Q&A: The Avantist

Fernando, Erick, David and Luis Arias of The Avantist gather in their parent’s Hickory Hills’ basement which doubles as a rehearsal space. Erick, Luis and David set up behind their instruments as Fernando teases them for always running to their security blankets. The eldest brother sits in a folding chair and chipperly points out how he doesn’t need to hide behind an instrument.

Without missing a beat, each brother sends out a rebuttal concluding that Fernando isn’t behind an instrument because he doesn’t know how to play one. Bickering and insults continue to pass back and forth. It’s brutal and ruthless, but as any sibling knows, it’s all meant with love. Within seconds the room erupts with laughter as they prepare to share their journey on what brought them to these “security blankets” and how they’ve used them to grow with each other.

 LLL: It’s obvious how you guys met, being brothers and all, but why did you decide to start a band?

Fernando: Essentially, they owe everything to me. I say it with a straight face.

Erick: Even though he’s smiling.

Fernando: Even though I’m smiling. No. We were born in a musical family to the extent of constantly listening to new music. My dad would show us as much as he could as far as Latin music and eventually we started branching out. When the craze of burning music happened we tried to consume as much of it as possible. I don’t even know where I’m going with this…

Erick: I think the decision was made before we played music. We’d always done everything together. We played with toys together. We played video games together. Everything we did was together. One of the main things my dad says in Spanish that sticks with us [is] “if one fails, then we all fail”. We started that game Rock Band. [We were] way too into it. We started thinking like ‘we got instruments in the basement. Why don’t we just go write music?’

LLL: Most of you have been in other bands or fill in with friends’ bands. How would you describe the different dynamics between playing with friends and playing with your brothers?

Luis: I think the biggest difference between us and other bands is when it’s just friends, they’re scared of saying things and don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. There’s tension [and] no one wants to say anything. Then they talk behind each others’ back. With us, we just tell it to our faces. We yell.

Erick: Sometimes practices will not even be playing music. Practices will literally be yelling at each other to figure something out. Like therapy.

FernandoAnd we don’t play until we figure it out.

 Erick: Yeah. If we’re angry, we don’t play. We have to figure it out. It’s very intense, but it’s lucky to have that because other people would lose their band.

FernandoHow many bands have broken up like ‘Jared didn’t show up to practice’ or ‘Tommy couldn’t learn the songs’. They don’t give a shit about each other. That’s why it’s easy to just quit bands with friends or strangers. It’s easy for them to just walk away whereas with us, this is everything. One of us steps away, there’s no band and that’s it.

LLL: What’s the status on your debut album?

FernandoWe’re currently shopping it around and setting up the release. It means a lot to us. Not that our other stuff hasn’t meant a lot to us, but we were young. We were just people making music before. This year it’s like, ‘okay we got this album. It’s got to go some place’. 

Erick: We take care of it more because we put so much time and effort into it. It’s a huge project for us. We don’t want to release it without any kind of backing.

David: I feel like that’s why we are most proud of this CD because this CD is a really good interpretation of how we play live. 

Erick: David, shut the fuck up.

David: Alright next question. I’m sorry.

LLL: There have been a few name changes with the debut. Have you settled on a name yet?

Erick: It’s self-titled. We [settled on] self-titled because we figured, not only is it a good way to market ourselves, but it’s also like an official introduction. I think all these songs really describe our sound cause every song on the album sounds different. It’s very versatile.

Fernando: I personally didn’t want to name it that, but I mean once we kind of put it together, made the order, The Avantist sounds right. It’s cohesive [with] personality. You can hear it from all of us. You can hear David’s very specific sound of playing. My very specific style of singing. We all bring a certain quality to that band that is relevant and out front. Everyone brought their A game. 

Erick: Sounds like you’re giving a post-game [speech]. Anyway, I think it’s definitely cohesive but in the sense that we naturally jump from style and genre [with] each song. But the band behind it is not doing it in a corny way. It naturally happens so when you hear the songs they’re naturally connected. It just sounds like us.

David: We took a lot of time with our track listing, so it feels like a movie narrative. 

