Steve Bertrand - Lead vocals / Guitar
Josh Dunahoo - Guitar
Joey Clement - Bass
Ben Hazlett - Guitar / Keyboards
Jamie Wollam - Drums
Taking its name from the French word for "airplane," the Los Angeles-based rock group Avion is proving that the best way to success is old-fashioned hard work and a DIY attitude. Led by Steve Bertrand, former front man of the power-pop band The Tories, Avion has set out to make its mark with a keen sense of musical purpose and cultural vision.
After the amicable split of The Tories in 2002, Bertrand began writing for his yet-to-be-defined follow-up. Over the course of a year, he wrote some 22 songs, taking them frequently to a singer-songwriter night (which he hosted) at the Malibu Inn in Los Angeles, testing them on local audiences. After a short time it became "very clear which 13 songs needed to be on the record." Also very clear was the fact that Bertrand wanted the camaraderie of a band sympathetic to his musical ideas. "I didn't want to be the 'solo acoustic' guy," he admits. "I really missed the element of being in a group."
Scouting the LA area, Bertrand was fortunate to find a group of musicians that shared his sensibilities. Local drummer Jamie Wollam was enlisted first, followed by South Dakota transplant Joey Clement on bass. Josh Dunahoo on guitar and Ben Hazlett on guitar and keyboards came next, both originally hailing from Arkansas and New Mexico respectively. "Having written most of the songs on an acoustic guitar, I didn't really know what the finished versions would sound like until I played with the right guys," Bertrand says. "You hear the power of the song with the right band. That's what happened when we rehearsed for the first time. It was very cool."
On the band's self-titled debut album, Avion has created 13 rich and vital new chapters in the ongoing evolution of pop music. Produced by Bertrand, with the bulk of recording done at his home studio, the album is a powerful collection of truthful and emotionally cathartic songs. Gliding elegantly between the bombastic blast of the album's opener, "Would You Notice" to the orchestral verve of "Love Is Here Again," the music of Avion shows boundless range and diversity. "There's so many different flavors on the record," Bertrand muses. "I had an older brother who loved pop music, so I grew up listening to the Cars and Cheap Trick. Their records would have a heavy song and then a slow one. That's missing from records now." Avion's first single, "Seven Days Without You," speaks to the sorrow of lost love with passion, intensity and an undeniably moving melody. "The song really revolves around that universal feeling you have after losing someone," Steve confesses, "when you're calling everyone you know and trying to fill your day with anything to keep from going crazy, doing whatever you can to somehow numb that nagging sense of longing." As he says about the inspiration for his music, "I could never afford therapy, so it's life, love, death, faith, anger, fear, it's all of those things." When asked about his favorite songs on the album, Steve demurs, saying, "It's like a pair of trousers. I have a different one every day."
Bertrand connected to his standards of pop music excellence at an early age. Growing up slightly south of the Canadian border in Newport, Vermont, Bertrand would tune into the local AM radio stations and listen to "whatever three minute pop songs were at the top of the charts." As a kid, his father took him to a Beach Boys concert where the young Bertrand experienced a transcendent musical apotheosis. "It was electrifying to me. When the lights came on, it hit me right there like a hammer over the head: That's what I was built to do!"
Following graduation from high school, Bertrand moved to Los Angeles to answer the calls of his own muses. After spending a couple of years "meandering around" getting acclimated, Bertrand founded the alt-rock band The Tories, who went on to sign with the legendary producer Phil Ramone. After the group's two critically acclaimed albums fell victim to the demise of Ramone's short-lived N2K label, The Tories called it quits. "We were everybody's favorite band that nobody knew," Steve says. "Towards the end of the band, I fell into the TV world of theme songs, penning the music for Christina Applegate's 'Jesse' on NBC and several other network shows. It was a great bridge between The Tories and the start of Avion."
After completing the Avion record, the real work began. Having experienced first hand the struggle of breaking through with his former band, and witnessing the current state of the ever-changing music industry, Bertrand knew from the start that he wanted to take a very "hands on" approach and put this record out himself. Joining forces with his "friend/business associate," Chris Dickson, Bertrand co-founded The Console, a multi-media company designed to foster and support music, film and television projects that may fall through the cracks or never see the light of day at larger companies. The Console's first project...
"We met with our manager, David Christensen, and all agreed the best way to reach the most people with this record was to focus on getting on the radio," recalls Bertrand. As anyone in the music industry knows, this is no small task. "We had a shoe-string budget, nothing compared to the major labels," says Steve, "but we thought if we could find people that believed in the record, we could make it work." Hiring a small, but dedicated and passionate team of radio promoters, the band set out to conquer the charts without the benefit of major label support.
In true DIY fashion, after literally mailing hundreds of promotional albums to stations nationwide from Steve's living room, the band hopped in an RV and set out to see every radio station in the country. "We went to every station that would have us, and some that weren't sure theywanted us," laughs Steve. The band members knew they needed to make an indelible first impression, so instead of arriving in typical "radio promo" fashion with acoustic guitars and a stripped-down performance, they brought an ingenious portable version of the band's full-on stage show. "We showed up with amps, PA, the works and put on a full concert in the station conference rooms," remembers Steve. "It took a lot of people by surprise, but it worked and people started playing the record. Las Vegas added it, Buffalo added it, Denver added it, St Louis added it and it just snow balled." (As of this writing, October 2004, "Seven Days Without You" has hit #20 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart, without the benefit of major label support.)
Over the course of the group's 26,000 mile, 65-city sojourn into the wilds of DIY American radio promotion, Avion has become an incredibly tight and cohesive band. "There's a chemistry and a vibe that the five of us have together," Steve observes, with clear delight. "We did exactly what we set out to do, which was to tell a story without having to chase anybody and to show people that this was the real deal."
And the "real deal" it is. In late summer 2004, Columbia Records/Red Ink signed Avion in conjunction with the bands label, The Console, and released their debut album nationwide November 2.
--- from the official Avion website