Au Revoir Simone

Posted on May 23, 2008 Under Music

From an organizational perspective — even a musically inclined one — the odds of finding three beautiful girls, all long-locked, well-worded, and in possession of keyboards, seem slim. The odds of them finding each other — that seems near impossible. However, on the off chance that that sort of thing might happen, it makes sense that it would happen in Brooklyn. And on the off chance that that sort of thing did happen, it goes to follow that the three beautiful girls would see something serendipitous in their similarities, nurture them, then do what all good Brooklynites with instruments do: form a band.

They call themselves Au Revoir Simone, and they call each other Erika, Heather and Annie. We call them ethereal, because we've been having trouble turning their music down since we first laid ears on the sweetly layered, abstractly energetic, and quaintly composed melodies. They all sing, write, and play each of the instruments their music requires. But most importantly, they fit together perfectly. Oh, and they make a killer batch of cookies. How and when was Au Revoir Simone formed?

Erika: The band started in the autumn of 2003. We found each other in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and from our first practice (tiny Casios on our laps at my tiny apartment) we knew it was magic! We all really got along and enjoyed spending time together. So, at first the band was an excuse to hang out. We recorded a few demos, realized that our sound was unique, and began playing a lot of small shows all over NY and with all types of bands. Little by little, our commitment to the band grew and now it takes up most of our time (yay!).

JS: Was music as a career something you always hoped to pursue, or was it more serendipitous than that?

Annie: Ever since I was a little kid playing the Casio SK-1, I’ve spent hours and hours playing keyboard. It’s always something I’ve been magnetically drawn to. In fact, I recently found out that my great-grandmother used to do the same thing; just sit and play piano, making up songs as she liked. So, maybe it’s just in my blood. What’s not in my blood is thinking that other people, besides myself, would get such a kick out of hearing what I make that they would actually go and listen to it. It is such an incredible honor to be playing music and to be able to share that with people — and support myself financially doing that. I’m amazed every time I think of it.

Erika: Definitely more serendipitous. My dad is a professional musician, but I was always much better at visual art than music. That being said, I have always felt the need to make things and songs are really important things to make.

Heather: When the band first came together, my only previous music experience to date consisted of singing in my middle school's choir "The Chanterelles" (another French name!), and one-handed Casio renditions of the hits from Michael Jackson's Bad. During high school I had often fantasized about being a drummer in an all girl band (preferably with a Liz Phair-esque singer), but unfortunately, dating drummers was as far as that dream was ever realized. I was more of a drawer/painter/gluing- glitter-and-crap-together type of artist "” the seemingly austere realm of music and composition seemed better left to those who had the patience to not only read, but also write to another language while spending precious after school-hours toiling away at an ancient piece of music under the supervision of some mean wheezy silver-bunned teacher (I learned everything about life from TV). I've since discovered that writing a song provides the same kind of immediate satisfaction as coloring, and neither discipline has strict rules.

JS: Your songs are full of beautiful lyrics — is one of you responsible for those, or do you collaborate?

Annie: It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes one of us has a great idea and just goes for it. Of course, the other members are always welcome to share their opinions and collaborate or suggest changes if they see fit; that’s what makes us a band. Other times we have a little skeleton of an idea and just start saying words and phrases as they come to mind and pick the best ones. For me, it’s really funny and revealing to see how your lyrics end up, because even when you don’t really know what they are about and are just making words that sound good together, it reveals something about your life — whether you knew it or not.

JS: You all sing and play the keyboard and drums. It's strange for a band to work this extensively as a team. How did so many of your talents come to be shared?

Annie: Well, Heather operates the drum machine solo live, and we just bought her a cymbal, so we’ll see where that takes us, but we all collaborate on percussion ideas as we make the beats. We feel so strongly about our music, it makes us so passionate, that we couldn’t not be involved in all aspect of it. It’s more of a compulsion than a desire.

JS: You currently call Brooklyn home. Has this always been the case?

I’m from Brentwood, New York on Long Island, but my relatives on my Mom’s side have lived in Brooklyn or Queens for a few generations.

Erika: I grew up in Boulder Colorado. I've been in New York City for six years.

Heather: I've been tethered to NYC in one way or another for my whole life. My family is from here "” typical Irish and Italian, Queens and Brooklyn, a bit of Staten Island "” but my childhood was spent in New Jersey and Connecticut. In some ways that makes me a small town girl; I've never really left the comforts of this tri-state area.

JS: What does music mean to you?

Annie: What a hard question. Simply, it means sounds that form a melody. Complexly, I could never answer it verbally. It’s just a feeling. You know it and how it makes you feel.

Erika: For me, music is a way of understanding life that is somehow more whole than through words or visual media.

Heather: It's as necessary and enjoyable as food.

JS: Tell us about the making of your music video for "Sad Song." It looks like you had a lot of fun making cookies…

Annie: We did have fun! My former roommate, Brendan Colthust, started a company with his friends called Disposable Television. They do incredible work! So, with those guys and a bunch of amazing volunteer helpers, we shot it in a friend’s apartment/Disposable’s office, doing our own hair and makeup and stuff. It was so fun to have collaborated with such a kind and talented group of friends, except for one thing: we spent so much time filming the cookie making that all sorts of stuff got into the batter, and we weren’t really following a recipe, so they tasted really gross. I think if you look closely you can see I am thinking “Hmmm … that cookie tastes really … interesting …” in the manner of one who is asked point blank about an untalented friend’s art project. Except it was our own art project.

Erika: I enjoyed kicking the smoke machine in slow-mo.

Heather: My best friend, Anjali, choreographed the dance scene, which I think is one of the things that makes the video really stand out. It was really hard to do! But so fun. Anjali was heavily inspired by Bollywood films at the time. In fact, there is a scene from "Devdas" featuring the stunningly hypnotic talents of Madhuri Dixit that I'm pretty sure Anjali borrowed from. Our dresses were designed by our good friend, Samantha Pleet, who always comes through for us in the style department. We're definitely lucky to have talented friends who like to work with us.

JS: Au Revoir Simone has been very well received abroad. Do you find that your fans experience your music differently overseas?

Annie: I don’t know. I’ll have to ask them.

Erika: Its definitely possible. I think I perform differently overseas actually. Something about feeling "far away."

Heather: Well, I know that some of our friends in foreign bands have said that about performing in the US, so perhaps it's true that it would be the same for us performing there.

JS: If you weren't musicians, what would you be?

Annie: Doing something goody-goody — probably doing research for a non-profit.

Erika: Maybe designing wallpaper or clothes or helping someone on a farm.

Heather: I have another life I'm taking baby steps in "” I'm (slowly!) getting a degree in astronomy.

JS: Who built your website "“- we love it!

Annie: You have to check out Matthew Daniel Siskin’s company called Designed Memory. He is so talented.

JS: Can you spill any exciting Au Revoir Simone news/upcoming tour info?

Annie: We’re taking it easy to write our next record, but we will play some shows in August in Europe.

Picture Credits, (from top): Flora Hanitijo, Kate Merrick, Rod Sherwood, Bertie