Taking inspiration from the icy sexuality of 1970s fashion photography, 1960s French chanson, the Factory scene, and the 70s documentary feel of Cassavetes, NYC’s Scam Avenue beams out of the ether with a mesmerizing video for their radiant synth track, “Tides”.
Devery Doleman (La Laque)’s effervescent, crystalline vocals echo out over a pulsing, atmospheric intro with a four-on-the-floor disco beat, the phantoms of Studio 54 and Danceteria rollicking their way through the heavens. Backed by Lawrence Kim on guitar/vox, Julie Rozansky on bass/vox and Nate Smith on drums, the band’s pulsing synths collide with guitars, transcending the sublime and the melancholy. “Tides” began life as an instrumental by drummer Nate Smith, to which Lawrence added a vocal melody and lyrics.
Directed by renowned art photography duo Ioulex, the video was shot guerrilla-style in the Chrysler Building, evoking Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdain, and Dustin Pittman’s documentary photography of Halston.
“From the first lyric of the track and its accompanying synthesizer pulse we thought of a tidal swirl of water, of being drawn into a maelstrom,” says Ioulex. “The city grid forms a kind of vortex of ambition, the drive to succeed. It has an intrinsic rhythm, like the visualization of a dance beat in the song; it can appear bright, or relentless and hypnotic. The 70s dusty documentary footage of New York and the early 80s time lapses in Koyaanisqatsi informed the color palette of the video. Anonymous grids of windows and eyes are washed over by waves of blue hue. In this abstract, isolating setting, the camera happens upon the candid confessions of an inconnue, perhaps an actor or a showgirl, waiting for her Warhol screen test.”
Watch the video for ‘Tides” below:
In 2014, lead singer Devery Doleman answered a Craigslist ad posted by guitarist and principal songwriter Lawrence Kim.
“I fell instantly in love with Lawrence’s demos,” she says. “With their immaculate melodies and perfect hooks, it’s like they were dreamed more than written. I knew I wanted to sing them.”
’Scam Avenue’ is a nickname for a street in the neighborhood where Lawrence and Devery first met. “It was taken from a blog detailing the shenanigans of a man who ran various shady schemes from his dilapidated building,” she explains. “At one point he chased a neighbor down the street with a chainsaw.”
Shows followed, as well as the critically-acclaimed Mercury EP. Their sound was evolving rapidly, and soon they felt a need to bring others into the mix. Lawrence reflects upon this transition:
“I knew Nate (Shy Child) from playing with him in bands, and Julie (The Art of Shooting) was recommended to Devery as ‘a ringer who can harmonize like crazy.’ When they came on board, it totally changed the dynamic. Our sound opened up, and there was a greater sense of interplay that can only exist between people playing instruments live. All of a sudden, we were a band.”
The culmination of several years of writing, experimentation, and recording, finally led to the release of the ethereal synth elegance that it Scam Avenue’s full-length debut.
On the album’s heartrending themes, Lawrence Kim explains: “I had been in a relationship with someone and it came to an end. That was the inspiration for about half of the songs on the album. In addition, I had already been working on some other songs, which were in various stages of completion. So the album wasn’t conceived as a break-up album, but it could be viewed in that way. Each song can be seen as an expression of some aspect of that central theme.”
The album starts out strong with the hypnotic vintage synth pulses and drumbeats of “Fever’s Fade”, led by Devery Doleman’s dreamlike vocals. “To the Quick” is brimming with lovelorn vintage pop romance, weaving a shimmering sound that merges the past with the future.
“Destroyer” is a beautiful duet led by Kim, with backing vocals by Doleman, evoking Slowdive and Mojave 3. “Jailbird” is drum and bass meets classic Europop. leading into the next track, and lead single “Tides”.
“Remaining” is a haunting and thoughtful synth ballad. “The Bells” is a funky pop looped melody driven by sonorous pianos, and drums, which gives the effect of a beautiful summer daydream.
“Constellation” is a warm, swirling, and effervescent synth reverie that swells with an effect-laden vocal duet. And the album’s closing duet, “Echo” is an acoustic guitar-led plaintive exercise in the unbreakable resolve of hope and the heart to find love again in the end.
Scam Avenue’s self-titled debut album is out now.
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