It’s now been two years since Avec Sans’ first album, Heartbreak Hi, boldly strode into the world; and after a 2017 that saw the synth-pop pairing traverse the North American continent for a nine-stop tour, Alice Fox and Jack St. James have been taking 2018 a little easier. Except for, however, a return performance at Bristol Pride Festival – the only show they’ve agreed to this whole year. I recently caught up with the duo to talk about this and more, including the world’s largest truck stop in Iowa, which sells medieval weaponry as well as fuel.
“America is big, we really realised that,” says Jack when I ask about the tour. “A lot of bands plot [the tour] themselves, which is foolhardy,” Alice concurs. When I ask whether they think the US audience connected with the immediacy and boldness of their sound, two things Americans tend not to shy away from, Jack does some thinking: “I think, over here, we’re definitely pop, but in America we’re alt-pop. In England, the bands that influence me, their fans don’t really come to our shows but the Americans, they got that a bit more.”
“[Alice Glass’] music is very different from what we do, but my namesake has been one of my biggest influences, just because of that absolute wild-ness on stage.”
This alternative aspect that the Americans respond to comes from Jack’s punk background, I’m told, and it’s easy to see how this approach has shaped their vibrant live shows, which are about breaking down the barrier between the artist and the audience that can be a problem with live electronic performance. “[Normally] you’re watching the bottom of a table while these creative geniuses are doing something incredible, not being able to see it. My main instrument is guitar, and I think not knowing anything about electronic music meant that I came at it from a different angle.” Electronica can, however, have its logistical drawbacks, as Alice points out when she tells of incredulous drunk people invading the stage and smacking the pads, “because they’re not convinced. They’re like ‘No! He can’t be doing that!’”.
Speaking of incredulity, some might be disbelieving if you told them that this humble duo pulled off a cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ that perfectly distils the dramatic essence of the original; but Alice seems to agree when I mention that she channels a very similar magnetism to the legendary musician. “Yeah, absolutely. I would like to think so because she’s one of the people who I’ve grown up watching and listening to.” She then touches on a more recent source of inspiration. “Alice Glass, strangely enough – her music is very different from what we do, but my namesake has been one of my biggest influences, just because of that absolute wild-ness on stage.”
My namesake [Alice Glass] has been one of my biggest influences, just because of that absolute wild-ness on stage.”
Avec Sans’ own brand of wild energy has got them invited to play a second consecutive Bristol Pride Festival, and I’m keen to find out what it is about the show that has coaxed them out of a performance hiatus. Alice puts it simply, “We’re officially in hibernation, but it was just so much fun last time.” When I ask if they feel there’s something that connects them to an LGBTQ audience more so than other artists, Alice delivers a considered response, “We make pop music that’s uplifting with a hint of sadness at its core, but ultimately it sounds fun live. We definitely feel an affinity.” These two are guaranteed to put on another riot of a show come July.
Avec Sans play at Bristol Pride on 14th July and are creatively hibernating thereafter.