In the spirit of the late 1920s gospel crooner Charles E. Moody, there’s a great hymn called “Drifting Too Far From the Shore.” Moody penned the lyrics to conjure an otherworldly, celestial tempest that lulls the listener farther out into waters than he or she can rightly return from.
Before the tangential allegory also drifts too far, I’d like to tie the knot between this American relic and a brand new band fresh out of Boston, Massachusetts.
Their name is Auva, and the music they create rollicks in a sublime kind of ebb and flow–reminiscent of a moonlit tide, of the pull from shore that Moody forewarned.
The only difference is that, while listening to Auva weave their magic, there’s no longer any such thing as too far. We can surrender to the flow of nuanced rhythms, aqueous guitar lines and siren-sent harmonies that beckon us off into the surf.
The surf, it turns out, is eternal. Skeptics who thought that reinvigorated Beach Boy fads and Dick Dale-fueled guitar cowabungas might slip into obsolescence have another thing coming. In a good way, though. These seven Berklee College students are fusing traditional surf-rock elements with dreamy pop hooks that make it impossible not to dance.
Or do water-crested back flips like a dolphin, for that matter.
“We’ve been calling it the dolphin sound,” Jake LeVine explains with a laugh. He plays guitar and provides vocal harmonies for the band.
“It’s very energetic, and there are lots of guitar effects so it’s got a kind of wet, splashy sound. If dolphins were making rock and roll, this is what it would sound like.”
It’s interesting that for such a guitar effect driven palette, LeVine almost ended up a pianist instead. While growing up in Florida, his father knew beyond any reasonable doubt that he wanted his son to be a piano player. So at three years old, little LeVine was already beginning to tickle the ivory, dwarfed by the baby grand. For as long as he “can’t remember,” his father would record videos of him performing for audiences of family members and friends.
Fast forward a couple of decades and LeVine has finally found his match. Together with roommate and drummer Michael Piccoli, the two dreamt a musical vision and decided to “go for it.” After playing in a slew of other local bands, the friends realized it was high time to forge something of their own.
Rather than drafting up a list of session musicians or putting up ads around campus, Piccoli and LeVine reached out to a group of their close friends that they would typically hang out with on weekends.
In true Berklee fashion, these friends also just so happened to be a group of talented artists that were yet to be recruited for other projects.
“Everyone has their unique timbre, their own place and background,” says LeVine.
“It’s really nice because we’re able to sit in a room and really bounce ideas off one another. I can come up with a melody or guitar line, Michael can find the groove, and then we can consult Jack and Miette about vocal ideas and workable melodies. It’s just magic.”
The democratic writing process can work wonders for an ensemble that thrives on the eclecticism of its parts, especially when supplemented by a variety of professional resources. As students enrolled in one of the most prestigious music schools in the country, LeVine doesn’t shy away from admitting that utilizing the knowledge and materials provided for his education have too fueled the band’s self growth.
Take the lush vocal harmonies, for instance. Listening to Auva’s debut EP Light Years, it becomes apparent that one of the reasons why tracks like “Into Place” and “Nothing Else” are so damn catchy is because the choruses are rich with three-part harmonies. The vocal spreads engulf the listener and plunge headfirst into compositions that swirl and shimmer.
To accomplish it, the band begins by identifying part of a song that seems to be particularly strong. Then they loop the initial melody, with each band member adding their own voice on top, one by one, like a choir. It’s making use of an age old technique that Bach and Beethoven once revered called voice leading.
“It’s like having a calculator,” admits LeVine. “There’s a reason and theory behind why these things are happening, why they sound so great. It makes it easier to figure out how to achieve what we’re looking for.”
The search continues; while Auva is only a year young, they’ve already got a full length release coming down the pipeline. After such a strong debut, it’s only a matter of time before this ensemble starts making some serious waves.
No doubt the dolphins will be pleased.