Inspired by the craftsmanship of legendary rock and roll artists such as Little Richard and Mick Jagger, San Francisco alt-rock artist Ari Welkom, better known by the moniker AVATARI, is forging his own path in the California music scene. He loved and played music from a young age but never envisioned turning that love into a career. After graduating from Harvard, he came back to California having realized that music is what he wanted to pursue and became the frontman in his own band. Before later embarking on his solo music career, Welkom dove into acting and held acting roles in network television shows such as ABC’s “The Rookie” and “The Middle,” and NBC’s “Days of Our Lives,” as well as in films such as “Brick.” Forging full steam ahead with his solo career as AVATARI, 2019 saw the release of his first single “Legacy”, which, along with subsequent singles, have helped him to develop his sound as an artist. With big sounds and universal themes of fighting our collective demons and lifting ourselves up as a human race, he hopes his music will serve as a guiding light in the darkest of times and will allow his listeners to feel seen, healed, and, most importantly, empowered. “Music is a way for me to get free and help others to get free with me,” AVATARI shares. “It’s like I shed my skin and can be completely vulnerable, and getting to share that power and freedom with others is my life’s mission.” Although he launched his solo career right before the Covid shutdowns hit, he discovered Modern Musician and digital marketing, which became a game changer for him in building a fanbase online and connecting deeply with his fans.
Now working with Casey Sullivan of 111 Studios, AVATARI has returned to the alt-rock scene with his latest single “Saturday Night,” released on September 24th. The track is a dynamic feel-good anthem that will get fans on their feet in no time, recalling memories of getting ready for a night out while expecting to run into that very special someone. That unmatched excitement’s wound tight around the upbeat pulse of this infectious and synthy pop-rock tune, overflowing with exhilarating emotion and wonder-laced childlike innocence. While recording “Saturday Night”, AVATARI remembers: “It was an awesome and completely seamless process recording this song with Casey. I came to him with a few references and he knew exactly what to do with it. I was blown away by the final product. It was a total joy.” He also released a visual accompaniment with the track. Filmed under the direction of Ayesha Haroon, the video merges psychedelic graphics with sweet scenes to tell a story of teenage infatuation, conveying the intoxicating tenderness of being young and in love. As we see the world begin to open back up in the aftermath of the pandemic, “Saturday Night” speaks to the shared desire to once again experience the human connection we have been craving for so long while reigniting a flame of invigorating warmth of romance and freedom within us. Full of nostalgia-inducing activities like dancing, roller skating, Ferris wheels, and fireworks, “Saturday Night” revives the magic of summer love. With plans to release more music and to play his first live shows as AVATARI, make sure to connect with AVATARI via the following links to stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and tour news! Photo credit: Anna Azarov.
You grew up in a creative family and started loving and playing music at an early age. You have said, however, that you never thought of doing music full-time or as a career. Why did you think that at that time and what can you tell me about how going off to college changed your view?
For one, playing music in my family was all about joy and connection and expression, so I never really thought of it in terms of work and a career. I just thought, this is really fun and beautiful. I’m going to keep doing it for fun, but I’ll find another way to make money. The flipside, though, is that my dad worked in the business side of music, so I got to see how insanely competitive and grueling it was to try to make a living as a musician. What changed when I got to college? I guess I hit a crossroads. And I asked myself, what could I see myself doing for the rest of my life? There was only one answer.
You started out in acting before making the transition to music and now do both. How do you feel that these two creative outlets compliment and feed into each other? Having a foot in both worlds, do you see yourself ever scoring/writing music for film, in addition to writing music for yourself?
Acting and music are two very separate crafts, but they’re both about communicating thoughts and emotions. For me, when I write and play songs, I see a visual world behind them. Also, when the soundscape is added to a film, the entire emotional content becomes magnified by a hundred times. I’ve also been told that my music plays out like a movie. I even have a close friend in the music business who calls my music “movie music.” So I do think there’s a lot of crossover between acting and music for me. As far as scoring films, I would love to. I’m a huge fan of Jonny Greenwood – what he’s done as the guitarist of one of my all time favorite bands, and scoring a few of the most iconic movies of the last decade.
You were previously in a band and decided to take a leap into a solo career, which you have said you had been thinking about for a while. What do you feel it was about a solo career that you felt drawn to and what was the transition like for you? Are there things you miss about being in a band or do you feel that you flourish the most as a solo artist with complete creative freedom?
I loved being in a band. I made amazing friends and I really miss the camaraderie and feeling like I was part of a team. Also collaborating musically was a blast. I think I hit a point in my creative path where I wanted to have full control over the direction of my expression. I didn’t want to answer to anyone about things like the name of the project, or chord changes, or album art. I wanted it all to come right from my own heart and soul. I think this is where I’m supposed to be, and I don’t see any turning back.
