by Andy Reed
The coronavirus hit musicians hard in 2020,showing a steep decline in streaming numbers as the revenue stream from gigs and live concerts faced extinction as a result of social distancing. For the world at large, most businesses have already adapted in order to remain functional and maintain profits in2021. For the music industry, standing room at venues may still be out of the question, concerning fans with how to stay up-to-date with their favorite artists without seeing them live or in-person.
Like many other countries, America’s roots in music stems from the compositions created by a mix of cultures, ideologies, ethnicities and backgrounds. Azure Wolf, an indie dream-rock band from Winchester, Virginia ,is one prime example of how artists from the DMV music scene have recognized societal shifts or major world events and entertained a different method of culling innovation and bringing about new ideas.
With 2020 in its wake, 2021 looks promising for Azure Wolf, as well as the local and regional bands that want to follow in their altruistic, giant steps. After hearing their hit “Honey Rush,” Alchemical Records reached out for an in-depth interview with the band for a comment about the highs and lows from last year, what it’s like as a up-and-coming band in the DMV, and for some commentary on their upcoming EP release, Post Impressions.
As musicians in the DMV, how have you seen the scene change in response to the pandemic?
Azure Wolf: We recently played a livestream at DC9 and it’s honestly sad to play to
empty DC venues. There’s such an unnatural feel to being hooked up to computers and
playing for (what feels like) no one. There’s no energy to feed off of and that’s the most
enjoyable part of playing a show; being able to physically see people soaking in the
music. I am, however, wildly grateful for these venues adapting to the changing times
and keeping live music afloat.
Azure Wolf – made up of singer/songwriter and rhythm guitarist Victoria Backle; Isaac Foltz on lead guitar and backup vocals; Thomas Moore on the one’s and two’s; and Sean Spencer on bass
and synthesizers – started out as a solo acoustic/folk project before turning into a four-piece folk band after a few gigs and acoustic performances. The band performed in Washington D.C. and the Northern Virginia area for some time before the band finally found their true sound.
Recently, the band has released a new song during the outbreak of COVID-19 titled “19,” a groove for the decade written about the reality of life in the biological wartime of quarantine. Backle has said that she tends to “dig deep into my personal battles and traumas to find inspiration,” where she’s found that “vocalizing my struggles not only releases their power over me, but it helps others identify [their struggles] and at the end of the day, we all want to feel validated and that our feelings are heard.”
Backle notes that she hopes that the band’s lyrics will help people who don’t know how to vocalize their struggles on their own. “They don’t need someone to tell them they’re not crazy – we all feel like this sometimes,” said Backle.
You recently released the song “19” amidst the pandemic. Can you tell our readers about that?
Backle: “19” is an interesting song for me and I tend to go back and forth on my feelings
about it. I wrote the song on an acoustic guitar, so it originally had a sad element as opposed to the upbeat 80s-esque feel it has now. It was spawned out of quarantine and the song itself is actually about COVID – hence the nineteen. I hear a lot of people say that they assumed it was about being nineteen and leaving home for the first time. I love that it has a meaning outside of living in a pandemic, I think that means it’ll stand the test of time. As a band, “19” isn’t our favorite song, we were still coming into our sound and there’s an uncertainty and naivety in the track that we’ve grown out of. Despite that, it holds a special place in our hearts and a lot of our fans seems to like this one.
In February 2020, Azure Wolf put together a three-hour benefit concert with a mixed bill of bands from the DMV to raise money in the hopes of fighting the toss and tumult of the raging Australian bushfires, where they raised a total of $1,200 in donations and interest in the cause.
The band truly has the human condition in mind as they seek to produce music that inspires hope in such a strange time.
How has COVID-19 affected you as a band?
Backle: We have been incredibly fortunate during this weird time. We’ve managed to stay busy with live streams from multiple venues and the downtime has given us an opportunity to focus on writing and generating new content. The current lineup of Azure Wolf only formed in February of this year, so COVID gave us some time to develop our sound and formulate ideas with each other.
Spencer: COVID has been something to rally around, I think. Everyone is being forced into this unknown territory, and in a strange way, has helped us to find a focus. We’re having to work twice as hard to find ways to progress and stay active in lieu of gigging, and a litany of songs and growth have sprung from that.
Foltz: We’ve really learned to pace ourselves. Now that we have virtually no deadlines, and shows are few and only virtual, we have really settled into a more detailed songwriting and editing process. Sometimes there is a pressure to “fill out a set time” that pushes less than complete songs out on stage before they are ready. I feel like, with that pressure alleviated, we are doing some of our best work.
