As a culture, we’re going through a bit of an awkward phase; from Miley Cyrus‘ tongue (and general state of being) to Lena Dunham‘s sex scenes that never go according to plan, the pop cultural jackpot in 2013 is the balance between awkward and audacious. With their campy pop sound, bizarre dance routines, and ties to Miu Miu and Dior to boot, this is something Avan Lava seem to have mastered.
Self-described as “New York City’s freshest Super-Pop act to come out since Madonna”, the energy of this collective project is impossible to deny. It centres on the figures of Le Chev (producer), Ian Pai (multi-instrumentalist), and TC Hennes (lead vocalist and frontman-extraordinaire.) Andrew Schneider, Drew Citron and Jo Lampert were later introduced into this orbit but it is really Hennes’ power-pop vocals, pulsating energy and endless grind that carry the set. When the lights come down, confetti canons and glowing mic stands announce the band in all their kitsch glory and it is not long before their distinctively New York-sound hits the crowd with heavy synths, disco beats and killer hooks. In no time they are launching into ensemble dance routines that, although strangely gauche, have enough surrealism to get the audience going and cut through any Brooklyn–hipster pretension the band could be falsely accused of.
There is a clear 80s influence and Hennes, a peroxide-blonde with a musical theatre background, takes on a persona that fuses Madonna circa ‘Holiday’ with the glam rock that New York made famous. He struts across the stage, engaging the audience from the off and supporting himself with soaring vocals that carry the band’s anthemic tracks; ‘It’s Never Over’ is relentlessly catchy with a chorus that has the entire audience singing along word-for-word upon first listen. ‘Tear It Down’ launches in a similar vein, bordering on teen-bopper but with enough Scissor Sisters-camp to make it feel modern. ‘So F*kt Up’ blends yearning, intimate vocals over a trap-happy beat; capturing the urban shoe-gazer sound of artists like Frank Ocean and Drake. On this track, as on ‘Sisters’, Hennes voice is allowed full exposure and the vulnerability is impressive, producing a sound that feels a lot more current than the consciously “super-pop” sound of other, bigger tracks.
The truth is that in the digital age, musicians and bands must be performers above all else and Avan Lava understand this. They combine genuine musical talent with a showmanship that is somehow both highly-stylised and endearingly chaotic. If they conquer the 80s nostalgia that sometimes gets overly referential, they really do have something. Bottom line: it’s been two days and ‘It’s Never Over’ is still stuck in my head.
LOOKING FOR MORE? READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH AVAN LAVA HERE