The first song you released as a solo artist was “Legacy”, followed by several more songs with which you were work-shopping your new sound. What can you tell me about the message behind “Legacy” and what has the journey been like for you in finding your sound as an artist?
I wrote “Legacy” at the end of my wife’s pregnancy, right before we were about to have our son Rumi. I was feeling very reflective. I was looking in the mirror thinking, “What kind of dad will I be? Can I handle this responsibility? Will I be able to rise to this challenge?” It was scary and exciting at the same time. I was headed out of town for a weekend retreat and I kept hearing the question “What’s your legacy?” rattling around in my head. That became the chorus of the first song for my new solo project. As far as the sound, I wanted it to be huge, both in terms of the production and soundscape, as well as the themes and the lyrics. Universal themes about fighting demons and lifting ourselves up as a human race. With hooks and grooves, and melodies to match. It’s an ongoing work in progress, but when I hear what I’ve done so far, I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
You had one rehearsal with your new project when Covid hit and shut everything down. What can you tell me about discovering Modern Musician and how digital marketing was a game changer for you and changed how you approach being an artist? In what ways did it help you to discover yourself?
The pandemic was gut wrenching for so many of us. I guess in that way maybe it’s brought us closer as a human race, because we’ve all been through it together. And we’ve all lost things (and people) that are dear to us. I know I have. But specifically for musicians, we’ve lost one of the most precious things: the ability to play live with complete peace and freedom. This has been catastrophic both creatively and financially, but with every door closing a window opens. For me, and for many of us, that window has come in a refocus of resources toward digital marketing, and toward connecting with fans online. What I’ve learned from Modern Musician in the last year is in many ways more than what I’ve learned in the rest of my music career. I’ve learned how to build a fanbase entirely online, and to find and connect with my best fit fans. People that are true fans of me and my music. And connect with them in ways that are nearly (and sometimes equally) as deep as when I play live. That means live streaming. That means DMing. And that means creating content that tells my story and that resonates.
Your message is one of finding peace, love, human connection, empowerment, and of supporting others. What can you tell me about reaching that message and about getting free and wanting to help others to get free, as well? In what ways do you feel that music helps you to make connections with people?
I think it’s a simple message that is from my heart and my own experience. I’ve spent years trying to “find myself” only to realize that I am myself and that if I follow my heart to the best of my ability every day, and that if I can look in the mirror and feel good about who I am and what I’ve done, that’s all I can ask. I want to give other people the space to do the same. I try to encourage that through my music. I want to encourage people to love themselves. To not judge themselves or others too harshly. To embrace everything, even their darkness and their demons. For me, music is pure power and energy – raw emotion. In three minutes you can feel someone’s life story. It has the power to connect and pierce all sorts of barriers. I don’t know of any other artform that packs that kind of punch.
You have said that no one really teaches you how to market yourself or your music and that the struggle to find yourself as an artist has been a winding road. Do you feel that you have found yourself as an artist at this point? What can you tell me about the environment in LA? Do you feel that there is a system that supports young and developing artists or do you feel that people tend to look out for themselves?
No one teaches you about marketing as an musician. Maybe to some degree in some colleges and art schools, but I’m not sure how practical it really is. The only ways to really learn are through trial and error, or by finding a mentor that you respect and who you can learn from. And there are a lot of mentors out there. I’m fortunate to have found a couple who I trust and respect very deeply. As fas as finding myself as an artist, I feel very connected and in tune with my creative voice, but it’s a never ending evolving path. I’m far from where I want to be, but I definitely feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
How do you feel as though songwriting has been cathartic for you?
It’s a direct channel from my heart and my brain into the world. There are times when I’m going through something painful. When it’s late at night and there’s no one to talk to. When the only answer or way out is to pick up my guitar, open my mouth, and sing a song. It’s spiritual and healing. It gives me a sense of meaning in the world.
What can you tell me about your Sunday Livestream, which you call Love-stream, and what inspired you to start doing it?
It was my way of trying to replace live shows during the pandemic. I played music and connected with my fans. I began asking them about their lives and how they were doing. Simple things. I was blown away when they would open up an answer truthfully and vulnerably. I felt like I needed to match their openness and also to give them my ear and my heart. It started to grow and became something very beautiful and powerful, I think. I’m still blown away by it. The power of music, of honesty, and of humans caring for one another.
You recently released your latest single “Saturday Night”. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the song, as well as the lyric video?
It’s a song about young love. About hitting the town with someone you’re just falling for. Head over heels. And you’re having the absolute best Saturday Night of your entire life. The Saturday Night of your wildest dreams. I thought it was a good song to release at this point in the pandemic. To give hope of a reopening of the world. And I think the lyric video captures that feeling.
What’s next for you?
I have a new EP fully recorded and ready for release in the spring. I’m hoping to tour around that and I’m excited to play my very first live show as Avatari. Stay tuned.