Avra

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For the village in Iran, see Avra, Iran. For the song by Ivi Adamou, see Avra (song).
Avra
AvraDSC09200.jpg
Background information
Birth name Avra Velis
Also known as Avra
Origin Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Genres Pop
Dance-pop
Club
Electronica Pop rock Synthpop Disco Greek Alternative rock
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, writer, musician, record producer, fashion , dancer, author, actress
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar
Years active 1982–present
Website www.avra.tv

Avra Velis, better known as Avra, is a multi award winning Greek-Australian alternative-pop singer-songwriter, actress, dancer, and record producer. She is noted for her ambitious music videos and stage performances as well as her intricate and provocative lyrics.

Since her debut in 1982, Avra has released numerous singles and albums. She has also written and appeared in several theatre productions and stage performances, including the Melbourne Fringe Festival[1]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Avra was born in Brisbane, Queensland. She was the only child born to Greek-Australian parents who immigrated from Kythera and Ithaca.

She was raised in an eccentric Greek environment in the northern Brisbane suburb of Hendra.

Avra's mother encouraged her renegade passion for the arts from an early age, enrolling her in after school piano lessons, speech and drama classes, whilst also studying Greek language and culture. In addition to all of this she also took Avra to see numerous theatre productions, often three per week. Shows she saw included Liberace, Dame Joan Sutherland, Billy Joel, Lindsay Kemp and a myriad of other internationally acclaimed artists, each leaving a profound and indelible impression on the young Avra.

She was a straight-A student at Ascot State Primary School and went on to attend Brisbane State High School where she excelled in drama, debating and English, and surprisingly almost failed music.

Professional career[edit]

Having completed High School, Avra moved to Adelaide to pursue a Bachelor of Education but discovered that her real passion was to write and create music. After earning her degree she taught secondary English and drama at several South Australian schools, writing numerous school productions which proved to be hugely popular.

After four years of teaching, Avra became frustrated with the school system and sought a means to more dynamically express her creativity.

She left teaching and moved into the commercial music industry.

Starting Out[edit]

Avra formed her first band Virginia Wolf with her partner Steve Sutton, a well known Guitarist, songwriter and author, and Rod Boothroyd (Bass Guitar). The cross-genre band largely produced eccentric alternative style pop songs which ultimately led them to win the West End Battle of the Bands, a notable contest held in South Australia. This win gave Avra her first taste of media exposure.

The band was awarded recording time and funds to further their profile, however infighting led Avra and Steve to abandon the hope of an album and award the money received to the other band members. The members of Virginia Wolf then went their separate ways. During this time Avra and Steve married. Steve was a long time sufferer of manic depression, which ultimately lead to him committing suicide. Devastated, Avra struggled to find her artistic place on her own and pledged that she would never again work in a band environment where she didn't have complete artistic control.

Solo career[edit]

She entered her first song "Crazy Over You" into the SCALA (Songwriters, Composers And Lyricists Association's) song writing competition, which to her surprise, she won.

She started work on a series of musical projects including a spiritual/alternative album titled "INNATE" which she produced for the international chiropractic fraternity. The highly acclaimed album was a success and was distributed throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

After "INNATE" she returned to her Hellenic roots, and worked on another series of musical projects that explored her passion for Greek music and culture. This saw Avra perform at sold out concerts before thousands of people at Adelaide Festival Centre, Royalty Theatre and Adelaide Convention Centre, before continuing on to perform at various venues in Melbourne and Sydney. Having now performed in front of large national audiences, Avra was well established in the Music Industry.

Other projects included the formation of the "Avralicious Show", under the musical direction of Corey Stewart.

This inspired a six track E.P. entitled "Super-alterego" which was recorded whilst Avra was in Adelaide. Produced by Damien Steel Scott,[2] this led to a national tour including shows at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, where she won best song writer (2003).

All of the shows in Victoria were highly successful and the tour moved on to New South Wales where the reception, although not as strong, was still favourable.

Avra was still relatively unknown to Queenslanders when the tour hit Brisbane. A combination of poor artist management and venue selection saw the show play to significantly smaller audiences who were less appreciative of Avra's eccentric style. As a result, the reviews were also less glowing than previously earned in the Southern states.[1]

Attendance was still strong enough however, to shift significant numbers of the CD and Avra has commented that this was the only redeeming factor of the Brisbane shows. The CD by this stage had shifted over 5000 units which was very encouraging to the independent artist.

Return to the Limelight[edit]

Avra returned in 2004 with the highly acclaimed[3] musical "Avra – The Musical". Described by Style Magazine as "Visually stunning and mentally unpacking" and by Scene Magazine as "A musical of a different calibre", it opened at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts[4] in July to a sell out audience.

The lyrics for all 16 of the songs were entirely composed by Avra, while the musical composition marked her first collaboration with dance music veteran Kevin Freeman.

Set to video screen backdrops created by Tim Rith and extravagant lighting designed by Hamish Cliff, the production was a combination of dance and theatre that won the hearts of all who attended.

A 20 track CD was produced and sold at the show, simply titled "Avra – The musical – Songs from the acclaimed musical".

Current Work[edit]

Avra and two cast members take a moment out from filming the "Fashion Police" video. (December 2006)

Avra continued her work with Kevin Freeman under his stage name "Thousand Ears" in 2006, recording several songs together including a dance track titled "Fashion Police". The song is a tongue in cheek commentary on the nature of fashion and the Fashion industry. The lyrics were written by Avra and Kevin composed the music.

Its heavy 1980s influences combine with more complex contemporary sounds and time signatures to produce a song that is catchy, sexy and above all makes you feel like dancing.[5]

In December 2006, Director Steve Malone from Brisbane's Water Street Productions directed the music video, which premiered to rave reviews. The Video and song were featured on the front page of the Melbourne and Sydney editions of MX Newspapers.

Velis' performance in the video was reviewed as "exceptional and she takes to the role of the Dominatrix Policewoman Fashionista with commitment and passion that is utterly convincing".[5]

The video was shot entirely against a green screen and a A$250,000 GT Pantera sports car was one of the props. Extensive motion tracked 3D animation was used in combination with 3D titles and effects, marking a dramatic departure from the very basic and strictly utilitarian style music videos that made up the bulk of Brisbane produced music clips in recent times.

The song was featured in the 2008 Australian Big Brother series.

At present, Avra is working on a new studio album, set to be released in 2013.[dated info]

References[edit]

External links[edit]