By Cam LindsayIs there anything more disheartening for a music fan than to fall in love with a band via a terrific debut album and then see them vanish without a blog post, status update or tweet explaining what happened? That was how it felt for Autolux fans after the band finished touring their first album (which included a stint opening arenas for Nine Inch Nails), 2004's Future Perfect. At the time they were signed to Oscar-winning musician T-Bone Burnett's DMZ label, a Sony imprint that eventually dissolved. Although they were moved over to Epic, the L.A.-based trio of Carla Azar, Greg Edwards and Eugene Goreshter quickly found themselves becoming the ultimate cliché. However, it was freedom they were in search of, and soon after they were released by the major, they were able to get back into the studio. While they only made the odd appearance as a guest at an ATP festival or on records by UNKLE and PJ Harvey and John Parish, Autolux were always on somebody's lips, thanks to friends like Thom Yorke, the Flaming Lips, Portishead, Trent Reznor and even the Coen Brothers name-dropping them. Now they've resurfaced with a new album, a new label and a new perspective. With so many ups and downs over the last half-decade, you might expect Transit Transit to mark some kind of shake up in the band's sound, but their sophomore record isn't much of a departure from Future Perfect. The music is still noir and ominous, but they've tightened up their core strengths like Azar's rhythms, which are as complex as ever but not so disorienting, and the tandem vocals of Edwards and Goreshter remain beguiling but far more melodic. Obviously, this time away made them a stronger band. Exclaim! caught up with Carla Azar as she was driving through Los Angeles to get their side of what went on over the last few years, whether they contemplated breaking up and the importance of driving and talking with a hands-free set.
Are you driving right now? Azar: I am driving.
I'd just hate for you to be in an accident on my account. Well, it'd be a good end to your story.
Yeah, but hopefully it doesn't have to come to that. So tell me, why did it take so long to put out this new record, Transit Transit? We had some obstacles along the way. It's so boring, but we finished our touring on the last record. We toured for a year and a half, since the end of 2004. At one point in 2006 we stopped touring and found ourselves stuck on a label. We were on T-Bone Burnett's DMZ but he parted ways with Sony and they moved us over to Epic. Nobody signed us to Epic, so no one knew what to do with us. People were getting fired, people were changing, so there was no talk about paying for us to go into the studio and make a new record. We were in limbo for a year and a half. But finally at the end of 2007, they finally dropped us after our manager begged them to let us go. Thankfully we managed to buy back our first record, Future Perfect, from them. We decided to reconvene and make the record ourselves. So we made that decision and bought some equipment and instead of making another record with T-Bone, which was easy, it was three of us making it together and it wasn't easy. No one else was involved. It was a very difficult record to make. But we were free to make whatever record we wanted to make. There was a lot of emotional stress at that point. After we finished the record we wanted to find the right label, but that took time. Eventually we found the labels we were comfortable with and now it's coming out. That's the long, boring answer.
How often were the people at Epic getting back to you with answers? Well, it wasn't about getting answers. The A&R guy that was assigned to us just wasn't responding to anything. He would say, "I just want to make sure you guys make the right record." Which is a pretty strange thing to say to a band like us. A lot of majors, especially the one we were dealing with, were only concerned with writing singles and hits. We're not a band that writes singles and hits. If we happen to write them it'll happen, but we don't set out to write that kind of music. We make the music we love and hopefully people involved with love it too.
You said this was a difficult record to make. What was the most difficult part? Recording. Engineering our own album. We had a little bit of experience, but everyone in this band would rather dealing with the creative aspect of recording instead of the technical. A lot of the time that got taken away just hitting the drum to get the right sounds for hours. By the time it actually gets to playing the music you're burnt out and tired. With someone else recording you can just walk in, record and think about playing the music, only.