TikTok, The Music Industry, and Self-Producing: An Interview with Avenue Beat

Avenue Beat © Delaney Royer
Following the success of “F2020”, Nashville-based trio Avenue Beat talk about their musical relationship with social media and doing things totally DIY.
Stream: “F2020” – Avenue Beat




Avenue Beat are just three great friends, Sami Bearden, Savana Santos, and Sam Backoff, making music that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Their debut self-titled EP is a burst of sunniness, Taylor Swift-style popiness set to lighthearted yet motivational lyrics. ‘I’m a freakin’ delight/ I got more bite than a California Zoo’ and ‘I’m a freakin’ delight/ I got more pop than a shook up mountain dew’ goes the chorus of “Delight,” while in “Broke (wrktp)” they sing, “I’m broke, I don’t need a remedy/Empty pockets are my specialty/ I’m broke and I’m living happily/ All the time,’ while strums of ukulele set a happy-go-lucky pace. Since then, they’ve maintained the positivity but their voice as a band has become more developed with Santos taking on role of producer and everything from music to visuals being a product of themselves.

F2020 - Avenue Beat

F2020 – Avenue Beat

Their latest single “F2020” became a viral hit in June when uploaded to TikTok this past August. Described by Atwood Magazine Editor-in-Chief Mitch Mosk as “a passionate f*** you to a year that’s been nothing but trouble,” the song is a timely expression of the dismal nature of this year and how it seems to be one disaster after another, ranging from the personal to the universally tragic.

Once (for a short time) a form of excitement with the introduction of a new decade, 2020 the year has become personified as a pest that should just get the message and leave us all alone. The clip posted to TikTok, which gained over 16 million views, features the band singing straight-faced and deadpan while a montage of phone footage passes behind them: new year’s eve, anxiety attacks, the cat when it was alive, life during the pandemic. As they make clear in the lyrics, ‘Okay, that was a lot/The problems I got/Are honestly probably not that bad/When I compare ’em to some shit y’all had/ But I’m just statin’ the facts/ This year is just whack,’ while clips from Black Lives Matter demonstrations, fires, and anti-Trump protesters also feature in the montage. It’s music that therefore reaches to the masses, being relatable and familiar in its subject matter.

@avenuebeat

day 1 of tryna get this song we wrote to pop off so our manager will let us release it lol heLP #avenuebeat #originalsong #fktrump #blm #viral #2020

♬ F2020 – Avenue Beat

December 31st, I grabbed a beer
Threw it up, said, “2020 is my year, bitches”
And I honestly thought that that was true
Until I gave this motherfucker like a month or two
This is getting kind of ridiculous at this point
Yo, my cat died and a global pandemic took over my life
And I put out some music that nobody liked
So, I got really sad and bored at the same time
And that’s why I’m like
Lowkey fuck 2020
Still sad, still ain’t got no money
I ain’t got a watch up on my wrist
I just got some shit I gotta fix, yeah
Lowkey fuck 2020
– “F2020,” Avenue Beat
You’re always my plus one at a party when I didn’t even invite you
And you keep me in the corner so I can’t talk to anyone I’d like to
Always messin’ with my head and tryna freak me out
Tell me that I should get up and leave right now
Man I wish you had a body ’cause if
You did you know that I, I would fight you
I’d prolly win too
– “thank you anxiety,” Avenue Beat

TikTok’s relationship with the music industry has been one of grown significance. Songs that have found popularity on the social media platform have gone on to be chart hits, an inevitability given the closeness with streaming. But the way TikTok functions means music is a central part to the clips users post. Songs become the soundtrack, often used in a humorous way or to accompany a dance routine, and the snappiness of the clips means the music holds an even more significant memorability. 

