"It's a PG show," laughs lyricist Amanda Spring. "They're discovering romantic love, but it's an innocent love."
Spring, a singer and drummer for dreamily atmospheric indie-rock band Point Juncture, WA, wrote Aika & Rose with poet and fellow musician Tai Carmen. A few years ago, Spring put on an instrumental Japanese pop album she'd found at a used-record shop. The sounds of that 1968 LP—resonant bamboo flute, deliberately plucked strings, meandering melodies—evoked a story for Spring and Carmen. They imagined two teenage girls, one Japanese and one American, meeting in a dusty, one-stoplight Midwestern town and falling in love underneath the cover of an abandoned orchard. Both fans of science fiction, Carmen and Spring decided to swirl the romance with supernatural elements, including a water goddess in psychedelic face makeup who serves as the narrator.
The sung-through musical has three vocalists: Carmen and Spring play the star-crossed teen lovers, and Aika's controlling mother is performed by Sara Hernandez, known for her booming, throaty vocals in garage-pop trio Fault Lines. They're backed by a seven-piece band, all friends of the co-writers. Almost everyone involved—they've been rehearsing nearly every Sunday for a year—is a veteran musician, but few have theater experience. Aika & Rose, accordingly, doesn't sound like Rodgers and Hammerstein. It has no jazz-hands choreography. Its drums are harder, its horns bigger, and there's Japanese inflection in the woodwinds and baritone ukulele. Some songs are sinister; others angsty; a few lilt and sway gleefully.
For Spring, the experience of writing songs for fictional characters has been liberating. "It removes a certain amount of ego from songwriting," she says. "If you play in a band in town, people expect you to be singing about yourself. To remove that element allows the creativity to flow more freely. I think I've had more fun writing the songs for this musical than any music I've ever written."
SEE IT: Aika & Rose is at the Headwaters, 55 NE Farragut St., No. 9, outworldtheater.com. 7:30 pm Thursdays, Jan. 16 and 23; 7:30 and 9:30 pm Fridays, Jan. 17 and 24; 2 and 7:30 pm Saturdays, Jan. 18 and 25; and 2 pm Sunday, Jan. 19. $12-$15.