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The best kept secret in music


"CD review - Jersey Beat Magazine"

Someone should clone the voice of Avec's Shawna Potter-her dangerously sexy vocals are the highlight of an intriguing and genre challenging record from this Baltimore four piece. Beginning with her breathy intro on the opening "While You're Down There", Potter clearly establishes herself as a star waiting to explode. While Brooks Harlan offers a suitable counter to Potter's ethereal singing, his tracks lack the sensuality and expressiveness heard when Potter takes the helm, although the two of them make for an impressive tag-team on "Imprinting". Musically, the band will entice fans of pop and rock, as the band seemed to channel Parallel Lines- ear Blondie at times, before shifting gears to more darkly textured tracks such as "Deceptive Cadence" and "Mandragora". Most impressive here was the constant, but not unnecessary, shifting of tempo and styles. The band did not attempt to force itself into defying
its own sound, they simply moved effortlessly from atmospheric beauty to raunchier, guitar-bitten angst. Give this multiple spins, for this band is the musical equivalent of a brilliant author; there are subtleties to
notice each time you listen.
-Rich Quinlan - Jersey Beat Magazine

"Avec Pleasure - How a Texas Trio Became Baltimore’s Latest, Tightest Pop-Rock Avengers"

“The first tour we went on with me, I had lived here about two, three weeks,” curly-haired siren/guitarist Shawna Potter says, recalling the first time she hit the road with her current band mates. “All I cared about was learning that set, not fucking up, not making a fool of myself, not being the token anything. But we were so rushed for time I was just, ‘Tell me what you want.’ And the first song we wrote as a band—[which] is coming out on this record, ‘Beat a Pulse’—came out of us looking for places for me and eventually turning into something else.”

Since forming Avec in January 2003, the Baltimore quartet—Potter, 22; guitarist/vocalist Brooks Harlan, 28; drummer Scott Tiemann, 29; and bassist Adam Yeargin, 28—has grown from a lithe and energetic pop/punk outfit into a tautly wound live rock band capable of complex songs riddled with huge pop hooks. It’s a strength that runs through the 10 tracks on its debut full-length, If I Breathe I Fall Asleep, coming out on Baltimore’s Ambiguous City.

Potter’s breathy, full-throated vocals and catchy guitar crunch plays with, and off of, Harlan’s steely guitar lines and reedy howl. Yeargin and Tiemann push and pull songs’ rhythmic backbones from a full-throttle rush to a revving idle. “16 Minus 71” shifts gears three or four times over its four minutes. The intro features two sparring guitar lines riding a propulsive thrust that segues into Potter’s husky reading of the verse roiling over Yeargin’s subtle bass trot, Tiemann’s textural rustle, and Harlan’s sculpted distortion before, shifting into an overdrive bridge, the song itself is a bubbling slice of sensual anxiety.

And it’s only one slice of the Avec apple. Over the remaining nine tracks of Fall Asleep, Avec passes through herk-jerk powered by an introspective gallop (“Dejectile”); jazzy, airy prettiness (“Imprinting”) on which Potter’s and Harlan’s voices wrap around each other and drift apart; incendiary power pop (“Beat of Pulse,” “Deceptive Cadence”); pseudo-dubby trip-hop pop (“Mandragora”); and rib-cage rattling post-emo (“Momenta”). It’s got a broad assortment of songwriting arrows in its quiver that grew out of Potter joining Sand Which Is—the Texas trio of Harlan, Tiemann, and Yeargin—two and a half years ago.

Harlan, Tiemann, and Yeargin met as undergraduates at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where they formed Sand Which Is in 1997. After graduating in 1998 they scattered throughout Texas—Harlan to Wichita Falls, Yeargin to the Dallas area, and Tiemann to Austin. Every two months or so, they would meet up, practice for a night or two, tour for about two weeks, and then return to their homes. And it was on one of these brief tours that they met Potter.

Potter lived in Nashville, where she played in the then-recently disbanded Fair Verona. Sand Which Is had heard her group and asked the Nashville promoter if Fair Verona could open for it, and got Potter solo. She met everybody in the band that evening, each liked what the other was doing, and they thought about trying to work together.

