In the crowded world that we live in, sometimes certain individuals were just meant to meet. At the risk of sounding too sentimental, it was perhaps a touch of fate that vocalist/rapper BUCHANAN and multi-instrumentalist Christy Carey were able to find each other. Sharing common ground in both their worldview and frustration with a stagnant musical climate, their initial online correspondence saw these mutual feelings develop into a frantic exchange of ideas, and thus, AV Dummy was born. One might argue that the world is a marginally better place for it, but the outlook of debut full-length album PORNOVIOLENCE will have you realise otherwise.
Initially dabbling in abrasive experimental hip-hop and producing the incendiary EP Industrial Society and its Future, their expansion into a four-piece with the additions of Sat Chatterji and Jerome Johnson has allowed them to explore a broader palette of sounds encompassing post-rock, jazz and bass music. This skittish approach sees them channelling acts like clipping. when at their most confrontational, but merged with a less theatrical At the Drive-In– a disarming combination that they pull off with such ease.
While the sound is an attention-grabbing device for AV Dummy, the central focus is BUCHANAN’s lyricism. Packed with grit, he paints a ghastly portrayal of a broken Britain throughout the album, touching on themes of xenophobia, class divides and rabid consumerism across the ten tracks. Moments such as ‘The City’, which explores his experience of observing the Grenfell tragedy match perfectly with the brashness of ‘Man Burns Self Online’, all contributing to the omnipresent air of disillusionment and raw anger. It’s not like no artist in the past has ever lamented the struggles of growing up in a self-obsessed and collapsing society, but the visceral approach that BUCHANAN employs really hits home. If he’s feeling disenchanted, you’re going to feel it with him whether you like it or not.
Ahead of their debut album, BUCHANAN and Carey took time to speak to Wax to talk about the long and arduous road they took to where we are now, and what the recent shift in the group’s form mean for the future evolution of their sound.
How was the process of putting together your debut album, and how do you generally feel about the finished result?
Christy: For the most part, it was very bitty. Lots of back and forth over text. Every tiny detail could be afforded a level of focus that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible without years of covid disruption. It was a by-product of lockdown frustration to nail every little thing, and I still don’t think we quite got there. That’s just what happens when you sit on something for so long, though imperfections begin to appear that didn’t exist before. The entire process bordered on obsession.
BUCHANAN: It’s taken way too long, that’s my only thought at this point. I’m glad it’s over. I was 16 when some of these first ideas came about, and now I’m 22. I’ve been through a lot in that time – a lot of changes in situations and circumstances. When I was 18, I remember enrolling into a music college just to record ‘Brave New World’, ‘Natural Born Killers’ and ‘Commercial Street’, and promptly dropping out after. Christy obviously mentions the pandemic as a helping hand in the process, but in the larger scheme of things, that was relatively late in the story. We’d been working on a lot of these songs from 2016 onwards, just refining everything. The process was long because we had nothing – I was broke, and there was no investment, so studio access had to be acquired through other means. I’m proud of the album, though – I feel like we were successful in doing what we wanted to do: making a time capsule that represents this current moment and the years leading up to it. It’s an album that personifies the excess of information, not just through lyrics, but through sound as well.
What evolutions do you feel you’ve gone through as a group in the time between Industrial Society and its Future to PORNOVIOLENCE? This can be both on a creative and personal level.
Christy: We realised early on that we didn’t want to limit ourselves to just ‘beats’. It was always about doing something that felt natural to us, which meant actively challenging ourselves. I think we went into this as perfectionists, but we’ve learned to embrace the chaos and the flaws that come with making a racket.
BUCHANAN: Musically speaking, there have been various fluctuations in my personal taste and ideas. I always wanted to do something that mashed up lots of different sounds, but how that should be done changes almost monthly for me, so working on one album forever was interesting. Industrial Society was always going to be part of PORNOVIOLENCE – those three songs were grouped together because they were easier to connect. We introduced ourselves as a kind of binary act who did rappy-electronicy shit and saved the fun stuff for later. We also became a band, which, to be totally honest, was a pretty big switch up.
Having formed online and living in separate cities, can you tell us more about what the first things that drew you to each other were and how you’ve used those to influence your creative direction?
Christy: There was never anything about Birmingham that interested me growing up. I love the place, but it’s a total echo chamber when it comes to music. That’s enough to push any musician to become hyper-reliant on themselves. We were both posting things online for a while – we met in a group chat full of mutual admirers, and we just branched off from there. It was all quite serendipitous. From the initial voice message demos ’til now, the way he writes has always been a primary influence – I can’t make a song without hearing his voice in the back of my head now.
