Photo by Garrett Shore
ADVAETA are an increasingly rare breed; a quintessential New York punk band that actually hails from New York. This city has always been their home (with a brief layover in Westchester County for singer and guitarist Amanda Salane), and I was recently welcomed into it by way of a home-cooked brunch invitation with the band at drummer Lani Combier-Kapel’s Bushwick apartment, an offer I couldn’t refuse. And that’s before I knew there would be Dun-Well Doughnuts.
I settled in with some coffee and admired the space; an eight foot Christmas tree was fully decorated behind me and I faced a chalkboard-paint covered wall. Roommates shuffled in and out as we enjoyed our brunch and bukkake jokes (always an appetizing combination). It was a welcoming environment, similar to Combier-Kapel’s new digs at Silent Barn, where she helps out with press and scours the borough for volunteers; a borough she has called home along with her band-mates for years.
“One thing about being from here; I’ve traveled, but I really would like to live in other cities,” Salane said. “The major reason I’m still here is because I’m in this band. I would move to Berlin in a heartbeat. I would live in New Orleans; I would love to live in Oakland.”
“We’re here for this,” Sara Fantry, Salane’s lead/rhythm guitar tug-of-war partner echoed.
And they’re here for each other, speaking fondly of one another as old friends tend to do and expressing pride in their song-writing, a one hundred percent collaborative process. Fantry and Combier-Kapel have known each other since high school, both attending LaGuardia. They started ADVAETA four-and-half years ago with Salane and another girl who has since left the band, choosing the name Advaita Vera at first for its expression of spirituality, duality and mysticism. Later, it was changed to ADVAETA to avoid confusion with Advaita, the most popular band from New Delhi.
I hadn’t heard of them, but they’re apparently a pretty big deal. A CMJ representative actually came to one of ADVAETA‘s shows expecting the Indian world-music band, only to be disappointed by an all-girls noise act.
“She apparently stayed for our entire set, but she didn’t do the article. I guess because we weren’t the most famous band called Advaita,” Fantry said.
“Why would Advaita, the most popular band in New Delhi play Alphabet Lounge?” Combier-Kapel reasoned.
“It’s [ADVAETA] better than ‘The Cunts’ or ‘The Bitches’,” Fantry joked as we shoveled down heaps of sriacha and avocado-covered eggs.
The narrative portrait I’ve painted thus far, coupled with the above domesticated photo of Fantry and Salane cooking eggs would likely lead you to believe that ADVAETA craft light-hearted pop tracks or emotionally-charged ballads. And while their music certainly has levity-underscored textures and is emotional, it actually does has a sound you’d expect from a band with a name like “The Cunts.”
Layered guitars, confrontational-yet-obscured vocals drowning in reverb and noise suggest a band schooled in shoegaze, New York City punk, and no-wave. ADVAETA acknowledge that these sounds, in addition to krautrock and post-punk are influences, but they’re striving for more.
“I love all this music but I’d rather it’s filtered through me instead of sounding like anything,” Salane said. “I want a completely new modern sound that’s completely individual to who I am and who we are. I don’t want anything derivative or contrived. I’m not for that at all.”
“I think there’s overall feeling of euphoria that we have been trying to capture recently,” Combier-Kapel said. “I think our newest stuff is sort of like that feeling, powerful leading drums, stuff like that. I play really heavy, on purpose recently.”
“We want to be the way Twin Peaks is, except as a band. We want to be like cookbooks with different recipes and ingredients that make up a whole that’s very tasty,” Salane joked, nearly causing me to spit out my antioxidant juice.
If there’s one unifying principle in ADVAETA‘s music, it seems to be honesty.
“We’re very honest with the things that come out of us,” Fantry added. “They’re extremely emotional. That’s what makes good art.”
“We’re brutally honest with each other; there’s zero superficiality in anything we do,” Salane affirmed.
Honesty is well and good, but what strikes me as the key to ADVAETA‘s recent success is their dedication. They’ve been at it for four-and-a-half years and are only now playing in the “band they want to play in,” as Fantry so aptly puts it.
“What’s funny about our band is that we started really crappy,” she added. “We started as not really good musicians and without clear vision.”
Countless Brooklyn bands would have called it quits a long time ago without the immediate gratification of blog praise, sponsored shows and licensing deals, but ADVAETA has persevered. And they’ve come a long way.
“Our first song… we played it so slow DUH NUH NUH NUH,” Salane joked. It was just a couple of chords.
“I was like ohhh, my fingers hurt, it really hurts my middle finger to have it on that many strings,” Fantry added in an exaggerated whine.
That was four years ago. Now they’re playing regular shows at their favorite venue (BIG SNOW, in all caps, 72 point font: their request) are primed to release their first full length; or an “EL-P” as Combier-Kapel put it, coming in at nine tracks, and are playing support gigs for the likes of Mount Eerie. And they’re doing it together, with a sense of humor:
“By the way our whole band is modeled after Lady Gaga, we worship her, like every time we play a show, we meditate to her,” Salane confessed.
“We have a shrine to her,” Fantry interrupted.
“I have a meat dress I’m going to wear to our next show,” Combier-Kapel mused.
And there are lots of “next shows,” including one tomorrow at Big Snow with one of my favorite bands around, Tom Blacklung and the Smokestacks, a set at Muchmore’s with Journalism, Butter The Children and Denver Hughes, a support spot for Roomrunner at Shea Stadium on the 18th and another support spot at Shea on the 24th for Mr. Dream.
I’d urge you to check them out. There won’t be any brunch; though there was a quarter of a Dun-Well Doughnut left over after our chat. Maybe they’ll bring that by if you ask nice enough.