Au Revoir Simone
Summoning Their Inner Franco
Jan 23, 2012
Dream-pop keyboard band Au Revoir Simone (Erika Forster, Annie Hart, and Heather D'Angelo) makes music that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Stereolab or Air (whose forthcoming album Le Voyage Dans la Lune, the trio guests on). But since the trio's 2009 album Still Night, Still Light, the band has been on a break, allowing members to pursue parenthood, solo albums, and school. That’s about to change. Recently, Forster, Hart, and D’Angelo rejourned, and work has begun on Au Revoir Simone’s fourth album.
Under the Radar caught up with Heather D'Angelo (who, in addition to keyboards also programs the band’s drum machines), to learn about plans for the new album, David Lynch, and why it might be good for all of us to take a page out of a certain overachieving actor’s playbook.
Laura Studarus (Under the Radar): How far have you gotten into work on the new album?
Heather D'Angelo: We’re currently writing. We’re recording demos. We started writing over the summer. Then I went back to school, because I’m currently a student. That gave Erika some time to work on her solo project. Annie is basically raising an infant at this point. So it was a really good time for us to take a break. We’re back in the studio now, and we’re probably going to be recording this summer, releasing an album, I imagine by fall, or even the end of the summer.
With this being your fourth album, has the process you’ve used in recording changed over the years?
Definitely. When we first started out we didn’t know what we were doing. Since we’re an all keyboard band, we didn’t really know how to translate the kind of sounds that we were hearing in the practice space to the studio when we were recording. In the practice space, we were putting it all through amps, and everything sounded very airy and lush. But if you take synthesizers and record them directly, it suddenly sounds very flat and '80s. Just toned down. We lost a lot of the room sound that we originally liked. It took us a few albums to actually figure out what the sound was that we wanted. We found it on the last album, because we worked with Tom Monahan. He really understands keyboards really well, and just the nature of the sounds when you’re playing that many keyboards. He was able to separate all of the sounds. He makes them more distinct and less like a wash of keyboards.
Are you still holding tight to your mandate as a keyboard band? Are you tempted to bring other instruments into the mix?
On the last album we did have a bass on one song. We have been playing with live drums a little bit. We might use a little bit of that. But generally we’re still a keyboard band.
How democratic is your writing process? Does one person bring in a song?
Both. Sometimes one person brings in a song. But I guess it’s always a democracy. One person can bring in a song, but we all contribute to it until we all agree that it’s good or that we’re happy with it. The minute you bring in a song, you lose your agency to make it just yours. It becomes the band’s song, and then we all work on it until it’s our song. Also, once we start playing keyboards, we just tool around and see what happens until that turns into a song. That’s more completely collaborative.
When you’re writing, do you feel like you can listen to other bands? Or is there the temptation to have your music start sounding like someone else’s project?
It’s weird. Once I started being in this band more professionally in the last few years, I haven’t really had much of a desire to listen to music at all. I don’t really go and see a lot of shows. I don’t really listen to a lot of music. I’m not sure why. I know Annie and Erika are constantly listening to music. They’re constantly immersed in listening to lots of stuff. I kind of pick a few choice favorites and listen to those. I never know any new bands. Ever. Ever ever! It’s terrible, I don’t know anyone new! I will definitely listen to the new Air album, since I’ve been listening to Air since I was 16 years old, since Moon Safari. I imagine I’ll keep up; I’ve been listening to Air forever, so I’ll listen to Air. Maybe it has something to do with being in your '30s. I’m stuck on my old music, and I don’t want to hear new music. I don’t know! [Laughs] I tend to lean more toward the past of music than forward, maybe.
I imagine being a student and making your own music doesn’t help either.
No it doesn’t! That’s actually really true. I work in a laboratory. “The kids”—as I like to call them—are always putting on music. Doing lab work can be really monotonous. I’m always subjected to their music. Some of it’s good, and some of it’s bad. I recently got my lab turned on to St. Vincent. She I know, because we played a show with her in Korea. That was the first time I heard her music. I really fell in love with her music. There’s someone recent that I really do love! I love St. Vincent’s music. So I do listen to St. Vincent in the lab.
I know you’re still in the writing process on this new album, but are there any songs you feel comfortable talking about at this point?
There’s one song that we have played live a few times. David Lynch has this new club in Paris called Club Silencio. He had this week where he was flying in different musicians to play. We played on a Saturday night. It was this beautiful club, a really adorable, charming stage. We debuted one of our songs called “Red Rabbit.” We haven’t recorded it yet, but that song is pretty much finished.
Does it fall in line with your previous sound?
Actually, it’s a real wild card, because Annie plays drums on that song. So I don’t think that song is really the direction that we’re going in. But it was a really fun song to do. It’s fun to hear Annie on drums. She’s actually really good.
How surreal was it to be debuting a song in David Lynch’s club in Paris?
It’s getting less surreal since he keeps inviting us to do these very random and special things. It’s becoming a little bit more normal to be in his world. It was a beautiful club and an amazing night. I think the most surreal thing about that show for me was that I was in the middle of midterms. So I left class on a Friday afternoon, got on a red-eye to Paris, arrived there in the morning, sound-checked, played the show, stayed up until four in the morning dancing with Annie and Erika, went to bed, and was woken up by the concierge the next morning to go fly home. Then I took the test on Monday morning. That was the surreal part, being back in class and being like, “What just happened?”
How do you top that?
I don’t think that you can! My philosophy this past semester has been, “What would James Franco do?” I would complain a lot about trying to juggle music and school, but then James Franco hosted the Oscars in the middle of finals. I was like, “Wow, I’ve really gotta step it up. I’m lame!” If James Franco can host the Oscars and get a PH.D. in English, I don’t have any excuse.