Updated July 2009
The new Au Revoir Simone album, Still Night, Still Light, was released in May and is available in stores and online.
School of General Studies student Heather D’Angelo took the academic year off—she was too busy touring the world and recording an album to pursue her interest in astrophysics.
Heather, Erika Forster, and Annie Hart make up Au Revoir Simone, an all-girl, all-keyboard band from Brooklyn whose dreamlike electronic indie-pop has been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and caught the ear of acclaimed director David Lynch.
Au Revoir Simone spent the summer on tour in the UK with Peter, Bjorn and John, and with Voxtrot in the US and Canada, including a date at New York City’s Webster Hall, before heading to Japan. Heather emailed us from the Peter, Bjorn and John tour bus to share her thoughts on music, touring, and GS.
How did you first get interested in playing music?
I think that most people have at least one moment in their lives when they fantasize about being in a band—and I certainly had a few moments like that when I was a kid—but I had never seriously considered it. I taught myself how to play the keyboard when I was about 12 years old, and would learn my favorite songs from the radio and things like that, but I never wrote my own music. Then a few years ago, a friend of mine told me about this informal all-girl keyboard club that she had been hosting at her apartment. It sounded like a lot of fun, so I brought over my little Casio and soon our little club was a band, playing shows and writing our own music. Then we got a record deal and started touring all over the world. It's definitely a strange story. I never imagined that it would turn out like this.
How did Au Revoir Simone come about? Were you in other bands previously?
When our band first came together, Erika was already playing keyboards and singing for another band called Dirty on Purpose. Annie had been playing guitar in a punk band called 64 World's Fair. I was the only one who had never been in a band before.
What's the best thing about playing music for a living? What's the most challenging thing?
The best and worst thing about playing music for a living is definitely traveling so much. On one hand, it’s incredible to have the opportunity to meet so many interesting people and share your music with people who are genuinely interested in hearing it. On the other hand, the months away from home are extremely physically difficult. I'm never eating enough or sleeping enough, and the distance combined with the lifestyle make it hard to maintain any serious relationships back home.
How did you get to open for We Are Scientists?
Touring with We Are Scientists was definitely really exciting for us. We did two tours with them, one over the summer in the US, and one in the fall in the UK. Sharing the stage with such a popular band gave us the opportunity to play for much bigger audiences than we were used to, and I feel that we grew as a band because of it. I had suffered from pretty terrible stage fright before those tours, but found that once you're standing in front of a crowd of 5,000 riotous teenagers, you just have to get over it quickly.
We got the tour because Keith Murray, the lead singer, was a fan of our band. And we're also neighbors! Both he and Michael Tapper live on the same street that Erika and I do. It's always better to go on tour with friends—especially when you're in another country—it helps to keep the homesick blues away. Right now we're on tour in the US with Peter Bjorn and John, another all-boy trio. I'm on their bus right now, somewhere in between Chicago and Minneapolis. This tour has also been a really big break for our band. They attract really great audiences, and the reception has been so warm. I've been singing the “Young Folks” duet with Peter every show, and that has also made the shows really fun for me.
You're going to some pretty amazing places this summer. Is there one you're particularly looking forward to?
I'm really looking forward to touring in Japan again. It'll be our third time there, but we've never been during the summer time. Japan is my favorite place to tour—it’s a magical country, and so different from anywhere else.
What's it like having David Lynch as a fan?
Unexpected! He's been so supportive of our band; we're actually flying to Paris next week to play a show for him at the Foundation Cartier.
How would you like people to approach your new album?
However they like. We're not everybody's cup of tea.
Are you from New York originally?
I was born here, but not raised. My mom is from Queens, my dad is from Brooklyn, and I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and a small town in Connecticut after their divorce.
What did you do before coming to GS?
I have my BFA in photography, so before coming to GS I was in the art world for years. I worked in a gallery and was also a photography assistant for fashion editorials, and a stylist assistant as well. I've always had very creative jobs.
How did you find out about GS?
I had a summer internship in the astrophysics department at the American Museum of Natural History, and one of the students there told me about GS because I was looking for a university that would allow me to get my second bachelor's degree. There aren't many around—especially ones that would allow for a degree in astrophysics. GS is a very unique program!
Do you have a favorite Columbia moment?
The first time I visited the astrophysics department in the Pupin physics lab was definitely a favorite moment for me. When I was in school (I had to take this semester off to tour) I used to listen in on the Tuesday morning pizza lunch lectures, trying to familiarize myself with the concepts and vocabulary used there. And though I couldn't understand much of it, I was still filled with such a sense of gratitude and awe for being permitted to be there—I still can't believe that I'm a Columbia student, it's an unbelievable opportunity, and one that's just as exciting for me as being in a band. I can't wait to return this fall!