Around the same time Harlan’s wife got a job in Baltimore, and that was enough for the entire band to relocate. Sand Which Is had spent three days in Baltimore before, staying with Third Harmonic Distortion’s Jason Hughes after a Brass Monkey show. They liked the city, and decided to give the place a try—and asked Potter if she wanted to come, too.

“The only time we would see each other was the day before a tour, when we would relearn our songs, and then we’d spend two weeks together and split up again,” Yeargin says in the band’s basement rehearsal space at Harlan’s house after a weeknight practice. An innocuous sandy blond, Yeargin is the least sarcastic Avec member, the one quick to clarify any potential misunderstanding an offhand joke might imply. The other band members sit around the practice space firing off jokes at a steady clip.

“And so over the course of this, we said, ‘This is ridiculous,’ Yeargin continues. “None of us had real ties in Texas, all of us were kind of itching to get out because we had lived there our whole lives. And I remember Brooks saying, ‘We’re going to Baltimore,’ and Scott and I were like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”

Harlan and his wife came up and found the West Baltimore house where they currently live, and Yeargin and Tiemann arrived and lived with them shortly afterward. And when Potter arrived a few months later, she lived in the basement room in which the band now practices.

That’s right: six twentysomethings in one house with one bathroom. “It was a delicate balance of Brooks and Carrie with their family, and then Scott and I, two 26-year-old guys living downstairs, and Shawna living in the basement,” Yeargin downplays. “OK, it was kind of crazy.”

And Potter had really only met the band the one time. “All I really had to go on was meeting them once at a show and two really long e-mails of just questions that I asked them,” she says. “And on that I moved to Baltimore. I just wanted to move in general, so even if this band didn’t work out I was going to be, ‘Fuck it, I’ll just live in Baltimore.’”

It wasn’t all just fuck it and see, though. Sand Which Is’ noisy, gnarled emo and Potter’s energetic pop/rock touches in Fair Verona sound like two different mind-sets, but they each recognized ways they complement each other. Sand Which Is was the only thing I listened to that I really thought had a place for me,” Potter says. “I heard things I could add to make it better.”

The trio decided to try folding Potter into Sand Which Is for six months just to see what happened, arranging guitar and vocal parts for her to play, but everybody soon realized that if they really wanted to try the test the new lineup they needed to start from scratch. In January 2003 they scrapped the Sand Which Is songbook and started writing new material, letting Potter’s pop hooks collide with Harlan’s noisy thrust.

“Since I was the only guitar player in Sand Which Is, my parts were a lot thicker,” Harlan says. “Now my parts have become more interesting because I have more freedom and I don’t have to sing as much. Shawna and I play guitar very differently, and she’ll think of something that I would never think of. We’ll take a part that could be really poppy sounding and mess it up just enough so that you can still hum it, but it’s not totally pop.”

“And that’s just because they’ve let me come in with my background in R&B music growing up,” Potter says. “It wouldn’t come across so much if they weren’t cool with it, that big hook influence.”

It’s an influence that’s opened up an accessible, limber space in Sand Which Is’ rigid morass, and it’s a freedom the entire band appreciates. “I think with Sand Which Is we were doing some complex stuff, but I think we’re doing it better now,” Tiemann says. “In our minds we thought it was complex, but it just sounded noisy. And I think we’re doing these changes, these arrangements, we’re performing them better and playing better overall, and now people are able to hear nuance where before it was just noise.”

Now, the band members have fully embraced the musical freedom Avec has afforded them and are more willing to try new things. For the upcoming CD-release show, Yeargin is going to play bass for a few songs, and the group is adding another percussionist for a fuller rhythmic texture to Tiemann’s already dynamic patterns. “And just in one night of Scott and I arranging some percussion parts for the show, we had a blast,” Yeargin says. “We’d never done anything like it before, and I’m looking forward to doing more things like that, just to try it out.”