BUCHANAN: I grew up all over the country and took a little bit of everything from anywhere, but I was born in South London and came back for good when I was 11. I don’t see much in regional territory for music; it’s just music. My love for drill, grime and jungle seem reasonable given my upbringing, but beyond that, I’m not super attached to wherever I’m supposed to be from. Christy just gets it. I don’t think any producer, composer, or really anyone I’ve worked with – has ever really got what I’m saying like Christy – and not only understood but translated whatever I’ve been after. It’s not beat making; it’s songwriting, and Christy just gets that. What leads us together is a mixture of my spontaneous interests and Christy’s vast musical know-how. I’d have been an idiot not to stick with that formula regardless of location.
In what ways would you say the record captures the different angles of you as a band and reflects your journey to this point?
Christy: The riff for ‘In Colour’ actually began life as a jazz riff when I was 15, so I think the album documents us growing up – it’s been such a long process. The more I listen back to it, the more I pick up on things that have permanently seeped their way into the way we write. Tritones and minor seconds are everywhere. I’ll always remember a teacher telling me to stop using those so often.
How do you approach juxtaposing personal experiences against their counter-perspectives in your lyrics and why do you feel it works to get your own messages across?
BUCHANAN: I view my writing as using aspects of myself to draw attention to whatever I’m trying to represent. At the same time, I don’t view the songs as personal or about me. My individual life is meaningless in the broader context; it’s just a jumping-off point, a way of characterising an issue. I also avoid moralising or being too on the nose – all of that oversimplifies everything and turns thoughts into blanket statements and empty sloganeering; the real world is complex and nuanced. All I’ve ever aimed to do is provide commentary. I don’t mind being aloof or abstract whilst I do it; I just want to convey an authentic emotion that hopefully resonates with the right people. I’m not a political person, but my existence, along with large swathes of people from marginalised backgrounds, is politicised.
At what point do your desires to break free from conformity both in your musical approach and societal views overlap, or does one tend to inform how far the other goes?
Christy: What does conformity even imply nowadays anyway? We often joke about how this is our pop record. If we’re breaking convention, it was never intentional. We’re more reliant upon our own musical lexicons rather than explicitly mentioning specifics, and that has created a sense of understanding and trust between the both of us. It makes things unpredictable, and that’s what keeps it exciting.
BUCHANAN: I’ve never had a desire to be different or to defy convention. Any ‘outsiderness’ isn’t an active choice – I just always was on the outside. It also makes sense that genre conventions are thrown out the window on an album about the modern inescapable excess of information. The music, much like the themes of its lyrics, is overloaded with different thoughts and ideas.
What was it about the Tom Wolfe essay that the album shares its name with that resonated with you and made you feel that it reflected the themes you wanted to explore?
BUCHANAN: It felt rebellious – an opposition to a machine intent on desensitising and dumbing down society. It also posed whether the human desire for simulated violence was in itself human nature or if we were evolving to consume it. Beyond all of that – the essay was essentially futile. Novels like [Truman Capote’s] ‘In Cold Blood’ are watered down compared to the average contemporary true crime documentary. Violence is consumed willingly everywhere. Ideologically, the visual idea of pornography being replaced with a new form of sadistic entertainment felt analogous to the culture of excess we live in now, one where we’re not only numb to sex and violence but also to feeling and being connected. An age of social media fostering social interactions that feel artificial and hollow, a time where truth and fact are debatable, and belief is meaningless. Its fear of the consequences of a desensitised society felt like the reality of our time and perfectly representative of the apathy of a superficial world.
You hadn’t performed live as a group until recently – how have things gone in terms of adapting yourselves from being a duo that previously didn’t exist beyond online exchanges to becoming a full band? How can we expect this to continue evolving as things go forward?
Christy: It’s been fairly painless actually. Writing music that would translate into a band setup was never a conscious thing, but it’s always been instinctive for me to make music that has the same energy as a noisy guitar band. I’m an instrumentalist before I’m a producer, so none of these songs were ever designed to function with a rapper-producer dynamic, but rather as a single entity – which lends itself to a band framework wonderfully.
BUCHANAN: Come and see us for yourself.
Words: Reuben Cross // Photos: Jake Wesley-Worrall
AV Dummy’s debut album ‘PORNOVIOLENCE’ is out now. Stream and purchase the album via Bandcamp.