Birds and Arrows on new album, learning to 'let your freak flag fly'
Birds and Arrows — the rock group made up of couple Andrea and Pete Connolly — got their start in Chapel Hill 15 years ago with music that was often acoustic-based folk. But their new record Electric Bones leans into the electric side of the band with help from some friends in Tucson, Arizona, where they've been living since 2016.
They hit the stage Friday night at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room in Carrboro for a homecoming of sorts.
Andrea and Pete joined WUNC recently to talk about the inspiration behind the album.
This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.
Is "Dark Watchers" about climate change and the ancient trees that are watching and experiencing out-of-control wildfires?
Andrea: "Yeah, that's part of it."
Pete: "It mentions the fires of the redwoods and stuff, but it's also about this legend in the mid-California coast about these, like spirit watchers."
I like the sound of that. Where did you hear that story?
Andrea: "We actually did a writing retreat in Carmel, California, you know, right on the coast for this album. And we did this right before COVID hit. We went up there and spent a week and we came home with almost half the album. And one of the songs, "Dark Watchers" was written there.
"And so we were looking into a lot of local like folklore and because Carmel and that whole area is so foggy and kind of eerie and creepy, but also beautiful at the same time. That juxtaposition really inspired us to write that. And then seeing — hiking through those redwood forests — and seeing half burned redwoods that are old as can be, but they outlast these fires. It was just a very interesting way to think about time."
I liked the attitude in "Gemini," Andrea, where you sing "If my light's too bright, you better cover your eyes, Cause I'm not going to fake it, just so you can take it." Have you had some compromises in your career that you've had enough of?
Andrea: "Yeah, for sure. I feel like especially being a little more leaning into the folk scene, everybody really does expect you to sing pretty and look pretty and there is this expectation of being a certain way. And when we got out to Tucson one thing that was really refreshing was how free it was. Like, everybody in that area sort of lets their freak flag fly in an amazing way. And so we felt we could do that more than we ever had. And so I just kind of had this independence and this like, feeling of, 'I am who I am.' I turned 40 so I felt like, you know, I don't need to care as much as I used to. I can rock out I can be whatever I want to be."
I have to ask you about "RadioShack" because I remember going to those stores as a kid and trying to figure out how to make a radio from scratch. But really, it sounds like a protest song about how ubiquitous technology has become in our lives. Is that a fair take?
Pete: "That is a fair take. It's just kind of a commentary on the whole level of technology and just how almost interfering it is in your life. And I know it's supposed to be helpful, but I do write songs that long for the days of more simple technology."
Andrea and Pete Connelly are "Birds and Arrows." Their new record is called Electric Bones. You can catch them Friday, Sept. 2 at the Cat's Cradle Back Room in Carrboro.