“We’ve always wanted to do these things,” Tiemann says. “And now we’re finally to the point where we’re just like, ‘Why not?’”

by Bret McCabe - Baltimore City Paper

"Avec is the new kid in Mobtown"

Avec are the Hopkins students of the local Baltimore rock scene. With their intelligence, impeccable work ethic, well-honed talent and unabashed love for The O.C., this quartet isn't afraid to call themselves nerdy. They can admit it with pride because they know all of their hard work--their strict organization and structured practices--has paid off. This Saturday, Avec held their first album release show at The Talking Head.

The band originally began as three Texas Tech students (Brooks Harlan on vocals and guitar, Adam Yeargin on bass and Scott Tiemann on drums) who had just graduated with the realization that they could do nothing more with their degrees than they could before. So they reverted back to one thing they knew and loved: they formed a band. There were not called Avec until January 1, 2003 when Shawna Potter, formerly of Fair Verona, joined to lend her vocals, guitar, and experience to the band.

To complete their fresh start as Avec, the four moved to Baltimore. Two weeks later they played their first show together at the Ottobar, opening for Coheed and Cambria. "It was one of my favorite shows," recalls Harlan, "because I remember looking over at Potter in the middle of it and realized that it was going to work."

The combination of the two powers was a perfect fit. Potter, a self-taught guitarist with what Harlan calls "a great ear for music," kept herself from getting stuck in the rut that many un-trained artists find themselves in by absorbing the knowledge and expertise of her new band mates.

Realizing the need to push herself in order to keep up with the other members she was slightly intimidated. Potter did recognize, however, that she was experienced enough to not have to prove herself to anyone that she belonged there. "I just want people to come to shows," she says, with a radiant smile, "and whether they like it or not, they can't deny that we rock."

Through Avec, Potter also learned to play for herself. "Band people get teased a lot in high school," Harlan notes as we sit in the coldest corner, near the iciest window on the second floor of The Talking Head, "so you just get used to the fact that if you're going be good at your instrument you have to be good for yourself. You have to make yourself good and you have to be your own critic." Potter, having been so young in such a quickly successful band, had never had this opportunity.

Yeargin, Tiemann, and Harlan in turn benefited from Potter's tenure in the band. Her ease and comfort onstage set the example for the rest of the band when faced with unexpectedly large crowds, like the one at their first show at the Ottobar. Potter's help was also indispensable when it came time to find a record label for Avec. She knew exactly what not to want in a label and helped find exactly what they wanted in Ambiguous City! Records who produced their first CD, If You Breathe I Fall Asleep.

For their album release the band not only gave away copies of the CD but for their set they played the entire album, start to finish and with something a little more for their devoted audience. They took out most of the synthesized aspects of the music from the recording and added an extra drummer/instrumentalist so that the audience would hear something different than the CD they were getting. Not only that, but the multi-talented members played everything from saxophone to sand paper.

The end result of this was an inspiringly high-energy show. Avec's performance was nothing short of electrifying and had the crowd so involved that the floor was noticeably shaking. The group's music is so agile that it is hard to put a sound on it -- hardcore, punk rock, a touch of metal -- whatever it is, it's loud, fast, rough and brilliant. The alternating male/female lead vocals added a startling new and fresh perspective on each song. The highlight of the entire show was a song where Tiemann, Yeargin, and a guest instrumentalist played different sets of drums complemented by Potter's soft, background guitar.

So invigorating was the show that at the end the audience pushed the reluctant Potter back on stage and demanded the band play one last song. The band conceded, to satisfy the crowd, and played a slower song from their earlier EP to mollify them.

Although the band swears against any sort of jam session it is impossible to tell that their music is created in such a structured way. They are all extremely talented, natural musicians. Avec does not need a style or a sound to define who they are because what they do have is eclectic and genuine enough to defy definition. They may be the hard-working, dedicated, self-proclaimed nerds of the Baltimore bands, but Avec can more than hold their own with the rest of them.

