Every band has something that makes it unique, but Ava Luna is a couple of steps ahead in the category. The Brooklyn-based outfit not only employs Olympic-level synth work on classic pieces of machinery; front man Carlos Hernandez is so committed to the idea of harmony that the band features three additional singers to help him carry the vocal load. In the current state of the music business, taking an act like this on tour is tantamount to suffering for one’s art. Speaking from the middle of a national tour with Twin Sister, however, Hernandez and company are finding plenty of high points on the open road.
For those unfamiliar with your band, give a brief description of Ava Luna.
That’s a tough question. In the literal sense we have a lot of synthesizers and vocal harmonies. I would call it kind of heavy and strange, but also very poppy. I don’t really know. People also like to compare bands to other bands, so in that sense we’ve had people say that we sound like TV on the Radio, or Dirty Projectors because of the harmonies. So there you go, or maybe not.
How does a band like Ava Luna come together?
The band has been around kind of forever. In high school it was me in my bedroom, and I used the name Ava. In college I met Nathan and Julie, who still play in the band to this day, and when we started playing shows we realized that there was probably another band named Ava out there, so we changed the name to Ava Luna and have been doing that ever since. It sounded way different back then than it does now, but we always kept the same name despite the changes in style. That’s kind of the story. It never really began at any point; it’s just always been.
Is the band some sort of anarcho-democracy, or is somebody firmly in control?
There are certain parts of it that are definitely democratic, and I believe it’s important to represent the ideas of everyone in the group. Basically, you could say that we talk through everybody’s ideas in the group and then arrive at the right one. That being said, I started the band long ago, and it was my idea to add the vocal harmonies and stuff. It’s a good sort of tension between the ideas that I bring to the table and what we are able to discuss as a group. We’re always talking about stuff that we play, and we worked all the songs out in the rehearsal room, seeing what everyone could bring to them.
Are you going to take any heat in the van for that answer?
No one’s giving me any dirty looks, so I think we’re okay.
With so many members, is it hard to maintain stability?
In the past, it was difficult. There have been a lot of people who have come and gone. I think there are upwards of thirty people who have been in this band, but it hasn’t been that way for a while. For more than a year now, it’s been the same group of seven, and it’s been an extremely amazing and lucky experience to feel like we’re actually a group and are all invested and all care and are really bringing ourselves into it. Unfortunately, Anna did recently leave the group. It wasn’t anything personal; she just couldn’t make it on this long tour. Apart from that, it has felt like a really stable group for a long while now. That’s not something you can take for granted having been through the alternative.
When it comes time to tour, how do you manage to get everybody out on the road?
Every band that goes out on tour goes through something like this. Some of us quit our jobs, while others have somehow worked it out that they can continue to work from the road. You sublet your rooms and just go for it, I guess.
How do you pack six people and equipment on a tour?
We are out with Twin Sister, so we’re sharing some of their equipment. It’s a little cramped in here, but it’s not that bad. There are some suitcases and a couple of amps. It’s a nice seven-passenger model, so we even have our own seats.
How do you manage accommodations? Is it couch surfing or hotels?
We did go couch surfing one night, which was nice. We did a bunch of touring on our own before this, and after a while you tap into the national underground community of bands and musicians and artists. If you ask around enough, you’ll be surprised at the amount of people who are willing to put you up and or let you stay at their house. Some of us also have family and friends scattered around the country. Julie and Becca are from Massachusetts, so we always have a place to stay there. I have family in Philadelphia, so we have a place there too. There are always alternatives.
Is setting up sound with your unique line-up a nightmare?
Actually, no; playing in bigger venues is a recent development for us. We always played in DIY spaces like basements and stuff. Our entire sound is tailored around spaces where people would ask if we could play a show with one electric outlet. We’re able to do that. It’s a lot of people, but it’s really nothing fancy. It’s keyboards run through an amp and then the bass and vocal mics. In fact, I think that it actually helps, because a lot of the music was created with space in it. A larger space allows some of the different aspects to really sing out and be heard. That’s of course keeping in mind that we’ll probably end up playing in someone’s basement again. And all of the sound guys have been really nice so far.
Have crowds been pretty receptive?
So far, everyone has been really nice and supportive. You can always tell if a group of people are into you or not, but everyone has been really nice. It doesn’t hurt that we’re playing with Twin Sister, who is amazing. Overall, it’s just been a really positive experience for the band.
How do you reach out to a crowd that’s there to see the headliner?
I don’t think about that part of it. You write songs as best as you can. Then you practice really hard and play them as best as you can. Sometimes people won’t respond, but you do your best and believe in what you’ve got. If people hear it and they like it, they’ll know and you’ll know. I don’t think there’s anything magic about it.
What are your immediate plans for Ava Luna?
We’re on this tour and right when we get back we’re playing a couple of New York shows. We’re working on a record release. I guess I should mention that we have an album. It’ll be coming out on Infinite Best, which put out some of the Twin Sister records. That’s coming out in the end of February, so we’re working on putting together a record release for that, then we’re going to SXSW, and then hopefully Europe in the spring. That’s a lot of stuff, I guess.
So the album coming out, that’s kind of a drag, right?
No. Not in the slightest. It is the exact opposite of a drag. The one thing in my life that is not a care at all is making songs. And then releasing them-that’s important too.
What would make you really happy about the band?
That’s a tough question, because I’ve always been in this band. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’ve written music as long as I’ve been alive, and I’ll keep doing it as long as possible. I’m grateful that people are listening of course- that’s great. The whole thing is great, but it also sucks. It’s kind of like life.
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