LOCAL MUSIC SPOTLIGHT: AVENUE BEAT
"I’m a freakin delight, I got more pop than a shook up Mountain Dew, If that’s not what you like there must be something wrong with you... Cuz I’m a freakin delight"
Brash. Smart. Fresh. Musical.
Avenue Beat – as the genzennial collective of Sami Bearden, Savana Santos and Sam Backoff are known –brings a postmodern take to Country’s candor, as well as strong melodic sense. Maybe it’s the voracious way the three besties swing from Kacey Musgraves to Ariana Grande to Miranda Lambert to Billie Eilish without missing a step, or, well, a beat. Genre fluidity is a byproduct of the 21-year-olds’ immersion in musical theater as much as a rejection of tags in their voracious quest for songs that turn them on. Three girls, a few instruments, an occasional co-writer, silky harmonies and a sense of self both true to the girls, and real for anybody coming into their own in an Instagram world of faux perfection.
“We are literally our generation,” muses lead singer/co-producer Savana. “We just have this way of dumping it all into songs. Whatever is happening, that’s what we’re writing. “Sam laughs, but agrees. “Our whole generation is crippled with anxiety and expectations. Look around. What do you do? It’s all about your perspective, because it’s better seeing it this way than the garbage fire (life) is.” “We tackle things with humor,” Sami picks up without missing a beat. “For good or bad, maybe it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism, but it works. ”It works in an optimistically nihilistic way!” Savannah concludes. Exuberant mic drop. Not since Taylor Swift pulled back the curtain on the way young women coming of age really feel has Country music had voices this true, this sharp or this engaging. With the stretched staccato vowels of the hilarious self-empowering “Delight,” which offers Nashville its first self-referenced meta moment, the sisters-sticking-together euphoria of “Be A Bro” or the angst-rejecting post-break-up “Ruin That For Me,” Avenue Beat beckons listeners with pillows of narcotic harmony and glistening melody –only to sucker punch them with lyrical truths that cut right to the gut. “There’s an anxiety that keeps us from making bad choices,” Sami explains. “And it gets pent up. It’s conflicting things. ‘Delight’ is this idea, ‘You can think I’m shit, but I’m thinking, ‘I’m the shit,’ because if you can’t love yourself, who’s going to?”Savannah nods in agreement. “Look, it’s becoming more this way –being open and honest –because it’s easier (for young people) to cope with their depression or anxiety when you joke about it. Just put it right out there.” “You know,”
Sam continues, “I’m in on the joke, and I’m the joke all at the same time. It takes the pressure off in so many ways. It really does. And it’s fun.” When Sam says fun, she means making music with her homegirls from Quincy, Illinois. Having known Savannah since they were babies, the pair met Sami at a summer theater camp when they were 14 years old and ultimately formed Avenue Beat –going from teaching one another to harmonize by matching pitch to playing local talent shows and festivals. Though they have just turned legal, the squad’s been making trips to Nashville writing since the self-described “theater nerds” were in high school. Having opened for the Trailer Choir in Illinois, the group invited them to play a charity event at the Dawghouse Saloon in Nashville, “and, though, it was fully past our bedtimes,” Savana remembers, they went –and went for it. “The first two years were often just random co-writes,” Sam adds. “People would tell us when we’d throw out a quirky line, ‘That won’t work...’ Except that’s exactly what we say.” “And then we found Summer Overstreet. She got us immediately,” Savana continues. “A match made in heaven. We wrote ‘Delight,’ the first session –and we started to realize, our voices can work, and that’s what we need to be singing.”
