Avan Lava frontman TC Hennes is scaling a volcano in Kona, Hawaii when I call him up to chat. Considering the band’s name was inspired by a volcanic dream, the setting could actually not be more appropriate.
Spawned in Brooklyn in 2009, Avan Lava has set the music scene ablaze ever since. From infectious, pristine dance-pop beats to outrageously entertaining live performances, Avan Lava leave an unshakeable impression (and no I’m not referring to finding confetti in your hair/purse the morning after a show).
With their first full-length album approaching debut, notable fashion partnerships, and an unstoppable drive to ‘tear it up’, Avan Lava is ready to bring it even harder heading into 2015.
TC and I discussed the island, the music, inspirations, aspirations and more. Take note, Robyn. Avan Lava think it’s time you had a talk.
TC: I’m looking over some ancient lava ruins right now while we’re talking. You can see the plumes of smoke rising, it’s pretty gnarly.
SD: I guess it’s appropriate because I read “Avan Lava” came from a dream you had about a man named Avan falling into, and then rising from, a volcano.
TC: I can’t take credit for the dream, Le Chev (keyboard) had the dream, but I have been taking pictures of anything lava related and tagging it with our names. So that’s fun.
SD: Are you getting inspired?
TC: I’m definitely listening to a lot of radio out here. It is funny how if you stay in a place long enough, the sound of that place starts to sink in. I’m addicted to the whole island, reggae, ukulele thing, so now I’m like, we should make a softer more introspective record.
SD: You just finished the new album right?
TC: It’s done. We’re definitely still writing new songs but it’s pretty much ready aside from some last minute things and the business of it and how we want to put it out–do we want to team up with somebody or have it be a self-release situation. Our hope is that it comes out by December, the latest would be early 2015, but in between we’re dropping a couple more singles and we’re shooting a video next month, so there’s new stuff coming out.
SD: Do you have a title yet?
TC: We don’t yet, it might just be Avan Lava. It’s the first full-length so we might just keep it simple. We still have a little bit of time to figure it out, but that seems appropriate.
SD: Speaking of new material, you just released the single “Bermuda” with Soundmen. How’d that come about?
TC: We did a song called “End of Time” like a year and a half ago with Soundmen and we were talking recently about collaborating again. I had some free time so they sent over the track and it was such a good beat, it was easy to write the song.
This island has so many different climates…It’s humbling. When you’re in NYC or a big city for so long, you forget about nature.
SD: This doesn’t really apply to you at the moment, but now that winter is coming, which tropical island will you be daydreaming about when the temperature drops?
TC: It might be Kona, yeah. It might be the Big Island in Hawaii.
SD: What are some highlight from the trip so far?
TC: I went snorkeling in Two Step Bay and the coral reefs are unbelievable. I’ve never seen pictures of coral that look this beautiful and vibrant. We were diving down 20 feet just going for it and snorkeling way out, further out than I’m usually comfortable without a boat.
Also this island has so many different climates, one minute you’re in the desert and it feels like the driest part of Ibiza and the next moment you’re in Dominica or something where it’s mountainous, and then you feel like you’re in the Amazon because there’s a rainforest. It’s pretty nuts to see this much different terrain on one isolated island. It’s humbling. When you’re in NYC or a big city for so long, you forget about nature.
SD: After Kona you head to Austin to perform at Stargayzer Fest, what are you most looking forward to?
TC: I’ve either been following or started following a lot of the artists. I’m most excited for the green room and hanging back there with all these people that I’m obsessed with. A similar thing happened at SXSW with the GayBiGayGay festival. I remember we were backstage with Light Asylum and Christeene whose now become a good friend. They’ll be there. I’m excited to meet Kingdom because he’s fucking awesome. Austra I’ve been a big fan forever, JD Samson is a friend, so it’s going to be a fun family affair but then you get to perform in front of a bunch of awesome cool-ass-funky queer people and those are the best shows. I mean, gay pride is my favorite time of year. Bunch of love.
SD: Avan Lava’s live show consists of confetti canyons, inflatables, neon lights and more. What are your top three must-have stage props?
TC: Definitely confetti canyons because that gets the party going. That’s the initial invitation to get people riled up. Also we have this big V Symbol that we use now. We had it made for us, it was a gift from this set company called The Guild and that’s become our must have. Then I guess my white Dr. Martens, which is more of a costume thing but they’re kind of a good luck charm now, I always have to have them on. I’ve even bought more pairs because they get ruined, but I feel so good in those.
SD: What’s the most memorable/unusual fan moment to date?
TC: We put on a show for the Seoul Institute of the Arts, which is basically Seoul’s Juilliard equivalent, and those kids became so obsessed with the band and the music and the whole thing. We were living in these apartments on campus for a month and these kids would follow us in the cafeteria or see us in the city and buy us drinks. It was strange because most of them don’t speak English so I wouldn’t know what they were saying but then they would offer things or start singing our songs, so that was one of the cooler fan moments.
SD: How did that trip materialize?
TC: Ian’s (drums) dad is a famous sculptor and he has a bunch of sculptures in Seoul, all over Korea, and other parts of Asia, so he has a connection there. Ian worked with the school before and started talking with them about the band coming and putting together a huge spectacular. While doing that we were teaching kids how to put on a live band performance. They study a lot of traditional Korean arts, orchestra, wooden instruments. It’s very stuck in the past in a really awesome, respectful way, but this was a way to take those instruments and fuse them with contemporary music. It was cool to see the contrast and give them the freedom to break the rules. There was also a contemporary dance choreographer who’s worked with Aaliyah and a bunch of awesome people. She’s based in Korea and she came in and helped work on the whole image of the show and choreographed some K-pop dance numbers. So it was our stuff with all of their traditions and we created a hyper thing together.
I can get down to Sade any day, you know? I love Sade.
SD: Let’s talk about your closet: how many pairs of leggings do you/the band own?
TC: We have a lot of leggings. Yeah. Collectively we probably own 20 pairs of leggings. We just bought some more in London.
SD: The band’s collaborated with a number of fashion brands (Hugo Boss, Miu Miu, Nina Ricci, Juicy), have you scored any sweet perks as a result?
TC: You know, we’ve never been given things that we can keep, except there’s a designer in Bali whose made clothes for us for a while but that was because she was a fan and she wanted us to wear her stuff. We’ve had up and coming designers send us stuff. We just did a campaign for Calvin Klein but we didn’t get any beautiful suits. We’re not really dealing with the people who run the showrooms, more like the music supervisors, but I feel like that is something we should push for. Clothing is a good currency. Maybe it’s time to make a couple calls.
SD: Prince may or may not have inspired your parents to get down. What music puts you in the mood?
TC: I can definitely get down to Sade any day, you know? I love Sade.
SD: What’s your biggest aspiration for 2015?
TC: I want to tour with Robyn. I have other aspirations too but that one seems the most fun. My biggest aspiration is for us to be touring nonstop at some of the best festivals, supporting artists we respect like Robyn, and also having the chance to headline our own dates too.
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