The Avatars
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The Avatars

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With the line between the Detroit and Ann Arbor scenes getting fainter by the day, it's only natural that Ann Arbor could spawn a band that may as well have played the Grande Ballroom in 1968 with the likes of The Pleasure Seekers and The Rationals...

Infallibly, The Avatars amalgamate rock'n'roll with unmistakeable hints of Motown and '60s soul...

Their live show is nothing short of jolting and they pull it off asif they've played together for years. Every song is electrified with heavy, racous guitar (I mean this in the best sense ofthe word), lambasting drums and sledging bass lines. The whole sound is sewn together perfectly by Cherem's sultry vocals and infectious fitsof tambourine...

Since their birth earlier this year, The Avatars have gigged with some very notable names, recorded a demo that captures, impeccably, their faithfulness to rock'n'roll and having fun, and have stirred up enough commotion to be deemed "the best band out of Ann Arbor in years" by several other bands from the area... - Ann Arbor Paper - Current

Hard Lessons: Feedback Loop EP (
The Elevations: The Elevations (
The Avatars: Wait EP (No Fun Records)
The Paybacks: Harder And Harder (Get Hip)
Denise James: It's Not Enough To Love (Rainbow Quartz)
Powertrane: Beyond The Sound EP (American Ruse)
The Hentchmen: FormFollowsFunction (Times Beach)
Nomo: Nomo (Ypsilanti Records)
The Sirens: The Sirens (Get Hip)
The Dollfaces: The Dollfaces (Skye Records)
The Volebeats: Country Favorites (Turquoise Mountain)
Outrageous Cherry: Why Don't We Talk About Something Else (Rainbow Quartz)
Nathaniel Mayer: Satisfied Fool (Fat Possum)
Gore Gore Girls: 7 X 4 ( (
Tiny Steps: Tiny Steps (Rhythmitus)
Skeemin' NoGoods, "Skeemin' NoGoods" (Idol)
The Nice Device: Birth Of A Lover ( - WDET FM

By Melody Baetens

ANN ARBOR -- After debuting last spring, the Avatars have quickly become one of the hottest new bands in Detroit’s rock ’n’ roll scene.

The group formed after drummer Claudia Leo, formerly of new-wave group Rael Rean, saw singer Mariah Cherem play with the Done Wrongs, which features Don Blum and Jason Stollsteimer of the Von Bondies. Leo was so impressed with Cherem’s intense bluesy vocals that she wanted them to start a band together.

The women rounded out the Avatars lineup with female bassist Theresa Kiefer and guitarist Box Taylor, an Ann Arbor musician who also plays with Scott Morgan’s Powertrane. In December, the Avatars added guitarist Charlie Lorenzi, who moved to Ann Arbor early last year from Argentina, where he performed in the rock band the Coronados.

Early on, the band hit a snag when the police raided the practice space the band rented in the Technology Center in Ann Arbor while looking for squatters. In the center were other theater and music people who had studios. The musicians returned the next day to find their equipment in the streets. Shortly after, a suspected arson fire in the building forced all the bands to find a new place to practice.

The Avatars regrouped in an Ypsilanti practice space and eventually played its first show last spring at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, supporting the Sights and Scott Morgan’s Powertrane.

Name: The Avatars

Lineup: Mariah Cherem, vocals and tambourine; Theresa Kiefer, bass, back-up vocals; Claudia Leo, drums, percussion and back-up vocals; Charlie Lorenzi, guitar; Chris “Box” Taylor, guitar.

Sound: “For the first three or four months, people kept saying we were a new-wave band,” Leo says. “Then, we started playing Detroit and everyone started calling us a garage rock band.” The Avatars, which plays straight-up rock n’ roll, performs with a singer who can belt out a strong, bluesy vocal, along the lines of the Detroit Cobras or the Tough and Lovely.

Discography: The Avatars’ first release will be a 7-inch single, due at the end of January on No Fun Records. The band also plans to appear on a compilation record from Ordinary Recordings in Brazil.

Next: The Avatars open for The Fondas at the Magic Stick Saturday. The show also features Chicago group The Dials. Doors open at 9 p.m. and cover charge is $7. The Magic Stick is located at 4120 Woodward Ave. in Detroit. Call (313) 833-9700.

On Feb. 7, the Avatars will open for the legendary Nathaniel Mayer and Barrance Whitfield and the Savages at the Attic Bar, 11667 Jos. Campau St., in Hamtramck. Call (313) 365-4194.

