At the beginning of the year, Avenue Beat was on track as an up-and-coming country act, but a series of disappointments led them to question their direction. Thanks to one viral hit, they're now doing things their own way.
Trio members Sami Bearden, Savana Santos and Sam Backoff all grew up in Quincy, Illinois, where Santos and Backoff were friends since childhood. They met Bearden at age 14 at musical theater camp, and when they invited her for a sleepover and started singing harmonies, they knew that they were on to something. With a name taken from an online band name generator, the three friends set out as Avenue Beat, eventually scoring a record deal with Big Machine Label Group.
Avenue Beat released an EP in 2019, which is made up of "ancient" songs its members wrote shortly after they graduated from high school. In April, they released The Quarantine Covers EP featuring songs from multiple genres like Tim McGraw's "Humble and Kind" and Doja Cat's TikTok hit "Say So," and they have since released multiple singles in 2020 including "i don't really like your boyfriend" and "thank you anxiety," two entries that capture the group's unique blend of low-key, catchy melodies and searingly honest lyrics.
"It's been really cool to just experiment and see what we want to do because there are so many options," Santos said. "So right now we're kind of just exploring and experimenting that, which is fun."
"We all stan Kacey Musgraves, like talk about somebody who didn't go the usual route and didn't follow any format and just kind of was like, 'Yep, here I am. Here's the songs I write. I'm incredible. Love me,'" she said. "And people did. We're really inspired by her."
Along with self-deprecating humor, something Avenue Beat and Musgraves share is their ability to be incredibly introspective in their lyrics while also adeptly addressing situations around them.
"When we were younger, when we started writing, it was a little like, 'Should we be saying this? Or should we, or is this too personal? Or should we be talking about this?'" Bearden recalled. "And now we just get together. It's like, 'Oh wait, what was his name? Let's put it in the song. What's the name? What's her birthday. Yeah let's do that.'"
"Music for us is kind of just like therapy," Santos noted. "It's a place where we can talk about things we wouldn't want to talk about normally. And it's less weird."
That outlook inspired the group to write "F2020," a deadpan list of everything that's gone wrong this year, both in their personal lives and worldwide. The song became a viral sensation, earning mentions from stars like Bebe Rexha, Maren Morris and Justin Bieber, and has reached 50 million global streams to date.
"We really didn't put any thought into it at all," Backoff admitted. "We kind of figured that we would never be able to put out the song with how much swearing is in it. So we just put up that first verse and chorus that Savana had freestyled, we just put it up on Tiktok because we didn't really think it would have anywhere else to live. And we were not expecting anything to happen with it. Like every single day was a surprise when we were like, 'Wow.' It's still happening. Wild. What a time."