When Orenda Fink released Ask the Night in October of 2009, it was an album that took me a few listens to get comfortable with its words and sounds. I'll admit right now that my brain always hears Maria Taylor's voice when I hear Fink's. If you didn't already know, Taylor and Fink made up the duo known as Azure Ray, and their voices often made magic together. They were much like the female Simon and Garfunkel to my ears.
But to say Fink is underwhelming as a solo artist is not accurate. Her vocals are just as powerful as they were in Azure Ray, and her songwriting recalls a darker Gillian Welch. And although it took me a bit to really enjoy Ask the Night, if I had a chance to re-do my share of Strangers Almanac's "Best Songs of 2009," I'm sure I would find a place for "High Ground."
We recently had a chance to catch up with Fink over e-mail.
1. Which album was harder for you to write - your debut, Invisible Ones, or last year's Ask the Night? Why?
I don't think that one was necessarily harder to write over the other one. Mostly when I write a record, I just fall into a zone and produce a lot of material in a short amount of time. But then I can go a year without really writing anything. I kind of just have to wait for the inspiration or mindset, but once it happens, it is relatively effortless.
2. Tell us about the recording process for Ask the Night. I read that you did everything in a basement and a living room...what are the advantages of recording in these types of settings?
Ask the Night was definitely easier to record than Invisible Ones because, yes, we basically recorded all of it live in my basement. The advantages of recording live are that you get a really natural feel to the recording. It can be more "musical" in a sense. Also, you tend to refine as you play instead of laying a bunch of tracks down and laboriously making editing decisions later. However, there is something to be said for a bigger production. For instance, for Invisible Ones, Andy LeMaster and I flew to Brooklyn and recorded these beautiful Haitian vocalists. It became a little adventure. In that respect, I like injecting some unknown elements into the recording process sometimes.
3. "High Ground" is one of my favorites on Ask the Night. What does that song mean to you?
This song is about a relationship or person that plagues you- the kind that make you run for cover...
4. I noticed on Twitter that Azure Ray is recording a new album. How is everything going with that?
Everything is going great. We are in Asheville, NC, at Echo Mountain Studios with Eric Bachmann producing. We're really excited about this record. However, we're about to take a break and see our friends, Of Montreal, play at the Orange Peel. :)
5. Finally, what was the last great concert you went to as a fan, and what did you take away from it?
I rarely go to concerts as a fan, because I mostly listen to older music. But, The Flaming Lips always put on an amazing show. Their productions are so huge that they make me cry every time. Also, I got to see Nina Simone in concert before she died and nothing will ever really hold a candle to that. I cried through her whole concert as well. Hmmm... maybe that's why I don't go to many!