Published Mar 05, 2013Space and distance are integral factors for Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Agor of Blue Hawaii, whose new album, Untogether, drops today (March 5) courtesy of Arbutus Records. Though there were uncontrollable circumstances the couple dealt with while Raph was on tour with Braids and Agor was criss-crossing the pond, these elements remained on their minds when they came together to record their latest joint effort.
"Because of the concept of us being separated, things being cut up and the way our music scene had developed and changed, all the broken things we had been experiencing at the time made it so appropriate for us to make the record this way," Agor tells Exclaim!
Adds Raph, "We just didn't need to do it together, we didn't need to talk. I would get into a much more meditative state when I was alone."
The fittingly titled Untogether sounds as fractured as the process was, with songs cut and chopped into fine little parts that were then reworked and layered on top of each other to create a pleasantly smooth, glacial iciness to each song.
"I just kept taking the vocal parts and putting new chords under it and chopping it up," Agor explains. "It was just this crazy process and it was interesting. It was like song-writing, but looking back at songs constantly."
Songs would often go through numerous rewrites before completion, which left the duo feeling free to explore textures and sounds, riding a fine line between creating ambience and composing actual songs.
As Agor points outs, "Untogether straddles that sound. There are a lot of textural pieces, but then, even though you can't hear the lyrics, there are a good number of songs there where you can just play the chords and sing the songs because, after all, we do have strong songs."
Live, though, the duo felt constricted by their sound. After performing most of their 2010 debut, Blooming Summer, in a fairly straightforward manner, they wanted to ensure that they could combine their new songs into a set that was fun for them to play.
"Because we're only two people, we had to sample a lot and we felt like silly puppets," Raph says. "We were really embarrassed about it so coming into the second record we just wanted to do as much as we could onstage and be okay having a departure from the songs on the record."
Those hoping for a by-the-books interpretation of Untogether in concert will be sorely disappointed. Songs are even more sliced up and remixed as the pair churns out a show that plays out more like a DJ set than a live concert, often enlisting more improv than performance.
"I want to move away from the band element and move more towards a DJ-inspired set," Raph explains of her aspirations with Blue Hawaii.
The singer isn't foreign to being in an actual band, though, fronting the indie dream-pop band Braids, who are also releasing a new album this spring. When asked how she plans on balancing the two acts, Raph responds, "with great endurance and focus!" Admitting that the overlap of touring is going to be a "big cluster-fuck of scheduling," she hopes to perform with both Blue Hawaii and Braids in the upcoming months, but would never consider combining the two.
"I would not want to do that at all," she says, having experienced that combination once before. "I don't want it to be like the Raph experience — you better like me! It would just be very exhausting and I like keeping the projects separate."
As previously reported, Blue Hawaii will be on the road around North America in support of Untogether. You can see all their tour dates here.