Antioch, California, is the unsuspecting suburb of the Bay Area, but it is home to artists who are just as talented as artists in the immediate Bay. Since 2018, Avant Garde Club (AG Club) has been proving to the world that there is talent hidden in the outskirts of San Francisco and Oakland.
“It’s not where you would expect a lot of great art to come out of, Antioch,” Baby Boy, one half of AG Club, began. “I feel like Antioch is kind of like the trickle down from the major cities. No one would really expect it. It’s like diamonds in the ruff, a lot of us because there are so many talented artists coming out of the East Bay.”
On September 12th, they prepared a week-long celebration leading up to the release of their third studio album, Impostor Syndrome. The two 22-year-olds dedicated the entire week to giving back to the community that gave them their start. The week began at their favorite place to eat in Antioch, Da Nang, a Vietnamese restaurant that Jody would order on DoorDash repeatedly during the pandemic.
While drinking a Thai tea with boba, Jody explained how he and Jah (Baby Boy) met and how they started making music as AG Club. 2020 was a breakout year for many musicians, but many of them got their start well before the pandemic allowed people to find new artists they would become fans of; AG Club started collaborating in 2017 when it was four of them.
Baby Boy and Jody met each other passing at church, “it was like two boats passing in the night,” Baby Boy explained. From that moment on, they collaborated with mutual friends they had with each other and realized that creating together was something they needed to continue doing. Five years and three albums later, they are doing just that and bringing other local artists along for the ride.
When they began their musical journey, it started with the Reach Your Peak backyard shows that featured local artists who didn’t have access to the larger cities in the immediate Bay Area. The art scene in places like Antioch and Brentwood is alive and well, but there is a lack of resources and accessible sites to make this artistry come to life.
“With those, we were doing them in the backyard, but once they started getting bigger, we had to move to San Francisco,” Jody started. “It’s even still happening because we were trying to do our show out here, but we can’t do it. They won’t allow it.”
The show did happen, though, just not in Antioch. On Thursday, September 15th, AG Club was able to put on a free concert to close the week-long album release celebration at Oakland’s New Parish. It was not only a concert or an album release week but a place for AG Club fans to play games with one another and opportunities to meet Jody, Baby Boy, and the other AG Club members.
The Da Nang dinner was the beginning of the intimate ways fans were able to interact with the group. As the week went on, they planned to have a talent show at Antioch’s Deer Valley High School, a community bike ride going from Antioch to Brentwood that was unfortunately met with local police, and closing with the show on Thursday. Nevertheless, people were coming out in droves to support the people making noise in this small inconspicuous area of the Bay.
“This is crazy. It’s really special. I’m really happy,” Jody said, sipping his Thai tea. “I didn’t know what the turnout was going to be. We have enough friends to make it seem like it’s big, but this is cool.”
The show was a way to cultivate a more personal relationship with the people at home who support them, but support does not only come from fans. It comes from other creatives too. They wanted to give back to the community that helped them become the people and artists they are today. On Impostor Syndrome, they feature artists from the Bay like the Union City singer, Kiyomi and the Oakland producer Samplelov. They also used this release to support the artists who are integral to the music scene in the Bay, like Ovrkast. and Lancer Deker.
“We didn’t really have stuff like this growing up,” Baby Boy said. “When we do stuff like this at other shows, people always tell us, ‘seeing you guys do this makes me feel like I can do this as well,’ and that’s how we felt watching other groups.”
This album expresses the difficult feelings of making strides in their career when some people in your life are still in the place they came from. They are expressing feelings like they don’t belong or are worthy of the levels of success they are reaching and getting through these complicated emotions. “Sometimes I feel guilty,” Baby Boy said. “We have this house, and we do all of this stuff, and my mom still lives in the same house we lived in growing up. I want to be able to do this stuff, but it’s rough to think, ‘I’m out here, and I’m comfortable, and I can send money back, but I want to change the situation.’”
“Imposter syndrome sucks,” Baby Boy reflected. “But the album’s good!” Many of the songs on the album they performed that night for the first time. The night was filled with highs and lows, much like the album. There was even an impromptu dance party to the song “Long Division.” They got to experiment and express all of the feelings they were experiencing while being 22, dealing with wins and losses, all while reaching monumental points in their career.
The start of their career can be defined by their number one song on Apple Music, “Memphis,” They always wanted to ensure that their artistry wouldn’t be pigeonholed to one sound or expectation of themselves. Hence the album that came after that Fuck Your Expectations. “We hit this point last year, where we were burnt,” Jody explained.
Each of their projects reflects where their life is at the recording time, like anything. “Like Halfway Off the Porch,” we were here, then we were jumping off,” Jody started. “FYE was when we first got noticed, and we were like, ‘fuck your expectations, let us do what we want, please.’ And now Impostor Syndrome is like we’ve been doing what we want a little bit now we’re starting to feel like once people realize what it is we’re truly doing, we’re going to get found out because we’re not what people thought we were.”
This project lets the listeners see how AG Club has perfected their sound. In all of their projects, there is genre-blending, combining more upbeat hip-hop raging songs accompanying the more emotional that allows for more vulnerability. At the show, Jody broke down, reminiscing on the loss of his father before going into the song “Mary,” after scaling the balcony above the crowd, performing “Mr. Put It On,” from the same album.
“I feel like on this new project, we have doubled down on that,” Jody began. “I think we’re slowly starting to perfect that. That is kind of the way we embody the whole avant-garde thing.”
Jody and Baby Boy showed their gratitude for the community, which allowed them to become the artist they are today. They are reaching back to pull other creatives forward with them. When they first started, so much of their career took place during the height of the pandemic. Now they can see the people who love and support them through a phone screen and in real life.
“I feel like it’s important for us to do stuff like this so we can remind ourselves that there are real people that care about us and like and appreciate what we’re doing,” Jody said. “If we see them, then it doesn’t really matter what else is going on. It doesn’t matter if we feel like the internet is not fucking with us or whatever. There are real people. They count, and they matter, and that’s reason enough to keep going.”