Come take a stroll down keyboard lane with the supercute supertalents of Au Revoir Simone! Catch these girls on tour this summer as they're rocking out all over the globe. Before we start, how 'bout we bake some cookies?
Tell us your background! Were all of you always into music? How did you guys come together and form Au Revoir Simone?
Erika: I’ve always been into music. I was a childhood Beatles freak always wishing that I had grown up in the 60’s, but have since gotten into all kinds of music. This band got together because we were just a group of girls that wanted to have a fun project to work on…
Heather: My parents were really into music, my mom is a total Beatlemaniac and from as far back as I can remember we always had great records playing in the morning. Though I really wanted piano lessons, I opted for dance lessons instead. I did, however, join the choir at my school, and teach myself how to play the keyboard from listening to songs on the radio and learning them by ear. But I never had any aspirations of becoming a musician, so its strange to be one now.
Annie: I grew up in a house that was filled with music and loved playing the piano we had and a little Casio. But I never thought anyone else would want to hear the songs I was making, so being in a successful band has been very surprising to me.
An all-girl all-keyboard band! That’s pretty much the coolest thing we’ve ever heard! How did you decide to work solely with keyboards?
Erika: The idea was to do something playful and fun and new. In the beginning we played all tiny casios and “yard sale” kind of instruments. They seemed easy to collect. We love layering different combinations of keyboards…old and new, electric and acoustic, full sounding synths and dinky toys.
The Bird of Music is an amazing album! We heard that this is your first full-length. How did the whole process go and what can you tell us about it?
Erika: Thanks! After our first ‘mini-album’ was recorded, we all continued to write songs and started recording bit by bit on our evenings and weekends. It was a really fun process and I learned so much.
Annie: We had a really great time recording this record, trying out lots of new sounds and combinations of sounds. For example, for “The Way to There,” we really wanted a “THWAP!!!” for some of the percussion, so we tried recording hitting every “thwappy” thing we could find in our producer’s apartment with a broomstick. Even though it didn’t work for that sound, it really exemplifies the lengths we went to to achieve what we wanted from the music. On the whole, I like to think of the record as a lush musical journey, sometimes sad, sometimes silly, but overall with a note of hope about life, hidden beneath layers of melancholy.
What inspires you as musicians, and how does it translate into your songs? Have you been influenced by other musicians or artists?
Annie: I usually get songs stuck in my head when walking around, riding my bike, or flying. Whenever I am alone and in motion, words and melodies seem to spill out of my brain. I am inspired by hearing new songs and seeing great bands, which we get to do all the time since we are touring so much and live in a thriving music community.
Erika: I am inspired to write music because I like the feeling of creating something. It’s so amazing to meet at our practice space and start playing around and end up leaving with a new song. I also enjoy being able to express my observations about life in a song. Its kind of abstract, its not imposing, and and I like that people can imagine their own meaning for the lyrics. I am very inspired by other music. Most recently it's been Lavender Diamond, Midlake, Panda Bear, the Bee Gees, Trojan Dub Box Set, ABBA.
Heather: I’m inspired a lot by rhythm; I often hear the beat first when I’m writing a song. Because of this I’m drawn to and influenced by other musicians who I feel do really interesting and creative things with their beats, like Bjork and Stereolab. I’m also inspired by some classical artists like Phillip Glass and Ennio Morricone; I love the sense of drama they bring to their compositions.
You guys have been everywhere in the world? Tell us your best and worst experiences on the road!
Annie: The best moments are when the three of us are happy and having fun with our performance. Sometimes it comes in the form of us bringing odd life-size golden statues of pharoahs we found in the venue on stage with us. Other times it is a tacit understanding and strong mental connection, like when we played at David Lynch’s art exhibit at the Fundacion Cartier in Paris, on a stage from Eraserhead, and the lighting was perfect – we felt so connected with each other it was beautiful.
Heather: The worst experiences tend to be the ones that are poorly planned; when we find ourselves madly racing through the European countryside on only a few hours of sleep, starving, and late for soundcheck. Those kind of moments happened a lot more in the past, we’re becoming seasoned professionals now!
Annie: Yeah, the worst moments are when we are tired and hungry and traveling long distances and touring begins to lose its novelty and joy. Those are unfortunate, but well balanced by our moments of glee and curiosity about the world.
Erika: I just love visiting a new place, arriving on a random street somewhere and having an hour to wander around and see what I see. There are also so many people that we meet who are passionate about music. The worst is probably being so high maintenance. I used to pride myself on being a savvy traveler and always packing light, but now the three of us run around airports and loaded down with heavy stuff. We also never get enough sleep, but the delirium ends up being fun anyways.
So Erika, you’re also a fabric designer as we remember from your 7 in ’07 interview! How hard or awesome is it to balance those two careers? Annie and Heather, do you two have other occupations or are you mainly focused on the band?
