MusicMusic Features

Azure Ray 2.0

“Hiatus†may be the scariest word in band lingo. The term carries more questions than answers, suggesting an indefinite break void of finality that leaves any fan worried things may never work out for the group again.

Naturally, it’s nice when it does work out, as it did for Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink, who, together, make up Los Angeles-via-Omaha-via-Athens-via-Birmingham dream-pop duo Azure Ray. Having worked together since the mid-‘90s, the pair split amicably in 2004 to focus on solo careers and explore other collaborations, unsure when—or if—Azure Ray was to be again.

“Maria and I had been each other’s [sole] collaborators since 1996,†says Fink. “We both felt like we wanted to explore some solo work and some work outside of Azure Ray, but decided we would go back to Azure Ray when the time was right. We just decided to let the universe tell us when that was.â€

The universe came calling in 2008, and Fink and Taylor gathered for songwriting sessions at Taylor’s L.A. home, penning the tunes that would eventually become 2010’s Drawing Down the Moon.

“We had to decide how to approach [working together again], and what we decided to do was really dive into what we were, even thinking about the very first record we had done together and trying to find that approach again in a new context,†says Fink. “We wanted to bring in the strengths that we had developed apart, but didn’t want [it] to sound like either of our solo works.â€

In the process of reconnection—both during Drawing Down the Moon and the collaborations that have led to the new record As Above So Below—Fink wasn’t surprised to find that nothing much had changed in the duo’s working relationship.

“Maria still has an insanely developed sense of pop sensibility and melody, and I think that’s her strong suit. Mine is more of the dark, on-the-floor numbers,†she says. “But the combination of those two creates something special. And then for us to collaborate on each other’s songs pulls them into this beautiful middle ground…â€

Certain things had changed, of course. Fink married in 2005; her husband, The Faint singer Todd Fink (formerly Baechle), co-produced As Above So Below alongside longtime Athenian/Azure Ray collaborator Andy LeMaster. Meanwhile, Taylor gave birth to a boy earlier this year. As the new album took shape, the duo’s sound morphed and matured, as well. As Above So Below is a departure of sorts for Azure Ray, featuring a decided focus on the somewhat untested territory of electronic-based production.

“Once we reestablished us working together, we started thinking that now we could do something completely different,†says Fink. “[Todd and Andy] wanted to go in an electronic vein for this one… We had dabbled in electronic stuff, but had never really done a lot of it. We wrote and arranged the month before we went into the studio, in this really boot camp sort of production month at Maria’s house. We worked on the ideas we had—tried to transform them into full pieces and get some ideas about how we were going to approach the [music].â€

Comfortable even in new sonic territory, As Above So Below has Azure Ray feeling like it never missed a beat—and, thankfully, it seems, version 2.0 is here to stay.

“It was one of those things where you look back and say, ‘Oh, that just happened,’†laughs Fink. “We decided we didn’t want it to be a rush or a hard experience; we wanted it to be really drawn out. Giving ourselves that freedom and time really made it a magical experience. It was a really magical collaboration.â€


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