Brooklyn’s Au Revoir Simone was the musical brainchild of Erika Forster (right, above) and Annie Hart (middle, above), who discovered, on a train ride back to New York in 2003, that they both shared the not-so-common desire to start an all-keyboard, all-female band. The duo started out practicing in bedrooms and eventually brought Heather D’Angelo (left, above) into the fray. After a brief sojourn as a four-piece, the band pared back down to a trio and went on to play shows around NYC, eventually touring with the likes of We Are Scientists + Peter, Bjorn and John.
Katie + I have both been fans of Au Revoir Simone and their dreamy synth-pop since we first heard them, soon after they first started up, which happens to be the same year we first moved to New York. Their songs + sound grew through the years that we lived there to the point that we now associate many of them with our memories there.
So it’s fair to say that we were more than a little bit elated when we heard that the trio was again recording new material after a newly four-year-long silence. The result, September’s Move in Spectrums, is an album that shows the level of sonic maturation any fan of the band would hope to find. The songs are built on the solid base of keyboard-driven melodies and vocal harmonies we’ve come to love while bringing in some more upbeat, drum-forward rhythms and bringing the overall sound up-to-date in terms of innovation and instrumentation. To put it more simply/less jargon-ly—you feel like you’re listening to a great new band playing great new songs, not a band trying to totally recreate what they did four years ago.
As they prep to play LA’s Echoplex Tuesday night, we thought we’d take a few minutes to catch up with Au Revoir Simone’s Annie Hart to see what they’ve been up to for the past few years. Read on to get Annie’s take on the new sound, collaborating with the likes of David Lynch + Johnny Marr, and—yes—whether we should move to LA or not.
Troy: So, obvious first question—do you like music? No, I kid; obvious first question—where have you all BEEN, man‽
Annie: We took a long time to work on our latest album, Move in Spectrums. I also had a baby and toured the world until I was so pregnant they wouldn’t let me on an airplane.
Take that TSA! No, it’s funny, Katie + I were just talking in August about you all and wondering what ever happened to Au Revoir Simone (cue whimsical sigh). Was it just a matter of life pulling you all in different directions?
After touring so much we took a much-needed break to live in reality where our friends and families are.
Totally. I’ve always kind of appreciated when bands don’t make a big to-do and be all like ‘HEY EVERYBODY, WE’RE BREAKING UP, BE SAD ABOUT IT’. Like, indie mainstays Superchunk never broke up, they just got old, started doing adult-y things, and then started making music again when they felt the time was right. It seems like such a better way to go. Do you feel like that’s kinda what happened with you all?
Definitely, especially because we were still working on one-off projects for most of our time “off.” We did a remix for Washed Out, we got hired to write a song for J. Crew, composed and acted in a short film for Miu Miu, and collaborated with Johnny Marr as part of a song series.
Well that doesn’t sound like time off at all. Still, taking a break from creating music together, that’s gotta change your sound somewhat. Being as objective as possible, how do you all feel Au Revoir Simone now compares to Au Revoir Simone circa 2009 in terms of style + sound?
We went for a more cleaner and “sparkly” sound on this album. There’s less grit and re-amplification, so you don’t get as much of a feeling of a space when you listen.
Was there anything you more deliberately strove for or avoided in writing new music together or was the natural shift in sound totally in-line with what you all wanted to do?
We tried to make a dance-able record, but of course got sidelined by the usual dreamy soundscapes that come so naturally to us.
Well we think it all sounds great. Not only is it good to hear you all again, I think the sound’s evolved well + matured. Are you all still based in Brooklyn?
More or less, though we’ve spread across Brooklyn and Queens and de-centered from Williamsburg.
I know you all are just getting back from playing a bunch of festivals + shows in Europe—how was that?
It was absolutely incredible. Last night we played to a huge sold-out room in Porto, Lisbon. The energy was just magical and we are so happy to be really gelling as performers again. It’s so exhilarating to hear our keyboards interacting at a louder volume than we get to in the practice space, and then hear our vocals blending in harmony. It’s transcendent for me.
