Autolux: Just doing what feels right
The members of the Los Angeles-based electro trio Autolux were “traditionalists” when it came to assembling the songs on their new album Pussy’s Dead, which is produced by BOOTS. They paid careful attention to sequencing and enlisted Aussie artist Anthony Lister to make sure the album cover art matched the music. “Soft Scene,” a song that pairs Portishead-like trip-hop with noisy guitars and metallic-sounding percussion while “Change My Head” mixes Beatles harmonies with Nirvana-inspired vocals. The tunes suggest the group’s singular approach. During a phone interview from a Little Rock tour stop, drummer Carla Azar talked about the band’s approach on the album, the first on the new imprint run by uber-producer Danger Mouse.
What inspired you to call your new album Pussy’s Dead?
The title actually comes from a Charles Dickens’ novel. Greg, who’s singing on the majority of this record, was in a used bookstore and was looking at The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was the last Dickens had written and he died before he finished it. There’s a character in the book and her nickname was Pussy. It was a very common nickname at the time. He was thumbing through it and it was an odd thing, especially from that era. He kept seeing the word and it was attached to phrases like “I would give up all the women in the world for pussy.” He saw “Pussy’s dead” and it hit him emotionally. I think it was about “Pussy’s dead grandfather.” The words hit him and he thought it was funny and just liked it. It was on a list when we were making the record. That was the only thing to us that made sense. It felt different for us. No one would expect something like that. It was a pop modern title for us at the time.
I like the artwork on the cover. Where did that come from?
It’s a great artist named Anthony Lister. He’s a street artist from Australia. He’s getting quite big now. He does gallery shows. He’s been a friend of ours for years. We knew that we wanted him to do the artwork. He painted that painting and that was what he saw. When we saw it, it immediately seemed right.
The album’s coming out on Danger Mouse’s label. Talk about how you ended up signing to the label.
We were on two smaller labels at the time. Our last record was mixed by Danger Mouse’s engineer. This record, we wanted to work with him again. When he was mixing some things, Danger Mouse was in the room and immediately asked if he could meet with us. Boots was producing it and we were almost finished. He had us come into his studio. We played him the whole album and we all sat there quietly and he turned around and said he wanted us to be the first signing. He didn’t need to listen more than once. It was that simple.
When did the songwriting process start? Did you find the songs started to go in any one particular direction?
I had recorded on [Jack White’s] Blunderbuss album and toured with him in 2012. In between touring, we wrote a bit that year. After the tour, I did a film for a couple of months. It was something I couldn’t turn down. Most of the writing occurred during 2013 and there are a few older songs but most happened during that time. We just picked the best material. We didn’t have a plan for the style or direction. We just wrote and were in the moment.
Where did you go to record?
We recorded a lot at Vox Studios in L.A. It’s a privately owned studio. It’s incredible. We did some overdubs and recording at our studio that used to be Danger Mouse’s studio. We didn’t even know him at that point.
The band formed in 2001 in Los Angeles. How did the group come together? Did you always plan on singing?
I never planned on singing. I sang one song on the first record and two on the second and there’s more on this record. It was never a plan. I would have a melody idea and sing it and my other two bandmates would tell me to sing on it.
Are you comfortable doing it now?
I’m much more comfortable now. I don’t run away from calling myself a singer or saying that I sing.
I wouldn’t think of T-Bone Burnett as a fan of the group. How did he come to discover the band? What was it like working with him as a producer on Future Perfect?
He is a very modern person. He’s always has his finger on the pulse of what is going on in the present and future. I had worked with him on some film stuff and his solo record. We had gotten to know each other because he would hire me to play drums and percussion. When I told him I was starting a band, he wanted to come to a show. I was nervous about it because I didn’t know if he would like us. He came to one of our first shows. I think there nine people there. He was the first person on stage to help us load out and wanted to sign us to a label he was starting. He’s a very deep musician and person. He brings a lot to any musician who comes in contact with him. He has a lot of knowledge, history, past present and future. It was wonderful working with him.
You self-produced your second album, Transit Transit. What was that experience like?
We did, not by any choice. We didn’t know the right person to produce that record. We needed somebody like BOOTS who could give it full attention and felt like he was part of the band. He was a fan from the beginning. He knew all of our songs and could play all of them. It was a no brainer and he brought a lot to the table on top of it. I wish he were around on the second record. That would have made it different.
Do you think of the band as a band that musicians would like?
There are very respected musicians who happen to like us and I feel very lucky about that.
You seem to release an album every six years. Do you think you’ll ever start releasing them a bit faster?
It’s not a plan to release an album every six years. If I hadn’t toured with Jack White, the record would have come out a few years ago, but at the same time Boots wouldn’t have produced it because we didn’t know him then. I think now that we have someone who can work quickly and who’s very organized, I think thing swill go faster in the future. Just today, we started talking about the next album. We want to be ahead this time.
Upcoming 2016 Shows
Boston, MA @ Middle East Downstairs
New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
Toronto, Ontario @ Lee’s Palace
Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
Denver, CO @ Urban Lounge
Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Indio, CA @ Coachella Music Festival
Indio, CA @ Coachella Music Festival
George, WA @ Sasquatch! Music Festival
Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie
Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
Berlin, DE @ Lido
London, UK @ ATP Pop-Up Venue