Avan Lava interview 09/02/15

El Paso Music Scene

EPMS: You talk differently about music than anybody else I've ever heard, both you and the band. Explain a couple of quotes to me:

From your bio, it says:

...natural bridge between late-night club culture and kaleidoscopic pop theatricality.

TC Milan: LOL. I think it's saying that, when you come to our show, it kind of feels like 90s underground, like New York dance scene or something... but it's also, production-wise, kind of like a grand pop... Our goal is to put on crazy high-production values, pop show at the same time... But, I actually didn't write that killer description.

EPMS: Le Chev said, "We were very much musicians when we started out, but to see and realize the effects of how most things are so transcendent and cross so many borders and affect everyone as far as aesthetic choices, the kind of colors, glamor and non-glamour that you can bring to life..."

I know you didn't say that, but the way you guys talk about music is so different...

TC Milan: Right. We initially set out to do the band totally for the music, and then I think we've realized that we started attracting fashion people, we started attracting theatrical people, and we started to realize that the identities of Avan Lava was more than just being, you know, musicians... It was more like, creating kind of a lifestyle, creating a whole thing like, glamour, but also the grit...

I think that's what he's talking about, creating an experience for people that was aesthetic, that was glamorous, that was also underground New York...

EPMS: Five years ago, did you expect you'd be doing this, working with fashion people, putting together music for runway shows...

TC Milan: Umm, no... We've done a little bit of commercial work, but usually commercial work is like, it's not glamorous. Commercial work is like, there's a bunch of people writing a song for corporate... like a company, and it's like, "May the best man win," you know? It's kind of like a crapshoot...

EPMS: Like a cattle call?

TC Milan: Yeah. You're kind of like auditioning every night, but the fashion people we work with mostly, it's more like, an artistic relationship...

It's like, they definitely always want to use something similar from our current catalog, when they ask us to make something for them...

It makes us feel great, like everybody wants it... I don't think we thought that we would get consistent work doing high fashion campaigns, but it's amazing, because it really does helps us financially, to make videos and tour, because we don't have a major label, so it's kind of all fallen into our hands to get shit done.

EPMS: Your first CD had a "laid-back chillwave sound." Now, it's more dance music. What happened to change things, from the way you started?

TC Milan: We're kind of directly influenced by the environment that we're recording and writing in, so the first EP was really in a basement / bedroom, also the basement of a church, like an old haunted church. It was winter, so the stuff we were making was a little bit more laid back, a little bit more chill - and dramatic - at the same time.

And then, the last song we made was in the spring, and we got into a really nice studio... we had some studio time and we just kind of banged out "The Easy Way," which is the last song on that EP. It was super-fun, and we were just kind of like, going for it... We didn't even know what we were doing.

It was so weird that we could put it on the EP, and of course, that was the song people responded to, you know? And then we were like, well, we like making this stuff, too. We kind of decided like maybe we should just explore more dance-pop.

EPMS: What were you personally doing the last few years, before you got into Avan Lava?

TC Milan: I was doing theater... I'm like an equity... I'm a union actor. I was doing professional theater. Not crazy stuff, but I was auditioning for broadway and all that stuff, and then the band happened, and took over all my time, and I'm happy for it.

EPMS: What kind of singing were you doing?

TC Milan: Well, I would still write songs by myself, a little bit. I would sing on other friends' stuff. The musicals I was doing... I was doing like... broadway musical, I was doing like, rock and roll kind of musical... kind of like r&b, contemporary stuff...

I feel like the band was perfect (for me). I'm not an excellent musician when it comes to instruments. Having people that are good at that gave me something to work with, you know?

I usually write songs, so it was totally a surprise, and kind of awesome... really awesome.

EPMS: How long was Ian in the Blue Man Group?

TC Milan: Well, he created it with his friends... And then, he was in it for, I don't know... six or seven years.

He traveled the world with it, he lived in Las Vegas for a while. He was in the New York show first.

EPMS: On your web site refers to the three of you, then it says "With live performers Andrew Schneider, Jo Lampert, Molly Hager..." Are they semi-members?

TC Milan: Yeah. They don't write any of the material... They basically learned some live version of the show and then, depending on the budget or the fee that we're making, we'll either bring one, two or three of them. They're really there for the live show. It's always more fun, we think, when there's more people on the stage, you know?

EPMS: Are they dancers?

TC Milan: Well, yeah. Molly and Jo are singer/dancers, and then Andrew plays like piano parts, and also does sampler pad stuff, so he triggers different samples and lights, and stuff like that.

EPMS: Are they touring with you now?

TC Milan: Molly is going to be playing with us. Just Molly. There's four of us on this tour.

EPMS: Is it hard to bring your show on the road?

TC Milan: It's hard to bring the special effects stuff. We have a huge thing that's LED-programmed, that you can't really take on the road, because you'd need a huge box truck.