There isn’t much that escapes them. While they juggle jobs at juice bars, driving for Post Mates and dog walking as they’re waiting on the dream, they take the struggle and turn it into song. With a ukulele, a stop/start rhythmic scan and their self-induced euphoria, they embrace “Broke” with the rampant joy you’d expect on a Kardashian plunge through Louis Vuitton. Sam nods. “Being an artist wooed by a label, you’re the most important person in the world. ”And when you deliver a Post Mates, they don’t even look at you,” Savana continues. “Which is the reality of reality,” Sami explains. “Think what you want, but it’s all the same. We do both, so we see how people treat each other and those experiences have given us perspective.” “Yeah, when we were signing our publishing deal,” Sam notes, “we were homeless. We couldn’t find anywhere to live because everything is so expensive. “More laughter, more head-nodding. Savana finishes, “We wrote ‘Broke’ by ourselves, because it was us in musical form! It kinda sucks, but it’s hilarious. So ‘Broke’ is what we ended up, but it’s also not who we are.” For all the high spirits and irony, there’s no denying the quality of the songs, or the way they deliver them. “Theater gives us a leg up on telling a story,” Sam says matter-of-factly. “You know how to express how things evolve...”“And the timing on jokes,” cracks Sami. “And the way to land the melody,” Savanna picks up. “How it will impact what we’re singing, because those notes mean as much as the words. There are basic things: show don’t tell...”“We love some furniture in the room,” Sami cracks. “But it also makes the chorus slightly higher too so it pops,” Savana continues. “And don’t fear quirky melodies, because they’ll catch people’s ears.” They also aren’t afraid to turn a jargon on its ear! “Be A Bro” takes on the dudes above guy code and turns it into a girl empowerment anthem that somehow –humor? harmony? –manages to be all-inclusive. “We never wanna write a preachy girl song,” Savana says.
“But having a girl support system is so important,” Sam continues. “This is part of who we are, it’s not just something we’re trying to throw out there...”Sami concurs, “Seeing girls love and thrive together is the best. You need someone to talk about the shitty stuff that happens to women who get it, and just the idea of women being kind to other women. It’s so important. ”But,” Savana interrupts, “even our dude friends love to sing ‘Be A Bro’ to us, especially that line, ‘Bitches got to stick together!’ They love that line. Feminism doesn’t alienate them; it draws them in.” “People are trying to make it through anyway they can,” Sam adds. “Seeing girls love and thrive together is the best, being supportive... But this song goes just for people, period. It’s loose guidelines, but it works. “Navigating life can be treacherous. They joke about going from “high school to grown up,” facing bills, insurance, stuff college kids don’t deal with at the same level. It’s enough just adulting that the trio doesn’t even want to think about dating. Consequently, their debut self-titled EP via The Valory Music Co. / Tape Room Records, which was co-produced by David Garcia, Ashley Gorley and Savana, is –by design --devoid of songs about love. “There aren’t a lot of songs about dating, because we’re all doing whatever we’ve doing, but that’s not it,” says Sami. “We haven’t even tried. Heck, for the first two years, we didn’t even think about it; all we thought about was this band.” “It’s kind of crazy,” Sam adds. “Social media and all these other dynamics make it seem important, but what could be more important? Or better than the bond the three of us have?” “Yeah,” Savana agrees. “To have a deeper bond with someone than this? Can I feel as much myself as I do with them? I doubt it.”
“With us being such close friends,” Sami finishes, “cattiness doesn’t exist. And it didn’t occur to us that not everybody gets to experience that until we were living on our own. We’re like siblings; we fight about things, but it’s also BOOM! that’s so good –and we’re always super happy for each other.” “You know, if the world could be like that.” For Avenue Beat, who crafted their name using an online band name generator, this is their first step at making the world a little more they way they’d like to see it. They’re not afraid of the work, the messy, the fails, they think that’s all part of the glorious fun in the midst of the chaos. If the trio, who deem Savana “the voice,” Sami “the brain” and Sam “the heart,” have their way, all the messed up moments, tangles and bust-ups will become stepping stones to better places, self-compassion and maybe, just maybe a whole lot of laughter. “We’re all fucked up in totally different ways,” Sami admits. “You can’t avoid it, maybe outgrow it. But while you’re living with it, make friends with whatever it is, and it won’t be so bad. ”Oh,” Sam breaks in, “and make some friends who’ve got your back. Then even when you’re struggling, they’ll pull you along until you’re good to go on Your own.”