Now that you've hopefully read my profile on the return to the recorded world of art pop duo AU in this week's print edition, I felt it would be good to provide another wrinkle to the story here on Local Cut.
As I said in the piece, the band's new album is coming out on one of Portland's best local record labels Hometapes. But what you might not know is that AU is the first Portland band that Hometapes has brought under its wing.
I wanted to learn a bit more about how the relationship between band and label got started so I reached out to one of the label's owners Sara Padgett Heathcott to learn more. She was kind enough to take some time out of her travels to the east coast on label business (sitting in on recording sessions with Bear In Heaven) to answer some questions about the new AU album and Hometapes' role in bringing it to the people.
Luke said in my interview with him that he's known you guys for a while and been a fan of the label and the records you put out, so I understand the decision for AU to sign with Hometapes from that perspective, but what made you want to pursue the band for the label? Are you simply fans of the band or was it aslo a bit of a decision to lay down some more Portland roots with a local band?
We were fans of AU when we moved here. That love pre-dated our geography. We made it out to a few shows and kept in light touch. When Luke sent us the new record they'd been making, we felt wildly special. We walked into the light as a couple of people who liked this band, who were just happy to hear the next thing. We came out the other end realizing that time and experience had evolved AU, that the music and ideas were beautiful and, like everything on Hometapes, beyond beautiful. We wanted to grab a rope and pull this thing over the mountaintop. The fact that it was born and built in our town magnified all of this, but it didn't define it. The thing about roots: they nestle deep and do their thing while you're busy reaching upward.
Did you have any notes for Luke/Dana during the recording process or did you leave that all in their hands?
We sat and listened to the record together. We talked intricacies, we talked sonics, we talked vibe. We saw -- and see -- our role as supporters and translators. When we first heard "Both Lights" (and it wasn't even named back then, that was one of the conversations we had), we saw a road map. We just ride shotgun, navigate a little, and let Luke and Dana hit the gas.
Luke said it was quite a struggle for him to get this new album and the songs out of himself...did you get that sense at all? If so, were you able to help at all or did you stay out of the way?
We sensed it. When we heard the songs in their near-complete state, they were still mid-spill from Luke's heart, his keys, his speakers. I think that's what we saw in it: total passion, yet still room for us. I like to think our sheer presence allowed the album to finally take shape, to allow Luke to complete the process. We made comments, we exclaimed, we asked questions. In the end, what you make is between you and yourself...but Hometapes is built on the idea that the context does matter. The people, the packaging, the angle of the light. We're in the room. In the way, out of the way.
Were you absolutely overjoyed when you heard the finished record?
We've been through stages of joy. I think we were overjoyed when we heard the first rough mix. To hear the final master...well, that's like floating. I cried listening to the LP lacquer master references with Luke.
Luke was very clear - and somewhat concerned - that AU is basically returning to the music world as almost an entirely new entity to people. Especially considering the length of time between this new album and the last full-length the band need. Is that a concern of yours? Does that make it more difficult to promote or to get people excited about the album?
AU's timeline is a reality. But, to be true, this world changes every day. Three years is three months is three days. I am excited about the fact that we get to reveal AU now. Those who know them will be stoked. Those who don't, and there are definitely more of them, are about to receive a gift. I like to think we've learned how to help the world unwrap these things and call them theirs.....be it on a vinyl record, in a little blue folder on their desktop, in a video, or in front of them on stage. This music is timeless. So you worry about time less.