After dreamy Nebraska duo Azure Ray disbanded in 2004, Orenda Fink (who made up one-half of the duo, along with Maria Taylor) has kept busy, releasing one solo album (2005's Invisible Ones) and another with side-project Art in Manila (2007's Set the Wood on Fire). Most recently, she formed the duo O+S with longtime friend Scalpelist (née Remy Zero bassist Cedric Lemoyne). The new duo's self-titled debut, released in March on Saddle Creek, is a deeply textured sonic collage of gauzy harmonies, field recordings and moody instrumentation. The ethereally-voiced Fink recently took some time to chat with Paste about O+S and the new music's inspirations and influences.
I’ll begin with some rudimentary questions, then we’ll follow up with some quantum physics problems and then we’re all done.
Fink: OK, sounds good!
Paste: What influenced the creation of O+S and collaboration with Scalpelist?
Fink: I got a music residency at [Omaha's] Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and I could do anything I wanted with the residency. And since it was an art residency I wanted to do something different than the traditional way I would just write songs for a record, so I came up with the idea of collecting field recordings first, before anything was written. I collected a large amount of them, sifted through them, picked out some loops and I wrote songs based on those loops. Then I would work with the loop, form the rhythm and possibly the key, and then create the vibe of the song. That was the initial idea. Then I realized that I needed help to create that. So I enlisted my friend Cedric from Remy Zero and asked if he wanted to help me with this project, and he did. Then I came back to Omaha and we spent two weeks together sorting through them, collecting loops and recording on top of it. Then we went our separate ways and finished the record separately. We decided to create a new band based on what we had done.
Paste: So the sounds influenced your lyrics later on in the project?
Fink: I tried to keep the theme of the songs separate from the samples. I went to a lot of interesting, sometimes dark, places to collect the field recordings. I really wanted to juxtapose a pop record on top it—and not have it weighed down with heavy political themes, but just marry the two.
Paste: One of my favorite songs is “Permanent Scar.” It stands out from the album, as it is the most up-tempo track on the record. Yet, it’s that same juxtaposition you mention, as the words have a very serious overtone. I love that.
Fink: Thanks! We listened to a lot of Julie Cruise and David Lynch. What I liked about [Cruz], and what influenced me, was that there was something very dark about her music but also it was incredibly light. I wanted to accomplish that with this record too, for you not to be able to put on finger on it because both elements are there.
Paste: What other projects have you been involved with, musical or otherwise, since your last musical venture?
Fink: Well, you know I was in Azure Ray, then I went solo, afterwards I was part of a project called Art in Manila which involved me and a group of friends from Omaha. Then I just finished the O+S record. And I recently completed a new solo [album] that’s going to come out on Saddle Creek. In the meantime, just the traveling and the field recordings—I did the recordings in Haiti. With that, I recently participated in a group art show with a Haitian-American artist. I had such a great time doing that. I would like to take that project to a different country, do that once again and possibly collect more recordings for the next O+S record. That’s one of my goals for the next year.
Paste: With your art presentation, do you do anything visual along with your recordings?
Fink: I’m not a visual artist, but one of my very best friends is and he was collaborating with a Haitian visual artist, and my husband and I did the musical accompaniment.
Paste: Are there any artist out there that are piquing your interest?
Fink: I don’t know, there are so many. All of my friends basically are great musicians, so it’s hard to say.
Paste: If you had to describe O+S in five words, what would they be?
Fink: Oh God, that’s a hard one! O+S in five words… Umm… OK, I’ve got five: light, dark, sound, collage, pop!
Paste: Love it.
Fink: Oh, and I do have someone for you: Laura Burhenn. She was formerly in Georgie James. She’s in Omaha now and she’s working on a new solo record and her demo is out now. It’s worth checking out.