New Sounds

Meet Avers, One Of The ‘Winners’ Of SXSW

This regional super group, boasting a member of the Head and the Heart, managed to get heard in Austin.

03.22.15 10:45 AM ET

There are approximately 10 gazillion artists vying for attention at SXSW. Little bands who’ve sold everything they own and crammed into a loaner car with $150 and a dream compete for a blip on the Internet radar and a shot at the big time with the likes of heavily sponsored, star studded media spectacles showcasing Kanye, Miley, and Snoop Dogg. The gathered battalions of bloggers and journalists feed this frenzy, over-sharing about every aspect of the festival, with hot takes and must-hears. There is much talk a of who will “win” SXSW, with the prize being a label deal or at least an international level of exposure—this is, after all, how Hanson and John Mayer got their starts.!

But beyond the 500 posts a day about bands you’ll forget tomorrow, there truly are some “winners,” artists who are just really damn good, managing to be heard through the drunken din. Avers, from Richmond, Virginia, are one of these.

Sounding reminiscent of a more melodic and put together Sonic Youth, the six-piece has the advantage of being comprised of veteran musicians. Drummer Tyler Williams is from indie folk darlings the Head and the Heart, and the instrument-trading, vocal-duty-sharing wall of five front folks are all heavy hitters in the Richmond music scene.

With their vocals heavily garbed in reverb and no shortage of effects and feedback from the instruments, it’s a psychedelic explosion of sound that merges together in a way that is at once chaotic and cohesive and beautiful. So much so that it led veteran Rolling Stone critic David Fricke to allegedly tell the band they’re “the best thing he’d heard all week” while purchasing a copy of their debut record after a SXSW show.

And they really are one of the best things that you’ll hear all week, whether it’s a week drenched in cheap beer, wasted bros, corporate sponsorships, and top notch tacos or just another week in the life, getting a little Avers in there will certainly make it that much better. We sat down for a couple minutes with Williams to get the details on his new project.

Why start a second band? Isn’t it hard to play and tour in two?

It’s definitely a challenge, and being in two bands was never something I was searching for. Avers just came about in a way that felt right, like we had to do it. I got the same vibe when Head and the Heart was starting. The stuff we were doing at Adrian’s studio, Montrose, happened in a way that lit a fire under us to get out and play some shows. It was like a necessity! 

So how did Avers come about?

JL and Adrian were messing around at the studio in 2013 and songs just started forming really quickly. At that point, Alex started getting in on it, and it just snowballed from there. A lot of the songs on our debut, Empty Light, were recorded with everyone playing different instruments and adding what they felt the tune needed. Different musicians, different instruments—it was kind of a collective of local Richmond dudes at first. I joined in that summer and helped finish the record, then we all decided to take it further.

Avers has an eclectic and unique, yet familiar, sound. How would you describe it?

It’s hard to say because there are so many different influences and sounds happening throughout even a single song. It’s old school rock n roll, there’s psych elements, classic songwriting stuff. The goal is to blend our individual views seamlessly. Each time we start a song, it turns into this very democratic thing where every idea is considered and tried out.

So what are your hopes for the band? You’re playing way smaller rooms that THATH do, and there’s a way different energy.

We really want to create something unique to who we are. We’re happy to be playing shows for people and getting our kicks at the same time, but it’s never a preconceived thought of what we represent or where we’re going. People will want to try to compare it against other bands that each of us are in, but it’s not really about that. We’re finding our own identity through being on stage and enjoying the time we have. 

Is this your first big tour together?

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I’d say this is the first real tour. We’ve done a bunch of small runs up the east coast but not something as fleshed out as this. It’s been awesome to see people react to the songs and really get into what we’re doing! Plus we all get to hang out and make fun of each other everyday, what more could you want?

So have you found a label for it yet?

We’ve been talking to a few different labels, so we’ll see what happens. We’re excited!

What do you want a listener to take away from hearing Avers for the first time?

I would hope that they’d hear a band not content to do what’s been done, or what others are doing right now. Every band builds off of their influences but we want to transcend them as well. 

What’s different about being at SXSW with Avers as opposed to THATH? Is it hard to sort of start all over again?

Some of my favorite parts about playing music are when you’re in the van, hoofing it to shows. There’s an excitement in the scramble and real love for each other in the madness of being a smaller band. It’s cool to experience all of that again, and have the future kinda be wide open. 

Tell me about the other folks in the band.

Well, there’s Adrian Olsen, who engineers all of our studio recordings and also plays guitar and sings. He runs the studio that we work out of. It’s home base. You’ve got JL Hodges- he has a commercial music company called Overcoast, which is doing really cool stuff. He sings and plays guitar as well. Alex Spalding is the only member who didn’t grow up in Virginia, she’s a Northern California girl who plays bass and sings. Charlie Glenn was an old band mate of mine back in the mid 2000’s. He’s kind of a virtuoso guy who can play synths, guitar and he sings as well. James Mason was the third addition to the group. He’s got the most nicknames of anyone I know and for good reason—he’s hilarious. He also plays guitar and sings. 

So we’ve got six members including myself. Somehow, I’m drawn to the number six. It’s a good, even number of band mates. 

Anything else you want to tell the world?

“The Vietnam”

1 ½ oz of vodka

1 ½ oz pickle juice

Ice cubes

Fill to brim with soda water

Garnish with a cucumber.