Campus Band: Ava Luna
Written by Bwog Staff
In anticipation of their first fall show, Bwog sat down with two members of Ava Luna, a band that bends genres even as it redefines them. Carlos Hernandez C’07 does guitar and vocals, while Nate Tompkins C’05 plays bass.
Can you describe the band’s birth? Who was the midwife?
Carlos: My mother is a professional midwife. Go to hell.
Nate: Interestingly, we were conceived at the same moment as Nikolai Fraiture’s baby. Most people don’t know that.
Carlos: The night we were born, the sky turned a disco red.
…okay…what’s your complete fall lineup?
Carlos: Well we’ve got the same old crew, split nicely between Columbia and NYU, plus Siheun [Song C’08], another Columbia student, who recently joined us on keyboards and vocals.
Nate: Wool cardigans are big this year.
Carlos: And linens.
And who closes?
Carlos: Closes what?
Nate: As the drummer, it’s Julian [Fader NYU ’09]’s job to open and close the door to every room that Carlos might step in to. So in a sense, he’s our opener and closer.
What’s with the stupid name?
Carlos: It means “go to hell” in Gaelic. Actually, we just like the way it sounds.
Nate: Carlos is a werewolf.
If cocaine were your 12th most important influence, what would the 11th and 13th be?
Carlos: Tea and comic strips.
Nate: Tea and the Nintendo DS.
Sounds lame. Scientists have recently discovered that the entire breadth and depth of your musical output can be derived from three varieties of cheese. What are they?
Nate: Cream, string, and cottage.
Carlos: I feel like everyone defers to “cheese” for comedic effect. I’m more of a yogurt person.
TouchÃ©. But we can still find common ground on dairy, right?
Carlos: You and me personally? No.
What kind of genres do you bend, break, and redefine even while reinventing them?
Nate: The genres of bass guitar that I’d like to break while onstage, even while reinventing them, include acoustic, 5-string, fretless, strap-on, and Gibson.
Carlos: I’d like to think we do some creative stuff combining electronic sounds with acoustic sounds. Maybe we’re trying to blur genre borders a little bit – make hard rock that isn’t quite hard rock, electronica that isn’t quite just electronica, and things like that. Bringing in influences from all over the place, leaving room for all kinds of sounds on our albums that still manage to sound cohesive, like it’s all under one umbrella.
You haven’t even pressed a single album yet, have you.
Carlos: Well, “pressed”… we’ve recorded almost three albums now, and have pressed none of them. That takes venture capital.
Nate: The challenge inherent in that question leaves me feeling vexed.
Pistols at dawn?
Nate: Ari [Zeiguer NYU’08] can shoot the center out of an Ace of Clubs at 600 yards.
Carlos: He plays guitar and keyboards. You’ve got nothing.
What is your favored technique for convincing people that you’re not a bunch of talentless losers?
Carlos: Mostly I just try to act smarter than I actually am. And we work on our vocal harmonies basically twelve days a week.
What kind of balance do you favor in terms of electronic and acoustic sounds? Can the same song inhabit both spheres? Would it depend on venue or just your mood?
Carlos: It would depend on venue to the extent that some places can’t really deal with more than just an acoustic guitar, in which case I’d have to play a stripped down version of an electronic song. But in general we have electronic songs and also acoustic songs, and most often, songs that fall somewhere in between, depending on mood. The most important thing for me as a songwriter is to find ways to pull together all the different sounds, electronic and acoustic alike, and ultimately make them sound like they belong together.
Nate: For me, the blend between electronic and acoustic sounds is a metaphor for the epic battle always raging within me between my human and robot components. I know that we are all part robot, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to strike a balance between the empathetic human side, and the more efficient, but ultimately soulless robot side. Like when I’m dancing like a robot.
What makes you intrinsically better than other Columbia bands? Other bands? Everyone else on Earth?
Carlos: Well, first off, we’re not a Columbia band, seeing as half of our members go to NYU. I’m pretty much obligated to say that I think we’re better than every other band on Earth, because it seems like without an attitude like that you can’t get anywhere in music these days.
Nate: Actually, we are not better than Quruli, Radiohead, or The Arcade Fire, so I’m not sure what you mean by that question.
So…you’re only 3/5ths a Columbia band? You do realize that’s the most heinous fraction of all time, and at Columbia in particular, it’s likely to get you in trouble.
Carlos: As a Hispanic Jew who studies Chinese, I don’t think I need to worry about accusations of lacking sensitivity. Except to sunlight.
Nate: He tans nice. Real nice.
Thanks, kids. Hope you have a great show Saturday.
Carlos: Sure, thanks.
Ava Luna’s inaugural fall show is: this Saturday at 11 p.m., OS Art House, 17 John Street betw. Broadway and Nassau. Take the 2/3 train to Park Place. $10, 21 and over, bar inside.