2020 was a whirlwind year of confusion and boredom for many people. A lockdown that was predicted to only last two weeks turned into months of sitting behind phone screens and waiting for the world to come back to life. Separated from the normal routine of everyday life, time seemed to sit still.
Yet, Will Roberts used the free time as an opportunity to create. He began to strum chords on his guitar and knew what he was making needed a bigger outlet than just the melodies stuck in his head. After a FaceTime call between friends in Athens, GA, a newly found band was formed…Virginia Ave.
The band has five members: Katie Crabtree, Garen Griffin, Zach Keung, Andreas Marsh and Will Roberts. Because of lockdown, the creative process looked a little different than it usually would for the beginning stages of a band. Long calls, voice memos and sending song lyrics through group chats was how the band spent the first few months.
“Virginia Ave. would not exist, in a weird way, without the pandemic. It gave all of us more free time in lockdown to start to have that creative process,” says Will, Lead Guitarist for Virginia Ave. “I set up a recording studio in my room where I would record on my guitar and send it to the rest of the band in Athens. That is how we made a lot of our music.”
Will had labeled song samples “Virginia Ave.,” named after the street he lived on in LaGrange, GA. The name stuck, and the band had its name.
Growing up Will had always had a strong relationship with music. Much of the style he plays today he attributes to the music he was surrounded by when he was younger.
“I think that music is so intertwined with emotion and our everyday lives,” says Will. “There is hardly a time where I don’t have headphones in listening to something.
“My dad always had music playing in the house. It was a little bit of everything from gospel to Al Green. We listened to it all,” continues Will. “A lot of that led to me begging my dad to teach me to play guitar. He taught me what he knew and in freshman year of high school, and then I started taking lessons.”
Virginia Ave. falls under the umbrella of the alternative genre, written with hints of soul, folk and bluegrass. The band’s Outside EP was released in late 2020 featuring four tracks, including the group’s first single, “Time Rolls On.” The EP came together through the process of collective songwriting. Each band member helped to write and create the lyrics in each of the songs.
“We have taken a big workshop approach to writing within the band, which I learned a lot from my own creative writing classes,” says Will. “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that any critique is valid when we all are coming together to write.
“We never come down on each other’s ideas,” Will continues. “At first, it can be really uncomfortable when saying how to improve on something, but we all have been able to have constructive conversations about how to create the best piece we can for our sound.”
Will admits he feels the band will continuously work to figure out exactly what Virginia Ave.’s sound is. Despite all of the band members returning back to their college classes, the band has been working hard to continue to create content together.
“Moving forward we want to release more singles this year and eventually an album,” says Will. “Soon we would like to start doing more covers while in the process of writing.”
Aside from their own work, Virginia Ave. hopes that they can cover other artists and add their own Virginia Ave. spin to the songs they cover.
“There are a lot of unwritten rules about covering like justifying how you want to cover it and making it different and your own,” says Will. “We’ve tossed around some ideas like Paul Simon or The Velvet Underground. Whatever we choose to cover, we want to make it our own and have our own spin on it.”
March will mark one year since the creation of Virginia Ave. The band hopes that they will continue to do what they love. Over the past year the band’s fanbase has grown to more than 5,000 streams of their EP “Outside” on Spotify. Last year, they were also able to play their first COVID-19 safe live show in Athens, GA.
“Working with your friends is so rewarding. I am so thankful we get to do what we do,” says Will. “We do not have a belief that we will ever get famous, but in the end, it’s about how much fun we had while doing it.”