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article imageAutumn City talks songwriting, future music and more Special

By Erin P. Capuano     Feb 26, 2016 in Music
Autumn City, the little band with big sound is quickly making a name for itself in the New Jersey indie rock scene. Three women with immense talent raging their way through dive bars, clubs and venues to showcase the hidden talents of indie artists.
Hot off the 58th Grammy’s celebration we’re reminded all too quickly of the rapid decline of originality in today’s music industry. With the lowest ratings in Grammy history, people are starting to understand that if you want to find the real talent, the true talent, than you have to go back to the clubs the bars and the dive spots where music was invented. Some areas are particularly good at growing their independent music scenes; New York, NY, Austin, Texas, Detroit, MI, and Seattle, Washington to name a few have all played a large role in emerging artists. From rock to punk, grunge and metal, every state or city has left their mark and New Jersey as well is no stranger to major musicians. Autumn City joins a growing list of artists, bands and individuals who have contributed in some way shape or form to the evolution of music, Bruce Springsteen, The Misfits, The Sugar Hill Gang, members of The Ramones’ and various Jazz artists all called New Jersey their home.
Autumn City is made up of three members, Audra Thomas on bass, Amanda Kelly on percussion and Aster Pheonyx on the guitar and vocals. Three gals may not seem like a heavy band, but man do they put out some serious music. Aster’s vocals are reminiscent of the days when rock stood for something, when passion and commanding stage presence was an attribute. There are many things that as a student of music you can learn from a four year university, music theory can teach you how to read and write music and you can even learn the business of music management, but what you’ll never learn in a classroom or lecture hall is how to belt out songs with intense emotion and passion and allow the audience to feel your pain. Their sound is organic and can really only be truly be appreciated live.
Fresh off their Elephants Talk Indie Music Award I had the pleasure of interviewing the band and getting to ask some very pointed questions.
Q) How did each of you become involved in Autumn City and what drew you to the idea of this project?
AC: Autumn City was kind of the rib of a band Audra and I were in before this. We knew we didn’t want to give up on the music so we decided to regroup, refocus and create something just a little bit different from what we were originally doing. This band definitely has a more organic feel and the energy is just 100 times better. So far, Autumn City has been nothing but pure magic and we are loving every second of it.
Q) Tell me a bit about the process that goes into writing the songs, do all of you collaborate on the songwriting process?
Aster: For the most part, I come to the band with the music and the lyrics, Audra lays down a bass line and Amanda comes up with Cajon beats. We have been working more on jamming during practice to get some new music flowing.
Q) You have to love a good breakup, it’s great for your writing. “She Said” and “Shades of Grey” took me back to a few tough ones. Do you find a lot of your writing is born through pain? They say writers are tortured souls and I somewhat agree with that.
Aster: [laughs] Relationships are definitely a good fuel for writing. I wrote “She Said” about being with someone who just wouldn’t even give an inch when I was giving them mile after mile. Sometimes you just have to stop breaking your own heart thinking that other people are going to change, treat you right and love you in the way you deserve to be loved. I always found I wrote the most songs when my heart was broken because music is the only way I really know how to get everything out there to allow myself to heal.
Q) You have a very organic sound, very simple not overdone, and really lets the vocals shine. It’s reminiscent of Ani DiFranco (I’m aging myself here), do you think as I do that this is something that’s really missing in modern day rock/folk?
AC: I’m glad you compared our music to Ani DiFranco. I am personally a huge fan of her older music. I think if you go out into the local music scene, you will find that missing piece of the music world that you are looking for. The radio to me is dead and lacks passion.
Q) Congratulations on your Elephants Talk Indie Music Awards! Most bands would say they play simply for the love of the music, but it’s got to feel good to be recognized by your peers and fans in the community for what you do. Do you put a lot of emphasis on awards like this?
AC: Thanks! We were so honored to have even been nominated for those awards! We are definitely grateful to have been recognized by the community for our music, but it’s not why we play. We play for the pure love of playing. We play because of the amazing feeling that our fans give to us. Our fans are the reason that we play every single note that we play. Awards don’t come to shows. Awards don’t sing along to your songs so loud that you can step back from the microphone and the song still carries on. We appreciate the awards and recognition so much, but as I said, our fans are the reason we play.
Q) So, when can we expect some new music from you guys, what’s coming up in the future for Autumn City?
Aster: We have been working on some new music. We have about four or five new songs since we released “Tuesday’s Song.” We should be getting ready to start recording our sophomore album by the middle of the year. I definitely have a lot of stuff to write about with recent experience. I think we are definitely growing as a band as far as our musicianship. This second album should be worth the wait!!
I am sure anything these ladies put out will be worth the wait, that is for certain. Songs like “She Said” and “Indigo” tell the story of dealing with relationships and the implications of what happens during and after a breakup. Delving into this topic isn’t anything new, so we aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but when you feel that beat pounding in your chest and the desperation in Pheonyx’s vocals you understand this is pure unadulterated rock. You truly can’t pick just one song that you enjoy on this album because each song has its own personality and its own story to tell. I found myself really rocking out to every one and couldn’t pick just one that I could say was single worthy. The entire CD is a story and by starting at chapter one and working your way through you really get the full picture of what this band is trying to convey. “Street Signs” and “In Your Eyes” each tap into memories and emotions that any avid listener can relate to or see themselves in.
Some writers just get it. “Tortured souls” we’ve been called. Those of us who use our emotions and pain to do some of our best writing, Pheonyx is in league of her own. Thomas holds down each song with her seamless sounding bass. There is no still couch sitting for this music so if you aren’t moving you aren’t hearing it. Kelly rounds out this band with steady percussion and what she can do with a Cajon is more than some people can do with an entire set of drums. The truth is there isn’t much about Autumn City that doesn’t fit into a perfect little box each song each live set is a new experience.
They’ve been privileged to grace the stage at venues like The Stone Pony, The Saint and The Wonder Bar where some of the greatest rock legends have left their mark. The ladies also take their roles as ambassadors for causes they champion very seriously and are involved with fundraising for breast cancer, clothing drives, domestic abuse, food drives and much more.
If you’d like to get involved and help these ladies on their latest fundraising venture, please head over to Pheonyx’s page for the AVON Walk to End Breast Cancer. Autumn City transcends organic music, at least what we think of as “organic.” Their musical capabilities and the vocals they have commanding the ship really allow this band to think bigger than they actually are. If I could give you any advice it would be to see them live and get a real feel for the intensity and passion that they exude that doesn’t always translate from an album. Keep a real close eye on these gals because they aren’t nearly done yet.
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