AVEC may not be one of those loud, flashy kind of artists that easily pop onto your radar and then disappear without having left a noticeable mark on you. Ironically, the beginnings of her still young career quite resemble such quick rise to recognition out of nowhere. And there are more than a few acts who wouldn’t have passed the first stages of turning into a shooting star – a status the folk artist has long surpassed by now.
Initiating the project in 2015, the then 20-year-old musician has been quick to put herself on the map with straightforward and unpretentious songs that always go a bit deeper than one might suspect. Her debut record What If We Never Forget in 2016 was followed two years later by Heaven / Hell and established AVEC‘s virtue of pouring intimate lyrics into heart-warming melodies, wrapped in airy and intuitive folk-pop pieces. Far from merely echoing the playful and light vibe of the music, the Austrian songstress has come a long way on her third album, Homesick. The idea of home, the experience of not feeling connected to it, run like a thread through the ten new songs. These offer the fearless perspective of a matured artist who is not scared to look into darker spots of being alive.
‘All these songs circle around the topic of being away from home and how I feel about it, how I deal with it, but also about friendship, about people I called home, about love and betrayal, about neglect, abandonment and loneliness.’
Lost and found
There are plenty of reasons to feel the need to reconnect to one’s roots. Crises of identity, missing your loved ones or charging your spirits in a familiar setting are just some examples. For AVEC, who still calls the idyllic surroundings of Upper Austria her home, ‘it all started in July 2019, where I spent about a month in Berlin, writing with so many talented and inspiring artists and producers’, she reveals. ‘I’m not really used to big cities and despite of having a wonderful first experience co-writing and producing songs with other people, I had a hard time dealing with anxiety, depression and panic attacks’. She then explains to me, that ‘for the first time, I felt really homesick and all I wanted is to fly back to my family and go back to writing alone’.
‘I guess the combination of this big city, a new face every day and opening up to ‘strangers’ hit me and I realised then, that I had the record already inside my head.’
In the songs, one can feel that particular air of sensibility which wraps up sinister emotions like the ones she describes. And yet, music is more than just a retreat to escape feelings of pain and anxiety for the songwriter. Quite contrary, AVEC is using her art to confront and eventually overcome life’s hardships. ‘To be honest, the songs of ‘Homesick’ relate a lot to the feeling of being lost to over and over again trying to find back home again’, she clears up. It is all about the process, after all. And the music is the vehicle to channel and conquer all these irritations.
‘Listening to the album I think gives you a window into my mind and heart and that finding back home is sometimes difficult and challenging, but I guess you have to get lost sometimes to see the right way again.’
How does the light get in?
At first sight, it seems as if AVEC is trying hard to narrow down her songs down to the overall topic of home. Runaway, Homesick For A Day, Home, I’ll Come Back, these are just some song titles off the album. But once one gets closer into the music itself, it gets clear that there is really no way around that. The sense of being straightforward with her emotions, after all, is reflected in the songs themselves. There is the feeling of being burdened in Runaway (‘It feels like they’re tied to my bones / Oh, those heavy weights’), the sentiment of being unwanted in the lyrics of Homesick For A Day (‘Rooms are haunted and every bed is made of stone’) and the disenchantment of facing one’s own confusion in Heavy On My Mind (‘I almost lost my way in all these dreams’ places’), only to name a few.
AVEC does not shy away from taking these moody affections and frames them into compassionate tunes that turn the inside out. There is a strong sense of progression and the feeling that in working through these challenges, she builds a comfort zone with the art she creates out of that. And the brighter side of life then lingers at the horizon of the album after all. This is also reflected in the musical side of the songs, which keeps an elegant flow, despite all lyrical gravity.
‘It’s weird but it comes and flows naturally. It’s the way I cope with things. Music is the outlet I have for all these stories and thoughts, so my mind is like “this is all way too sad – let’s give the song a happy vibe then.’
‘Words tell the story’
A lot of the appeal of AVEC is rooted in her songwriting and it should come as no surprise that Homesick is no different in that respect. ‘To me lyrics are the most important thing of a song, they are the base – words tell the story’, she explains. One can think of them as a fundament indeed, and not only on symbolical level. As we get closer to her creative process, the songwriter points out that words actually come first and build the framework of a song, before getting any further. ‘I usually sit down with a guitar and try to find a melody that works with lyrics I’d already written down before or I’ll try to write from scratch’.
The story AVEC has to tell, is then not only one of fearless honesty about losing one’s own way, but also about coming back from dark places and being able to see that behind every cloud there is a silver lining. And so, from lyrics such as ‘Why is it still lonely in the dark?’ (Way Out), she builds bridges all the way to ‘And we were dancing in the dark / With the fire in our hearts’ (Fire). That is a journey worth every part of the way.
‘For me this record is another step in the way of getting to know myself better, to be honest with myself and to see a new chance in every setback.’
Safe and sound
It seems then, that the spaces AVEC has created with her art, are capable of offering the best solace to escape all feelings of disorientation, confusion and apathy after all. ‘In music I found a safe place for myself. You could call it home actually’, she sums up. Words that could easily be read as kitschy and overly dramatised statements in her case not only fully make sense with what the singer stands in for, but also reverberate with her attitude towards music and the way she uses her art to open herself up to others. And that is a quality that is worth holding on to. Especially in fast-moving and ever-changing times we find ourselves in.
‘Whenever I’m on stage it feels like coming home. For me ‘home’ is more a state of mind really, where it’s safe to let your guard down, where I can be whole and happy.’
AVEC‘s album Homesick is out now via earcancy recordings.
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