Brooklyn post-punk outfit Scam Avenue has turned out a hypnotically exquisite synth-pop cut entitled “Tides” — infusing shades of darkness into a composition rich with textured instrumentation and emotionally complex lyrics. Complementing the song is director ioulex’s hypnotic music video. Watch it here now on Vehlinggo and then go buy the whole self-titled album, which is out today.
Vehlinggo readers will be familiar with the work of Devery Doleman (lead singer), Lawrence Kim (guitar, synths, and lead vocals), Julie Rozansky (bass, backing vocals), and Nate Smith (drums). However, “Tides,” the latest single off Scam Avenue’s just-released self-titled debut LP, more markedly showcases imagery often associated with the band’s sound: “If Brian Eno wrote the soundtrack for a John Hughes movie, it might sound like Scam Avenue.”
In a statement, Ioulex had this to say about the video: “’Cry, cry to me’ — 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. 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,” the director continued. “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.”
Pick up the whole album in digital and physical formats right now.
The band’s history dates back to 2014, when Doleman answered a Craiglist ad Kim had posted.
“I fell instantly in love with Lawrence’s demos,” Doleman said in a statement. “With their immaculate melodies and perfect hooks, it’s like they were dreamed more than written. I knew I wanted to sing them.”
After fleshing out the demos into fuller songs, they still faced that big question that hangs over all new acts: What to name the band. They landed on Scam Avenue — a nickname for a street in the area where Kim and Doleman first met.
“[It’s] taken from a blog detailing the shenanigans of a man who ran various shady schemes from his dilapidated building,” Doleman said. “At one point he chased a neighbor down the street with a chainsaw.”
The Mancunian Mercury EP came out in 2015, and it was time for a full band. They tapped Smith of Shy Child for drums and Rozansky of the Art of Shooting for bass. Kim knew the former from playing with him in various bands and the latter Doleman heard was a “ringer who can harmonize like crazy.”
“When they came on board, it totally changed the dynamic,” Kim said in a statement. “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 Sailor EP came next. And then after years of refinement, the captivating self-titled debut has finally been released.
“I had been in a relationship with someone and it came to an end,” Kim said in a statement. “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.”
I’ve characterized Scam Avenue’s songs variously as modern numbers infused with 1980s or 1990s elements, but it’s too easy to sum up the album so simply. It’s not a paint-by-numbers retro exercise at all, in fact.
What happens is there are central moods, emotions, and colors that infuse each of the nine songs. There is a deep sense of foreboding in some moments and in others a glimmer of hope. Some movements are emotional chaos and others constitute deep contemplation. And it’s all glued together with a deeply cultivated sense of focus — Kim’s tight production brings a sense of control that makes the deeper meanings not only more engaging but utterly mandatory.