While “F2020” was the one that found life through the app, all of Avenue Beat’s songs have the personality suited for social media sharing and complementary meme-making. ‘You ain’t a friend of me/ Just a dead weight, a heavy feeling that I know I won’t be needing/ Wanna send you down the road waving as you go singing/ Thank you, anxiety’ goes “thank you anxiety”, a song that addresses mental health but not in a soppy or cliché way, while ‘i don’t really like your boyfriend’, is written as though a text to a friend or casual conversation: ‘In my unbiased opinion, you’re a motherfrickin’ catch/ Got a body like a model and a heart of gold to match/Every party that we go to, every guy there wants to know you/ So, please tell me why you chose to date this piece of human trash like?

Atwood Magazine caught up with Avenue Beat to discover the real role that social media has in their songwriting process and what goes into self-producing songs in the bedroom.

Avenue Beat © Delaney Royer

Avenue Beat © Delaney Royer



A CONVERSATION WITH AVENUE BEAT

F2020 - Avenue Beat

Atwood Magazine: Hi! Do you all live together or do you live separately?

Sam: We live separately. We lived together for the first two years that we were in town but then we split up after that.

Ahh ok. I Wanted to check because sometimes it feels like you’re inseparable haha.
On to the interview, could you talk about your relationship with TikTok and the importance the app has when it comes to the music industry?

Sami: It’s just really cool that there’s something that kind of creates an equal playing field because somebody who’s just making music in their bedroom in like Minnesota can find the audience that their song needs to blow up just as much as somebody with a certain amount of hits under their belt could. It’s kind of incredible how people don’t care who it’s coming from; they just want good music.

Do you have any favorite TikTok clips that incorporate music?

Sam: I love that mad at Disney song!

When you were writing “F2020” did you have Tiktok in mind for how you were going to present it? I wonder if this influenced the lyrics and delivery of the song.

Savana: Definitely not. Up until “F2020” we didn’t really have a following on TikTok so we kind of just used it to throw things out there. When I was writing the first riff and chorus, it was kind of just me complaining about the year and I didn’t really think it would end up anywhere, honestly.

Similarly, how has your approach and outlook changed since your self-titled EP? While there’s always been a lightheartedness, I feel like with the songs released this year there’s more emphasis on the entertainingly relatable.

Sam: I think since the release of the EP we’ve grown a lot and I guess I’ve got more bitter and jaded. I think the thing that remains the same is that the songwriting is our outlet for getting our frustrations out. We will just put a bunch of lyrics of us complaining about life into a fun beat and call it a day and we’ve been doing that since day one. 

Avenue Beat © 2020

Avenue Beat © 2020




I love that. You’ve said that you’ve grown a lot since your EP, how has your mindset changed when approaching the making of your songs?

Sami: For one thing, Savana is now the producer. Correct me if I’m wrong, you got co-producing credits for the EP. Now she’s doing it all from her own studio and it’s so impressive. We’ve been writing for years and years and years but the only person who ever really nailed it down was Savana.

Savana: awww thanks Sami.

Yeah I think it’s so cool and inspiring how you produce everything. I love also how you give insights into your process in the tiktok videos- for example one where you’re like ‘this how to produce a song’ and the one where you show how to edit and layer a ukulele cover. How did you get into it? Were you self-taught?

Savana: Yeah I learnt from YouTube because you can learn anything on YouTube these days. But I think I just begged my mom for this thing called Logic Pro when I was like fifteen for Christmas which is how you produce music and then I just never stopped.

That’s awesome. And when you’re editing songs, is it a conscious thought to be like ‘how can this reach people?’ Like do you try to incorporate sounds that are ‘on trend’ or whatever?

Savana: For sure, yeah. And I think a lot of producing too is literally just experimenting. It doesn’t have to sound like anything else and it can still be cool the way you put sounds together. 

Similarly, do you tend to study popular music to uncover what makes it work? And by study I mean do you listen to songs that are very ‘of the moment’ and sonically dissect the layers?

Savana: Ohh, I should probably do that! I will start now.

