Taylor: Azure Stray
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: July 27, 2005
w/ Statistics, Taylor Hollingsworth
July 29, 9 p.m.
13th & Martha
Before the release of her solo album, 11:11,
Maria Taylor's future seemed forever merged with Orenda Fink's,
the other half of folk-rock duo Azure Ray.
After all, the life-long friends had been playing together for
13 years, over which time they created a body of quiet, moody and
sensual music that's become a staple on college campuses as well
as the occasional TV show on The WB.
So why after all that time are the two parting ways? "We decided
that we've been working together for so long, that like anything,
you know when you need to take a break," Taylor said from Buffalo,
N.Y., where she and her band were enjoying a day off to check out
Niagara Falls. "We needed to try something different. We felt
like we were hitting a dead end."
So instead they made a u-turn with
two very different solo recordings. Taylor's was the first, released
in May on their label, Saddle Creek Records. Baring the superstitious
name 11:11, the CD's music throbs and pounds and breathes
with a beauty that pops more than whimpers. While bestowed with
the usual Azure Ray glow that naturally radiates from the duo's
strong melodies and rich harmonies, Taylor's songs aren't afraid
to quietly rock, like on the throbbing, trip-hoppy opener "Leap
Year," the droning, ethereal "Xanax" and the floating,
romantic "Birmingham 1982" that comes complete with a
gorgeous spy-guitar solo.
Though she had plenty of help from the usual cast of Saddle Creek
regulars including Conor Oberst, Andy LeMaster, Gretta Cohn and
Mike Mogis, Taylor handled guitar, piano and drums on most of the
tracks herself, and said that the sessions were more demanding than
past Azure Ray sessions.
"The way Orenda and I do it, when my songs are in the studio
she'll take a break, and vice versa," Taylor said. "This
time I was in there the whole time playing most of the instruments
and singing all the backups."
Helping out on bass was little brother Macey Taylor, who along
with little sister, Kate, plays in Taylor's touring band (along
with Statistics frontman Denver Dalley). Having her siblings along
on the road has helped Taylor deal with the vulnerability that comes
from being without Fink on stage.
"We needed to try something different.
We felt like we were hitting a dead end."
| || |
"It's been incredible to find out
that we have the same sense of humor. It's cool to know that
we came from the same two people."
"In some respects, it's more
relaxing," Taylor said. "These songs are not as heavy
(as Azure Ray songs), and I get to rock out and play electric guitar
so I'm not as nervous. Playing music with my brother and sister
was always in the back of my mind, but I wasn't sure if we would
bicker or argue. They're younger than me, and I moved out when I
was 18 so we really didn't know each other. It's been incredible
to find out that we have the same sense of humor. It's cool to know
that we came from the same two people."
Not to be out-done, Fink's CD, Invisible Ones, will be released
on Saddle Creek Records Aug. 23 and also takes a different path
than Azure Ray. So have Taylor and Fink heard each others' CDs?
"We didn't listen to the demos," Taylor said. "We
got together right after they were recorded and mastered and gave
each other a day to listen to them, then told each other our favorite
songs. We love each other's music; I knew I would like it. It's
different. Some songs are more influenced by her traveling, which
is really interesting and something I could never contribute to."
In addition to being the first "real" Omaha show for
Maria Taylor as a solo artist (she doesn't count a last-minute gig
at The Goofy Foot earlier this year), the July 29 Sokol Underground
show also is the last gig of this tour. Afterward, she plans on
taking a month and a half off before heading to Europe for five
weeks of dates. "And after that, I don't know," she said.
"Maybe there'll be a bigger tour out there that I could open
for. If I'm lucky I'll start writing again. I don't write when I'm
And what about the future of Azure Ray? "Who knows,"
she said. "We may do another album in the future or maybe we'll
continue doing our own thing. We'll take it day to day. I could
see it happening again in the future, but I could also see it not
Published in The Omaha Reader July 27, 2005.
Copyright © 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.