If nothing else, 2020 has united the world with a shared feeling of: “What the actual f*ck?” We’re only halfway through the year, but already, enough has happened to make us all want to throw in the towel. Amidst the chaos, a trio of self-proclaimed theater nerds from Quincy, Illinois, also known as Avenue Beat, funneled their frustration and stress into a now Tik Tok-viral song appropriately titled “F 2020”.
Sam Backoff, Savana Santos, and Sami Bearden released their first (self-titled) EP last year after relocating to Nashville, where they are now based. Though it was billed as country, there is clearly pop influence, from catchy staccato choruses to bouncy production. “We don’t really like to put labels on our music,” Bearden says. “We’ve only ever tried to write what makes us happy and if that falls into a certain genre or another, so be it.”
“F 2020” seems to take on a genre all its own. The original clip shared to Tik Tok shows the Backoff, Santos, and Bearden staring deadpan into the camera while 2020’s relentless tragedies flash behind them, including news reports of coronavirus deaths, images of the Australian wildfires, and portraits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other recent victims of police brutality. While acknowledging that these global crises take precedent, the group also weaves in various personal hardships 2020 has brought, such as the death of a pet and a failed single.
While tackling tough issues head on, Avenue Beat doesn’t sacrifice musical integrity. Their angelic harmonies shine through the bleak subject matter, and Santos’ production matches, if not exceeds, the caliber of any other pop song topping radio charts.
Currently, the “F 2020” Tik Tok tease has nearly 12 million views, an overwhelming response to the caption’s plea: “day 1 of tryna get this song we wrote to pop off so our manager will let us release it lol heLP”. Like with many emerging artists today, the platform has taken the song farther than Avenue Beat ever expected, but as Santos says, the fans using it are what matter most. “[It’s] more about the community that we’ve created on it,” she says when I ask about the very real possibility that Tik Tok gets banned in the U.S. “You can shut down the app, but we’ll all go find somewhere else to get together.”
You can stream “F 2020” here and check out my conversation with the band below.
Congrats on releasing “F 2020”! I’ve been following you guys on Tik Tok so I know that it recently blew up there. What’s it been like sharing your songs on a platform like Tik Tok and connecting with fans there?
First of all, omg thank youuuu this shit is crayyyyy. Tik Tok is the most amazing community of humans. We legit had no expectations about this song when we posted it on Tik Tok. We just kinda wanted the song to have a life because we figured nobody on our team would ever let us put this out considering how many times we swear. BUT y’all good people of Tik Tok made this happen and every time we see somebody making a video to our song or doing a dance or sharing their story, it makes us feel like we aren’t alone and we hope we can do that for other people out there too. This year has been shitty enough, we gotta stick together!!! -Sam
There’s reports that Tik Tok might get banned in the U.S and it’s already been banned in other countries. How do you see that impacting your career trajectory and the music industry as a whole? So many artists are getting their starts there right now.
I think for Tik Tok, it’s less about the platform and more about the community that we’ve created on it. You can shut down the app, but we’ll all go find somewhere else to get together. We’ve already created that bond, so I’m not really stressin’ about it. BUT I REALLY HOPE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN, HOW WILL I WASTE TIME AT 3 AM?! -Savana
2020 has obviously been a TRYING year and the inspiration behind “F 2020”. How are you guys doing amidst all the chaos right now? What’s been helping you get through the tough times and stay sane?
Honestly, having a creative outlet like songwriting has kept me sane. “F2020” came out of rage and frustration and sadness, but reading all of the comments and seeing the videos our fans are making really have an impact on me and make me feel less alone. I hope our music does the same for them. -Savana
Gen Z has really stepped up as a generation of activists and change-makers in these tumultuous times. What do you think it is about your generation’s upbringing and perspective that’s sparked this?
I really think it has a lot to do with the media we consumed during our formative years. Like The Hunger Games, for example. The themes are stepping up to do the right thing despite the odds, even if it’s against the status quo. And on top of that, this generation is really defined by (and made fun of for) our “sensitivity”, but that empathy is what makes us so strong and willing to enact change! -Sami
Your first releases as a band were in the country genre, but your most recent songs are undoubtedly pop. It seems like these days there’s less pressure for artists to define themselves as a certain genre and more freedom to move between them. Do you find that to be the case? Do you consider yourselves genre-bending artists?
I don’t think I would really consider us “genre-bending” but we don’t really like to put labels on our music!! We’ve only ever tried to write what makes us happy and if that falls into a certain genre or another, so be it!! We all have pretty eclectic taste so taking inspiration from all the different places is a no-brainer! -Sami
What’s the future look like for Avenue Beat? What are your goals as a group? Any plans for an upcoming EP or album?
I mean, honestly just getting music to y’all as fast as we possibly can! This just showed us that we can still be connected with y’all no matter what craziness is happening in the world. We want to put out an album soon, that would be super dope. We have so much cool shit we wanna share with you guys! But big picture, we wanna get back on the road, travel, and hug all of your faces and play shows for you guys!! -Sam
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Photos / Delaney Royer
Story / Catherine Santino