Avatari | Interview | New Single, ‘Holidaze’
The cleverly titled track ‘Holidaze” details the wide breadth of intense emotions this time of year can bring about, including feeling lost and longing for loved ones.
Avatari (aka Ari Welkom) is a soulful rock and roll musician/actor straight out of the California arts scene. And with past credits on shows like NBC’s Days of Our Lives and ABC’s The Middle, his current success as a solo artist is no surprise. Avatari’s knack for creating rock anthems is accruing him some serious gravity. For example, his debut single ‘Legacy’ was licensed by Rolls-Royce for their Ghost ad campaign.
But the artist adds a new edge to pop-rock. While many alt songs talk about “getting out of town” Avarti tells a very different story with his latest release…
‘Holidaze’ comes in with epic guitars backed up by a drum kit that holds down the fort with a broad macro beat. As we shift focus to a more peppy four-on-the-floor feel, the vocals come– and are tinged with regret.
““I was struggling, I was sinning, two feet out but I was in it. I was stealin’ from my brother in arms…”
The artists’ influence from rockers of old is palpable- Avatari pairs old-school lyricism and rhyme scheme with a fresh sound and new motifs. As the song progresses, jingle bells and cymbals begin to hit at the same time, flourishes of piano come in…creating a hint of Trans-Siberian Orchestra-esque sound.
But rather than being festive for festive’s sake, ‘Holidaze’ tackles the theme of not knowing how to navigate the holidays, and being too scared to ask for help.
“”It was Christmas, almost missed it,
They were hurting, they were livid. I was poison to the people I loved…”
Next, we switch to a scene where there’s a nearly-missed flight and frigid cold…and thus the seed of longing grows for his family. This is sonically backed by a tasty bass line and gentle, panned keys.
Then, the artist begins doubting himself, with the alternating sentiments “I just wanna come home…” “But I’m gonna have to change”. Musically, we experience a satisfying collection of sweeping guitar lines, bells, vocal ooo’s, and new countermelodies with a hint of tension. Then it swells back into the chorus- stronger and more consonant than ever.
‘Holidaze’ is a story of someone who has changed their heart- and mind. Rather than dolling the music up to make everything cheerful, Avatari paints the holidays how they actually are. Perhaps this time of year is part of the thing that reveals our soft spots and then changes us for the better.
Avatari stated about the track “a couple of months ago a close friend of mine challenged me to write and record a holiday song. Initially, I scoffed at the idea (even though I actually love holiday music). I just didn’t think that I had a holiday song in me, or that it would fit inside of “my genre”. Then it was suggested that I think about it as my version of a holiday song. And it clicked. After that, it took me about fifteen minutes to write the first draft of ‘Holidaze’. Later on, I’d take the song to my producer and co-writer Will Carpenter and he helped to flesh it out and fill in the gaps. We have an amazing working relationship that way.
What came through me was a song about the down-and-out guy who’s struggling and just wants to get home for the holidays. Home to his family. Home to his friends. Home to himself – his higher self. This song is personal, but it’s not exactly autobiographical. I’ve definitely experienced darkness and struggle during the holiday season (haven’t we all at one time or another?). But currently, I’m in a very happy and grateful place in my life. I think that’s part of why I wrote this song, and why one of my favorite topics to sing and write about is that dark place. It’s because I don’t want to forget what it was like. One of my favorite Christmas movies – heck, maybe one of my all-time favorite movies in general – is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It does such a great job of taking a regular guy who means well but is having trouble. Taking him to the brink of despair. And then revealing to him – and to us – how much he has to be grateful for. I think ‘Holidaze’ could be considered a modern-day musical retelling of that story. It wasn’t intended. It’s just how it came out.”
‘Holidaze’ is now available for streaming. Stick around for Psychedelic Baby Magazine’s exclusive interview with Avatari!
Do most of your songs come to you quickly like this one did?
Not always, but it has happened a few times and it’s usually a good sign. My favorite songs have come to me in a flash of inspiration. I’ll write them down and within fifteen minutes or so I’ll have ninety percent of the song finished. The process changes when I collaborate; there’s more back and forth and trading of ideas which can be really cool and exciting too. Then there are songs that evolve gradually. Lingering in my mind and coming to me in bits and pieces over time. But I think the most pure and powerful experience is when I have a deep urge to say something, and the words come to me right away and flow effortlessly.
What is your favorite festive song?
That’s a great question. I’m not sure I have one favorite festive song but my mind goes straight to the holidays. I’ve always loved Christmas music. It’s wrapped in so many beautiful memories of family and childhood for me. I’m getting to experience it all over again with my own little family and my children now. I love the Christmas classics.
I noticed how you made “Holidaze” extremely honest, a bittersweet Christmas song- Why did you choose to make it so authentic?
It’s funny, when my friend challenged me to write a holiday song, I initially scoffed at the idea. And it’s not because I don’t like holiday music (like I said I actually love it). I think it’s because I didn’t think I had a holiday song in me. I also didn’t see how it could work in my genre of alternative music. So I was worried that it would come across as contrived or cheesy. But then I heard a little voice that said “just write your holiday song.” And that’s when it came to me. One of the first words I heard was “gutter.” And I envisioned someone looking through a window at their own family in the winter and not being able to get in. I wanted to write a song about the other side of the holidays. The pain and the struggle. Along with the message of hope that it’s never too late to come home.
Your single ‘Saturday Night’ is nostalgic in a different sort of way. Does nostalgia feed your creativity, or is there another type of fuel that makes your songwriting engine turn?
That’s funny, I never really noticed that. But you’re right – those two songs are pretty nostalgic. I don’t know if it’s just nostalgia so much as finding the painful or vulnerable underbelly of whatever I’m writing about. There needs to be something deeper and more raw in the subject matter for me to be really interested enough to write and perform a song. So that’s where I try to go. All the way down into the heart and soul of it.
I heard your family has a lot of musicians- What instruments do they play?
We do have a few. My dad is an amazing guitarist. He can play like Eric Clapton. No kidding. My sister is a wonderful musician and entirely self taught. She can hear anything and play it on piano by ear. My wife’s father is a brilliant saxophonist and plays all of the wind instruments. And she plays the flute.
If you had to choose your second favorite movie to write a song about, what would it be?
That’s another great question. I love movies and I’m also an actor so I tend to think very cinematically. Music and visual storytelling are very intertwined for me. I’m gonna sidestep the question but I’ll give you this – what I’d like to do is write an album that’s the soundtrack for a feature film. Kind of like a rock opera – but it’s a movie and the songs accompany and tell the story.
Would you ever release an entire holiday album? Why or why not?
I won’t say that I wouldn’t. Up until a few months ago if you’d have asked me if I’d be writing a holiday song I’d have said, I don’t think so. Now that you mention it though, I think I’ll challenge myself to write a new holiday song each year. And then eventually I’ll have a whole album.
Headline photo: Anna Azarov