Maria Taylor talks about reviving Azure Ray


Dreamy pop duo Azure Ray offer much more than that girly-whimsical stuff this type of music so often delivers. With luscious lulling vocals and fairytale musicality, their new album Drawing Down the Moon encompasses a sense of bitter-sweet heartbreak. Azure Ray's lyrics seem almost unnecessary, with haunting sounds enveloping every track - it's the type of back-ground music you can't help but pay attention to.

[jump] The members of Azure Ray, Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink, signed to Saddle Creek Records in Omaha, and have garnered a pretty good reputation. They have appeared on numerous Bright Eyes records, and often having been compared to the sounds of Veruca Salt; it is no wonder that Tim Kasher of Cursive has been known to show up to a few of their gigs and play along.

Azure Ray is on tour now and will be stopping by the Cedar Cultural Center tonight with Tim Fite and James Husband. Gimme Noise had a chance to speak with Maria Taylor of Azure Ray prior to her performance in Minneapolis.

Tell me about the history of the band -- I know you've been apart, and now gotten back together.

We started playing together when we were 16; we played music together for about 13 years then we just decided to switch it up a bit and try some new things. So we went solo for about six years and I put out like two different records and an EP, and she had three different projects...  So yeah this is the first time in six years that we've toured as Azure Ray, and this is the first record in seven years that's come out as Azure Ray.

Is it different touring together now because it's been so long?

Not really, she's like family to me. We've just been friends for so long. We try to avoid drama, but it kind of comes to us. But we have no trouble with each other.

You're on Saddle Creek Records. Do you know Tim Kasher, are you two best friends?

Haha, no we're not 'best friends,' but I know him. We're actually going to play a show with him tonight in Denver. We actually lived in Omaha for five years, so we've all become friends.

How do you like being on Saddle Creek?

We've been working with them since 2004, and then when I went solo I got to put one out on a different label, just to kind of try out something new... I don't know, it's good now, they're friends of ours so it's really nice working with peers, and not just people you can't relate to. They're like people we go to the bar with and drink.

How has the tour been going so far?

It's good, but it's a hard time right now. I feel like we always talk to lots of bands that are on the road and people are having trouble with attendance. It's a recession, people aren't wanting to spend money, and there are so many bands touring at once because everyone has to tour these days. People don't buy records, you know, everyone just downloads shit for free. So therefore, in order for anyone to make money we have to go out on the road. So now it's just like we get into a city and there are like four really cool bands that we're all friends with playing in the same town, every night. So it's major competition, it is kind of rough out there.

We're still managing to have a whole lot of fun every single night. I mean people are coming out; it's definitely not like what it was. When we left Azure Ray seven years ago we were selling out clubs and it was probably the height of career as Azure Ray. Now, definitely not that, we haven't sold out any clubs. The people that are coming to shows now though are great fans who sing all of the words, and that's really fun. I feel like we're in it together.

Tim Fite and James Hubbard are also playing with you, do you have input on them?

James plays drums and keyboard in Azure Ray, so his stuff is really cool - he has a cello player accompanying him, just really well-crafted pop songs. And Tim Fite is hilarious, he's up there and he has visuals he has this screen, he's definitely a comedian and a musician all in one. He's up there telling jokes, and playing music. It's kind of the weirdest mix, because Azure Ray is like really slow, sad, love songs and then you have Tim. I don't know if it's the greatest mix but I sure do enjoy watching it every night. He's amazing, and his set is just hilarious.

How do you feel this current album, Drawning Down the Moon, compares to stuff in the past? I know there's been a long break -- what's different?

Well our goal was to not really let it have much of a difference. We haven't been a band so long we didn't want to come out with something totally new. We really wanted it to be reminiscent of our first album and the last one we put out. Just for our fans, like here we are again, remember this sound and then maybe, you know, in the future we'll try new things. We really wanted to try and capture the essence of what we were all about back then. I think we did that, I mean there is a little different feel, there's a bit more of an electronic feel, more sample beats and stuff; a little less organic, but for the most part a similar vibe.

AZURE RAY play with Tim Fite and James Hubbard tonight, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, at the CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER. All ages. $14. 7 p.m.