it live, people get amped up; they’re all singing along and waiting for it. It’s really an amazing thing how something like that can change the meaning of a song for people.

That’s really cool that the visuals amplified it so much, though! So what else is in the works during 2013? What do you hope will happen?

Well, I hope we get a kickass manager soon, because we are so swamped! (Laughs) I mean, our team has been expanding, and there’s a company called Wythe that’s been helping us redo our website and logo; they’ve been doing tons of stuff for us, and we’ve also picked up a few other people that just kind of get us and get the project, but even with all these people helping…I don’t know how bands do it. You have to be so skilled at everything to be in a band now. Who just plays their instrument anymore? I don’t know where those bands are or if they exist or even if they can exist; you have to be a master of social media, of programming, of producing, of mixing, of graphic design, of video making…you have to be able to do everything just to be a regular band.

Right, exactly.

So yeah, we’re swamped, and it’d be nice to get a manager sometime soon. But we have big things in store! We have a bunch of songs that we feel really, really good about, and I think we’re going to start dropping them early; we’re probably going to drop a single in the next month and have a video following that pretty quickly, and I think we’re just going to start doing it that way. (Then once we get to maybe the seventh or eighth single we’ll put out the full-length.) But we’re super excited; I think these are some of the best songs we’ve done so far.

Then the show on March 2nd, we’ve got three new songs, and we’ve got crazy production happening with this show; my friend Marc Janowitz (who’s done lights and production for Passion Pit and for fun.) is basically donating his services for his show, and this company called The Guild that does all these crazy installations and set designs for a lot of fashion shows in New York wants to work with us, too. So this show is going to be CRAZY!

Yeah, that sounds incredible!

The only thing that scares me about is I don’t know how we’re going to top it…I’m like, “We can’t do this every time, can we? I don’t know, maybe we can…” It’s going to be sick; we’re trying to figure out how to work everything in. We’ve been talking about pyro, we’ve been talking about liquid nitrogen, we’ve been talking about things flying in the air…I mean, it’s our first time headlining Music Hall, and it’s our favorite venue in New York, so we have to bring it. We plan on raising the bar much higher than where we’ve set it for the last year, which I think is already pretty high for a band at the level we are; I don’t think there’s a lot of bands putting as much into their live shows as we do, and I think that this show is going to crush all the stuff that we’ve done before. So tell everybody!

I don’t think I even need to tell you after that absurdly amazing description. Definitely go to the show. No excuses. In the meantime, follow the band on Twitter and Facebook, and grab Flex Fantasy here.