Buckle up for an energetic, multigenre excursion through space and time led by the multitalented members of AVERS , Richmond, Va.’s latest rising sensation, and for good reason. After their first time playing South by Southwest (SXSW) together, they have quickly become one of the top need to know bands in the U.S.

The band’s stellar lineup includes drummer Tyler Williams of THE HEAD AND THE HEART, as well as guitarist/vocalist James Mason and guitarist/vocalist James-Lloyd “J.L.” Hodges of MASON BROTHERS — who also runs a commercial music company called Overcoast — as well as guitarist/vocalist Adrian Olsen, who engineers all the studio recordings, and bassist/vocalist Alex Spalding of HYPERCOLOR. Charlie Glenn of THE TRILLIONS plays the guitar and synth, and he also sings too.

In April 2014, the band released their debut album Empty Light, which was originally intended to just be a recording project for the members. However, due to such overwhelming feedback, the band had decided to make it a real thing, and I’m sure they are glad they did. They are currently in the process of writing music for their highly anticipated follow-up, which will include their latest single, “Vampire.” We had to opportunity to chat with Mason to discuss their highlights from SXSW, as well as how their project has developed, in addition to their tour plans for the rest of the month.

Last month [March], your band performed at SXSW, and since then you have received a large amount of positive feedback as one of the “winners” of the festival. Can you tell me about how you got the opportunity to play there, and what your thoughts were on the festival this year?

Our booking agency Billions helped set us up with that, and it was a lot of fun. A number of us had not been to SXSW before and didn’t know quite what to expect, but there was a lot of music lovers out there. It felt great to have a positive response to our music, and we got to see some really cool music as well. For me, the standout was ANGEL OLSEN, and I know a couple of other folks in the band really enjoyed her set.

In terms of how we got to do it, Billions applied for us to do any number of showcases, and there are also nonofficial SXSW events. We did a number of those as well at the Patagonia store and some other things like that.

How do you feel like your collective experiences in other bands have helped make AVERS as successful as it has been?

I think that it’s true that all of us in AVERS have been working pretty seriously at making music and doing the types of things that go along with being in a band, like doing shows, and a lot of people have experience not only recording in the studio but engineering and producing. There’s a pretty good amount of collective past experience that comes into this new group, and that was something that was immediately apparent and very exciting.

There’s so much past experience, if you look at it as a collective, and I think it’s all slightly different. We are all coming from different bands, in most cases, except for Adrian and Alex who were in a band together before, and they are all relatively, pretty different sounding groups from one another. Charlie’s band THE TRILLIONS is sort of more angular guitar riff-type music. It’s always hard to describe, but compared to THE HEAD AND THE HEART, it’s quite different. Somehow it all works together.

Last week, your band released its latest single “Vampire.” Is this song a good reflection of what your fans can expect from your next album?

I think it demonstrates the sort of energy that this new record has. It’s a very energetic record, and although there are definitely a variety of styles still represented on there, I think there’s something about the way that song sounds that seems to be really exciting for people inside the band. Also, the reaction has been really good, and I think a lot of the material that we are going to be releasing with the next record has that sense of energy about it.

Is there any particular reason why your band gravitated toward the more psychedelic style as one of the more prominent combination of styles incorporated into your music?

It just kind of happened that way. The whole beginning of the group was not intended to start a band. We were intending to make it a recording project. When I met Adrian, I stated talking to him about the idea of starting some kind of, for lack of a better word “side project” mainly with recording in mind because at that particular time, I had a studio; Adrian has an amazing studio; and also I had a friend, who was also a collaborator with MASON BROTHERS, J.L., had a studio too. J.L records bands, but he also does custom music, whereas Adrian records exclusively bands. I don’t have a studio anymore so I’m not recording anyone (laughs).

Alex, our bass player, was there too, but she comes from quite a different background — mainly cello. We got a little freaky with stuff in there and wanted it to be a little edgier. I can only speak for myself, but a lot of it for me was being able to do stuff that didn’t quite fit with my other band, MASON BROTHERS. I would venture to say that was how probably everyone in the band felt. That was part of the early excitement [where we realized] we can just do whatever the hell we want. I think that is where what people have described as the “psychedelic” element comes from. But it’s always so hard to define what that even means.


