Illustration by Christel Escosa
Everyone seems to have a bit of a crush on all-girl keyboard trio Au Revoir Simone; consisting of pretty girls that epitomise geek and their self-proclaimed ‘sandbox’ chic.
They're like a perfectly whipped pavlova: light, fluffy and crunchy, topped with some smooth cream and a bit of tangy fruit. As leggy and willowy as their music are Annie, Erika and Heather. With 5 keyboards, an omni-chord, a drum machine and a glockenspiel amongst other miscellaneous electronic paraphernalia, their synth-driven compositions are quite delectable.
After meeting on a train home to New York City, Annie (keys and vox) and Erika (ditto) bonded over keyboards. Whilst previously in a band called ‘Dirty On Purpose’, Heather (on the drum machine, keyboards and vocals) bought her first synth and it apparently changed her life. Their combined ambition for triple keyboard action culminated in a regular bedroom bash around on the keys that inevitably progressed from the girls just jamming together, to a more concerted effort.
For some reason, despite being from America - whatever you might define ‘American’ female indie-pop as sounding like – Au Revoir Simone don’t come across as ‘American’. Daydreamy and romantic in both music and appearance, listening to them gets one feeling rather sentimental. Their songs are strangely conflicting; with melancholic lyrics yet warm and airy melodies, twirled gracefully into wistful Casio concoctions.
Often minimal and lo-fi, Au Revoir Simone somehow comes across as quite orchestral, with delicately woven soundscapes that are both ponderous and playful. This ménage a trois of keyboards will warm the cockles of every Casio-tone aficionado’s heart with their speculative and candy-coloured music. Blushingly flirtatious, Au Revoir Simone is a winsome trio producing lucid and luminous pop.
Here's the chat we had with Annie below.
Photography by Richard Kelly
Firstly, who is Simone and why are we saying bye to her?
She's a waitress from the Tim Burton movie, 'Pee Wee's Big Adventure', and she's on her way to Paris when Pee Wee says goodbye to her. It's a quite hopeful, romantic, and silly scene.
What was the process you guys went through to come up with your latest album? What is it ultimately about?
We started by sharing our song ideas with each other and turning them into songs. When we got bored of that we would spontaneously write songs together. It was quite fun, but seriously time consuming. It took us about a year to write all the songs (and a couple extra that didn't make it on the record) and then another 3 months recording them. We are quite meticulous.
Do you still live in Brooklyn ? What's it like there now after it's settled into it's hype status?
I do still live in Brooklyn. It's been steadily changing since I moved there in 2002. At that time, we only had one tall building that had been around for at least 60 years, and now the whole waterfront is filled with super tall condominiums. Due to the collapse in the economy last year, things have thankfully ground to pretty much a halt in the yuppification department and settled into an easier routine. But despite the physical changes, it's still largely a community of artist-types with a loving music community of friends.
How do you feel about everyone talking more about your image/aura rather than your music?
I don't know. We get mainly asked questions by interviewers and fans about our songs so I think maybe that's not an accurate question, though our appearance certainly is brought up quite a bit.
How was working with Aeroplane on the best remix of the decade?
We love that song! We didn't exactly work with Aeroplane on the remix. In fact, we didn't meet them or Friendly Fires until much after we recorded the song. We were just doing backing tracks in a studio in New York for Friendly Fires (whose album was being mixed while the band was in the UK) and had so much fun singing along. Only a little bit of what we recorded ended up in the FF version, but Aeroplane found the tracks buried in the tracks when they were doing the remix and thought it would be cool to change the feeling.
We had the pleasure of meeting Vito and Stephan from Aeroplane a few days ago in Paris when we recorded a song with them. They wrote the chords and melody and we wrote the words while on a plane from Helsinki to London. They are so sweet and easy to work with.
So you have also worked with Shinichi Osawa too, what do you think is it about you guys that makes these electronic producers want to work with you?
I'm not sure, but I'm quite happy about it. Shinichi-san is an insanely talented and kind human being. He's got such an aura around him and we are happy to be a part of any project he'd like us to be involved in.
Do you know Metronomy - 3 boys on keyboards - what do you think of their music?
Metronomy are friends of ours and we love their music with an unparalleled ardor. We DJ it as much as possible, sing it in the tour van together, and coo over their posters when we see them at venues. The only problem with them is I am a little jealous because they have better moves.
How long have you been together?
When you began doing music it would have been a highly unusual combination to create a band with 3 singers playing the same 3 instruments. How did you come to the realisation that you wanted to do that?
That was the original idea for the band. It just seemed fun to have a celebration of keyboards and friends singing together. It was quite anarchistic, consensus-based decision making at it's best. We're still happy with our formula and get so excited about sound.
Do you still have day jobs/do other things?
We do do other things, but not really for money. We don't have the time to commit to steady-paying jobs. But I do bookkeeping for a photographer every once in a while, play in 2 other bands (Uninhabitable Mansions and Purse Snatchers), knit, garden, watch way too many bands play, and most of all, answer emails and do work for the band.
Being an all girl trio, do you find people treat you differently in the industry as opposed to if there was a man involved?
I'm not sure. But it feels the same as when I'm with other bands, so I guess mostly no.
Since you began in the industry, what's the thing that has changed the most from then to now, in your experiences of it?
Things have steadily gotten more DIY and internet-based. When we started Myspace wasn't even around really, and bloggers were just starting to become a phenomenon. Now we have YouTube and Facebook and a gazillion and a half blogs to help bands get noticed. It's really democratic.
Photography by Richard Kelly
Can you tell us, for you, what would be the ultimate review of your music would say, in one line?
If you like music, you'll love Au Revoir Simone.
And in case y'all STILL haven't gotten it, here's that amazing remix for you: