The asymmetrical funk rock of Ava Luna is so distinct it could be picked out anywhere, even far from their Brooklyn home. Their latest album “Electric Balloon” is a perfect mix of odd tempos, smooth soul influences, and jittery instrumentals. Between the success of the album and taking their unique, energetic live performance to all kinds of places, the past months were busy for the band. Before returning to Boston, Ava Luna took some time to talk about everything from their recording process to crazy cop stories to future plans.
Boston Hassle: Ava Luna formed in Brooklyn, but you guys seem to be pretty deeply connected to the Boston music scene. How did that happen?
Ava Luna: Becca and Julian both grew up in Boston. We’ve always sorta been part of that orbit, just through mutual friends and tastes. Lots of those bands play in Brooklyn all the time, we’ve even recorded a handful of them. Like Krill — we recorded their records then we toured together this past spring.
BH: Are there any major differences between playing music in Boston and New York, or things that are special to home in Brooklyn? Is there a lot of interconnectivity between the two?
AL: There seems to be a ton of interconnectivity. Boston seems a little bit more dispersed, and a bit more open too. People I tend to associate with Boston are spread as far as Western Mass and Connecticut. It also just seems so much calmer, more low-key. Brooklyn has just exploded beyond my understanding, as a hub or a destination for aspiring musicians, whereas people in Boston seem to be just into playing music, doing basement shows, building stuff up. I’ve also heard that it’s much more difficult to sustain, that cops crack down on DIY things a lot more there. Keeps the energy up, keeps everything migratory and fresh and fought-for.
BH: As a larger band that experiments with lots of interesting instruments, what is the recording process like? How do the songs come together in the studio?
AL: We are a pretty big band. We’re 5 people now, but we used to be 7. But really, we’ve never had wild instruments or sounds… just guitar, keyboard, bass, drums. For a while, a few years ago, we didn’t even have that, really just had a single synth and drums. So recording’s always been on the simple side. We record ourselves, and the priority is always getting the feel of the people playing the songs. Nothing’s ever pristine or too thought-out recording-wise, we just put up mics and play… whether it’s a song that’s more composed and mapped out, or whether it’s just a fucking-around-style improv thing that we wind up chopping up into something different, it’s always about having us sound like us, a group of humans.
One nice development is that Julian and I now run Gravesend Recordings here in Brooklyn, a dedicated studio space at the Silent Barn. So we’ve had a bit more freedom as far as space and time, and have been experimenting with different ways of recording ourselves. We’re pretty excited about that.
BH: Ava Luna seem to have toured like crazy this past year; do you guys have any particularly strange tour stories?
AL: Ah, everyone’s got some crazy tour story or another. It’s hard to even pull them up, when we’re not on tour. It’s as if it exists in a different universe. We played at a Hard Rock Cafe in Phoenix, and I had a panic attack. We played in a basement in New Brunswick and I hit my head on the ceiling and was bleeding everywhere. We were pulled over by cops over and over who kept handcuffing me because there was some murderer from Tallahassee named Carlos Hernandez on the loose. One time they smelled weed in the van and pulled each of us aside, made us stand in the pouring rain, and tried to get us to rat on each other. Another time a cop drove me all around the back alleys of Philly, after our van was broken into, telling me his life story, helping me look for the thief. Another cop helped us break into our own van after we locked the keys in. Ah, cops. Or a guy named Country, in New Orleans, who was creeping on a friend of ours, until she told him off even though he had a gun.
BH: Are there any places that you have not yet toured as a band that you would like to?
AL: Japan! Or the Northeast. But we’re going to the Northeast this coming September. Las Vegas.
BH: The bands’ unique sound seems to come largely from R&B and soul influences, which especially shine through on “Electric Balloon”. Where do those influences come from?
AL: That’s not really a conscious choice, that’s just quite literally the music of my childhood. Everyone’s got sounds that seep in from the earliest of ages, and I’ve heard the old adage that everyone just winds up recreating their parents’ record collections. I’m not so interested in recreating those sounds so much as I am finding a platform of comfort and authenticity to start, and then seeing how we can fuck around or experiment from there.
BH: The album art for “Electric Balloon” is especially beautiful, as is the video for “Sears Roebuck M&Ms”. How do you go about picking and making the visual art for your band?
AL: Felicia made the artwork for all our albums actually. Becca conceived of the video for Sears Roebuck. There aren’t really rules for the visual component… I’m not a terribly visual person so it’s difficult to set rules or aesthetic directions. But if someone’s got an idea, or is excited, whether it’s one of us or someone we know, then we always try to push it as far as it’ll go.
BH: It is always exciting to see where highly experimental bands will go next. Are there any particular directions you guys are hoping to explore on future albums?
AL: We’re already done recording the next album. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but we’ll be playing a song or two at Great Scott. All I’ll say is, it’s a LOT different. It’s full of ghosts and impressions and little quiet stories. It kind of gets in there, in a way that our other albums haven’t quite. I’m really excited about it. But that’s a conversation for another day. *
Ava Luna will be in Boston at the Great Scott this Saturday, August 16th for our New England Zinefest Afterparty with their band buddies Krill, shoe gazers Infinity Girl, and local indie-pop pros Pretty & Nice, presented by Allston Pudding and Boston Hassle