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Q&A: Nyx, Ave Grave on touring, favorite Chico bands

Lauren Smith

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Sean Galloway and Angelica Tavella have known each other for almost 10 years and have been touring together since September. Photo courtesy of Wry Toast Photos.

After touring extensively up and down the West Coast, Chico native Ave Grave (Sean Galloway) and Oakland musician Nyx (Angelica Tavella) will return to The Maltese in downtown Chico on March 15.

With how well these two mesh together in personality, one wouldn’t assume their musical styles differ as much as they do.

Nyx offers a roughed-up, devil-may-care vibe with cryptic and thought-provoking lyrics whereas Ave Grave is a soft crooner with subject matter that’s extraordinarily human.

And together, they fight crime. Maybe not. But they do form a duo that makes for a fantastic, stylistically varied show.

Where are you from and how did you find your way into music?

Sean: I grew up here, in a family of musicians. My older brother has played for as long as I can remember. He bought me my first guitar when I was a kid, and my two younger brothers began to play shortly after I did. Pretty much all we did as kids was play music together.

Angelica: I was born in Northern Italy, lived my early years in Las Vegas, my developing years in a small town in the North Bay called Calistoga and the important years in Oakland. I started playing drums when I was really young with the few awesome musicians that were in Calistoga and started picking up the guitar and other instruments by the time I was about 13.

How did you two meet?

S: We met at this awesome summer music academy that we’ve both been a part of for the last decade or so called The Collective Sound. I think we met almost exactly 10 years ago, actually.

A: True story.

You’ve played many shows together up and down the West Coast. How is it touring with each other?

S: We’ve been touring on and off together since September of last year, and it’s been really great. I drive and Angelica navigates, while we listen to albums and sing really loudly in the car and talk about whatever book we’re reading. I love her music, so probably my favorite thing about touring together is getting to see her play her songs every night. I don’t think we’ve ever had a cross word — yet.

A: Yeah, touring together has been great, and we have plans to continue doing so in the future. Sean likes to joke that he drives us around while I either a) nap or b) drink whiskey, but the reality is that Sean does the driving. I haven’t driven a stick since my last escapade driving The Shimmies’ drummer Jack’s truck a couple years ago, which I won’t go into. And I do things like find out where we’re going, where we’re going to stay and convince the Canadian border control to let us through. Sean’s a very easygoing person, and having just two people makes everything on the road easier. But we do plan to do a tour with full bands in the near future as well.

Do you have a favorite show you’ve played together?

S: 1078 Gallery here in Chico is always really great. It seems like art spaces tend to be best for our kind of music, especially playing solo sets.

A: One of my many favorites was on our first Northwest tour at a place in Ferndale called Mind’s Eye Manufactory. Ferndale is a tiny town in Humboldt County with about 3,000 people, where our mutual friend John Houx is from and set up a show for the three of us. We ended up having a full house of what seemed like the entire town, both young and old, and everyone was really attentive, friendly and had a great sense of community and mutual appreciation.

S: Yeah, that was a really good show. I was nervous. My songs have too many swears in them.

Do you have any funny tour stories?

S: We played a pretty funny show in Santa Barbara at this student collective house where everyone was on Ecstasy during our sets. They really, really loved us. It was a strange show all around. But we have a pretty fun time whatever the circumstances of a show end up being. At least we can laugh about it together.

A: One morning, after playing a show in Corvalis, Oregon, with The Mondegreens, I woke up at the house we were staying at and looked out the window to see Sean, who is generally a quite reserved and modest person, changing his shirt by the car and was caught off-guard by our gracious host, who walked out for a morning chat. It was no big deal by any means, but as our tour documenter, I snapped a presumably creepy, overexposed photo that features the worn fold-up blinds and peeks out to shirtless Sean standing in a garden, very close to our middle-aged, not-very-well-acquainted host. And then I texted it to him afterwards. I thought it was hilarious. Sean ,maybe a little less so. But it’s the little things, you know?

S: Oh my God. I forgot about that. Tour is canceled.

Where do you get the inspiration for your music?

S: I usually end up writing during or after going through difficult times, so my songs tend to reflect that. They help me sort through things in a way. Not that they’re all sad songs, but they come from that process mostly.

A: I agree. I usually don’t force songs out, and the times that they most often come tend to be during heavier emotional times, whether happy or sad. I also have a tendency to include lyrics that are inspired by books or stories that I am reading, often mixed in with things from my own life.

Who are some of your favorite musicians?

S: Sharon Van Etten is on repeat for me, along with the new Father John Misty record and Emma Ruth Rundle’s solo album.

A: Well, Sean pretty much took the cake with those three. Since moving into my place in L.A. a few months ago, I haven’t really unpacked, and the only physical records I have with me and listen to on repeat are Emma Ruth Rundle’s “Some Heavy Ocean,” FJM’s “Fear Fun,” Jeff Buckley’s “Grace,” Daniel Lanois’ “Flesh and Machine,” Boards of Canada’s “Hi Scores” and “Led Zeppelin II.”

Who are some musicians you like that are local to Chico?

S: The list is long, but I have to mention: Surrogate, The Mondegreens, Aubrey Debauchery, Cold Blue Mountain, Teeph, The Pageant Dads, Bogg and Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy. I can sometimes convince The Mondegreens to sing some of my songs with me at shows, and it’s always great.

A: Again, overlap. From the aforementioned music program The Collective Sound I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a lot of great Chico musicians in the last decade including people from The Mondegreens, Aubrey Debauchery, The Shimmies, Cold Blue Mountain and Armed for Apocalypse.

What does Chico mean to you?

S: I really love Chico. The music made here is incredible, and it’s such a supportive community of artists. Some of my favorite bands on earth are from Chico.

A: Yeah, I spent a lot of my childhood summers in the blazing Chico heat, and it’s really cool to now play shows all over with The Shimmies, The Mondegreens and Aubrey D., who I have always loved. It’s hard not to acknowledge and appreciate the unique, tight-knit music community that Chico has.

Do you have any album/EP releases currently planned?

S: I’m working on an EP right now that I’m a few songs into tracking/mixing.

A: Yes, I’m always writing, and I plan to head back up to Oakland by this summer to record my first full length that will hopefully be out by the end of the year. Our collaborative project Total Fucker will probably also release some material in the near future.

S: Yeah, we’ve made a few tracks already that I really like — kind of experimental, ambient synth stuff.

Can you explain the profound effect Twin Peaks has had on your lives?

S: I’ll let Ang field this one.

A: Oh my God, Sean.

nyx and ave grave.jpg

Sean Galloway (Ave Grave) and Angelica Tavella (Nyx) on one of their many tours together. They will be playing together at the The Maltese on March 15. Photo courtesy of Cara Galassi.

Lauren Smith can be reached at [email protected] or @reginechassagne on Twitter.

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Q&A: Nyx, Ave Grave on touring, favorite Chico bands