A band undergoes several transformations, hardships and disappointments before they gain recognition from music lovers and record producers. Brooklyn-based band, Ava Luna, is no exception. This band has persevered through some of the toughest and, sometimes, seemingly impassible obstacles and are now reaping the benefits. Front man, Carlos Hernandez has been with Ava Luna every step of the way. He enumerates on his experiences in this first full-length band feature article for Hear; Don’t Listen.
“Hated to practice; but loved to write”
Carlos started the band at 17 years old. Over the course of his music training, Carlos consistently trained in classical piano. Over the course of his training, Carlos learned he “hated to practice but loved to write.” This led to an interest and pursuit in piano composition. Carlos also developed an interest in rock and roll; and the band, Weezer became his favorite group. At 17 years of age, Carlos had a new passion and goal: writing music that people his age would listen to and love.
Along with his best friend at the time, Nathan, a synthesizer player, Carlos stared a band called Ava. In later years, the original band members adopted the second name, Luna, after they learned about another band also called Ava.
The band’s early fall-outs
In the early years, Ava Luna created three albums, all of which Carlos claims were “disasters.”
“Back when Ava Luna first started, people called it cabaret; somebody even described it as the Rocky Horror Picture show – something I definitely didn’t want to hear.” In his mind, Carlos perceived the band’s sound as something darker and with less pizazz. Comments like these shocked him.
In addition to the response from audiences; problems started brewing between Carlos and Nathan. The two original Ava Luna members ended their friendship once they both finished college. Afterward, Carlos decided to continue Ava Luna as a one-man band.
“How can I make this group sound?”
After the band broke-up, Carlos rethought a lot about what he wanted in a band. “I literally sat down one day and thought ‘how can I make a band with no people in it, and how can I make this group’s sound?’ If I wanted to have a future with this band, I had to define a clear sound. I thought about my musical background and asked myself how I could make a band that represents this and gives me the opportunity to compose and offset the soul music influence.”
Carlos also thought of how he could contribute instrumentally to the band, and picked up singing and guitar in addition to playing synthesizer. He also asked his younger brother to play drums. Eventually, Carlos decided to compose intricate vocal lines for multiple singers, and this led to inviting three back-up singers to the group. A drummer would soon follow, and Carlos’s old band mate and friend, Nathan, reunited with Ava Luna.
Ava Luna today is a “group of musicians that come together and combine their eclectic tastes”
Ava Luna is now a 6 person band. They managed to go on tour after only a year of performing. And though they were still experimenting as a band, they received a greater response from audience members.
Carlos describes Ava Luna today as “the group of musicians that come together and combine their eclectic tastes.” Ava Luna might
have started as an experiment but over time, it became a long-lasting band in which everybody has a free say and the ability to play around with how ever much they want.
Carlos adds, “I can now understand what makes my band members like this music, and my job is to see how I can make everybody feel satisfied.” Their latest performance at the U.S. Open in Flushing, Queens, New York proves this.
The group’s musical magnitude, dedicated and flawless performance stirred the most attention from the passing crowds that day. I was in the middle of that crowd photographing and video recording this band the entire time. I might have gotten the back of many people’s heads but the performance was worth every minute!
Recently, a record label invited Ava Luna to create a new album titled “Service LP.” They will also tour New England, Canada and some of the mid-west as an opening act for Toro Y Moi. Their first show is tonight at Webster Hall in New York City, and their last show is on September 25th in Minneapolis.
Greater opportunities and commitments also equates more complicated time and work management for the band. In my conversation with Carlos, I learned four of the band members have full-time jobs. They all try to make it to rehearsals 2-3 times a week and when they can’t, all singers and instrumentalists perform their parts in their own times. At rehearsals, Carlos conjures up ways he can synthesize rehearsals to temporarily fill the absent instrumentalist or singer.
“We have day jobs, but we play enough shows to support the band…It’s a lot of work”
Carlos also works several part-time jobs in order to make time for the band. On a normal day, Carlos communicates with the band members through constant emails concerning Ava Luna’s upcoming performances.
“We have day jobs, but we play enough shows to support the band; it is self sufficient. It is a lot of work,” concludes Carlos with conviction. Yet, Carlos wants to continue the group and further develop it professionally.
“When you step back and look at how far this band has come, it’s an accomplishment”
I asked Carlos where he would like to see Ava Luna a few years from now. One of his wishes is for Ava Luna to keep their sound without any compromises, or without changing their music in order to satisfy another major band’s musical taste. Carlos also says, “I want to see how far this can go. When you step back and look at how far this band has come, it’s a great accomplishment.”
Ava Luna’s mix of blues, soul, rhythm and blues, and folk in their songs, makes this independent group unlike any I’ve ever heard. I hope this band will go on more tours and make more albums. I finally asked Carlos what keeps him motivated to stay in the music business and he candidly replied, “It’s not a choice; this is just what I do.”