Melody Baetens is a Metro Detroit free-lance writer. You can e-mail her at melody
- Detroit News - Detroit Free Press

by Mark Deming

Formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the Spring of 2003, the Avatars wasted little time in establishing themselves as one of the popular and well-respected bands in the Detroit-area music scene. Playing straightforward rock & roll brimming with pop hooks, garage rock swagger, and an R&B undertow for the folks who feel like dancing, the Avatars feature several veterans of notable Michigan bands; guitarist Chris "Box" Taylor played with Mazinga and Powertrane, drummer Claudia Leo kept time for new wave revivalists Rael Raen, and vocalist Mariah Cherem sang with the Done Wrongs, which featured future Von Bondies' members Jason Stollsteimer and Don Blum. With bassist Theresa Kiefer rounding out the lineup, the Avatars soon found themselves sharing stages with the cream of the Detroit-area rock community, including the Von Bondies, the Sights, the Gore Gore Girls and the Detroit Cobras, and in November of 2003, the group recorded their first single, featuring the songs "Wait" and "There Was a Time." By the time the record was released in early 2004, the Avatars had expanded into a five-piece with the addition of second guitarist Charlie Lorenzi, who formerly played with the Brazilian group the Coronados.

WAIT 7" Single
Review by Mark Deming

Two quality slices of high-energy coolness make for a very promising debut from this Michigan-based garage outfit. The topside, "Wait", is a charging power pop number with a killer hook and some potent guitar riffing, while the flip, "There Was a Time", cuts back the tempo just a bit for a tight R&B-influenced groove. On both sides, guitarist Chris "Box" Taylor shows you can fill the dancefloor and still give your leads the cojones they deserve (a welcome development in this genre), vocalist Mariah Cherem is a rock vixen with both pipes and attitude, and the rhythm section of Theresa Kiefer and Claudia Leo give the performances some real rock drive. Despite the flood of garage rock pretenders who've emerged since the White Stripes made MTV, the Avatars' first single shows that they're the real deal -- an album is certainly in order. - All Music Guide

The Belmont, Hamtramck
February 28, 2004
by Christopher Chouinard & Jacquie Trost

Hot Ann Arbor band The Avatars have released a highly anticipated piece of vinyl, and they held a record release party to celebrate. With Saturday Looks Good To Me also on the bill, this show was so hot that the MCR editors fought over who would get to cover it. Even a street fight couldn't settle this one, so you get two perspectives!

TAKE ONE. CHRISTOPHER: Saturday nite was almost NO good for me. Having my ride bail on me at the 11th hour, trusty web journalist Jacquie came through in the pinch. Founding Father Ryan was soon dispatched, and you people have them to thank. Course... if you hate my shots and articles, you have them to blame.

Racing towards the Belmont in Hamtramck for the AVATARS single release party, we arrived in the 'nick of rock' to see the Avatars take stage -first. Goin on first at your own record release speaks volumes of this bands integrity - forget all notion of ass kissing. Sure one of my Magic Stick photographs was used on the back of the new single "WAIT", but I only found out well after it's pressing, early last week to be exact. So, the sheer fact I attended two prior shows, and have followed the band since then, tells you just how I feel about their work. Making it to the stage proved tougher than I thought. Having never been to the Belmont before, I didn't know the stage had been moved to the rear of the building, or the walls are lined with sheet metal - a hotbox indeed. The band was as hot physically, as they were musically. Despite toubled sound issues (they could not hear themselves they noted at several points), they soldiered on through several numbers, including the new single's B side - "There Was a Time" and the song "Honey Do ". Lead singer Mariah Cherem belted out the songs aplenty, while looking good doing it. May I nominate her for a VH-1 fashion award now please? Spearheaded by drummer Claudia Leo's fine writing skills, and pounding backbeats, the songs are poppy, catchy, rock basic 101. Add two guitars by Theresa Kiefer and Chris "BOX" Taylor (also of the GREAT Scott Morgan led - Powertrane), you have one damn fine band. We cannot forget the other reason to party on this fine Saturday nite - Charlie Lorenzi. Charlie was not only playing in the band, but celebrating his Birthday with good friend Eric Stollsteimer (The Elevations). Ok, so Eric's birthday was a month ago - it was an excuse to party with good friends and smear cake on faces of Detroit's Rock contingent. Spotted in the crowd were esQuire, Ex Brats Ricky and Brian Oblivion, dance king Tony, Jasper Berg (Corvairs and graphic artist king), Jackie O. and George of Bisou Bisou, Melody Licious (The Sirens,Corvairs) and tattooed god Andy. If you didn't know anyone don't get out much!

