Frontman Carlos Hernandez‘ whispery sunders send shivers up my spine. His high notes make me ache and his deep voice makes me swoon. Having just got off the phone with him, I can’t help but giggle like a giddy little school girl talking to some grammar school crush for the first time. Something flutters in my stomach as a I listen to his soft, almost coaxing goodbye. “Hopefully we can meet in person [at the show],” Hernandez says as I strain to keep my awkward cool.
We’ve just wrapped up our phoner in preparation for Ava Luna‘s Jan 25th set this week at the Empty Bottle. The band sounds like a paroxysmal take on quivery Motown with a luxuriously, contemporary Brooklyn edge. They hammer out ruckus solos one moment and delicate duets the next. Their particular brand of funk-punk makes me smile, while wondering where this rather large, seven person act, has been my whole life. The answer is simple. They’ve been slumming it at basement parties and DIY functions, couch surfing the nation over, dragging their rag-tag team of exceptional musicians across the country for their recent tour, plugging the latest LP, Ice Level
Now I don’t know how the Empty Bottle’s rather small stage is going to fit all these folks at once, especially after having just recently seen The Soft Moon‘s smaller collection tear up the joint. Talk about a total shift in gears. This band is like a fidgety, avant-lounge version of Fugazi. Nothing to do with Vasquez‘ minimal-industrial dark wave. However, excited for the upcoming show, Carlos talks to me from Charlotte, North Carolina where the band rests at a friend’s home on route to Atlanta. Our conversation spans many topics including Hernandez’ acquitted arrest and over-night jail time in Atlanta the last time they played there, and his very musical family upbringing.
Carlos’ dad is in fact Felix Hernandez, the renown soul DJ best known for his 13 part NPR series on classic R&B, Harlem Hit Parade, which aired in the mid-80’s. Felix’ fame then led him to run Rhythm Revue, New York’s first singularly soul radio show. Hernandez senior then went on to run BlueStage and the celebrated Rhythm Revenue Dance Party, which plays Felix’s unique blend of funk, soul, and disco for throngs of dance crazed fans.
In our interview Carlos confides about some intimate moments with his father hanging out in Chicago, some details about his jazz piano and Northwestern University trained mother, as well as his own Illinois birth. He also shares about his intimate interactions with hot shot film legend, Melvin Van Peebles. the Tony Award winning “Queen of R&B,” Ruth Brown, and a particularly fond memory of Memphis soul legend, Carla Thomas. Hernandez admits it ain’t easy being a quarter Cuban, in addition to part Jewish and Italian. Offering some details about his simultaneous alienation and yearning to identify with his multi-ethnic backgrounds, I definitely understood his misadventures with Santería and Chinese (?).
If you happen to be in New Lenox, IL make sure to catch Carlos and Ava Luna on Jan. 24th or the next day in Chicago. Turns out Hernandez is buds with The Terror Pigeon Revolt who helped them set up the unique tour stop. Listen to our full conversation above.