Avenue Beat are as upbeat as their melodies when Music Week calls in on the band in their adopted home of Nashville, Tennessee.
Since forming at the age of 14 in Quincy, Illinois, Sami Bearden, Savana Santos and Sam Backoff have worked tirelessly to transform themselves from musical theatre kids into country pop sensations. And the hottest new act on the label that broke Taylor Swift might have just cracked it with their latest single F2020, a melodic antidote to a dire year that also exploded on TikTok.
“We were having the worst two weeks we’ve had in a really long time,” begins Santos, telling its story. “We put out a single to country radio and it flopped, Sami’s cat died, and a bunch of random, wack stuff happened. I was sitting on the couch like, ‘I hate this so much.’”
Pushed to breaking point, Santos got writing (“The first verse and chorus fell out”), and the band swiftly posted a snippet on TikTok before heading to bed. The next day, F2020 had reached over four million views.
“That was unreal,” smiles Bearden. “We were texting each other in our group chat, saying, ‘What is happening? What do we even do? What are the next steps? This must be a prank!’ It was just crazy.”
On the viral clip, the band sing against a backdrop of the year’s most trying moments, as photos of Kobe Bryant, various Black Lives Matter protests and Australian wildfires flicker while they chant ‘Lowkey fuck 2020’. It’s surreal and hypnotic, while its marching rhythm lends a feeling of unity.
It’s fortunate that the kind of music that we make is the kind of music that works on TikTok
“We didn’t want everything to be [about] these horrible circumstances that you can’t do anything about,” explains Bearden. “There are still things that we can fight for and change that we can strive for.”
Now with over 15 million streams across TikTok and Spotify, the song has flipped their year around. F2020 was a Gen Z tactic aimed at convincing their label to put out the track, and now their team are taking note. So, could TikTok become the band’s new testing ground?
“It’s fortunate that the kind of music that we make is the kind of music that works on TikTok,” says Santos.
“It’s a really good way to figure out what’s going to work,” jokes Backoff. “We were like, ‘OK, now can we put it out?’ and it worked, so maybe we should go rogue more often!” They recently dropped another teaser entitled Messy, a stripped back ballad about a broken relationship. It’s a small morsel of the new music they’ve been writing. “We have songs that we’re really excited to put out, we’re just trying to convince our team to let us do it again,” says Backoff.
Honest expression is at the core of Avenue Beat’s material, from mental health struggles on Thank You Anxiety, to toxic romance on I Don’t Really Like Your Boyfriend. And the trio credit their time in the country music capital for igniting the spark behind their songwriting. “Nashville is where we learned how to write and develop ourselves as artists,” says Backoff. “We all sit down and say, ‘Who’s got the strongest emotion in the room today?’ And then we just put those words in the song exactly how we’re speaking them.”
Having grown up on a cocktail of classic rock, One Direction, Shania Twain and more, they find it impossible to pinpoint one overriding influence. But it’s the angelic sound of their voices that makes them such a force to be reckoned with. “Harmonies are everything to us because we’re a girl band,” Santos says. “Singing together in harmony is how we discovered we loved music.”
Last year’s debut self-titled EP and an impressive live run set the ball rolling, and Avenue Beat are only going in one direction. With millions now listening, the eyes of the country industry and beyond are on their next move.
In F2020 they ask, ‘Can we just get to 2021?’ so, before hanging up, we ask them to fast-forward for a second. What do Avenue Beat want to do next?
“We ultimately want to put out an album,” Santos says, clearly excited. “And to play shows and meet all of our new fans that we’ve been interacting with on socials since we put F2020 out. We want to be able to see their faces.”
PHOTO: Delaney Royer