AVIV Breaks Down Every Track on Her Drowning in the Culture EP

We're still in shock from learning that Canadian indie-pop genius AVIV is only 16 years old, and her new EP Drowning in the Culture, out today, only has us in further disbelief.

The eight-track EP is perfection from start to end, combining personal and deeply heartfelt lyricism with AVIV's signature dreamy sound, blending nostalgia and modernism to completely whisk us away. She's currently on an arena tour with Imagine Dragons, but we were lucky enough to get the chance to chat with AVIV and have her break down every track, and its lyrics, with us. Click HERE to listen along as you read.

'How Can You Smile'

AVIV: "How Can You Smile" was written in my hotel in Los Angeles with my good friend and writer Kristina Sarro. It was written on just guitar, and we wrote it in less than an hour. At first, I was keen on keeping it as just a guitar and vocal track, but Liam Kevin, the producer, then added his take on it and I fell in love with the product. It was all done over Zoom and the vocals were recorded in my clothing closet.

"How Can You Smile" is a really important song to me because it is so personal and representative of my emotions? I've always been very aware of my feelings, and that scared me when I started building relationships. I had to learn the fine line of relying on someone else without feeling like you're bugging them or a liability.

My favorite lyric—hmm that's hard. Kristina and I did a cool lyric change in the chorus by changing perspective. The first chorus is in the first person, and the second is in the third. I like this because it shows how the person (me) expects everyone to be talking about them. Usually, it's just in their head.


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'Failed English'

AVIV: "Failed English" started as a super sad ballad. We started with somber lyrics about the usual breakup. As we wrote more and more we wanted to spice things up and brought in the feelings of love accompanied by hatred.

I interpret "Failed English" as a push and pull situation. Hating someone but deep down feeling differently. This can drive you nuts. On one hand, telling everyone around you, you are over it but in reality, you feel different.

I like the lyric, "No wonder you failed English." It's kind of random and out of pocket suddenly, but represents someone in a spiral of regret trying to pinpoint bad and making rational manginess claims.


'Get to Bed Dawson (Interlude)'

AVIV: I wrote this interlude at home after a trip of mine to the states. It was made entirely in my house, which was cool and a first for me.

This song, though the shortest, holds the most meaningful meaning to me on the EP. "Dawson" represents Dawson Leery from Dawson's Creek, who was my ultimate dream boy growing up.

"Get to bed Dawson" is my favorite lyric and the song title. I remember in one of the scenes of Dawson's Creek, Joey tells Dawson to get to bed. This is what inspired this whole interlude!
"No wonder you failed English."

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'Disposable Friends'

AVIV: "Disposable Friends" was written on Zoom with a lovely writer named Emily and a producer named Quinn. Quinn started the track, and we all wrote lyrics to it. Upon deciding to produce and fully flesh it out, I brought it to Rian Lewis to add his sparkle. I love how this song turned out.

"Disposable Friends" is something I said in a fight with an old friend of mine. I was used as a listener, and I didn't mind listening and giving advice, but that's all I was. I think part of me wished that the friendship was less one-sided, so I told them, you treat me like I am disposable. The next week, this song was written.

My favorite lyric is, "I guess I was overreaching, the wrong position." It's a kind of bittersweet statement fueled by sarcasm but also an exact thought I truly had.

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AVIV: The creation of this song began with writer Matteo Scher. We sat trying to come up with what we were to write about. We sat for a while until celebration came into our heads. Likewise, we liked the irony of writing a sad song with a title like "Celebrate," which holds such a different emotion on paper.

"Celebrate" is special as it writes about being the one in the "wrong." There are so many songs today about getting your heart broken, but not many about being the heartbreaker. Many times in an ending, people sympathize and side with those who got broken up and disregard the other, even though sometimes it hits them harder.

I love the line, "We watered the garden, then put it aflame," because it paints a picture and outlines the situation weirdly.

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'Black Coffee'

AVIV: "Black Coffee" was another completely remote session. Kristina Sarro and I sat down in Zoom. This was my first virtual writing session. It was at the core of lockdown, and both of us just wanted to write. We came up with the metaphor behind "Black Coffee" and then proceeded to write the song. Rian Lewis produced the track and gave it a new life. I'm a perfectionist, but somehow the first draft he sent me felt perfect, and we just ended up going with that.

"Black Coffee" is about reminiscing and nostalgia. It represents unfinished memories that could've been pursued but were poured down the drain, kind of like the crazy times of the pandemic. Our lives were put on full hold without a real warning, it makes us wonder what could've happened.

My favorite lyric is, "We're like black coffee, leave our grains at the bottom."


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'You Feel Like Depression'

AVIV: I wrote "You Feel Like Depression" with Liam Kevany in his apartment. It started acoustically, but then we felt as if the emotion wasn't properly portrayed this way. We brought in Rian Lewis for production, and together we worked for almost four days straight on perfecting production to represent exactly what we wanted to say.

"You Feel Like Depression" is very messy and all over the place, which I sometimes feel I am, too. It's about the aftermath of the relationship when the person blames you for the ending. It's after the realization it's not your fault, but before you concluded this, that blame made you feel as if you weren't made for love and that the whole concept of it was depressing.

I like the line, "Whose hands, his or mine?"  because here it touches on that blame game we love to play.


If you liked this interview, also be sure to click HERE to read our interview with GAYLE breaking down her a study of the human experience volume one EP.