For over a decade now Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor have been making music as Azure Ray, and before that they were in the promising indie rock band Little Red Rocket for several years. The two have been playing music together since they were 15-years-old, and no matter if they are doing collaborative work or solo projects, the duo still keeps coming back to Azure Ray.
“Azure Ray just feels like home to us,” Orenda Fink said. “There is something immensely satisfying with making music with someone who you share so much with – musical tastes, history, memories, life philosophies. And, it’s fun.”
For a brief period though, the fate of Azure was in question. For seven years the duo didn’t make any music as Aure Ray, opting for the aforementioned solo records and side projects. Then in 2010 Fink and Taylor “got the old band back together” so to speak and released the critically acclaimed Drawing Down the Moon and have recently followed that up with the six-song EP As Above So Below.
“We decided to do an EP for a couple of reasons. One was that we wanted more time and freedom to experiment musically, so we booked the same amount of studio time but only worked on half the amount of songs we usually work on,” Fink said of choosing to do an EP over a long-player. “The other reason was that Maria was eight months pregnant at the time of recording, so we wanted to make sure the process wasn’t too overwhelming for her. She was a real trouper.”
When they set out to write As Above So Below, Fink and Taylor were intent to depart from their original sound, that lushly haunted, dreamy folk pop that was born twelve years ago with their self-titled debut. Doing an EP gave them the chance for experimentation with their music.
“The advantages are you can make a ‘mini-album’ and go out on a limb with your material, but an EP feels less like you are ‘re-inventing’ your sound. Rather, it is like you are testing out new territories. The disadvantages are just getting the same amount of press/tour coverage.”
Themes of alternative universes, Mother Nature, beginnings, endings, and re-birth surface throughout the new album as the poetic lyrics come off with a deeper maturity.
“It does feel a little more ‘mature’ in a way. I’m not sure why I think that, though!”
Musically, Fink and Taylor also went in a different direction – a less is more approach, if you will. As Above So Below is more sparse, more minimal and more of an electronic experience than past albums.
“We looked for inspiration from James Blake, Nicolas Jaar, and Apparat in keeping the music minimal and modern, but still working as a textural and emotional extension of the lyrics,” said Fink. “There was no set process for this record. Some of the lyrics were first; some were written at the very end of the session, after the music was recorded. We really just went on inspiration and kept working on whatever was flowing at the time. It ended up being a very organic, but efficient process. “
Conveniently, Fink is married to Todd Fink of the celebrated electronica band The Faint, so they didn’t have to look far for a guide into digital territory. They also brought in Andy LeMaster (Bright Eyes, Now It’s Overhead) for recording. With the “less is more” approach, Azure Ray found the month in the recording studio to be much more relaxing and fluid.
“We all found that this was kind of a magical month we spent recording together. We didn’t cut too much, but we weighed each part before we became serious about recording it. We would ask, “Does the song need this? Does this clutter or add?” If we couldn’t answer these favorably, we’d cut the part right there.”
As Above So Below, along with the majority of their music catalog, has been released on the famed Omaha-based record label Saddle Creek. The feeling of home Fink and Taylor get with Azure Ray, they also get with the folks at Saddle Creek.
“We are friends with everyone that works there, and we all care about each other a great deal. It’s more like a family than a working relationship. Seems like it would be hard to find that anywhere else,” Fink said. “We were on a major label before we were on Saddle Creek with our band Little Red Rocket, so going back to a major was not that interesting to us during that time.”
Speaking of Little Red Rocket, with a slew of bands from the 1990s reuniting to tour and record, one must wonder if Fink and Ray might get Little Red Rocket back together.
“Ha! We’ve mentioned it from time to time. It would certainly be fun, but would anyone still remember us? Maybe a special show in Athens, Georgia could happen at some point. Who knows!?
For now all focus is on Azure Ray and As Above So Below. However, fans had better enjoy it, because it might be a while before any new material from this dynamic duo is released.
“We’ll both be doing solo and other collaborative work before we come back together for a new full-length,” Fink said. Maria is working on a new solo album and an album with Andy LeMaster. Fink will be releasing an EP with her new DJ/VJ performance art project, Harouki Zombi and putting the finishing touches on O+S’s (Taylor and Cedric LeMoyne from Remy Zero) sophomore record, slated to come out early 2013.
This interview is from Innocent Words Magazine and is used by permission.