Mittenfest: The Avatars


The Avatars

The Avatars have returned to their bodily form for one last show. Photo by Doug Coombe.

See the rest of our Mittenfest coverage:
Overview of the festival with music samples
The Belle Isles interview
Blue Jeans interview
JUNGLEFOWL interview

The Ann Arbor-based rippin’ rock band The Avatars had a four-year run starting in 2003 that included one 7-inch single and a kickass album, Never a Good Time (2006). Then real life got in the way for guitarists Chris "Box" Taylor and Charlie Lorenzi, drummer Claudia Leo, vocalist Mariah Cherem, and bassist Theresa Kiefer, and the garage-rockin’ power-poppers broke up in 2007.

But The Avatars reformed in October to play a single show in Hamtramck opening for a friend’s band. The show ended up being so much fun, The Avatars decided to do one last gig near their Ann Arbor home base. (Though Lorenzi won’t be appearing.)

Pulp caught up with Kiefer (and at the end, Taylor) before The Avatars play their ultimate show at Mittenfest on December 29.

Q: How and when did you get together? Any funny details or circumstances?
A: We got together in 2003. All of us were talking about trying to put something together, I believe the conversation started at one of the early Bangs [the long-running dance party at The Blind Pig].

Q: What’s the significance of your name? Did you have any past names you tried out?
A: We had a ton of names in mind. We all really liked The Fevers, however, it was taken, along with just about every other band name we thought of. The Avatars was simple and worked very well for us.

Q: Did you come to your sound organically, or did you decide to form the band with a specific sound in mind?
A: We are big fans of the garage-y Motown sound and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. The songs came pretty quickly and luckily for us, easily. Our “sound” developed on its own.

Q: What’s next for The Avatars?
A: This will most likely be our last show. We disbanded in 2007, and had not been on stage in nearly 10 years. We were asked to open up for Detroit pop-rock band The Fags last October and we had a BLAST! It was a lot of fun to get back on stage together, so we thought we’d hit Mittenfest.

Q: Mittenfest is a benefit for 826michigan, an organization that works with young people on writing and creative skills. Were there any organizations or mentors early in your music/creative/professional career that encouraged or influenced you?
A: Kiefer: In the early '90s I moved out to Austin, Texas, for college and the music scene was huge and so diverse. It was back when SXSW was not owned by corporate America and record labels. When I moved back to Michigan, I found another really great community of musicians and just some of the best people you could know. Chris Taylor and I befriended Ron Asheton [Stooges/DAM/New Race]. We lived around the corner from him, here in Ann Arbor. He was such a sweet guy and absolutely a mentor. I remember talking to him about taking bass lessons and he replied, “Don’t take lessons. Work on your style and your songwriting.”

A: Taylor: The Ann Arbor music community was my greatest influence and I ended up sharing the stage with the very best that Ann Arbor had to offer, like Hiawatha [of The Cult Heroes], Deniz Tek, Scott Morgan, Mitch Ryder, and Ron Asheton, just to name a few.

Liz Grapentine is a desk clerk at AADL. An Oakland University graduate with a major in Music Education and a minor in English, Liz enjoys the arts in every form. Liz is also a true Ann Arbor townie and a proud patron of the library since 1995.

Mittenfest XI takes place December 29-31 at Bona Sera, 200 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti, MI, 48197. Music starts at 8:00pm every evening. $10 cover benefits 826michigan. The Avatars play Thursday, December 29 at 10:15pm.