It doesn’t happen nearly enough, but every now and then you come across a band that simply blows you away. Enter AVEM, a trio of Canadian birdwatchers who recently released their debut full-length, ‘Three Birds Stoned’. The album comes with a whoppin’ total of 19 songs that rival Teenage Bottlerocket’s best material. We recently caught up with bassist/guitarist Julian Warmland to talk about the band’s debut album and of course, birds.
‘Three Birds Stoned’ is out now on Mom’s Basement Records. You can buy your copy here.
PRT: How did you go from being mere hatchlings to ‘motherfucking birds of prey’? How did you guys start out?
Julian: One day, Ernie messaged me and said that our high school band’s drummer was coming back for a visit for a couple weeks, and wanted to get together and jam some old songs. That sounded like fun, but our bass player was unavailable so I rented a bass and decided to just do it myself. We played some of our old staples, and then just started jamming out a couple songs. That week or two is what spawned our initial EP, 'Sing Every Day.' When we got to lyric writing, we didn’t have any immediate ideas, and were jamming Blue Jay. I sang “blue jays are the bluest birds oh yeah oh yeah” and it kinda just snowballed from there. Ernie and I have both been really into birds since we were kids so we figured why not write about birds!
PRT: AVEM is Latin for ‘bird’ and a lot of the songs on the album are about birds. When you do something like that, you quickly get slapped with the label of gimmick or theme band. Is that something that worries you? Like that people won’t judge AVEM on your music?
Julian: I say bring it on! Birds are definitely a theme. I’d say all of our songs are about birds, or about human experiences as told through the perspective of birds. To me, there’s a difference between a gimmick and a theme; gimmicks are things you’re interested in, and themes are things you’re an active part of. Take The Isotopes for example. I’d call them a theme band because not only do they sing about baseball, they play baseball and are active in their community about baseball. Masked Intruder on the other hand, I’d call a gimmick band. I know they’re not violent criminals.
All that being said, I feel like gimmick can be seen as a negative and I don’t agree with that. There’s plenty of awesome gimmick bands, and music is there for people to relate to and enjoy. If you like wrestling, wrestling gimmick bands are wicked. If you like horror movies, you’ve got horror gimmick bands to enjoy. You could even argue that anyone playing “Ramonescore” pop punk is a gimmick band, because their gimmick is that they like the Ramones. Bottom line is that every band needs a point. So if people want to judge Avem for singing songs about birds, I say bring it on and I hope a pigeon shits on them the next time they go for a walk!
PRT: You recently released your debut album ‘Three Birds Stoned’ which packs a whopping 19 songs, which is a lot more than on most albums. Why so many tracks on one album rather than already saving some for a future release?
Julian: I for one am not a fan of 10-12 song albums. Nowadays, records are way too short, and I feel scammed when a band takes 2 years to put out a new album and there’s only 12 songs on it. I WANT MORE! I miss the days of Rancid 2000, Anti-Flag's 'Die For The Government', NOFX' 'So Long & Thanks For All The Shoes', etc. Albums were epic back then, and the art of crafting a long good record is a slowly dying art. I was actually having this discussion last week with my pal Jason V from The Jasons. It seems like a lot of listeners assume that bands put their best songs in the first 5 songs, and the rest are just sorta whatever. Some bands have adapted to that it seems, and I mean that’s fine but I’m not interested. Crafting a tracklist that flows and really tells a story is an important art that I don’t think should be lost, even playing 1.5 minute long songs about birds.
Specifically talking about ‘Three Birds Stoned’, we wanted to get almost all of the songs we’ve recorded out on an LP. We’re a relatively small band from the idyllic countryside of Ontario, Canada. We want people to be able to hear most of the music we’ve done to date in one easy place, rather than having to track it down or fuck around with autoplay or playlists or any of that nonsense.
In terms of future releases, we’ve already got around 21 songs in various stages of completion from ideas to hashed out demos. We’ll probably trim that down a bit, but expect another long track list I’d say.
