Since forming in 2003, Brooklyn’s Au Revoir Simone (named for a line in the 1985 flick Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) has acquired quite the legion of devotees. The three-piece, made up of Erika Forster (vocals, keyboards), Annie Hart (vocals, keyboards), and Heather D’Angelo (vocals, drum machine, keyboards), is certainly deserving of the accolades. Combining layers of Wurlitzer with driving digital beats and airy female vocals, the girls have crafted a sound that is part Air-style electro, part Rilo Kiley cuteness. And with the recently released, quasi-minimalist Still Night, Still Light, the ladies have reached yet another career milestone. The album is undeniably their best to date, incorporating everything from the instrumentally eerie (“Knight of Wands”) to the lyrically sweeping (“Organized Scenery”) in its 12 lush tracks.
Currently, the women are traversing the States in support of Still Night. I recently caught up with D’Angelo to discuss the album, her famous fans (David Lynch and We Are Scientists are both avid appreciators), and how she conquered stage fright once and for all.
Congrats on the album. What was the recording process like this time around? This was the first time we really understood what we were looking for, like how we wanted to sound. We worked with a producer, Tom Monahan, who’s really wonderful-he did records for Little Joy and Vetiver. He understood how to work with electronic instruments and make them feel really warm and lush. We’ve always been trying to sound really warm and airy and lush, but we just weren’t really sure about how the recording techniques could do that. We thought the best thing for our music would be to layer keyboards-the more keyboards you have the better-but it ended up sounding a little more flat and not quite as warm as we would have liked. And with Tom, we told him what we were looking for and he just got it right off the bat.
The packaging also really stands out. Who did the cover art? It’s a painting by a British artist named Samuel Palmer, who I believe was around during the 1890s’ Victorian era. I think a lot of people were doing those kinds of pastoral landscapes back then, especially in Europe. And yeah, we were looking for an album cover and shopping so many things around, and we weren’t sure what to use and the deadline was coming and Erika went to the library and did all this massive research looking for some kind of landscape. : So Erika found this artist and she pulled all these different prints for us to look at, and when we saw them, it was just like, “Yeah, that totally looks like what the album title feels like.”
Exactly, I was almost positive someone had designed it specifically for you. [Laughs.] It’s funny; it’s really a testament or just one of many, many examples of how we operate as a band. It’s kind of just an endless succession of, “Oh, this is good but not perfect” until something is perfect. And sometimes it really gets down to the wire where we’re like, “Oh my God, nothing has felt perfect, and we have to make a decision really soon.” Even our band name ended up being like that. We were putting off the band name for so long and we weren’t sure what we were going to be called and every name we thought about didn’t make sense, but as soon as we had a show : It was a total last-minute thing during this weekend of brainstorming, and that was one of the things that came up, and we knew it instantly. It’s the same with our album titles-it’s just how it is.
What made you decide to start a three-piece keyboard band? The two thoughts certainly weren’t connected at first. Annie and I came up with the idea of having an all-girls keyboard-after-work club. Back then, everyone was doing the knitting and stitching thing : so instead of a knitting circle, we were a keyboard circle. We would go to Erika’s apartment, and at first we just started covering songs that we liked from the ’80s and it was just really, really fun. The stage thing came later. : The idea had never even crossed my mind that we would ever play live in front of people. But we got offered a show, and we accepted, and I was really, really nervous. I remember the first time we played I took a shot of tequila beforehand because I was so embarrassed. I remember like the first year of being in a band is like a never-ending feeling of embarrassment. I was way too shy for it. But then you kind of get over it and people enjoy it and you’re happy that you see people enjoying what you’re doing. : Now it’s definitely tea before we go on.
What kind of reaction did you get when you first started playing? Oh my God, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive from the start I would say. I mean, it used to really confuse me-I think it confused all of us-because it just seemed like this innocent, fun thing that we were doing, but people were constantly asking us to play live and inviting us to shows, then we got picked up by the Japanese label. It’s all really been positive; it’s been good.
It seems like every article I read, the David Lynch connection is mentioned or referenced. Have you talked about having him direct a music video yet? [Laughs.] No. It’s funny, people always try to make insinuations like that, like, “Oooh, are you going to score one of his movies?” or “Is he gonna do a music video for you?” or “What are you going to be doing with him next?” Rumors abound. But no, he just likes our music and we like his work, and we’re just friends. That’s really the beginning and end of that story.
Au Revoir Simone plays Velvet Jones this Friday, June 12, with The Antlers at 9 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.