Haha. I find that producing is so cool but it’s not something I know anything about so I’m always really fascinating by an individual’s process. Going back to Tiktok, out of the all the mediums, in a way it’s easy for people to have their ‘moment of fame’ with it. You’re artists in the music industry so you are successful in your own right but, because ''F2020'' was this viral hit, do you feel any worry that whatever you do now won’t be taken as seriously as it could? Or that there’s expectation placed upon yourselves?

Sami: I think we were so surprised and blown away by what happened with “F2020” and we know that this is like one of those once in a life time opportunities and we are just grateful for what it was. This has just been such an insane experience that I know this may not specifically happen again but we’re all just grateful that it happened and if it happens again then that’s awesome. 

I know that one of your songs was pulled from country radio but which song was it?

Sam: It was called “Ruin That For Me”




I don’t follow country radio or country charts (although I do like country music) but from my understanding it can be quite outdated- like the whole thing with Lil Naz X the other year. What was the reasoning for your song being pulled?

Sam: We really don’t know. It was pulled at the beginning of lockdown so maybe that had something to do with it. But yeah it got pulled and then a couple of days later Sami’s cat died and then savana wrote the chorus of “F2020”. Things just started working. 

It all worked out for the best

Sam: It all worked out for the best

You moved to Nashville, where you’re now based. What were your motives for moving there and what’s the songwriting community like?

Sam: It was really just a fate thing us moving to Nashville. We met our manager playing a show and after we graduated high school we moved here full time and that’s where we learnt how to write songs. I think the Nashville community of songwriters has really influenced how we like to write by really focusing on the importance of the song, your voice and saying what you want to say. So we owe a lot to Nashville.

Sweet. And is there a distinct approach to your songwriting compared to before you moved there?

Sami: I think it’s always just been us whining and complaining, living our life, and then stuff happens and we’re like ‘ok we really need to get this off our chest’- Like I need to write about this experience to let it go. It’s very therapeutic for us and always has been, which I like.

L to R: Sam Backoff, Savana Santos, Sami Bearden © Delaney Royer

Avenue Beat (L to R): Sam Backoff, Savana Santos, Sami Bearden © Delaney Royer

Yeah I think that's a special thing about music in that it can be a healthy way of releasing negativity or overwhelming emotions. Going back to ''F2020,'' could you talk about the making of the song. From what I understand, it was a very DIY creation- from the writing to the producing to the distribution.

Sam: We’ve had the most success when we just do what we want to do and do it ourselves. Savana usually makes the cover art, we made the video for “F2020”. Everything kind of just clicks. I think we’re definitely going to try and continue that way because it seems to work out for us. But it’s also the most validating too.

With this mentality in mind, what is your approach moving forward? Do you have songs lined up and goals you want to achieve or is it all just a fun, spontaneous experience?

Sami: We have so many songs. We’ve been writing for like four years straight and we’re just trying a lot of new stuff that we want to put out as soon as we possibly can.

Avenue Beat’s Lowkey “F2020” Is the ‘F*** You’ Anthem of the Year

:: THIS JUST IN ::

That’s really exciting. And how was it during quarantine? You said you don’t live together but you always seem to be together so were you in your own social bubble and with each other a lot?

Sami: Oh yes. Oh yes indeed. We probably get together at least once a day to work on stuff, whether it’s writing or whatever, so we see each other pretty regularly. 

That’s fun. And your music is really upbeat and lighthearted, taking annoying situations and making them less serious, so is there any music that you listen to that has a similar effect of lifting your mood?

Savana: Probably Casey Musgraves.

Sami: Yeah! preach! Preach!

Savana: She makes us feel at ease.

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Stream: “F2020” – Avenue Beat



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F2020 - Avenue Beat

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Avenue Beat’s Lowkey “F2020” Is the ‘F*** You’ Anthem of the Year

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Francesca Rose

Francesca is a writer currently based in Montreal who considers music a form of storytelling. She's fascinated by the connections that songs can form, whether it's relatable lyrics or the personal associations a sound conjures up.