Ah, it sounds like you’re having a great time then. Off-subject, but I know David Lynch is a huge fan of you all and you’ve collaborated in the past. Any plans to do anything together creatively in the future or when you’re out here in LA?
We adore David and truly admire all his creative work, and are completely loving the music he’s making these days. I don’t think he’ll actually be in town when we are there, sadly.
He seems like such an interestingly strange guy—the film work, the music….the coffee company…just the gestält that is David Lynch. Is he one of those guys that starts to seem totally normal after a while or are you all like, ‘oh, no—dude’s on a totally different plane from the rest of us’?
He is an incredibly genuine and normal person to talk to, and also has an extremely charismatic personality.
Yeah, he seems to come across that way in interviews I’ve heard. So, we always like to ask about band names and such since we’re in the branding/marketing business. We hear your name comes from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Are you all particularly big fans of that movie?
I have it pretty much memorized. If you ever see me in person, I dare you to test me with lines of dialogue.
Oh, I’ll totally take you up on that. Do you know at all if Pee Wee himself is a fan?
He definitely knows about us, whether he likes it, why? What’s the significance? I DON’T KNOW!!!
Heh. I feel like you all should totally correct people when they incorrectly pronounce the band name with a correct French accent. …I swear that sentence kinda makes sense….
We are open to interpretation of our band on many levels, and pronunciation of our name is at the top of that list.
Very diplomatic of you. And where does the title of the new album come from, Move in Spectrums?
I’m opening it to interpretation.
Fair enough. We love the album artwork though—it reminds us of those awesomely lit commercial caverns you visit when you’re a kid. Who have you all been listening to of late, either for inspiration for the new album or just recreationally?
Oh, nice—love Ida Maria. Psyched for new new album. So, for someone who hasn’t seen you all play live in yeeeeeeaaaaars (which is most of us), what can we expect at your show at The Echoplex Tuesday?
A good dance party with excellent keyboard tones.
Any fun covers you all are playing at shows lately?
“Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star.
And non-show-related plans whilst in LA?
Industry showcases and thai food.
Those are MY plans too! I hope this isn’t too trite or off-subject, but, Katie—my wife + design partner—is a huge fan of your all’s style on-stage. It’s cool that you all actually seem to think about that. I know we have a mutual admiration for our shared friend + designer, Miranda Bennett, but do you all have any other go-to designers you like?
I love Miranda’s clothes! We all have some pieces by her. Lately, for stage I decided to almost exclusively wear black, or sequins, or black sequins. So, I dunno, H+M? I also have a Miu Miu dress I adore and wear every chance I get.
I mean, yeah, H+M’s pretty go-to for black sequins, right? Alright, we’ll close with a few quick, lightening round questions—favorite bar in Brooklyn?
I can’t find that bar online. Coolest tattoo you’ve ever seen?
Someone got some ARS lyrics tattooed on her!
Now THAT’S a fan. Best live show you’ve ever seen?
Tame Impala at Webster Hall.
Nice. Super power you’d most like to have?
See, handy but dangerous—what if you teleport into a wall‽ Favorite thing about NYC?
All the different kinds of people!
Agreed. Favorite thing about LA?
Again, agreed! Spirit animal?
Fierce. Finally, we need help deciding whether to stay in LA or move back to Brooklyn. I think I know where your loyalties will lie, but try to be objective—what should we do‽
If you want to relax and be healthy, stay in LA; if you want to be a work-obsessed neurotic, go to Brooklyn. You know where I live.
Wait, was that reverse threat?
Au Revoir Simone plays The Echoplex in Echo Park Tuesday night with Sophia Knapp, CALLmeKAT, and My Hawaii. You can and should order their new, superb album, Move in Spectrums, via their Web store or digitally via the iTunes. Listen to “Crazy” + watch their beautifully shot video for “Somebody Who” below. You can also check them out covering Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” in Helsinki below.
Band photo: Ben Pier.