The Brooklyn based trio who have been making dreamy synth pop together for over ten years now,we talk making music that gets them high and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure…
Forming during the indie boom of the early noughties, Au Revoir Simone created their own unique stand out sound, with storytelling lyrics and melancholic melodies. Annie Hart, Erika Forster and Heather D’Angelo released their fourth studio album ‘Move in Spectrums’ towards the end of last year, after a notable four year break and have since been playing their dreamy synth pop stories to an ever growing audience. Always accompanying their album with a remix offering, which comes out on the 25th August, we chat to Annie and Erika about Brooklyn, babies and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
You’ve been playing together and creating music as a band now for ten years, how do you feel your musical style has changed in that time?
Erika: Yeah, the time has really flown by since we first started playing music together. I think we’ve all become much more skilled and intuitive as musicians since the beginning which has influenced our songwriting and especially our live shows -we’re able to do more live. Stylistically we dip from the same pot of synths and electronic drums but the sounds that appeal to us have changed over the years. On “Move In Spectrums” we leaned towards more sophisticated drums and lightly layered distorted synth sounds, mostly early 80’s synths.
Annie: It has been a pretty long time together. From the very start it felt very natural to create songs together; we’re all perfectionists in different ways, so we trust that the other ones are looking out for the song’s best interest, even if we don’t always agree. I think for me, the biggest change is understanding that I can create music that I would like to listen to. I know that sounds simplistic, but for a long, long time, I was only playing because I liked the way it sounded at the time, and not really believing that anyone else was listening or hearing it. As I’ve gotten more in the art world, and being friends with all kinds of artists whose work I’ve admired from afar, I realize it really is just a matter of having a vision and following it, and looking for help when you need it. It’s not just, oh, F really goes great to A minor and then to E minor and these two synth sounds really sound nice, it’s also about creating an atmosphere and a message, and empowering yourself to find the people you need to fulfil the song to the fullest.
And how has your relationship as a band progressed, how did you all meet and go on to become Au Revoir Simone?
Erika: We got together when the project was really a hobby, after work hangout kind of thing. We all wanted to be better musicians and learn some of our favourite songs as covers. It was silly and fun and then swiftly became the focus of our lives. It had a mega magnetic pull.
Annie: We pretty much met because of Au Revoir Simone. I started hanging out with Erika because of the band, and Heather and I met at band practice. My friend Sung Bin, who was also in the band in the early days, was also drawn to me through music, going to shows, playing together, making a music zine, all that.
You’re a Brooklyn based band, how has the area influenced your music and your attitudes? What is it like compared to where you all grew up?
Erika: Being into music in Williamsburg in the early 2000’s was so much fun. I was falling in love with a new band left and right, there was so much talent around. It was a creative wonderland and that environment is definitely what fuelled our band when we first started. I grew up in Boulder Colorado, there were a few bands around but I wasn’t inspired by the scene there. I started getting into indie music when I moved to upstate New York for college and while studying abroad in London.
Annie: I grew up on Long Island, which I hated. I hated the urban sprawl, and judgements against weirdo’s, and general lack of a creative atmosphere. Everything seemed like a fight all the time. Funnily enough, my mom’s whole side of the family are from Brooklyn, and I really identify with her culture and way of interacting with the world. She came from a poor family who had to do everything themselves because they didn’t have the financial resources. There is an amazing photograph of my nana in her yard wielding a sledgehammer that I love. It was very DIY with care. I see that a lot in musicians here, too, and especially how our band started our recording process. Doing with what we could, silk-screening our own CDs, recording in apartments, sleeping on floors, you name it. We just knew we had to do the very best we could with what we had. It is always the best kind of struggle to work hard and see the fruits of your labour. It’s also even more heart-breaking when things don’t end up the way you planned.
You took a break after your third album, what did you all get up too?
Annie: Well, I had a kid, and that took up a lot of time. But we also worked on one-off projects, work for hire stuff that was really fun.
Erika: We really needed a break from touring. I had gone through a bad break up and had to kind of pick up the pieces and get a new place to live and figure out what I was going to do with myself. It turned into a really creative time for me, I DJ’d a lot and collaborated with some amazing bands and then ended up making a solo EP with some of the song ideas I had written on tour. I learned so much from friends and collaborators which helped grow my vision for what I wanted to contribute musically.
And how was it coming back together for your fourth album?
Annie: To me it felt like coming home.
Erika: It took a little bit to get back in the groove. When we were first writing again we would just jam and put ourselves into music trances for hours and come out of rehearsal without having made any “progress” on the album. But it was an important time to reconnect with each other and get ready for making the new songs. Once we started working with some producers and fleshing out beats we were on a roll. I love listening back to recordings of those early demos and writing sessions, they really bring me back to that time when the ideas were less important than experimenting and making sound and getting high from that.
Your lyrics are almost story-telling, what does the process of writing and creating new songs involve?
Erika: We normally each come in with a skeleton of lyrics and then help each other fill in the gaps. More often than not the lyrics don’t make a ton of sense at first but come together as stories through group editing sessions.
Annie: For me, it starts with stringing together pretty words, and then seeing their message and writing around that. Usually a very powerful thought is on my mind and I’m feeling incredible longing.
What musical influences do you share, and how do your personal tastes differ if at all?
Erika: Every once in a while there will be a great song on the radio (new or old) that we all love, and we all stop and listen and savour it but we personally all have really different tastes. It’s easier for us to write a new song than agree on a DJ set!
Annie: Our tastes differ SO MUCH. Like so, so, so much it’s crazy we are in a band together.
Am I correct in thinking you took your name from A Peewee movie? If so which is your favourite Peewee film?
Erika: Yes! We all bonded over growing up at the same time and having all the same bizarre 80’s childhood references and Pee Wee was one of them. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is a masterpiece.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year? Any plans to come over to Europe/London?
Annie: We have some shows planned in France in November and I would come to London any chance I could.
Words: Siobhan Frew