Drawing Down the Moon
Two budding Southern belles meet in a Birmingham, Ala., fine arts high school, share a love for singing and songwriting, start up a band, and release a couple of records.
That band, Little Red Rocket, becomes defunct and the pair decide to try a musical "do-over" in a different city.
But instead of relocating to the "Big Apple" or nearby Nashville, Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor make their way to Athens, Ga. And despite its population being about half of their hometown, it is there that Azure Ray is born.
"It just happened," Fink said recently while taking a break from tour preparations. "I don't think we were necessarily looking to make a big move. We had just been going to Athens and thought it might be great to live there for a while. We loved Birmingham, but when we'd go to Athens, we'd always come back thinking that it was a magical music city. We really fell in love with it. And it all started from there."
Fink and Taylor released two records while living in Athens, a self-titled album in 2001 and "Burn and Shiver" in 2002. Both were critically acclaimed meditations on melancholy, dark and brooding, but beautiful and intricate, and never really falling into any real genre molds.
After hooking up with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, playing in his band, and falling in love with people who lived there (Fink marrying indie-rock band the Faint's Todd Baechle), the pair once again relocated ---- this time to Omaha, Neb. ---- to release their third album, "Hold On Love," on Oberst's Saddle Creek Records in 2003.
There is much speculation as to why, but shortly after touring on the record, the duo went on indefinite hiatus.
Solo projects and plenty of different collaborations have taken place in the seven years since, but after reuniting for a one-off show in 2008, the singer-songwriters and longtime friends decided to give it another go as Azure Ray.
"We weren't sure how it was going to be when we first talked about it," Fink said. "There was a big, looming question mark hanging over the whole thing. But when we finally got together and started making demos and playing again, it was instantly back to the way that it always was. And it was truly overwhelming just how much we fit back in this pocket together."
Before long, the pair had an album's worth of material, and "Drawing Down the Moon" was released on Sept. 14. Even though all signs point to the fact that they're not as lovesick as they were during the writing of previous efforts, the new record seems to pick up exactly where they left off.
"We've always been friends," Fink said. "But in the last seven years, we really haven't been all that in touch with each other. We weren't living in the same city and were hanging out with different people. But then I ended up staying at her house while I was preparing for a tour with Rilo Kiley, and something clicked again. The universe all came together and we were having the best time, like we were in high school again. We wanted to be around each other all the time and came to the conclusion that if we were spending so much time together and reconnecting, that we should be playing music."
The pair is on a tour that will bring them to UC San Diego's The Loft on Oct. 21, and carry them through Thanksgiving.
While they've talked about Azure Ray's future, they haven't decided on anything specific. But tentatively, after the tour is over, they'll take a break, both do separate projects ---- Taylor another solo record and Fink will record with one of her many musical projects, O+S ----- then it'll be back for another go-round with the newly revived band that put them on the map.
"I know Azure Ray isn't an incredibly huge departure from anything that we've done solo," Fink said. "But that's because it's the essence of us. I found it to be almost profound how comforting it was going back into it. And it defines us musically. I don't think we could really stray that far from it, because it is who we are."
When: 8:30 p.m. Oct. 21
Where: The Loft, Price Center East, UC San Diego, La Jolla
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