By Alex Begley - Johns Hopkins news paper

"review of AVEC ep"

Avec hail from Baltimore with a sound that strongly resembles the electronic elements of The Faint with a bit of Poe (strong female vocals).Some might call this emo in the style of the Anniversary but there's more of a Lifetime feel to this stuff melody-wise. Great driving guitarwork and solid rock beat mix well with the dual male/female vocals. Fans of At The Drive-in will really like the first track,"Doubled Over" with it's yell-sing vocals and spastic guitar lines. I hear a little bit of Coheed and Cambria here, but without the whiney vocals and cliche metal riffs that make it so bland. A solid release - Duendezine

"CD review - IndieWorkshop.com"

Avec are nervy and gritty. Listening to the opening track “while you’re down there” makes me want to bite into aluminum cans and foam at the mouth, or something similarly spastic and crazy. From the opening track it’s clear they’ve got the art of post-hardcore down pretty well. It’s male and female vocal attack like a pissed off pretty girls make graves. Not to drop obscure names (but I’m a record critic it’s what I do and how I flex superiority over the record geeks out there) but throughout this album the band continually reminds me of mid nineties post whatever emo never-stars Dhalia Seed. They’ve got the bite and the chops and are better than that band, so they might actually get recognized in the tenure of their career.

But that’s only one song into this debut full length If I Breathe I fall Asleep. The trick is, can they keep up what works. And indeed they do. “16 Minus 17” is great, with a nice anthem chorus of “stop kissing after drinking”. I have no idea what that actually means in the larger scheme of the song, but it sounds kinda cool, and doesn’t hurt that it’s delivered with just a touch of a snarl from vocalist Shawna. Similarly on “Beat of Pulse” the band gets its angriest and Shawna lets her range go. It gets a tad over dramatic on this song, but it rocks hard enough to let me forgive this grievance.

With all this, it seems needless to say that Avec are indeed an impressive band. I like their name, I like their attitude. I like their bass lines. With their sound there’s post hardcore influence of Washington DC and traces of emo. That combination is pretty run of the mill these days, but it’s executed very well. With Avec’s inclusion of some 90’s alternative and indie rock sounds this makes the whole package unique and worth your attention.
- IndieWorkshop.com

"CD review - Amplifier Magazine"

While it might not be a combination many people would have thought up as a musical dream team, Fair Verona’s Shawna Potter and the Texas trio of Sand Which Is (guitarist Brooks Harlan, bassist Adam Yeargin, drummer Scott Tiemann) make an intriguing combination in their new alliance as Avec. Formed in early 2003 and based in Baltimore, Avec explores the tension between Potter’s pop/rock experience and the noisy emo chaos of Sand Which Is on their debut, If I Breath I Fall Asleep.
Potter yips and shrieks and croons with a fevered approximation of Bjork, Ani DeFranco and Siouxsie Sioux while the band creates a swirling mad mass of shifting rhythms and sonic intersections of emo fury (“Beat of Pulse”), pop harmony (“Deceptive Cadence”), punk defiance (“16 Minus 71”) and even a touch of sexually charged lounge pop with Harlan and Potter’s jazzy strains on “Imprinting.”
Although Avec churns through a myriad of styles and moods on the album, it is the band’s intensity throughout their presentation that brings it all together.
-Brian Baker
- Amplifier Magazine – April 2005


AVEC - If I breathe I Fall Asleep - full length CD - 2005 - Ambiguous City Records

AVEC - self titled EP - 2003 - Big Crunch / Restart Records


Feeling a bit camera shy


Technically, a transient art form might require topical movement, shifting sensibilities, and tireless invention. If this is the case, then Avec’s debut album If I Breathe I Fall Asleep is certainly transient in both substance and style. What is remarkable is how the band wields this ever shifting musical trope as a blunt emotional weapon that both surprises, startles and ultimately engages the listener.

Shape shifting and haunting, tense and erotic, each track seems to flower from a raw emotional collapse into the next. For example, “While Your Down There” opens with a twisted, psycho 80s dark rhythmic incantation that oddly blends into the forceful, evocative “16 minus 71”. Then, with a sort of astral magnificence the album winds into the sexual undertones of the beguiling duet between guitarist / vocalist Brooks Harlan and guitarist / vocalist Shawna Potter titled “Imprinting”, a stylish give and take that blends delicate guitar work with sensual lyricism. Finally the album wanders through the brooding undertones of “Mandragora”, a smoldering piece of vacillating vocals and light ethereal melodies.

To experience the true potentialities of a dynamic band with absolute artistic ambitions, check out Avec’s If I Breathe I fall Asleep.