According to the interview Tyler did with The Daily Beast, the band started at Adrian’s studio with “everyone playing different instruments and adding what they felt the tune needed.” Is that a common practice for your band when practicing and writing new songs?

Absolutely. Everyone is going all over the place. Someone might start with a little [riff] on acoustic guitar, and then one of us who plays guitar live might wind up on a Farfisa or a Hammond organ. That helps to keep it fresh. Also, the recording of bass has been almost comical but in a good way. We joke about recording bass by committee (laughs), not on all the tracks but on a couple, like on “Harvest,” on the last record. I’m pretty sure four people played bass. We were sitting in the studio and having trouble coming up with a bass part at first, and I sat down to do the first part. Then Alex had an idea for another cool part, which I never would have thought of to do, and then I think at least one other person played bass on that song.

But that happens all over the place, not with just bass. We just sort of throw whatever we want at the song, and whatever seems to stick will stick. We are very lucky to have Adrian’s studio Montrose as a place where we can play around and basically have access to experiment with all of these ideas.

One of the things I love about your songs is how vocally driven they are, and how everyone seems to play a role in forming that cohesive, atmospheric sound. Is that something that was intentional when you were recording your first album?

I think so. I love vocal harmonies. Adrian and I, when we first started talking about the band, thought it would be really cool that there not be one lead vocalist. It would be a number of people singing lead to give it more variety and make it fun. At that time, we weren’t really thinking that this was going to be a performing band, so that’s one thing that I have definitely grown to love about the group. Coming from a band where I was the lead singer, except for a couple of the songs with MASON BROTHERS, it’s kind of nice to just sit back and play guitar on a song and enjoy Alex singing, or J.L. singing. We of course all love singing in harmony too. Tyler sings on the recordings too.

Based on the venues that we have been playing, it’s pretty much impossible to have a six mic sound. I think they would kick us out of the club if we tried to have six vocal mics on the size stages we are playing now, for the most part.

Your music video for your song “Evil” features a very haunting, yet fun and upbeat vibe. Can you tell me what that song is about?

I think it’s up for interpretation. I didn’t have much to do with the meaning of the lyrics. That was primarily written by Alex, but for me, I think the song is a little about feeling alienated and being okay with it through accepting it. But that’s my own interpretation really. Alex would probably have more specifics on that one. She had written most of the lyrics before we started playing, but it’s always fun to try to think back to remember who wrote what.

This new record is incredibly collaborative. I can say for sure there isn’t a song that one person wrote all the lyrics for by themselves. There’s always some element of collaboration because the only kind of rule that we joke about having is that nobody can bring a finished song to the table. Other than that, there’s no rules.

Based on your interpretation of the song, do you feel like that meaning was captured well by the director of the video?

Absolutely. The folks who did the video was the New York-based collective called Flies Collective, and I knew to expect good things based on what the band had to say. J.L. is friends with those guys. But when they actually came down and started [filming], you could just tell that they were not only very nice, kind, fun people, but they were total professionals. We’re not really in the video much, but it was still a little intimidating. The kicker was when they sent us the first cut, it was amazing. It looked pretty much like it does now, aside from a few minor things. We were all blown away at their work, and they did it all in one day.


Are you guys in the video as the people at the party?

Yeah , I think everybody has a quick cameo, but a lot of us are in masks. I think J.L. has face paint on. Charlie definitely has a mask on too, but we are all in there at some point.

What are your tour plans for the rest of the year?

We’ve got some dates on the books for April. One thing that we are really excited about is we are playing at Strange Matter in Richmond, Va. on April 16 and as The Southern in Charlottesville, Va. on April 17. We’ve got a bunch of stuff. We are doing the Arbor Day Fest in Richmond, Va. on April 25, and then we go up to New York for a couple of shows, one at Pianos on April 29 and a Patagonia store showcase on April 30. We don’t have anything that we can announce after that yet, but we are working on a few exciting possibilities. Hopefully we’ll have confirmation on that soon and more news to come, but we definitely plan to be out on the road as much as possible.

For more updates on AVERS, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and check out their tunes on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

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