AVOW at Geno's Friday
AVOW is, perhaps, the most pro-Boone, anti-Boone band in Boone.
Kenneth Dancey, Chris Harris, Jai Church and Chris Pope love the town, just not the music with which it's commonly associated.
"Your typical Boone band has a harmonica, banjo, trumpet or mandolin in the mix," guitarist Dancey said. "We'd burn one of those on stage before we played it."
AVOW (Another Victim of War) plays metal - tough, unyielding and gloriously loud, a sound steeped in the tradition of their hard-rocking heroes, but made unique through experience and a longtime friendship.
Dancey and Harris (vocals, drum machine) have performed together for more than seven years, the band's humble beginnings coming from an old house on George Wilson Road, with then-members Nate Maynard and Jacques Downing.
Seeking more variety in Boone's music scene, this core group decided to take action.
"We've broken that mold of the Boone band," Harris said. "We plug our guitars in."
AVOW has been performing with its current lineup for about a year and a half, mostly at venues off the mountain, like Asheville, Hickory and even Morehead City. The band's last local gig was in December 2008, making this Friday's show somewhat of a homecoming.
And they're glad to be back. Not only do band members enjoy performing with each other, but also for familiar faces in the area music scene.
"We're definitely a live band," Harris said.
Much of AVOW's music-making comes from experimentation. For instance, bassist Pope will trade a riff with rhythm guitarist Church, and then combine the two for an original sound.
"Me and Jai do a bit of bouncing back and forth here and there, giving it a stereo effect when you have one amp here, with hers over there," Dancey said. "It's usually a good energy."
"And pretty intense," Harris added.
"But never violent," Dancey said.
"We had a decent little mosh pit at Black Cat some years ago," Church said.
Dancey's expecting a good crowd at Geno's, and the crowd can expect all original songs from AVOW.
"Harris and I together have 26 songs, and right now we're only playing 15 of them," Dancey said. "There's still a lot of good ones I want to bring into this, plus more material to make them fun."
Over the next several months, Dancey plans to incorporate at least three to four additional songs into the band's set lists. "The more songs we've got, the longer we can play," he said.
Playing is something each member enjoys, though, many from childhood on up. Dancey's played guitar for 26 years, having picked it up at the age of 10 after listening to Black Sabbath's Paranoid. "The rest is downhill from there - Judas Priest to Slayer and everything in the middle," he said.
Pope picked up the bass "20-something years ago" and has studied music ever since. One of his first bands was an indie-punk outfit called Neon Roadrash, and Dancey remembers visiting Pope's house to watch him practice.
"It always sounded good, but just wasn't my thing," Dancey said. "Later on, we started playing together in bands over the past 10 to 20 years."
Church has played guitar for nearly a decade, and was drawn to metal after seeing a music video from Canadian metal band Kittie.
"I saw one of their videos on VH1, and I've loved metal ever since," she said. "That was the first metal band I'd ever saw, and I remember my dad said to me, 'I never want you being like them.'"
"And now she plays note for note with me," Dancey said. "And as far as rhythms go, it's airtight with the guitars. I've been way impressed. I don't brag as much about her to her face as I do out on the street."
Harris is an instrumentalist of all trades, namely because he was raised in a music environment.
"AVOW is actually the first band I've ever sung for," he said. "I just kind of showed up and started doing it and haven't stopped."
Harris likens his vocals to those of a "hard-core John Fogerty" of Creedence Clearwater Revival. "Every now and then it's fun to do the Cookie Monster vocals," he said.
"I call it 'industrial percussion vocals,'" Dancey said.
As for AVOW's drummer, he's a machine - literally. With different drummers having come and gone, though not quite in Spinal Tap fashion, the band decided to employ the Boss DR-800 drum machine, which members affectionately call "Dr. Boss."
"He's the man - he doesn't fail drug tests, and we don't have to pay him," Dancey said.
"And he shows up on time," Church added.
"And never misses a beat," Harris said.
This also allows Harris to get creative with vocal sampling and sound effects. "It's kind of like putting a puzzle together," he said.
The same can be said for AVOW's songwriting. "When we write music, it comes out in spurts, writing a whole lot at once," Harris said.
Many of the band's themes can be traced to its acronym - Another Victim of War.
"Everybody's a victim of everything that's going on around us - the government during the Bush era, the wasted war overseas; we've watched a whole world do its thing," Dancey said. "We've all had to pay one way or another, whether it's losing a friend to war, financial strife, lost jobs - it's a hard situation all around. Everybody's been hurt by it somehow."
To date, AVOW has released three EP albums, which are available online by visiting http://www.myspace.com/avow898. More are in the works, and Harris expects they'll be released online, as well.
In the meantime, listeners can enjoy the band in its live element at Geno's Lounge on Friday, Nov. 20, at 10:30 p.m. Admission (18 and up only) costs $5, and doors open at 10 p.m.
Geno's is located in the High Country Inn at 1785 N.C. 105 South in Boone. For more information, call (828) 264-1000.