Hailing from Puerto Rico, prog outfit Avandra just released their third LP, Prodigal. The concept album explores the effects of the military industrial complex, following the protagonist through a difficult journey of loss and betrayal.
The band has produced a technical and poignant album in Prodigal. Musically the outfit's compositions display an immense understanding of the progressive genre, not only creating compelling music but aptly writing to convey the album's overarching concept. Find out the story behind this one with bassist José Miguel Vázquez below...
Tell our readers all about your band! Where are you from and when did you get started? What is your music like?
Hi! I’m José Miguel Vázquez, bassist of Avandra. We are a prog band from Puerto Rico. It began as a musical project of Chris Ayala. He had the idea of the band for sometime before we met. In 2007 approximately we worked in a private music academy where we gave classes. I was practicing in my classroom and he pitched the idea to me and I was instantly interested and began learning the songs he already had written.
When Chris began studying for his masters degree in philosophy, the project was put on hold until 2017, when the first album, Tymora, made its debut. At the time I was working on my personal band, so Gabriel Alejandro took the bass position from Tymora to Skylighting. After the pandemic, Chris contacted me and told me he was looking for a new bassist and was working on the new album, Prodigal. I took on the challenge of recording the bass on the new album. Very proud of the work we all did.
Answering the second question, it’s difficult for us to describe our music. The best way to describe it is, I think, mix cyberpunkish synth with technical guitars, drums with somewhat groovy bass lines, and a clean voice. The lyrics touch subjects from philosophical introspection to social and political criticism.
What are your goals for your band?
The focus of the band is to leave behind something good in the world that can be heard and cherished for a long time. Obviously financially speaking, we hope to ultimately live from this music, but mainly leave a very visible mark in the world.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a musician and a teacher. I studied music at Universidad de Puerto Rico Recinto de Rio Piedras, where Chris studied too. Luigi Guilbot, lead guitarist of the band, studied music at Universidad Interamericana and currently works as a customer support company. Adrián Arroyo studied music at Universidad Interamericana and works as a musician and a teacher. Christian Ayala works as a music teacher as well. So we all have regular jobs and work very hard in the band.
How do you balance your work and personal life with the band?
It’s not very easy balancing my work with my personal life, but I think the main ingredient is patience and understanding in your relationships. My family and partner need to understand that the life of a musician consists of not being present at a lot family reunions because of rehearsals or shows I need to play. So, when I have a free day on my schedule I dedicate it all to them. Divide work from family and dedicate fully to one or the other but not at the same time. When I’m with my family, they are all that matters to me at the moment. When I’m rehearsing or playing or teaching, I leave my personal life outside for a moment, it will be there when I finish work :). But it is not that easy. Bottom line, lots of comprehension on all the parts involved.
What do you consider to be the best investment you've made, music wise?
This will sound a little weird, but my studies. Without them I could not do my work with the band to meet the standards. Avandra has a lot of harmonically complex music and sometimes it is better to understand music theory than to go by ear. Instinct and music knowledge are very involved here. So my studies helped me to reach my own personal growth and be able to do my work as best as I can.
What's the worst or least helpful thing you've ever spent money on as a musician/band?
I would not say worst as in it was a bad buy, but it was a bad decision on my part. I bought a Washburn Parallaxe when I was playing on my band and I did not do my research very well, and for my band it did not help finding my sound. So yeah, do your research kids!!!
What kind of merch sells the best for your band? And what do you purchase most often as a music listener?
Shirts, CDs, and vinyls are the best selling merch for us. We all like to have physical copies of the albums from the bands we like. At least for my part, I do not tend to have band shirts.
Can you share some tour budgeting tips?
We have not been on a tour yet, but we did travel to the Netherlands to play at Progpower Europe. You have to plan ahead a lot. A good plan will help you save money and lighten the burden of the equipment you need to have. Begin saving money for the tour as soon as it’s booked.
Which online music or social media platforms are most helpful to your band?
Spotify is the one that I think is being most used. But we have a lot of listeners who like to buy physical albums.
What does "making it" mean to you, and what do you think a band needs to make it in 2022?
Making it means to me to be an influence on somebody in some way or the other. Money comes and goes, but being able to inspire and in some way help people is very important to me. Not because of “fame” but because there’s a lot of negativity in the world and if I could do something positive and that helps somebody it means a lot to me.
In order for a band to “make it” the members need to be very committed to it. That includes being open to suggestions and practicing a lot – do not be the weak link! Try to be the best you can be and let go of the ego. The ego gets in the way of growth. A lot of sacrifice is needed, but in the end it is all worth it.
Interview and band photo courtesy of C Squared Music.
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