Photo: Andrew Segreti

Ali Genevich and Jake Brooks of Laveda got their first taste of music management in 2016 as their four-piece Saratoga band Lucy—with guitarist Johnny Gravitt and drummer Kyle Squires—when they signed a development deal with a New York City agency whose identity the band opted not to disclose. That experience, having someone manage the band’s communication and branding, didn’t feel right. 

It’s a relatively uncommon experience for many local bands, particularly those in the underground scene. The issue of dealing with labels that may compromise your art has been a particularly hot topic, with artists like Adult Mom calling out the indie label Tiny Engines in November for hoarding her masters (which they returned as of mid-November) and Taylor Swift airing greivances against Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun after being told she could not perform songs from her early career at the American Music Awards. 

After artists pour their hearts and souls into their work, it’s not easy to jump back into a management deal after a negative experience. Since forming Laveda, the duo did just that, signing with Color Station in late summer 2019.

“It’s a very scary thing,” Genevich says. “At first we had, literally, PTSD. There are bad people out there that will just take your money. This was very much the opposite of that. It was, ‘Hey, we want to help you. We’re going to give you the resources you need so you can make a record.’”

“At the end of the day, Ali and I weren’t super happy with the end product,” Brooks says of their initial experience that led them to forming Laveda. “Where we were at, where we went and just how long everything took. So, in the midst of all that we were writing our own stuff on the side.” 

The duo was experimenting with acoustic, bedroom pop songwriting and house synth stylings while working on the Lucy project when Polish house DJ ConKi emailed seeking permission to remix their melancholy acoustic song “If Only” with Nexeri, a producer from Russia. He said he would be shopping the track to big labels and Genevich and Brooks OK’d the project. They didn’t think much of it—until the Dutch record label Soave bought and released the song in November 2018. That got the pair on their feet.

“Once they got assigned to Soave, me and Ali were like, ‘Holy shit. We better have an album.’”

Today, the remixed track has more than 3 million plays on Spotify. A collective view count of the track’s YouTube presence on various “chill and vibing” and “sensual musique” channels sharing the song via lyric videos and playlists reaches nearly 80,000 and counting.

The band began thinking about how to utilize their newfound sound and identity and got to work recording tracks with Lucy associate Dylan Sky, an assisting engineer on the Saratoga band’s EP (which the band has taken off streaming sites), to produce their new project.

“We didn’t know how well it would work, but we were like, ‘We might as well try.’ And when we just thought we were going to record a couple songs, it turned into, ‘OK, we want to do a record,’” Genevich says with a smile.

With assistance from Sky, who the band says helped them hone in on their shoegaze, dream-pop sound, and locally accomplished producer and sound engineer Nick “Scoops” Dardaris of Philadelphia (known for his work with local bands Another Michael, Prince Daddy & The Hyena, Full Body and out-of-staters like Diva Sweetly) and New York City-based mixing engineer Jason Finkel, Laveda is almost finished preparing their debut record What Happens After (“For fans of Beach House, Deerhunter, Alvvays, and M83,” says Genevich). It’s set to release in April 2020, pressed to 12-inch vinyl to best serve their lofi sound. 

The heavily layered synth and whispery vocals of Laveda create a shadowy mood that feels just right for their generation. They’re heavily influenced by moments in time, shows they experienced and B-sides of pop records. Recalling a Wolf Alice show they saw together in the early days of recording as Laveda, Genevich goes out of focus as if staring off at a mirage. 

“That concert was a turning point, specifically, in my life,” she says. “It ended up being this insane experience. I wish I could relive it. They sound so big, live, and they’re not shoegaze per se, but they have those layered guitar, bass-filling and very dreamy sounds, but also just rock. So I was like, 

‘Oh my God. If I’m in a band, I want to have that live show.’”

Brooks cites Coldplay as the band that “drove him” to play music, or more specifically, Coldplay’s hidden track “Chinese Sleep Chant” from the 2008 album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. 

“I’d never heard anything like it. I was like 13 or something and I was like, ‘What is this? I don’t understand what the vocalist is saying. The guitars are really loud.’ I’m just spaced out, it’s so cool,” he says. “I never really heard anything else like that until I heard M83 and I was like, ‘Oh! That’s the sound that I’ve been kind of like weirdly looking for.’ In the back of my head I was really thinking about that genre.”

Other influences Laveda lists include Japanese Breakfast, The Cure, M83, Slowdive, their Long Island tourmates Casanova as well as locals like Jouska and their roommate Grace Annuziato of Albany band Lone Phone Booth. 

The band has played only local shows and started some small-scale touring since March 2019, after putting out a few tracks online. But those few releases have found significant success. The single “Dream/Sleep” was premiered by Pitchfork Radio at their Mid-Winter Festival in Chicago and included on Spotify’s “Fresh Finds” playlist. 

“Dream/Sleep” caught the attention of San Francisco-based record label Color Station, which  offered to release their next single. It was scary for Laveda to consider, but this time around, they had some industry experience. 

“I’m glad we had the bad experience. We learned so much from it,” Brooks says of their initial NYC deal. The duo took a solid chunk of time to operate on their own. They thought through the proposal, lawyered up and when they felt fully prepared and comfortable, accepted the offer to join the label. (That’s advice Genevich says they would have loved as an even younger band.)

The label has also helped Laveda achieve the indie pilgrimage to Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. The band will embark on a tour in early March, making their way to Texas and back, looking to “shake as many hands as possible.”

“Give us some feedback,” Genevich says. “We love talking to people at shows all the time. It’s so cool to see how people react to your stuff. I love it when people are like, ‘Why did you do this?’” 

In the meantime, the band will keep busy releasing one or two more singles from What Happens After, planning more shows for 2020 and making sounds they yearn to hear. 

Laveda will play Superior Merchandise Co. in Troy on Sunday Dec. 15.