Moore: COVID has actually been a blessing for the most part. We’ve used our time working on songwriting and our live set. It’s been nice to stay creative without the pressure of playing shows. Live-streaming has been good to us as well.
Daily life for Azure Life has changed only so much during the pandemic, as they continue to write hits that move and groove the groovin’ hips and singin’ lips of those around them with the audiophiles at-home in mind. During a viral outbreak, getting personal may be the only way to stay personal with those around us, despite social distancing and working from home.
Can you share with our audience a personal anecdote about your songwriting process?
Spencer: My songwriting process usually starts with listening. Oftentimes I’ll be plucking along to something as an exercise or for fun, and then “the thing” jumps out at me and becomes the genesis for whatever the song will be. For instance, when we were writing “Wounds” it started as a jam on a cabin trip of ours. At first I was holding these heavy bass tones on the synth, and then Tommy came in with
these tight kicks on the phrase, and that immediately became the rhythmic focus for the rest of the song on my end. Funny enough, I also misheard a lyric that Victoria had improvised in that early jam as “wake up, someone is missing,” and it led to the dark themes that the song carries now.
Foltz: Part of my songwriting process is being repetitive with what stands out to me. I usually will sit down to write and get pulled towards different voicings on the guitar, a tone, or some kind of shape that is unique to me. After I find something that I like, I will repeat until I feel comfortable with it or until it is annoying to me. I feel like if I’m okay with hearing a riff or part over and over again, then it’s worth keeping.
Moore: Usually when Victoria sends a rough track of something to work on I try to imagine how drums would sound in my head. I’ll do some air drums or tap it out on something to make sure it makes sense, I don’t have a full kit at my place so I can’t usually work it out until we are at practice. Most of the time that works! For me to be a good drummer is to be a good listener, you have to listen for those little intricacies of the rhythm guitar or cadence of the vocals and match them on the drums the best you can. I would consider myself more of a “song” drummer than a “technical guy” overall.
What’s next for you?
Backle: We have so many things coming up, we can hardly keep our excitement in!We’ve recently acquired a manager who is helping us with a string of releases set to comeout in the next couple of months. Among our first releases are going to be “Black Fur”and “Honey Rush” along with a few others we’ve been working incredibly hard on. Afterthat string of singles, we’ll be releasing an EP with even more new music. We’re taking ashort hiatus from livestreaming and focusing on writing and recording so we can keep thecontent rolling for everyone. We think these releases will really define us and set instone our fanbase, so we’re really looking forward to seeing how that unfolds for us.
In your opinion, how can our audience support you and musicians like you?
Backle: Follow us on social media and tune into our live streams or come out to one of our shows when the world opens back up. We love playing live and it’s definitely one of our strong suits, so we’d love to see you all come out for one of those. We will be releasing a string of singles over the next few months, starting in March, and then an EP later in the year, so keep an eye out for those. We try to make following us on social media as beneficial and interactive as possible with giveaways, Q&As and just generally ridiculous footage.
Foltz: You can support our music by following us on Spotify or wherever you stream music. We have a ton of new music to release in 2021. Hopefully we will get to share it live with people when it is safe to tour and play at venues.
Spencer: Right now, listening to livestreams and sharing content are the biggest ways to help. Showing an interest in a band you like even when you can’t go see them personally does so much. It keeps musicians motivated, it keeps the hope of the scene alive, and it can show prospective business movers and shakers that you have an effect on people. Sos hare them links, y’all, and please ask your friends to do the same.
The band recently recorded a double-sided single out in a cabin in the woods and produced twosongs, “Pieces” and “Both Hands” which became available on all major platforms on February 1. If you want to check out Azure Wolf, listen to their latest hit out of quarantine, “19″:
When he isn’t playing guitar, producing music or interviewing bands for Alchemical Records, Reed enjoys spending time with his family, his girlfriend Megan and two dogs Beau and Daisy. You can find him on Instagram at @andy.reed15
Thursday, June 10, 2021 @ 7:00 PM EDT
When Jamie Darken first began writing the songs that would appear on his debut solo EP, Burial, he imagined he was crafting demos for Cherry Ames, a local Washington DC area indie-rock band that Darken performs as vocalist, guitarist, and bassist. With Cherry Ames on hiatus amidst the global shutdown and performing in venues unavailable as an option, Darken’s drive to make progress with the ideas on his own eventually brought the tracks to the place where it simply felt right to release as his own project. The result is five songs written, produced, and performed by Darken, with the exception of leading single “This Could Be Your Home” co-written with fellow DC area musician Christopher Mathews-Larsen.
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