Fernando: We are heavily influenced by film. We make a very conscious decision to put together a show that takes people through a lot of emotions. Erick likes the word[ing] ‘making people uncomfortable’. At first, I use to be very afraid of that term, but as the years go on and the shows get more intense and we become more locked in with each other, I welcome it. I know for a fact that nobody sounds like us and I’m comfortable saying that it’s because we embrace being weird and being not tied down to just being a rock band or just a punk band.

Erick: Like, we like to juxtapose something heavy with like Fern rapping and screaming and yelling.

Fernando: Oh? I’m not a rapper?

Erick: For the record, I had my fingers up in air quotes. 

LLL: Isn’t it hard to attract and keep fans when you have such diverse sounds in one set?

Erick: I was about to say I like doing that because there will be people who will love it aggressive and then we could like possibly lose fans from song to song. But I think it’s great. We are actually making people have an opinion on what they feel is comfortable for them and what they feel is uncomfortable for them. You’re learning something about yourself like ‘ah I don’t like that’ or ‘that makes me feel weird’. [Or] you might like it and you’re questioning why you like it and it’s pushing you out of your comfort zone.

David: What Erick is saying is that we are comfortable with our un-comfortability. 

Fernando: David, please! For the record, David is good at killing momentum. 

Erick: David will be in the middle of a solo and just unplug and push over Luis’ drum set. Just kills the momentum.

David: And do a little Edgar Allen Poe poem.

LLL: Aside from the album release, what other plans do you have for the future?

Fernando: We’re going on tour for the first time this year if we ever fucking book it. It feels like it’s time for a wider audience. We need to be that next level. It’s a process and a half to make the right moves and get the right steps in place. It’s going to be on the east coast for sure. It’s just a matter of lining up the right people.

LLL: I saw you guys were also working on a music video for Veneno. What was the inspiration behind that?

Luis: Okay, so it was my idea. I birthed the idea. 

Fernando: I wanted to make a video where it was just me

Luis: No! You did not say that! 

Fernando: It came to him in a dream. 

Luis: Okay, it’s a short song and I wanted something simple that we could do fast. I had a vision of Fern’s face covered in shit. Something that is just gruesome and sticks with you. Like we were saying before, [something] uncomfortable. So I  just pictured him with plastic wrap over his face and shit being thrown at him.

Erick: And Fern loved every moment of it.

Luis: The idea of the song is things that are poisonous to you. Or people who keep doing things that are bad for them

Fernando: The music came first and we loved it. When it came down to write lyrics, I was influenced by this awesome concert of Los Crudos that Erick had shown me. They were bad as fuck. They were wearing these full blown suits. It was in the middle of Daley, right?

Erick: It was fan footage of them playing a concert at the Daley Plaza in like 1993. They’re right in the Daley Plaza in full suits but playing the most fucked up awesome punk music. Just killing it. And people were digging it!

Fernando: It was at a moment in time when we were self-conscious. We were at DZ Records and Erick had just shown me [the Los Crudos at The Daley Plaza] and I just scribbled some shit down. What came out was a punk song about how everything in the world is poison. Whether it comes [from] the food you eat or the media you watch. Everything is some sort of poison.”

LLL: Any other music videos in the works?

Erick: We are trying to get a video for every song on the album. We have a lot of friends with a lot of equipment.

David: [The guy] who did Veneno is my roommate. He went to Columbia for film. He helped us out a lot and did an awesome job. 

Fernando: Andrew Medina is his name.

David: You don’t need to know his name! The “Truth in Light” video is being filmed by our friend Justin [Flocco]. He worked on another music video of ours called Nomad. We have a lot of people lined up to do a video for each song. 

Erick: And they’re all interested which is cool. 

Fernando: We built up a lot of goodwill where people are trying to collaborate now. It’s exciting. We want to really push the boundaries of what you can do with an album. What you can do to kind of pull people it. People say videos are dead, but if you treat it more as an art form then it’s worth it. That’s kind of what we are aiming for. 

The Avantist’s next show will be Friday, September 9th at Martyrs. The night will also include performances by Yonatan Gat, The Moses Gun and Miss Remember.

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