By Kevin Bronson
There are fans who would go to the end of the earth to hear the new album from Autolux. So when you're offered a chance to talk to the Los Angeles trio about that album and they suggest meeting at the Griffith Observatory's Café at the End of the Universe, you think: Yeah, perfect.
On a hazy, warm afternoon in the Hollywood Hills, bassist Eugene Goreshter, drummer Carla Azar and guitarist Greg Edwards review the past — from the evolution of their acclaimed debut “Future Perfect” way back in 2004 to their current state of limbo — and acknowledge that while maybe that future wasn't so perfect, they are optimistic.
“I'm optimistic all right,” Edwards says wryly. “I'm optimistic that it will be a great weight off my shoulders to finally get this record out.”
The new album, Transit Transit, will not be released until 2010, to the probable chagrin of a fanbase so devoted it is supporting a band that hasn't released any new music in five years on a national headlining tour (including a date tonight at the El Rey Theatre).
It will be worth the wait. Transit Transit is the sound of Autloux moving forward into even more genre-defying, boundary-stretching territory. It's futuristic art-rock in the most artistic sense, counterposing the atonal with the melodic, fastidious in its brushstrokes and luxuriant lyrically.
How the new album will be released is still up in the air. “We're still in the process of solidifying a record label,” Azar says. “We're not freaked out about it — we have a tour, and things will work themselves out.”
Besides, the trio makes it sound like one of life's little miracles that Future Perfect became the phenomenon it did. The band had one self-produced EP to its credit when Grammy-winning producer T-Bone Burnett discovered them. “T-Bone saw us playing to 20 people at Spaceland,” Azar remembers, “and the next thing I know he's helping us load off stage.”
Future Perfect emerged on the DMZ label, an imprint founded by Burnett and cinema auteurs the Coen Brothers, through Columbia Records. “It was like a Trojan horse,” Edwards says. “Nobody at the label knew we existed for a year and a half.”
But DMZ dissolved, and after a year and a half of touring the band returned to L.A. to find it had little in the way of creative advocates on the business side, and a few fringe benefits had vanished.
Says Azar: “It's not easy coming off a world-class T-Bone Burnett recording session and then going into a rehearsal space in Glassell Park and trying to record yourself.”
So aside from wrestling with which material to preserve from the first writing session, and with penning new material, the trio fussed (and fussed) over constructing precisely the right soundscapes. “It was extremely painful to do,” Azar says. “I want to worry about the creative process — I don't want to worry about getting sounds, because we're all pretty picky about sounds.”
As they have in the past, Autolux looked to film and books for inspiration, frequently jamming in the rehearsal space while an art film played on a nearby computer screen. Far from their minds was any notion of repeating “Future Perfect,” or even fretting over building a bridge to their early work.
“It's weird when you have a strong sonic identity,” Azar says. “It might briefly sound like more of the same, but it starts out in one shape and then it grows other arms and limbs.”
“Whatever it is we're likely to evoke with our music,” Edwards adds, “it's not likely we're trying to do an about-face.”