Evoking magic and nostalgia with 'dreamy electronic pop', Brooklyn's all-girl all-keyboard trio, Au Revoir Simone, have the world head-over-heels for their idiosyncratic sound. With songs inspired by love, life and thoughts in motion, what may have begun as a side project (and way to celebrate the oft-forgotten keyboard) for creators and best friends Erika Forster, Heather D'Angelo and Annie Hart, soon took on a life of its own. With a much-lauded mini and full-length album behind them, the lithe and long-locked three are currently in the studio weaving a new collection of poetic melodies for their upcoming album, due out early in the new year. On a rare grey morning in the New York summer, the charmingly effusive Erika Forster chatted to Indigo Clarke about The Beatles, girls' nights and PeeWee Herman movies.
Russh: Hi Erika, so how did Au Revoir Simone come about?
Erika Forster: We all met in our neighbourhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in October 2003. I was playing in a band with Annie's boyfriend, now husband, we had an idea to do an all keyboard band and do covers of songs using only keyboards. It was a fun and accessible way to start making music and we got all our instruments from garage sales and from friends, it was a very organic beginning. Heather's been a friend for years, she had a real enthusiasm about being in the band too. It wasn't serious at first, we'd get together once a week and our practices were almost like girls nights, but they soon became our favourite thing in our lives.
Russh: Au Revoir Simone is such a cute name, and I heard it's a line from a Peewee Herman film – why did it resonate with you?
Erika: We were searching for a name, and then Heather found it. We liked it straight away and thought it sounded sweet – but now after watching 'PeeWee's Big Adventure' a million times, the name has so much more meaning for us. It's from a scene in the film where PeeWee says to the character Simone that she should leave her dead-end waitressing job and follow her dreams, which is to go to Paris. It sounds cheesy, but I feel it resonates with our band and what we are about.
Russh: And did you start performing live straight away?
Erika: We started playing shows just a couple of months after forming. We would play at friends parties and small gigs, we did a New Years Eve party which was fun. Each time we'd play more people would come and we realised our little side project had become something real.
Russh: By this stage had you released your first mini-album 'Verses in Comfort, Assurance and Salvation'?
Erika: We had recorded our eight-song mini-album on our own, with hand-printed covers. We sold them at gigs and at small record stores around New York. There were also some record stores in Amsterdam and Tokyo that would contact us and we'd sell our albums through them.
Russh: So very early on you attracted a fan-base for your whimsical, electronic pop sound… how would you actually describe your music?
Erika: If I had to give it a genre I'd say 'dreamy electronic pop' – the fact we make music exclusively with keyboards and drum machines means our sound evokes other eras of electronic music, like the 80s, although we're not referencing any particular genre. Then our vocals are feminine and our songs are often nostalgic and about love, which contrasts with the electronic sound.
Russh: Is the songwriting a collaborative process? And what do you find you write your songs about?
Erika: Yes writing is very collaborative, each one of us come in with an idea and we'll all work on it together. As for inspirations, I think for all of us songwriting has become a way of processing thoughts. When you're mind won't quieten down about a topic, it's a nice opportunity to work through it by writing. Life isn't black and white, it's a lot more open and blurred than that and songwriting is a good way to address it – to just be able to think about things and not necessarily have to find solutions. Often times we'll come up with song ideas when we're in a meditative state – there is a softness to thoughts on the world when you're looking out the window on a train or when you're riding a bike. I've heard this with other songwriter's too – the idea of being inspired while in motion.
Russh: Growing up surrounded by music and with a musician father, were you always drawn to making music?
Erika: My dad being a musician really allowed me to see being in a band as something attainable, and something you can make a career out of. I grew up meeting a lot of musicians, so the world of music didn't seem closed off to me. All three of us were music freaks growing up, and into quite different things. Heather was into dramatic, epic musicians like Tori Amos, I'm a massive Beatles fan and was definitely into a lot of rock and electronic, and Annie was in the hardcore punk scene, which was pretty intense and male dominated. I love going out and seeing new bands, all around Brooklyn there have been these pop-up venues with bands playing, New York in the summer is so great for that.
Russh: Being such a music fan, what is it you love best about creating music?
Erika: Definitely being in this group is the best thing about making music for me. Having the experience of turning a glimmer of an idea into a song with the other girls is amazing. We have a very intuitive relationship with each other, and just have so much fun. Just last week we demo'd a new song – at first it didn't sound like much but by the end of the day with all of us working on it, it sounded complete. Making songs for me is like planting a seed and watching it grow.
Russh: It's so exciting that you'll be releasing your second full-length soon… how is it coming along?
Erika: It is very exciting! End of August we hope to have finished recording it, and it will be released in January. We are just going to spend as long as it takes to finish it, we have 13 songs we like right now, but it's always in flux. I thought it was going in a more folk direction, but now it's almost becoming quite experimental. Our ideas are getting bigger and we are looking at things on a grander scale, we are definitely getting better as musicians, growing in confidence and becoming braver.
Russh: Your music is so dreamlike and evocative, and as a trio you are the perfect visual accompaniment – so pretty and playfully dressed. How much of a role does fashion and dressing-up play for you, Annie and Heather?
Erika: The worlds of fashion and music are separate but connected. It's not part of our band or what we do, but in terms of being a performer it's fun to play with clothing and fashion as it expresses aspects of your personality in the same way that music does. We all love fashion because of that sense of magic and nostalgia it can evoke.
Russh: Your sound and style definitely has a sense of nostalgia and wonder to it… Do you feel connected or drawn to other eras, like the 60s and 70s?
Erika: Yes, growing up I'd always wished I could be living in the 60s – I always romanticised that era. I recently watched the 70s 'Great Gatsby' with Mia Farrow – I have a real obsession with the 70s interpretations of the past, and the 70s looking back to the 20s is one my favourite visuals. In my neighbourhood in Brooklyn there are so many different styles, kids adopting so many looks – some look as though they have just stepped out of the past.
Russh: I heard you played at a fashion show during Paris Fashion Week this year…
Erika: This past January we were in Paris for the label, Ivana Helsinki, it's a really sweet brand with a great description of the woman they design for: 'a girl seeking magic in the world'. We played while the models walked, and then a short concert afterwards… it was fun, and was inside a super-posh Parisian hotel. I love Paris, the last time we were there was when we toured Europe with Air last year – that band are so incredibly creative and interesting.
Russh: Where do you love to shop and what are some of your favourite labels? I know you like Australian labels Mine and Lover…
Erika: All three of us are about feeling comfortable and feminine. I love Mine – I just ordered two dresses from the latest collection! We are all fans of Lover, Chloe and Philip Lim. I shop a lot of vintage, oh and. A.P.C is great – it's that French style where you can feel sexy in something understated and modest.
Russh: You have built up a strong, and eclectic, audience around the world – with amazing people like David Lynch obsessed with your dreamy tunes. How does it feel to have found success doing something you love?
Erika: It is truly amazing. I was talking to my dad the other day, and he said he had met a couple in their sixties that listen to our album every day. This means so much to us, to be a part of someone's life in that way. We often feel so lucky in the choice that we made to work together and do what we love. The music we make is positive and honest, and to share this with people is such a blessing. Creating a new album and knowing that we have an audience now that are waiting for it feels wonderful. It's just so wild that our lives have taken this turn, and that we've had the opportunity to share what we love with the world – and having people support is such a strong motivating force to keep creating and playing our music.