Ava Luna
Ava Luna

Ava Luna

About Ava Luna

Founded by multi-instrumentalist/engineer Carlos Hernandez in the late 2000s, Ava Luna relied heavily on vocal harmonies, free forms, and jagged, percussive arrangements before taking their indie art funk in a gradually more structured direction beginning with 2014's Electric Balloon. Three albums later, 2018's still more refined Moon 2 was a more democratic effort with Hernandez stepping back as leader.
The roots of Brooklyn-based group Ava Luna began in frontman Carlos Hernandez's high-school bedroom, where he would write and record songs under the name Ava. In college he met Julian Fader and Nathan Tompkins, and the three of them changed the band name to Ava Luna, figuring "Ava" was probably already taken by a more prominent act somewhere. Hernandez spent time as an engineer and working on various small-scale noise and punk projects after college, with Ava Luna coming in and out of focus as the years went on. The self-released Lemming marked their unofficial debut in 2007. With 2009's 3rd Avenue Island, a homemade CD-R release, the band congealed yet again, this time featuring Hernandez on vocals with a host of various singers and a minimal musical backdrop of drums and synthesizers.
The band followed in 2010 with the Services EP, featuring a different lineup and a sound that continued toward the heavy vocal harmonies of bands like Dirty Projectors with increasingly obtuse neo-soul-inspired musical backdrops. A proper debut surfaced in 2012 with the release of Ice Level. By this point the band was more or less in a stable lineup, featuring Hernandez on vocals and guitar, Fader on drums, Tompkins on synths, Ethan Bassford on bass, and a trio of female singers, Felicia Douglass, Becca Kauffman, and Anna Sian. The group toured in support of Ice Level, opening some larger shows for Twin Sister. They returned with the less chaotic follow-up Electric Balloon in 2014 and an even more traditionally structured set of art funk and R&B-infused songs with 2015's Infinite House.
Following its release, several members embarked on other musical endeavors, with Kauffman launching the performance art project Jennifer Vanilla, Douglass releasing music as Gemma, and Fader founding Coffee. Fader and Hernandez also released a debut album with vocalist Nadia Hulett as NADINE. In the meantime, Hernandez and Fader produced and recorded for artists including Frankie Cosmos, Mr Twin Sister, and Speedy Ortiz. When a five-piece Ava Luna consisting of Hernandez, Fader, Kauffman, Douglass, and Bassford reconvened in late 2017, Hernandez took less of a leadership role, and Kauffman wrote her first song for the group. The band issued a reimagining of Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson in March of 2018, and Douglass began touring with Dirty Projectors as percussionist/vocalist before the band released the resulting Moon 2 in September. A still more subdued outing for Ava Luna, it was partly influenced by the regular chants and refrains of a collection of tapes by '90s women's lib groups that Kauffman brought along to the sessions. ~ Fred Thomas & Marcy Donelson

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