We still bring confetti cannons, we bring like a light show, and we still have a lot of the special stuff. But, we can't really bring... like, I'll float on a raft in some of the big shows. It's kind of too big to bring on tour, things you blow up every day.

We have a couple things that we don't bring. We still bring the essential things that make it fun.

EPMS: You took a three-week retreat in Paris and Ibiza, right?

TC Milan: Yeah, we just got back last month.

We like to go away, we like to take retreats to write new material. Usually, we just to Vermont or somewhere in New York state or something.

We had a little cash, and we decided to spend the money that we had, to take a trip up there. staying in villas... We wrote most of the material we're finishing up now, over there in Europe.

EPMS: It's interesting to me, all the places y'all have been. Fischerspooner went to Turkey and Brazil...

Y'all have been to Bali and Singapore...

TC Milan: mm-hmm...

EPMS: That's wild. Y'all have been together since 2009, right? About six years?

TC Milan: Actually since 2010. But yeah, it's funny; this band hasn't had a traditional trajectory, as most bands have. The steps that we've taken to get where we are seem to be very specific to us. We haven't played a US tour. We were playing in Singapore and Asia, and places like Paris, but we've never played... San Francisco.

It's kind of strange... We're kind of hitting those markets now. We think it's important... We want to do well in the states. In order to do well in the states, you have to tour, unless you have like five million dollars behind you...

But yeah, we've had some really cool experiences, and always surprising, honestly, it's always felt fresh for us. We're actually just now finishing our first full-length album this month.

EPMS: How did it come about that you have played so much in these faraway locations? Did somebody just say to you, hey, why don't you go to Singapore?

TC Milan: Well, actually there was a fan who worked for W Hotels Worldwide, their music department, whatever, and they flew us out to open the W Hotel Singapore with Mark Ronson, which was crazy. Once we were there, they were like, well, can we book a show in Bali? And we did, and we made the most of our time with them. It was awesome.

EPMS: Have you ever been to El Paso?

TC Milan: Never stopped in El Paso. I think I drove through it as a child.

EPMS: El Paso is the polar opposite of New York.

TC Milan: LOL.

EPMS: How many times have you been to SXSW?

TC Milan: Umm, three.

EPMS: How do you like it?

TC Milan: I love it. It's the best. I mean, we usually have a bunch of friends from different bands playing, bands we don't get to see on the road, or only randomly.

We love food truck. LOL. Usually, we get a hotel that has a pool. We party there, go see like six or seven shows a day, play two ourselves... It's kind of like a perfect lifestyle, for anyone who likes to play and see live music.

EPMS: You stay one night a week, or what?

TC Milan: We usually stay like, five nights.

EPMS: What do you think of Texas' food?

TC Milan: No, I love the food. I mean, but, I grew up in LA. I live here in New York, so, I love the food but I grew up on the best Mexican food, in my opinion. (Yes, he really said that - CH)

New York has the best - every - kind of food. Texas is fun; I like the Tex-Mex kind of style. Also I like how some of the stuff will be fried and like, it's not really healthy for you. We're a little too aware of calories and trans-fats.

EPMS: I was reading about where your band name came from, that the 'Lava' comes from baklava, a Turkish food, and something about the 'Avan' part being about nightmares of your other band member...

TC Milan: Yeah, it's a mix of, Avan is a character from a recurring dream that Le Chev was having, and then, Lava... We wanted something that was kind of striking, and so...

We basically went through every possible name, and somehow, we ended up on this unused, brand-new name, and it's been both cool and hard for people to remember

EPMS: Cool to have name easy to google.

TC Milan: Right, it's always the first thing on google.

EPMS: Speaking of that, on Wikipedia, I only found 'Avan Lava in one place, as a former band of Drew Citron...

TC Milan: Oh, yeah, Drew. Drew is, she's like my friend, and she was a live member. She left a couple of years ago because she pursued her own rock 'n' roll career, but, we still live together.

EPMS: Somebody said, you can't be a New York City music lover and not have heard of Avan Lava. Are you guys like mini-celebrities?

TC Milan: LOL. I think what they're saying with that is, when you do put on a pretty memorable show... put on really fricking crazy shows... especially in New York, because we have all the resources you'd ever need you know, like right here... So yeah, people come around...

We usually get written up a lot in, you know, local things, or like in The Post... We definitely feel like a New York band... I go to clubs just to see other bands, and the security guards are going, "When you coming back?"

We always throw a party... So I think yeah, we're kind of celebrities...

People that go out to shows have at least come across one of our shows, or heard about it.

EPMS: Thank you for your time. I will see you when you get here.

TC Milan: Oh cool, you're coming to the show? Great, thanks for talking to me.

EPMS: Thanks a lot.