If making Autolux’s new album taught Carla Azar anything, it’s that she never wants to work in that way again. The Los Angeles trio opted to make Transit Transit without any outside help. The trouble was that drummer Azar and her bandmates, bassist Eugene Goreshter and guitarist Greg Edwards (all three sing, though Goreshter usually takes the lead), had a pretty steep learning curve, never having recorded themselves before. Combine that inexperience with a perfectionist streak, and it’s no shock that Transit Transit ended up coming out a full six years after Autolux’s debut, the ironically titled Future Perfect.
“We had high standards, because we had already worked with T Bone Burnett and his great engineer [Mike Piersante] in great studios,” says Azar, reached in L.A. by telephone. “So that was really difficult. It took five times longer to record, probably, just getting sounds and focusing on sounds so much, and then by the time you get all the sounds that you want to record, sometimes you’re too emotionally spent to even want to play music. So that was a bit trying for the band, and I don’t know if we’ll ever do that again. I’d prefer going in and working with an engineer in a studio—not in one room.”
When the band entered that single room, the enigmatically named Space 23, it did so without any new material. Starting with a clean slate sounds daunting, but Azar says it had its advantages.
“As we were writing, we were recording the record,” she notes. “It was strange, because there was no trial-and-error period of testing them live, or altering arrangements or improving arrangements. But there was something nice about that too, because we had to dive in and commit to what we were doing and have faith that ”˜This sounds great,’ and leave it. There was no going back to anything.”
The result is a collection of songs that are often spare and haunting, with synthesizers and samples complementing the band’s usual palette of postpunk guitar and bass. Azar’s drumming is likewise augmented by loops and programmed beats. Nonetheless, Autolux is still very much a rock band, as it proves effectively on “Census”, which jitters with expressway-to-your-skull six-string, and “Supertoys”, with its volleys of fuzz-damaged guitar carnage.
As ever, one of the best parts of the trio’s sound is Azar’s focused and powerful work behind the drum kit. It’s all the more remarkable when you consider that in 2002 she shattered her elbow in a fall and was told she’d likely never play again. Today, she has eight titanium screws holding the joint together, and she says it’s as if nothing was ever amiss. Almost.
“It’s back to normal,” Azar says. “The only thing I feel at times is that, if we’re in -5 ° F weather, the metal screws freeze in my arm, and it hurts. But that’s about it. I’ve noticed that, but it’s back to normal. It’s perfectly fine. The doctor that operated on me is one of the best. He does basketball players here, like the Lakers. He’s pretty great. He patched me up pretty well.”
Autolux plays Venue on Sunday (August 15).