Birds and Arrows to perform at Casbah
For their third release, “Coyotes,” the wife-and-husband-duo of Andrea and Pete Connolly – better known as Birds and Arrows – wanted to extend their sound palette. Audiences who follow the Chapel Hill and Durham-based duo have heard them perform together, exchanging duties on drums and guitar, at other times performing with cellist Josh Starmer.
Starmer’s presence can be heard on “Coyotes,” where he plays cello and a few other instruments, and arranged the strings sections. Other musicians who also add to the extended palette are Billy Sugarfix on theremin, Matthew Chicurel on violin and viola, Dave Hadley on pedal steel guitar, Wendy Spitzer on xylophone, and others.
The Connollys first added cello when Starmer approached them after a concert and asked them if they had ever considered cello, Andrea Connolly said. They ended up recording and performing with Starmer and are good friends. “We do love the cello, but we wanted to invite in some other textures as well” on “Coyotes,” she said.
Listeners will get to hear some of the new recording at Casbah Thursday evening.
The Connollys will be joined by guest artists on banjo, bass and pedal steel guitar, Andrea Connolly said. “When it was just the three of us, we would do our own live version” of music on the recordings, she said. With guest artists, they can re-create the recorded sound better, and “at Casbah it’s going to be more about the sound, and more true to the recording.”
“Coyotes,” released in March, has an intimate, often ethereal, sometimes melancholy sound. Among the newer sonic additions are Starmer’s playing of tambura and dilruba (both Indian instruments)’ on the tune “Firefly,” and Katie and Deborah Greenberg playing handbells on the tune “I Hear Bells.” “The Rest of Your Life” is a whimsical tribute to filmmaker Woody Allen, and in the title tune, coyotes “get the vote.” By contrast, “Orion” is an infectious rock tune.
The Connollys now live on a horse farm in Rougemont, and the compositions on “Coyote” were recorded in “Love Bunker num.2 and Hickory Twitch Farm,” which are, respectively, the couple’s former house in Chapel Hill and their current Rougemont home, Pete Connolly said. “The Saddest Song” was recorded by their friend Brian Risk in an abandoned silo, to take advantage of the ambient sound and natural reverb, Pete Connolly said.
Besides avoiding prohibitive studio costs, recording at home offers artistic advantages. “At home you can record as you are inspired, and you can lay down tracks when they are fresh,” Pete Connolly said. The studio method also has certain advantages, “but at home you can take your time, and there’s no clock ticking for you,” he said.
“Coyotes” finds Birds and Arrows at a transition point. Starmer is a research assistant professor in genetics at UNC, and has not been able to perform with the band as much “because we’re starting to get busy with touring,” Andrea Connolly said. The band has been touring the East Coast, and sometimes the Midwest, and hopes someday to tour Europe, she said.
Birds and Arrows recorded their first two albums, “Starmaker” in 2009 and “We’re Gonna Run” in 2011, for Durham-based 307 Knox Records. They raised money for “Coyotes” using Kickstarter, and with help from Yep Roc Records and Red Eye Distribution. “Technically, it’s not a Yep Roc release, but they’ve helped us with all the tedious stuff that bands don’t know or don’t want to know how to deal with,” Andrea Connolly said. She still manages the band, but Birds and Arrows have hired a publicity agent, booking agent and distributor.
The Connollys also are artists and illustrators, and work on the farm where they live. They are able to build their audience from Durham. One advantage of the changing music world is “you don’t have to be relegated to a certain region” because of cyberspace, Pete Connolly said. “What’s bad about it is it’s very confusing how to proceed, where to go to build your career. ….”
Eventually, Andrea Connolly anticipates that Birds and Arrows will have to hire a full-time manager. “I feel like the next record will make us even busier,” she said. “We’ve found that with each release, it grows more and more.”
Go and Do
WHAT: Birds and Arrows in concert
WHERE: Casbah, 1007 W. Main St., Durham
WHEN: Thursday, 9 p.m.
ADMISSION: For information, call 919-687-6969 or visit casbahdurham.com.