Andrea and Pete Connolly from Folk-influenced band Birds and Arrows have a strong visual element in their work.
For their current album “Electric Bones” they went one step further and created a corresponding concept music video. Her beloved 1973 El Camino takes center stage in the moody duet between Andrea and fellow artist Brian Lopez in Saviors of This Town.
The car, a gift from Pete to Andrea for her birthday a few years ago, inspired the album name Electric Bones.
“It looks like it never left the desert,” Andrea said.
“It’s like a street fighter that you would see in ‘Mad Max’ movies. I’ve had time to work on it during COVID…I was able to really immerse myself in working on cars, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.
“It feels like electricity and bones keeping it on the road. We love to hike in the desert and spend a lot of time in the desert. We drive it to Saguaro West. We’re going to take a hike and after a hike, sit in the back and have a beer and look at the stars. It is our vehicle that transforms us from our everyday life into our own little world.”
The car will potentially make an appearance at the Hotel Congress on Friday, August 19 for the Arizona Arts Live produced show by Birds and Arrows.
“Electric Bones” has a classic 70’s folk-rock sound reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. For the album, the pair tried to bring in thoughtfully written songs, moody soundscapes and dynamic harmonies.
“We both have that love from back then. The late ’70s and early ’80s are magical for both of us,” Andrea said.
The two began working on their sixth studio album just before COVID-19. They had written and recorded about half of Electric Bones but paused work during the height of the pandemic. They resumed in 2021.
Andrea said that although half the songs were written before and half during the pandemic, the album is cohesive.
“I feel like there was a little apocalyptic vibe to the early stuff that was written before COVID even happened,” Andrea said.
“There is a song that was written before COVID that was very anti-capitalist and was frustrated by that aspect as an artist and musician and had to think about it from a capitalist side. So there were a lot of little things in there that came to a head even more during the pandemic.”
Pete said that while the album doesn’t address COVID-19 directly, the music speaks to the experience of living through a pandemic and the feelings of uncertainty that come with it.
They recorded the album at Dust and Stone Recording Studio with a foursome in which Andrea played vocals, rhythm guitar and synthesizer soundscapes; Pete, drums and vocals; Ben Nisbet on lead guitar and Gabriel Sullivan on bass.
Sullivan, who owns Dust and Stone, also served as producer with Frank Bair as sound engineer. Sullivan also produced and recorded her debut Arizona album, Arbitrary Magic.
Although the pair tend to tour as a duo, they enjoy recording with other musicians.
“It’s nice to know what other people are feeling or thinking, getting their vibes on the record and their presence because it really takes the record places that we couldn’t take it on our own,” Andrea said.
In addition to Lopez, the album also features guest artists such as Los Esplifs’ Saul Millan, Trees Speak’s Daniel Martin Diaz, Katie Haverly and the Aviary’s Chris Pierce, and Weekend Lovers’ Marta DeLeon.
The duo has also been part of compilation projects with Wilco, Big Star, Whiskeytown and Yo La Tengo.
The pandemic has been a challenging time for the couple. They had to find other ways to support themselves when they couldn’t tour and perform. Andrea gave private guitar and singing lessons online and Pete focused more on his visual arts.
Being an independent musician hasn’t been easy despite the pandemic. They often had to do other jobs to make a living. This affected them before and during the pandemic.
“We had been hit so hard as musicians and artists and were completely self-financed,” Andrea said.
“None of us are destitute. It was always a struggle. No matter how good things are going, we still have to keep up the rent and all the things that life demands. I think it was a mix where we had a lot of pent up energy and wanted to be creative. We wanted to get back out there, but we also had to find another floor to stand on.”
Going through COVID-19 and not being able to perform gave the couple a whole new appreciation and need for their music.
“When that gets smothered and dammed up in an environment where you’re not as free to express yourself, there are some builds that we were looking forward to and are still achieving with this record,” said Pete.
The couple formed the group in 2007 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and relocated to Tucson almost seven years ago. They moved to Tucson after visiting the city during an overland tour.
Immediately following their upcoming release shows, they will embark on a tour of the East Coast and Midwest, where they hope to connect with their longtime fans in places like North Carolina.
“We spent 10 years or more building an audience,” Andrea said.
“Our plan was to go back there once a year when we moved here. We went back there once and then COVID happened. Then we haven’t returned since. We feel like we want to recoup all the work that we put in there.”
The group has already gained prominence, as in the Tucson music scene, in the few years they have been in Arizona. In 2021, they were voted “Best Rock Band” by readers of Tucson Weekly.
Since relocating to Arizona from North Carolina, where they met, the duo have taken their music to a heavier level.
“When we were in North Carolina, we definitely did more folk-rock things,” Pete said.
“I think we were a little frustrated with being put into the folk-rock genre. We deliberately re-invited ourselves when we moved to Tucson. We took that as an opportunity to change our style and energy.”
Her latest album is a mix of influences. Pete and Andrea have always incorporated visuals and music into everything they do, but since moving to Tucson they’ve taken it to another level.
Pete and Andrea come from fine arts and graphic design backgrounds respectively. They do the band’s artwork, graphics and videography, and design t-shirts, album covers and logos for other acts.
The couple illustrated a series of children’s books for a Baltimore nonprofit in 2013. They are used as learning tools in schools in Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis and New Orleans.
Pete also illustrated two decks of tarot cards in the ’80s and his pictures have been featured on network television shows.
During their 16 years together, the pair have explored music together. Pete has been in bands since junior high. Andrea started doing community theater at a young age and started performing with bands by the age of 18.
Pete said they were a good match musically from the start.
“Our styles were different, but we had a similar basis for appreciating music. I think it was easy to blend the slightly different styles together. I think it came naturally,” Pete said.
“My style was a bit more moody and slower vibe rock, and Pete’s was a bit more straight forward rock ‘n’ roll. They’re definitely intertwined and becoming their own thing,” Andrea added.
Andrea said it was important for her to have a similar level of commitment to music.
“We have this mix of creative but also down-to-earth people. It helps us stay together and work together. And then we were super in love when we met and still are,” Andrea said.