We had the opportunity to get advance access to Birds and Arrows new album Arbitrary Magic for a review. We also had the opportunity to interview the husband and wife alt-rock duo. Check it all out below and stay tuned for a special surprise from Birds and Arrows and Alt Revue!
Advance Review - Arbitrary Magic
1. "Overloaded" - Fantastic opening track with driving guitar work and powerful vocals. Homemade harmonies here that are about as good as you'll find anywhere. If you know anything about me as a critic, I love me some homemade harmonies. Has a nice mix of root rocks to hit with good breaks that remind of classic rock a bit, that's where the harmonies hit. Great opener.
2 "Hand me Downs" - The harmonies are here again. This track has a roots rock twang to it that we're digging, it reminds us of a road song. Birds and Arrows again smartly take advantage of break periods in the melody to highlight their harmonization and even show off their vocal range quite a bit in this one.
3. "Adrift" - Opens with a slower melody, reminiscent of a Stevie Nicks song. It's very good as a ballad of sorts, it still has the roots twang that we appreciate in Birds and Arrows' sound. Another comp for this song would be 10,000 Maniacs.
4. "Stay Down" - Great dueling vocals on this one at points that ultimately come together. This is just a damned good rock and roll song. It's good a great melody, overdrive on the guitars, and fun vocals throughout that carry the movements of the song.
5. "All Souls Sell Out" - This song feels a bit more alt-rock/alt-country, which we can dig. Drum driven melodies, accompanied by distorted guitars, and vocals, this is Birds and Arrows bread and butter. This track is a bit slowed down to some of the other tracks on the album. We could see comps here to the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac on this track. This song also shows off Birds and Arrows ability to utilize breakdowns to build energy, it's great.
6. "The Distance that We Drive" - Andrea Connolly's vocals are put front in center in this one where at times she is borderline singing a capella. Connolly's voice is fierce and Pete Connolly's voice perfectly supports it. The song picks up toward the end as it sounds like there is some slide guitar being thrown and it just makes a good song even better.
7. "San Jacinto" (Peter Gabriel Cover) - We have to be honest here, we much prefer this version of this song in comparison to the original version. The guitar is great, the slow burn build is good as well. Harmonies are strong per usual. The epic conclusion of this song is bloody fantastic with tenacious guitars and vocal work from the Connolly's just giving it their all in honor of a musician they admire.
8. "Animatronic Heart" - An acoustic song to close out the album. This is a good way to do it, as Andrea Connolly's vocals have been on full display throughout this album, the only thing you don't get a chance to hear her do is sing with acoustic. Until here of course. She displays a beautiful falsetto here that pairs perfectly with the guitar. The organ in the background makes the song feel almost like hymnal. Then the guitar breaks in a bit more with a nice solo. This song, to me, says "thank you" for taking the journey as the musical choices all seem very joyful and celebratory.
Closing Thoughts: This is a band that you can tell has played together for a long time and they know each other well. They know their strengths and they make smart choices. This album is great, it's full of fun songs that remind me of the Southwest. It also has a couple slow songs you could see yourself just getting lost in. What a wonderful piece.
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
"Both of us having been playing music since we can remember. Pete got his first snare drum in Santa Barbara California in 1978 and I’ve been singing and performing since I was 5 years old. Getting my first guitar at age 12. So, I guess you could say we’ve been at it for awhile. But, as a Birds and Arrows we’ve been writing and performing together for 12 years. Both of us fell in love with the idea of writing and playing music pretty early...me listening to my parents rock and roll and soul records. And Pete digging in to his older brother’s vinyl collection".
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
"Our writing process have developed and changed a lot over the years. We both used to be very insular in our writing and would write in solitude...then bring each other a somewhat finished product. Now we sit down with a couple guitars and one of us comes up with a riff, the other a melody and then we bounce lyric ideas back and forth, play with cool harmony arrangements...until it unfolds into something we’re both really excited about. Then we go to our rehearsal space where we can suss it out loud and live and create a cool arrangement. I would say that’s a pretty accurate description of our writing process these days".
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
"How long of a list do you want?...I could go on for days on this question. But, as a band, some influences we definitely have in common are bands like The Faces, Stones and Zeppelin, early Genesis, Tom Petty. Speaking of early Genesis one of our biggest common influences creatively and in the song writing department is Peter Gabriel for sure. I am also very creatively and vocally inspired by Bjork. Tom Petty is a big song writing influence on us
both but then again who didn’t he influence?"
"I love singers that are overflowing with sadness, emotion and vocal character like Otis Redding, Annie Lennox, Thom Yorke, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown oh, and did I already mention Peter Gabriel ;) But, lately we’ve been finding inspiration is strange places...anything from early punk bands like The Toy Dolls and then weirdly enough eighties King Crimson, Oingo Boingo".
4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
"Yes, my new favorite guitar that I’ve been playing over the past few years is my hollow body Gretsch Synchromatic. It was given to me by a family member and it’s not at all a guitar I pictured myself with (I’ve always had Fenders) but it has really made me rethink everything sound wise. It howls and growls and scream and roars...so many fun textures to the sound of it when it’s turned up loud. I also play through a stereo amp set up that I’m super excited about right now consisting of a Fender Vibroverb (60’s reissue in the 90’s) and this weird old solid state Laney that adds some hella trashy twang to it all. And I run it all through a cocktail of drive/distortion pedals and delay. I’m kind of in love with my gear right now".
5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
"Sure, I would say the vibe of our live shows are very energetic but then again very moody. We’re harmony singers at our core as a band so we’re also very vocal focused in our live shows and in our recorded music. We also revel in dynamics....bashing you over the head with a new 3 min. kick ass rock song and then into a slow burn jammy drone version of Peter Gabriel’s San Jacinto. That’s actually the first cover we’ve ever included on a record...it’s gonna be on our upcoming album due out next month. And as far as venues go, we love venues that in addition to our fans they
have a built in regular crowd. It’s great when a venue brings out music lovers that you have to win over every min. That’s a lot of fun for us".
6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
"Hmmm, I’d say the one thing we’d like people to know about our music is the pride we take in our writing and how hard we work at it. We love the creative process so much and our writing style is something we’ve really honed over
the years together. As much as we love performing and being a tight live act, I’d say what keeps us coming back the most is the writing process. And we work really fucking hard as a band in general".
7. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like fans to know about?
"Yes, our new album Arbitrary Magic is due out next month on Baby Gas Mask Records And we couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out. It’s our first release since relocating from the triangle music scene in North Carolina to the desert southwest to reside in the magical land of Tucson, AZ. We performed these new songs live at an amazing studio here in Tucson called Dust and Stone with producer engineer Gabriel Sullivan (of Xixa and Giant Sand). It was such a killer collaboration and really takes you on a hell of a rock and roll ride. Can’t wait for everyone to hear it!"
FMI on Birds and Arrows visit their website.