Too Much Togetherness? Three Bandmates in Avenue Beat Test Their Bonds by Quarantining Under One Roof
Sam Backoff, Sami Bearden and Savana Santos are filling their days with songwriting, recording, livestreaming and celebrating their new single for these times: "Thank You Anxiety"
Three bandmates, one global pandemic, and one plan to ride it all out by living together 24/7: What could possibly go wrong?
If you’re Sam Backoff, Sami Bearden and Savana Santos — also known as the irreverent and irrepressible trio, Avenue Beat — well, there is the little matter of what should go down in history as “The Strawberry Incident.”
Santos, 22, solemnly brings it to light when she shares the most important lesson she’s learned from the trio’s cohabitation: “Don’t steal their food from the fridge.”
The declaration instantly sets off Backoff and Bearden, who double over in convulsions of laughter, and Santos quickly follows suit.
“Yeah, I was going to make chocolate-covered strawberries,” explains Backoff, 21, in between gulps of air, “and then there were no strawberries to make.”
No doubt Santos is guilty as charged — and yet all three now guffawing about it should be evidence enough that, for these longtime harmonizers, there really is no such thing as too much togetherness.
Their living arrangement, ongoing for about a month, was born out of necessity for the up-and-coming group, whose debut single “Ruin That For Me” is now gaining radio adds. Backoff and Bearden were already roommates in a two-bedroom apartment in Nashville. When the city’s shelter-at-home order was announced in mid-March, Santos moved in, taking the living-room couch, so they could keep working on their music.
“We were like, well, what are we going to do if we’re not all together?” says Bearden, 22. She joined Backoff and Santos to crowd around a cell phone, speaking exclusively to PEOPLE via a video call.
The three besties — who began singing together at age 14 in their hometown of Quincy, Illinois — have indeed made good use of their time, writing songs, recording demos, posting fun videos on their socials, regularly livestreaming performances, and just last week, releasing a new single, “Thank You Anxiety,” that’s a worthy candidate for the anthem of these COVID-19 times.
The lyrics offer a much-needed lighthearted take on what’s now become a national preoccupation: “Thank you, anxiety / for making me scared of everything / for unnecessarily overthinking what I’m thinking / every time I think about something that I don’t want to think about.”
The idea actually came to Backoff, pre-pandemic, and she brought it into a 2019 writing session with Santos, Bearden and frequent collaborator Summer Overstreet. “I needed to write about something that’s affecting me,” Backoff explains, “and they’re like, sure.”
Bearden pitched in with her own experiences with social anxieties. Backoff confesses hers are more health-related, which means “now it’s even worse because now, if anything happens, I’m like, do I have the coronavirus?”
“And you’re a hypochondriac,” Bearden interjects.
“I’m also kind of a hypochondriac,” Backoff concedes.
Obviously, here’s a household where everybody knows everybody’s stuff. This is actually the second time the three have lived together — they shared quarters for a couple of years after they moved to Nashville in 2016. The round-the-clock isolation, they say, hasn’t brought out any new revelations about one another.
“We already know everything,” Santos says.
“There’s nothing new to learn,” Backoff agrees.
“There’s nothing they can hide,” says Bearden. “I’ll be like, ‘You’re up to something stupid. Which ex are you texting that you shouldn’t be texting right now?'”
Backoff ducks her head at the comment. “Next question!” she playfully demands.
Okay then, moving on: What’s the craziest thing they’ve done since being stuck together?
Bearden decides it’s the blanket fort she made in the living room so the three could watch The Hunger Games. Backoff settles on the cartoon faces she’s chalked on their sidewalk. And Santos brags on her improvisational baking experience, in which she substituted a cupcake pan for the square dish she lacked to make lemon bars. “They looked real jank,” she says, “but they tasted good.”
The three also have been cooking up new virtual ways to reach their growing fan base. Their worst idea, they agree, has been their attempt at TikTok dancing.
“We’re not good at dancing!” Santos declares.
“We tried to be hip,” Backoff laments.
“Are we humans — or are we dancers?” Bearden asks, inscrutably.
So surely these epic fails have hit the digital trash heap?
“Oh no,” Backoff says, “we posted them!”
“We’re not proud of them,” Bearden says, “but they live.”
Their best idea, perhaps, was applying their celestial harmonies to the home-recording of what is now a digital EP, Quarantine Covers, due out April 24.
“Wash your hands while you listen to these covers!” Santos instructs on the recorded spoken intro to the EP’s six eclectic selections, which include John Mayer’s “New Light,” India.Arie’s “Video” and Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us” (recorded before Withers’ recent death).
Santos takes full credit for picking the latter title. “One of my fave songs ever,” she explains.
Um … Isn’t it a little odd for three people to sing “Just the Two of Us”? Should Backoff or Bearden read anything into it? Is this perhaps a hint that one of them needs to … go?
No doubt none of this has dawned on the threesome, and they burst into peals of laughter at the very thought.
“It was fun while it lasted!” Backoff exclaims.
“Put that in the article: Avenue Beat breaks up!” Bearden drolly suggests.
Rest assured, quarantined or not, that’s not gonna happen with this tight-knit trio.