There is one guiding belief for the members of AVAN LAVA: Be present. Burnished by years spent on stages around the world and refined on sweat-slicked dancefloors, AVAN LAVA is a movement without the self-aggrandizing rhetoric, a distillation of what is important, a celebration of everything that has ever happened to you, and everything that ever will. That this presence is set to AVAN LAVA's rave-up-wrapped pop only enforces the connection between the mind's machinations and the body's revolutions. "Being engaged, always being present ? it's about maintaining a certain kind of energy. It's all inclusive ? there's room for everybody," describes multi-instrumentalist Ian Pai of the intraband state AVAN LAVA constantly aspires to. In many ways, AVAN LAVA is bigger than their parts and their sum ? central to the band is the communing with their fans. "Our whole thing is the audience. It doesn't happen without them."
It was this realization that first drew the core members of AVAN LAVA ? Pai, producer-musician Le Chev and lead singer TC Hennes ? into each other's paths. The three had spent years orbiting each other in the New York music scene, with Le Chev even auditioning for Pai, who was with performative electroclashers Fischerspooner at the time. ("It's still the only audition I've ever done," says Le Chev.) When he eventually joined that outfit, Pai and he discovered their shared adoration of Daft Punk was only the beginning, and the two began collaborating on an undetermined project. While Pai and Le Chev found the music came easily, Pai was haunted by the voice he imagined singing over their tracks. "It's a certain kind of tone that cuts through everything, because of where it sits in the frequency range," Pai says of what he kept envisioning. Around that time, Pai saw Hennes perform in The Last Goodbye, a musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set to the music of Jeff Buckley. "As soon as I heard him sing, I knew that was it," recalls Pai.
Within days, Hennes came in to sing on a few tracks, and the final piece of AVAN LAVA snapped into cosmic alignment. With Pai amidst the tidal pace of touring, departing and returning for stretches of time, Le Chev and Hennes put together Vapors, AVAN LAVA's first EP. On the strength of that offering, the group began lighting up audiences and garnering critical attention (prompting The Village Voice to call the band "lush, sparkling"). With 2012's Flex Fantasy EP, the band built on their unique alchemy of soulful vocals laced through dime-stop beats, launching them on a trajectory that hasn't stopped. The band embarked on a year-long string of sold-out shows in New York and a US-wide tour with Little Boots, all while managing to spread the AVAN LAVA gospel globally, as when the Seoul Institute of the Arts commissioned the band to put up a full-scale staging of their live show with 100 students. Their reputation as a transportive, over-the top live act grew, with Noisey raving in a show review "You need these guys in your life!"
The Flex Fantasy whirlwind saw the release of 3 videos, including the acclaimed video for "Sisters", shot on location in San Juan. The band also collaborated with world-renowned photographers Inez & Vinoodh, composing music for several of the duo's fashion campaign films.
The notion of a full-length took shape over the course of 2013, as the trio amassed more and more tracks, and expanded upon their soundscapes. Lead single "So Fucked Up" stutters to a start over an off-kilter synth line, which only serves to underscore the vocals, which Hennes manages to deliver sounding both vulnerable and swaggering. "It's a big R&B beat, which makes it a weird beat for us," says Le Chev of the song. "I got my heart broken, and wrote some lyrics. I needed [Le Chev and Pai] to be like, 'That's a little too far,'" says Hennes, highlighting two of the components central to AVAN LAVA's relationship: a sibling-like closeness, and the trust that relationship engenders. Elsewhere, the band charts more indie-pop territory, as on "Freight Train," a driving track wherein everything ? with the exception of Hennes' steadfast vocal ? seems to tremble. "With 'Freight Train' we all have slightly different narratives of that song," says Le Chev, citing the Rorschach effect of three different perspectives creating one piece of music.
At the core of AVAN LAVA is the trust between its members. "Part of the group is about really believing in people," Le Chev says. "Part of modern society is that because there are so many people, people are replaceable. Or the idea that you have your laptop, so you don't need anyone else. For me, this is about believing in people, and trusting them." This internal practice of trust and belief extends beyond AVAN LAVA, into everyone who sees them, into every corner of every room they play. "We want it to radiate," says Pai. "To inspire people. It's not the kind of thing where we know something, and we want you to know what we know. It's that we are learning from you, so if you start learning from us, the flow happens." Pai smiles broadly. "Then we have crazy shows, and people go nuts."
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