Steve Bertrand - Avion

October 21, 2004

You guys are in L.A.

We are. We'll be in Austin tomorrow. We were in Fresno last night, L.A. today, and tomorrow we will be in Austin, TX. Tomorrow's a fly date. We're doing that KAMX The MixFest with Tears For Fears. It's called The Backyard and it's an outdoor venue I understand. About 6,000 people. It's a one off fly show that we're doing. It's one of those radio things that we're obligated to do. It'll be fun.

Tell me a bit about your band.

We've only been together about 10 months. It was a byproduct of another band that I was in called The Tories and we made a couple of little indie records and did pretty well. MTV2 came in the indie pop world and I just decided to try something new. I wrote a bunch of songs when that band ended and made this record. Put the band together and decided to go out and conquer the world.

You did the record before you actually had the band together?

Yeah, kind of simultaneous but yeah, the record was being made as I was scouring the city for the players. Iím a bit of a control freak. I play a lot of different instruments and I ended up playing a lot of bass on the record and guitar. Engineered it, mixed it, and produced it. Then just had a bunch of friends play on it. I eventually put the band together and then they played on it. I do everything backwards. There should be no exception with this.

Sometimes the best way to do things is the complete opposite way everyone else does it.

Exactly.

Tell us a bit about the CD.

Well, there are 13 songs. I think just drawing from some of my biggest influences like U2 probably is my biggest influence, the record is definitely a byproduct of the break up of a relationship and this last band I was in and I used it as therapy to write these songs. Yet Iím told that these songs here always have an element of hope and a thread of hope to them so thatís always a good thing.

I find it amazing when people do CDs and play all the music themselves. Where do you find the talent to play so many different instruments?

Iím just good at faking it. I grew up in the mountains in Vermont. There were not a lot of musicians in my neighborhood so I really never learned one instrument really well. But Iíve learned a bunch of instruments kind of. A jack of all trades, master of none. I write what I hear and what I feel and then try to put that down in such a way that it sounds right and it sounds competent. If I donít play it well enough, then I bring in people that can play it well enough.

That always works. Before you signed with Columbia, you traveled to 65 cities showing up at radio stations.

Yeah, we sure did.

Did you just show up and say weíre Avion and here we are?

Yeah, we had a team that was working behind the scenes for us. It was a battle. We had no record deal and people at the stations are hit up by everybody on a daily basis. It was quite a miraculous thing. We had this plan and this idea to go out and just take the country by storm. Literally just go from station to station and create a story and make it happen. We were watching the business all around us. It was collapsing and becoming increasingly more depressing to look at. We decided this is a great record and weíre a great band. Letís go out and letís make them come to us. Letís get the song on the radio. Thatís what we did and fortunately it worked.

The music business has gone a little bit haywire.

Yeah, itís definitely changed a lot year after year.

How did Columbia get interested in you guys?

Itís called a #23 hit on the radio. Look, people want to be a part of something thatís successful. Here we were, the only artist in the last 15 years since Lisa Loeb to get a song on the Top 20 without a record company. Thereís something to be said for that because they all know the game and they know how much money they spend to make those kinds of things happen. This happened because it was a great song. Because we were out there doing it. It was great. Itís exactly what we wanted to have happen. We wanted someone to come alongside and say ďcool, you guys did a good job. Now we think we can do it better.Ē Thatís what weíre hoping November 2, thatís when the whole thing happens. That November 2 the record comes out and that this was just a precursor to much bigger, better things.

On November 3, you start a tour thatís going to run into December 5.

Yeah, weíll be out with Everclear for a couple of months. It starts actually before we go out on the 27th or 28th of October and then we donít come home until the 22nd of December so weíre gone for just about two months. Weíre really looking forward to that because weíre out in the country and getting to see a bunch of people and playing some music.

How did you guys get hooked up with the Everclear tour?

Our booking agent and the record company. Art had gotten a copy of our record and really liked it. That started the ball rolling to get us on the bill.

You wrote all the songs. Do you feel that being on Columbia youíll still have that kind of freedom? Sometimes labels feel the need to get involved in that process.

Theyíve actually let us do our own thing. Hopefully those stories are a thing of the past. Thereís a reason when someone is having success and hopefully they can look into the areas that weíre not doing things right and to make them right and make them better. Thereís always room to grow and likewise hopefully they can look into the areas where we have had success and say ďyou know what? This is a formula that works for them so letís let them do their thing.Ē I donít think youíll find with rock and roll bands the same kind of stories that you hear of the 14 year old girl being told to sing about her cute ass or whatever they want her to sing about. Thatís really not the case with rock bands. Iíve never really understood that when people have asked me those questions like is the record company going to make me into this or make me into that. No, weíre all adults and nobody tells us how to dress and no one tells us how to make our music sound. After all rock and roll is about rebellion.

Iíve talked to rock and metal bands where they actually had that problem.

Really? Thatís unfortunate if thatís the case. That hasnít been my experience and hopefully it wonít be.

When you left The Tories, you wanted to have a solo career but that wasnít working out the way you wanted it to?

It wasnít that it wasnít working out. I was just doing my own thing. Writing songs by myself and testing them out on audiences at this local singer/songwriter night that I did out at the Malibu Inn. That was totally fine. I was really happy doing that but when I got invited to go and sing at the Rosebowl in front of 40,000 people, I realized really quickly on stage that that was not the best way for me to communicate my music by myself with an acoustic guitar. That was really the catalyst for me to try to put the band together.

Sometimes itís more comfortable to be surrounded by other people.

Yeah, absolutely.

You have your own media company.

Yeah, when we put this little crazy idea out there, we decided to launch our own little label, my partner Chris Dickinson and myself. We along with this record launched this media company called The Console and we were the masterminds behind the marketing plan and the radio plan along with our management and a great team of people that we put together. Fortunately things worked out and our first project being my record and my band. Now weíve got this joint venture with Columbia. All of our marketing materials and everything will also include The Console and will help us brand that as well as the band and hopefully add some more value to what weíre doing as a company and open up other opportunities for us in the world of music and film and television and anything that we find to pursue.

When you guys get done touring up North and on the East coast and then the West, what are your plans after that?

Iím going to chill out in Vail for Christmas and take a little break. The label is going to be going with a second single right after the New Year, so weíll gear up. Thereís been talk of us going out with a couple of different bands so weíll hope for a great spring and summer tour.

You took your name from the French word for airplane. I notice bands take on some wild names because it seems like the good ones are taken.

Thatís exactly why I didnít want to name my band three different words and a number put together or something. It just seems like the English language has been exhausted and Iím French. Avion is the French word for airplane and there are a bunch of references to flight on this album. That seemed like a good reason. It was also based on a photograph that I took outside the window of an airplane which served as the inspiration for a lot of the songs on this record. All those reasons coupled together seemed to make sense.

Any other thoughts or comments?

Thatís about all the silly things I can think of at the moment. Feel free to check out our website, www.avionmusic.com.

Avion