Erika: Before we started touring full time, I was working for the bedding company Dwell. I love their style and learned so much from them. They really encourage their designers to take risks and make new trends rather than following what’s already out there. Now, I bring my powerbook on tour and try to work on patterns and collages when I feel inspired. I also take lots of pictures and collect things so that I can work on my ideas when I have more free time.
Heather: I’m currently a student at Columbia University. I decided to go back to school to get my second bachelor’s degree in astrophysics after participating in a wonderful internship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where I live. My first degree is in photography, and so I was busy navigating through the art world when this band initially came together.
Annie: I am a bookkeeper whenever we are home for more than 2 weeks, which isn’t often, so I am definitely consumed by band activities for the vast majority of my time.
The band always looks unbelievably cute! Where do you guys usually shop (other than fredflare.com!) and have you had any fun finds recently?
Erika: I love vintage so I try to find interesting shops on our travels. I got some beautiful 70’s items in Stockholm this year, and we recently met a designer in London who I have fallen in love with. Her line is called MINE.
Annie: I also wear clothes mostly from thrift shops, since I try to have minimal impact on the environment (especially with all of our traveling!) and buy used or recycled or nothing at all, when possible. And, in all honesty, I wear a lot of clothes from sponsorships, too!
Heather: I have favorite shops all over, really. In Manhattan, I love Henri Bendel and all the little boutiques in the Lower East Side, in Brooklyn I like to shop at Otte and Catbird, London is for Topshop and Selfridges, in Tokyo we go to Laforet, and in LA I like checking out Fred Segal.
You went on tour with Peter Bjorn and John we see! We remember reading an article where you guys said that you love the song “Young Folks” a lot so that must be amazing! How are they to tour with? Any good stories?
Erika: It was so amazing to be on tour with them! Almost surreal actually… They are extraordinary musicians and performers so I found it totally inspiring to watch their show every night. Also, it was my birthday while on tour and they dedicated my favorite song to me.
Heather: I had been obsessed with the song “Young Folks” for months previous to touring with the guys; I listened to "Writer’s Block" so many times its embarrassing. So during our first soundcheck with PBJ, they needed a girl to fill in for Victoria’s parts on that song, and I emphatically volunteered. When I went on stage, Peter said, “Do you need the lyrics?” and I said, “No.” Then, looking incredulous, he said, “Well, do you need your cues?” and I said “No.” and I don't think he believed me. But then we sang the whole song to the end and I never missed a beat or lyric; they all looked kind of shocked afterwards. And that's how I got the job! Now I can’t hear that song without picturing Peter singing to me with a huge smile on his face because I was like a giddy little kid the whole time, and I think he got a kick out of it. I’m such a fan, its ridiculous.
Annie: They are so fun and talented – it was great to be able to see such a fantastic band every night.
We love that you guys are really conscious about the green scene! Tell us some things that we can do every day that’ll help the environment!
Annie: Well, aside from keeping my purchasing of non-local goods to a minimum, I also make sure to shut off lights when I leave the room, unplug appliances when not in use, ride my bike and walk instead of driving whenever I can, not speeding too much to conserve gasoline, and keeping my showers short. I also cook with lids on for boiling water, try to bake more than one thing at a time in the over. If I had control over my thermostat I would keep it on a timer so it cools down when I sleep, and keep it slightly cool in the winter and dress warmly. I wash my clothes in cold water, or warm if they really need it, but never hot since it uses so much energy. Also, I hate air conditioning and avoid it whenever possible. When I do go shopping I bring a reusable bag to the store for my purchases, and if I forget, I save the plastic bag for later (we always need them for garbage bags in the car on tour). There’s a lot more, but I feel a bit long-winded at this point, so I’ll leave you to guess the rest.
Erika: As a band, we try to minimize our trash whenever possible. We write our names on our cups backstage so we only use one per night. At hotels I always use my own soap and products so I don't have to open the “single use” stuff just to throw it away.
Heather: And just always be aware of the impact that you make.
Any words of wisdom to all the girls out there that wants to start a band of their own?
Heather: Believe in the things that you know!
Erika: Just have fun with it!
Annie: Just try it! You never know what will happen unless you try and even if it’s terrible, if you are having fun, just stick with it and enjoy yourself.
Okay ladies, speed round!
Heather: Bloody Red
Erika: Plum candy from Japan or Anise pastilles from France
Heather: bitter dark chocolate
Annie: Butter Toffee, but usually I prefer salty to sweet.
Erika: Absolute Beauty by Pratima Raichur
Heather: I have way too many, but I would advise to read some graphic novels if you haven't before. Daniel Clowes is a good place to start.
Annie: The dictionary
Erika: Gimme Some Truth, The Making of John Lennon’s “Imagine”
Heather: Again, this question is impossible to answer. But if you haven't seen The Umbrellas of Cherbourg then you're missing out on one of cinema's greatest films.