New York City’s multi-faceted dance-pop act AVAN LAVA have been making waves recently with their seriously energetic live shows. Beginning as a side-project for Fischerspooner bandmates Le Chev and Ian Pai, the discovery of vocalist Tom Hennes (a.k.a. TC) lead to their laid back debut EP, Vapors, back in 2010, which rode the currents of the then-ubiquitous chillwave sound. But it was really with their follow-up, 2012’s Flex Fantasy, that the group settled into their current party-starting, Prince-inspired sound. The band will be opening for The Drums at Webster Hall tonight 10, but in the meantime. we caught up with TC to discuss AVAN LAVA’s origins, the fashion world and their upcoming album.
Where does the name AVAN LAVA come from?
Le Chev and Ian were in Turkey, on tour with Fischerspooner, and they ate so much baklava it just became ingrained in their minds, so when it came time to create a name, baklava just kept coming up. So ‘lava’ stayed and then ‘avan’ is the protagonist in most of Le Chev’s dreams (mostly nightmares).
When did you form the band and how did it all come together?
Originally in 2009. Le Chev and Ian were on tour with Fischerspooner, and they were on a late-night bus ride in Brazil, and they decided on that bus ride that they wanted to collaborate musically together. They weren’t sure exactly how it was going to come about, but then Ian came to see a show I was doing in New York, he contacted me and we went into the studio and did some demos. We were all just getting to know each other. Shortly after that Ian went off with the Blue Man Group, because they were doing a crazy stadium tour, so me and Le Chev put together a bunch of the songs that became the first EP.
Tell me about your influences. Who or what inspires AVAN LAVA?
Disco, any type of dance music, punk music, big house, and classic pop. For me my biggest influences are Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Prince, Madonna, Freddie Mercury, and David Bowie.
How did you arrive at the dance-y sound you have today? Your first EP, Vapors, had more of a laid-back, chillwave sound.
When Le Chev and I were making the record, we were making it basically in two different basements, one being at his home, the other one being an old, vacant, decrepit church, which we were pretty sure was haunted. So it was dreary, it was dark, and we were making this very moody album. Then we were fucking around with this one song, called “The Easy Way,” which closes the album. We made that in a few hours and it was so much fun. And then when we started performing the show live, “The Easy Way” just started popping off and people were going crazy and losing their shit, and it just became clear that musically we needed to make music that would have that effect on people. We wanted people to dance.
You are pretty renowned for your live show. What should people expect who haven’t seen you before?
They should expect explosions, emotional roller-coasters, make-out sessions, and probably the best dance party that they’ve ever been to.
Are you inspired by much of what is going on around you in Brooklyn, either in the party scene or other bands?
Yeah, the artists we’re connected with like Ssion. Le Chev and Ian produced Ssion’s latest album. And others like House of LaDosha, they have a really unique rap thing going on. Basically I feel like, in terms of Brooklyn nightlife, huge parties are happening, in lofts and dive bars. And even though we’re playing bigger venues lately, I think mostly what we bring to those big rooms is just realness, grit and a lot of sweat, the stuff you’ll get at a raging house party.
You’ve worked as producers and remixers, how has that been for you compared with the process of working on your own material?
I think one influences the other. Le Chev has a very unique sound. I think he brings a specific sound, production-wise, into other records he’s working on like Lemonade, Ssion or Frankie Rose. So I think that we’re kind of building this big family here in New York, because of all these projects. Basically whatever we’re working on influences the next thing we’re working on, so the remixes and other records influence our original stuff, for sure.
What about your involvement in the fashion world? You’ve been commissioned to make music for photographers and for runway shows. How all did that come about?
The fashion thing kicked off for us with Inez & Vinoodh, and Ian was connected to them through his sister. They discovered our album, they became obsessed with “Slow Motion,” and they wanted to use it for this Vogue Paris Series. That never happened but they started to commission us to compose original scores for their short films and ads. They’re the sweetest people to work with.
Do you feel a particular affinity with the fashion world?
Totally. We love fashion. We can’t get enough. Lately we’ve been receiving custom designs from Lily Jean in Bali. We love them. The fashion scene in NYC brings so many different types of artists together, we’re excited to continue.
You’re recording an album at the moment, can you tell me about that?
We’re pretty deep into a full-length right now. We’ve been talking about how we want it to be released, because the last two have been self-released, which is nice and has its advantages, but I think we’re a little more interested in distributing it on a larger scale. But yeah, we’re writing it and it’s turning into something really big. Songs that can really fill larger venues. Our goal is to keep on moving forward and I think we’re making music anticipating what’s happening next for us in terms of live production.
Where do you see the band in five years time?
We joke about wanting to be the band that welcomes you to the moon. We’re still waiting to hear back from Richard Branson. So either we’d play on the moon and have a venue built for us, like Celine Dion at Caesars Palace, or maybe we’re on the space shuttle and we’re forever playing the space cruise. I feel like that’s the ultimate goal for the band. SPACE JAMZ!!!
Photography by Myles Pettengill.