We got to interview Warrington’s rising stars; The A.V. Club who brought the house down in their home town with their bouncy 80s infused synth set at RivFest 2021.
How did you all get together and where did the name come from?
JB – We came together originally because of my University project. I was in Uni doing audio engineering and production and I had to produce an EP. I got working on some tracks that I had knocking about and that was the sort of foundation of The A.V. Club. Originally, we had Cal, then Oli and then Dan. It was us four for a bit and then us and Cal separated to do our own thing. We got Freya in who’s been an absolute Godsend…the “Mum” of the band. The name of the band is from Stranger Things and we all love Stranger Things. Our debut EP is very much heavily synth. We’ve evolved since then but still incorporate all the 80s synths.
Who would you say are your biggest influences musically and lyrically?
OT – There’s a band called the Valley. In the early days it was very much like MGMT, Twenty One Pilots, Wallows. It was me that stumbled across them [Valley] and since then, it’s been like our ideal match. Everything about them is like where we wanna go. Dream support – Valley.
FH – They definitely put out the same sort of vibes that we wanna do
JB – They write songs and it’s like things are gonna get better. That’s the whole overtone of their band and that’s what we try and do. Even though things might be shit, things are gonna get better. If you go through all of our songs, every single one of them fits into that bracket. It’s a positive take on a negative subject.
OT – We’ve started doing things differently lyrically
JB – There’s no mad influence [lyrically]. We just write stuff down just from experience.
OT – When we’re stuck with demos with no lyrics, we’ve been thinking of a theme or a story and then we’ll give that to Joe. We had Better Days written as a demo and Joe didn’t know what to write the song about and I came up with the theme of optimism.
How has it felt being able to perform to a live audience since restrictions were lifted?
FH – A-Mazing!
OT – Freya’s first gig ever was 2 weeks ago [before RivFest]
FH – I only joined the band in January so my entire experience of the band has been during COVID. All I’ve done before this was being a classical pianist but I’m very new to this. It’s so so good to be playing and I get more and more comfortable on stage. I’m very used to being just me and a piano with everyone dead silent but this is a lot more fun.
Did you find restrictions helped you work creatively or were they more of a hindrance?
JB – Well during the pandemic, me and Oli set up a company called Matchbox Productions so we have our own studio now. We were able to just basically camp out in there and write tunes and jam. It gave us time to properly gel as a band. If anything, it was a blessing in disguise.
OT – It’s not been great for everyone, but I think we really tried to make the best of it. During the first lockdown, we did as many isolation covers and videos. It was more for us. I needed something to do with my day so I’d put some videos together and then when the October lockdown happened, we set up a studio.
FH – It was pretty good for me as well in terms of having an adjustment period just to get into the swing of things. I got chucked in right into the deep end within days of them asking me if I wanted to join the band. We were like recording a music video in the freezing cold, rain, playing the keyboards but it was really good.
What have you got planned for the next 12 months?
DT – A new single like once a month or every few weeks.
FH – It was like 6 weeks between releasing Better Days and then we released Movie Screens and then we’ve got something else coming out in 6 weeks as well.
OT – Joe’s an audio engineer and I’m a videographer so when we do a release, we try to package everything together. We’ll record and then we’ll go and do a video and put that out. When Movie Screens was on its way out, we were already recording the next single. It’s good fun as well, doing our music video and have the freedom and controls to do it ourselves. We’re not paying anyone or a studio so we’re never in a rush. It’s nice having all the time in the world to not worry.
JB – If a synth doesn’t sound right, we spend time on it. If you went to another studio, you wouldn’t be able to do that because you’d be on a time restraint and you’re paying for every minute that you’re there.
Other than the pandemic, what would you say has been the most challenging as a band?
DT – Definitely, transitioning from one set up to another in terms of people who are in the band. When Cal left, luckily, we knew Freya who had done work with us before so we knew someone who had the skills to do it. Every bit of music we put on Spotify was released during the pandemic. We took them off to put them in an EP and then the line-up changed drastically and it was like, how do we continue the momentum and thrive?
JB – We kinda relaunched the band. I see Better Days as our debut-non-debut single. It’s the debut of our new sound.
FH – We released Mistakes which was the first single released when I joined the band but it was already written so Better Days was the start of a new chapter.
JB – You can kinda tell visually. If you look at all of our released previously to Better Days, we took ourselves very seriously, all wore black on stage. It was very dark and moody whereas now we’re just goofballs really. We just thought what’s the point in taking yourself seriously, just write songs and have fun. That’s our ethos now. Hopefully that comes across with the videos.
Freya, have you come across any challenges as a woman in the music industry?
FH – If I’m being honest, not as of yet but I’m not very used to the scene so we’ll see. Being in venues though, I tend to get groped as I’m moving through crowds. I’ve only done three gigs and people moving past you are touching you or hitting on you. Within the music industry, I’ve not faced anything yet and hopefully won’t but being in venues, it’s a little bit uncomfortable.
OT – [Organisations] like Girls Against are so important because we shouldn’t have to be worried that Freya is gonna face something difficult than us three will. She shouldn’t have to worry about that.
FH – I’m just trying to have a good time and do music and people think that because they’ve watched it on stage, they’re entitled to grab you.
JB – Yeah, fuck that…As us three we are so proud of Freya.
DT – Before Freya joined, I was doing her job in the band. When I used to go to a gig, there was more interaction with other people. People seem to like not expect [Freya] to say she’s on keys.
FH – People are surprised that I do so much and want to carry things for me when I can handle it or ask “do you know how to do this?”
JB – People like us are trying to hype women up. Men would be nothing without women.
As Warrington locals, what does it mean to you to perform to a festival like RivFest2021?
JB – Absolutely massive. I personally knew Riv. I was mates with him in college so to play such an important festival like this is massive. I think to carry on the boys’ legacy is absolutely huge to the town but to the world as well. You’ve seen Coldplay play at Glastonbury. Coldplay are a worldwide phenomenon so anyone that likes Coldplay will have seen that set. To know that the Viola Beach boys were played on that platform which they were ultimately destined for anyway is massive and to sort of be here representing them is massive.
OT – Today is like a testament of what was such a tragic event has now inspired a whole generation. Since then, Warrington music has completely had a resurgence.
DT – It’s changed genres as well
OT – I genuinely think that without the things that the RivFest does, Warrington music wouldn’t be where it is now. People I’ve spoken to from Manchester and Liverpool who are in bands have said they wish their scene was as good as Warrington’s. We’ve played RivFest a couple years in a row and it’s always a cracking weekend.
JB – It’s not a college festival, it’s a full festival. Everything, all the equipment is top notch. You could be up there and feel like you’re playing Glastonbury. It’s the event that we look forward for in a year. I remember being in old bands and playing Warrington Music Festival and Warrington music scene was always very heavy and it’s completely flipped. It’s great to see.
As you know, the River Reeves Foundation works to help disadvantaged young people pursue their ambitions in the creative industry, do you have any tips for the next generation?
JB – Have fun. We took ourselves a bit seriously in the past. You just need to let yourself go and have fun. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because ultimately, it’s the mistakes that you make that make you get better.
And it seems the band have had a busy month since, performing at venues such as Night and Day in Manchester and EBGBs in Liverpool. Their next gig is Halton Festival in Widnes on 5th September supporting Syfta and after what I saw, you’re in for an incredible set.
Words by Dani Tomlinson