THE BLUE HOUR is a Seattle duo who has kept alive their attachment to bands from the early days of 4AD Records for the past few decades – from fans to the living embodiment of the early 4AD spirit, now conveyed through their own music.
THE BLUE HOUR delivers a potent mix of elements of Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil, with a dose of Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees mixed in but with their own unique mark on this music.
They told us a little bit about their band!
Hi guys, it’s a pleasure meet you! First question: how did you meet? And what does your name mean?
Marselle and I met years ago when we were teenagers—street kids, living in abandoned houses, stoops, and the like, dancing the nights away at Seattle’s new wave clubs. We shared a deep love of music, dance, and living next to, but not in, the world. It was a time of magic. Then we lost each other. One day, we missed meeting up and we didn’t see each other for many years. A while back, Marselle found me and we began writing stories and music to try to recapture, revitalize that sense of otherworldly magic we’d shared long ago. Most of all, we wanted to tell stories about finding beauty in squalor and glamor in the everyday, of overcoming the darkness of the streets.
I chose the name, The Blue Hour, back in 1993 when I first began recording experimental folk and ambient music as a side project to the bands I was playing with. Back then, I chose the name primarily because of the association of “blue” with naughtiness and subculture—like blue laws and blue movies. But, as Marselle and I began recording our new music, it took on a much more appropriate meaning. The “blue hour” also refers to a fleeting moment that occurs during the morning and evening when the sunlight takes on a blue hue, making everything seem ethereal, otherworldly. It’s a perfect metaphor for what we are trying to capture with our music: moments of beauty arising from distortion and broken beats.
Can you tell something about the creative process behind your new album “Always”?
I usually write a cluster of “drafts” songs in moments of explosive inspiration, then refine them one at a time. I’m one of those people who sees the studio as an instrument, so I typically sit down with a DAW (depending on the song, I’ll switch between Ableton or Logic … sometimes GarageBand when I need to get ideas out quickly) and I’ll sketch out an idea. Usually, it’s just a verse and chorus with some effected guitar and keyboards. I’ll play them for Marselle, who selects the ideas that inspire her most. After that, I’ll put more time into layers and textures and beats. Marselle needs a song to move her—cause her to sway—before she writes the top line melody and ads vocals. After that, I’ll add more of the little, squiggly bits to push the song a bit further—then I add a bunch of reverb and sparkly effects. It’s a very productive process. We wrote and recorded Always and the Kyoto Song single in around three-four months.
The songs on Always are inspired by our time as street kids. “On the Wall,” for example, blends images of street life with an ask for help. “One More Mystery” is about finding magic while living in an abandoned house, asking for one more day (every day you risked being driven out). “Fire on Rootops” is about the tribal drive to dance the night away. “Lost Landmarks” is about returning as adults to find everything changed, or gone—listening for the echoes.
Which is your favorite song from this album?
That’s a hard question to answer. Each time we listen to the album, a new track stands out (that’s a great problem to have, btw). Right now, though, Marselle is obsessing on “And When I Wake Up,” due to its hypnotic synth lines and slinky beat. For me, it would have to be “One More Mystery” for the epic sweep and amazing violin work of Maria Grig. Frankly, I listen to that song and wonder how I ever wrote it … even though it was the first song we wrote together. I am such a fan of Marselle’s voice and melody writing, I just get lost in it.
What has been the most difficult moment for your band to date?
The hardest – and most frustrating—part of this whole process has been trying to break through all the noise to have people hear our music. There is so much music being produced and showcased online that it’s almost impossible to rise above it. Many of my early messages to stations, labels, etc. went unopened. No response whatsoever. It was demoralizing and confusing. Feeling invisible is awful. I knew that we were writing songs worthy of a listen, but couldn’t figure out how to get any attention. But slowly, one person would listen, then another … we began getting radio plays and small reviews. It’s still hard to rise above the noise, but it is getting better. And we are so humbled and grateful for the response we’ve received. It’s worth the frustration.
What’s the most enjoyable thing for you about performing live?
Hands down, it’s seeing people dance to our music. Marselle and I love to dance—we always did (particularly Marselle). So, it’s important that our music moves people. We can feel that sense of sway when recording—in fact, achieving that feeling essential to our process, but you just never know if it’s there until you play live and sing to a mass of dancing bodies. What a thrill that is. We’ll never tire of the energy we get from people dancing.
What are your future plans for The Blue Hour?
Our new album, “Always”, will be released on October 27, 2017. So, we will be playing some shows here and there, trying to promote the album and raise our profile—hopefully find distribution for our music. We are also planning to release a couple animated videos for the songs “On the Wall” and “One More Mysetry,” which we are very excited about. Mostly, though, we want to write new songs. Given the response to our cover of the Cure’s “Kyoto Song,” we plan to record a series of cover song singles—we have several that we play live and a few in the recording process right now.
Last question: if you had to describe your band with the name of a drink, what would it be?
This one is easy. Although our music would suggest something dreamy like absinthe or contemplative like a fine red wine, it would have to be bourbon and coke. Sure, it’s a bit low-brow for our ethereal aesthetics, but it’s our drink. So, I suppose a good old bourbon and coke is a peak behind the gauzy curtains.