Reviews

Hold On Love

Author: George Koroneos
03/17/2004 | Lifeinabungalo.com | www.lifeinabungalo.com | Feature
Azure Ray is a dreamy trip into the minds of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, two Saddle Creek Record alums who pour their hearts over a medley of mellow yet psychotic bleeps and bloops while caressing a guitar and piano. Sounding a bit like Tori Amos and kind of like label-mates Bright Eyes, Azure Ray take their songs on a little adventure with Little Red Riding Hood, just after she's destroyed the big bad wolf. The music is somber yet eloquent and the ladies know how to set the mood for a nursery rhyme—Preferably one by the Brothers Grimm. Life In A Bungalo caught up with Orenda Frink during a five week U.S. tour supporting their latest record "Hold On Love."

How did Azure Ray form? How long have you two been together?
Maria and I met in high school, and started playing together, and we never stopped. We've been in a lot of different bands together over the years. We started out as an acoustic duo before becoming a rock band for a while. We've been also been in a lot of other friend's bands like Now It's Overhead. In 1999 we started writing songs that were what would become Azure Ray. In 2000 we recorded our first record.

Did you ever want the band to be more than just a duo, or did you plan on being a two-piece?
We had been in a rock band for five years, so just from having different members and knowing how hard it is to compromise with other people, we decided that Azure Ray would just be the two of us. We don't have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings—We can just be free with this project.

Does it ever limit you live when you're on stage?
Yeah, it does. That's definitely one of the cons. We don't have a band, so we have to put a touring group together every time we tour. For this tour, we're not going to be using any electronics at all. It's going to be a five-piece band, using only organic instruments, and no samples. But we've done tours where we've just played along to loops the whole time. It's just different every time.

As far as the writing process, who writes what?
Maria and I write our own songs separately and we usually write the songs from start to finish ourselves, and demo it, and play the songs for each other. Then when we feel like we have enough songs for a record, we'll compile them and our producer Eric Bachmann will come in and add all the production values and the blips and bleeps on top of the songs.

You're lyrics are very deep and emotional, but the words contrast against the airy music. Is that something purposeful you do to get your lyrics across?
We don't do that on purpose. We really don't think about it. Some times, when it comes to the end of the record, we will realize that something needs to be different. If there is too much singing, we might change it. For example, "Dragonfly" on the new record, was recorded with full instrumentation with drums and piano, guitar and horns. Now all you hear is a music box thing. That was originally one track, but we ended up taking away everything but that in the mixing process. We needed a song that was a little more stripped down, so we left it that way. It's just different with every song and every record. Some times we'll have an idea like that when we're writing a song, but then other times we'll get in the studio and our producer will tell us that the song should be on guitar or on piano. He'll change the sound of it a lot, and we usually love his ideas. A lot of times ideas don't become apparent until you're in the studio, and you're trying different things.

What do you use to write your music?
Mostly an acoustic guitar. Sometimes piano, but rarely.

Your first record was on Warm Records, how did you end up getting signed to Saddle Creek for your latest album?
We're also in a band with Andy Lemaster called Now It's Overhead. He's produced and toured with Bright Eyes for a number of years. We met the whole Saddle Creek crew, and Connor Oberst asked Azure Ray to open for Bright Eyes, then Now It's Overhead went on tour with The Good Life and The Faint. We just kept going on tour with all these Saddle Creek bands, and we loved working with them. Eventually, they just asked us if we wanted to put out records on the label and we were really excited about it.

Are you going to be on the new Now It's Overhead record coming out later this month? If you are, is that going to be difficult to tour with?
Yeah, we're doing it. And yes, it's going to be difficult. It wasn't this bad a few years ago, because we weren't nearly this busy. Now that all the bands are touring a lot more, it's starting to become a bit more of an issue. One way Maria and I have attempted to solve this problem is that instead of both of us going on the Now It's Overhead tour, one of us is going to go on one tour, and one of us is going to go on another. So now we, as individuals, have a little time off.

Have you ever met a fan that thought your music was a little creepy, or maybe a little too melancholy?
I have heard that before. I've heard that we are creepy and dark, but I think that is because a lot of things that come out in my music are personal experiences. I have led a life with a lot of creepy stuff in it, but that's not my personality, and that's not the way I want to go around everyday. I don't go around wearing a black coat and a veil. I guess it's about experiencing weird things.

The artwork on your record sleeve is really creepy and cool too. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
The artist who did that, Chris Lawson, is one of my greatest, oldest friends. I traveled with him throughout India and Cambodia a couple of years ago. We came to know each other really well, and I think he's an amazing artist. His art is the equivalent of our music, as far as where he takes it and where he's coming from. He does a lot of art based on his trips to foreign countries. He takes found objects, much like how our record is put together, and he sews them into collages and then paints over them. I traveled with him throughout those countries gathering art, and taking the art to be tailored in little villages. It was an amazing experience.

Tell me a little bit about the tour you have coming up.
The U.S. tour is five weeks long. We just got back from Europe a week and a half ago. After this tour, we're just going to do Now It's Overhead tours, and take a bit of a break.

What's the future of Azure Ray?
I don't know. We just try to take things day by day. The most important thing for us is to make what we consider good art or music, and to have fun with the people we're with. As long as those two goals are met, whatever the future brings is kind of up in the air.
Hold On Love

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