After the firey set by The Avatar's, Fred Thomas's ever rotating STAURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME was up next. With the sound issues pretty much hammered out, Fred's main concern was not breaking his guitar strings. Trooper that he is, he honored us with an acapella tune while restringing. It only went to show his talent, and proved to me that he
can easily stand with any Ryan Adam or Pete Yorn in the storyteller arena. His quirky lyrics and feel for a good jam keeps the act fresh, and this was no different. Reminding me very much of The Flaming Lips, SATURDAY'S line up rocked the BELMONT with ease. Backed up by a solid new line up - the crowd grooved into the wee hours of the morning. It was 'standing room only' from start to finish. The night was an overwhelming success. Next time you see the words AVATARS or SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME, cancel your plans and make new ones. Make sure you say you saw them BEFORE they were big, because they will be. Special Thanks to THE AVATARS and MCR staff for making my Saturday fine after all. --Christopher Chouinard

TAKE TWO. JACQUIE: Since Christopher so expertly recounted the evening, I don’t have much to add. OK, maybe I do…both bands ROCKED!

You know you’re in for a good show when the band goes up for a sound check, and everyone in the joint bum-rushes the stage – and that’s exactly what happened at the Belmont. THE AVATARS had to tell everyone to sit back down and enjoy themselves - they would be going on shortly. ‘Shortly’ came around 11:20, and everyone was quickly back on their feet. The vocals were great (despite technical issues) and the sound was even better. If you didn’t get in to the music, you must have been a corpse. THE AVATARS have one of the most polished sounds of any D-town band today, and I know they will soon be turning the country into die-hard AVATARS fans.

Fred Thomas’ new SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME (SLGTM) line-up was next. Now, I have to be honest, I was a bit skeptical about this ‘new’ band. I’ve learned that when a group reforms with all new members (in this case, Fred is the only original), sometimes it’s better to have changed your name -

Vibrant, rocking pop from a Michigan four-piece, whose ranks include Powertrane bassplayer and all-round good guy, Chris "Box" Taylor, on guitar, and his girlfriend Theresa Kiefer on bass. Mariah Cherem's vocals are instantly memorable. There's an obvious debt to '60s girl groups but the A side is way tougher than you might think on an initial listen, with the tune hanging off a catchy "woah-oh" chorus. "There Was a Time" adds a dash of Latin to the rhythms and shows The Avatars to be a band not willing to chart one course. Striking the right mix of raunch and pop is a difficult ask. The Avatars look to have nailed it. Very cool stuff. - The Barman - - Maximum Rock'n'Roll

I’ve enjoyed the few Avatars sets I’ve seen in the past – usually as not much more than fun little toe-tapping, 60’s pop tinged experiences, though. As such, I really wasn’t expecting anything like the set thrown out here, because The Avatars sounded absolutely bombastic for this gig.

Maybe it was just the contrast of hearing the band play after Coronados, but man, it seemed like the band shafted the 60’s intonations in favor of a big thick load of guitar rock. Mariah Cherem’s voice sounded more powerful and raspy than usual, while Lorenzi and Taylor’s guitars jangled together with a depth I hadn’t heard from this band before.

Drummer Leo and bassist Theresa Kiefer were tighter than I’d ever heard before, as well, and the effect of it all was one very powerful set – easily the most impressive one I’ve seen. -


"Wait b/w There Was a Time" 7 inch.
Killer Muzika Records!/No Fun Records 2004



Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, The Avatars formed in May of 2003 armed with a carefully crafted line-up that included members of some of the most-buzzed about bands in the area. With the right mix of a who's who of local musicians, The Avatars have been winning audiences with their infectious, primitive brand of rock-n-roll.

In short, The Avatars play simple poppy concoctions with ample catchy beats -- creating a bubblegum bop mix that's been described as reminiscent of a fresh Motown- Ramones sound. Their simple, straight-up contagious tunes proved to be the key to win audiences in Detroit and beyond by storm, leaving crowds asking for more hip-shaking action wherever they perform.

Working through a set of originals ranging from hard-edged to sultry, the sometimes raw, sometimes nuanced force of lead singer Mariah Cherem's intense bluesy voice is supported by the solid dynamic interplay of guitarist Chris Taylor's manic, raucous mid-air soloing accentuated by Charlie Lorenzi's fine and tight rhythm swagger.

Underneath it all, drummer Claudia Leo and bassist Theresa Kiefer set a rock-solid, footstomping, head-melting rhythmic core. The band's girl-group-meets-Romantics rock formula has allowed them to scoop up some of the most coveted shows in the cutthroat world of Detroit Rock City, playing with some of the most-talked about bands in the rock scene.

The Avatars know how to have fun, how to vamp it up, and how to give the tambourine a certain rattlesnake tension, winning them a reputation for being fireballs on stage.