PRT: The album came out on Mom’s Basement Records. How did you end up signing with them?
Julian: When we were first doing demos with Jimmy Vapid in his basement, he asked if he could send out the recordings to some of his friends. John was one of those dudes, and he loved what he heard and we had a great chat and decided to release the record there. John is one of the most genuine dudes I have ever met, and we couldn’t be happier with him, Tricia, and all of Mom’s Basement Records. We still find it surreal sometimes that we’re part of such a fucking awesome thing.
PRT: If you can only pick one thing, what do you hope that listeners get out of the album… a profound appreciation for all things AVEM or a love of birdwatching?
Julian: A profound appreciation for all things Avem, please! Birdwatching is fucking fantastic and easy to do, but time-consuming and we don’t expect everyone to go full bore into something they might have only recently become interested in. Sure, our songs are about birds and human experiences as told through the perspective of birds, but we try to also write solid punk rock songs musically, so that even if you hate birds you can still enjoy the music itself.
PRT: How did you get into birdwatching and what is the appeal for you ?
Julian: I’ve always been surrounded by birds, but what really got me into it was when I was around 10 I had a pair of Painted Buntings show up at my farm’s bird feeder for 2 seasons. They blew me away because I’d never seen a wild bird like that before. They really hooked me, and I’d been thoroughly obsessed ever since. Birdwatching is great because it can be done anywhere, but the best spots are quiet, beautiful places of nature. Watching them get on with their lives is so peaceful and a refreshing reminder to not take superficial things too seriously.
PRT: Are you into birdwatching and playing in a punk rock band for the same PRT: reasons? I’m thinking both are kinda niche and built around a small community.
Julian: You know, I’ve never really thought of that but yeah, you could make that connection! The fact that the communities are both small and supportive are definitely quite similar. Both claim to be diverse and accessible, and both are making more clear attempts to be diverse and accessible. You won’t really find many people cracking a beer before picking up their ‘nocs though out in the forest, and you probably won’t find many monoculars or Tilley hats at punk rock shows.
PRT: This might be a dumb question but I read an interview where you mention that there are a lot of similarities you can find between birds and how they behave/what they have to go through and humans. Is there something you could say you have learned from birds?
Julian: Nah, this is a great question! I mention that all the time, and wholly believe it. I mentioned a bit earlier how birdwatching is a nice reminder to not take superficial things too seriously. Birds do things because their goal is to survive and procreate. There’s all kinds of birds that go about this in different ways, and some may fight and not get along but remembering that overall goal provides a bit of comfort and peace in challenging times. I’ve also gained resiliency from watching birds do things, they do not give up easily. Another thing I wouldn’t say I learned from birds, but they most definitely solidified in my beliefs is not having a personal stake in something that doesn’t affect me. Birds don’t really care what the other ones are doing unless it has a direct negative impact on their own security and well being. In a human example, who the fuck cares what pronoun someone uses or what clothes they wear. How a person identifies or dresses has ZERO impact on anyone else other than themself, and birds get that right. No, Homo! for example was written specifically about gay ducks, but - fun fact - over 130 species of birds have exhibited homosexual behaviour. Another fun fact, no bird has ever given a single shit about the fact Petey and Tweety are off kissing cloacas. Birds get a lot of things right that humans get wrong.
PRT: Now that the album is out, what are your plans for the future? Any plans to migrate to the US or Europe?
Julian: We’d absolutely love to hit both the US and a bunch of countries in Europe! For now we’re working slowly but surely on our billion demos, and booking shows for 2023. We’re hoping to hit the road a lot more next year, but this “post COVID” (I put quotations because that’s a stupid statement, COVID’s alive and well) scene is very saturated with bands wanting to do the exact same thing, so we’ll take almost everything we can get. I think nowadays newish bands should be ready for a marathon rather than a sprint. You’re not migrating from Siberia to Australia in one day, that shit is 11,000km! AND birds do it twice a year!