When Andrea And Pete Connolly moved from North Carolina to Tucson, their folk music roots quickly mixed with the desert rock of the Southwest. Their band, Birds and Arrows, now wields a unique combination of psychedelic rock that still maintains a bluesy foundation. This style is even further developed on their forthcoming album, Electric Bones, which features a throwback ’70s sound thanks to a studio band style despite two years of isolation.
Although Electric Bones doesn’t officially release until this summer, Birds and Arrows are performing a special album preview show on Friday, Feb. 25, at Hotel Congress, where they will play the new album in its entirety. The show will feature the full studio band, including multiple Tucson musicians, and other bands on Hookworm Records, which is releasing the album.
Recorded throughout the pandemic, Electric Bones was essentially recorded in two separate segments: half the songs in spring 2020 and the other half in fall 2021. However, Andrea and Pete maintained their artistic momentum between the two periods by releasing videos, singles and participating in a compilation of Tucson musicians. Despite the time between the two halves, the album sounds cohesive in its blend of space and emotion.
“All of our records have sort of had different feels to them. There’s usually a bit of play where we don’t get stuck in the same sound. And I think that worked in our favor,” Andrea said. “Since it was written during the pandemic, the lyrics naturally tell stories about it. For instance, the song ‘False Star’ was written during the heart of it and it represents how musicians were in a very depressed state about music. But there is one thing we didn’t want to do: Popular music is already taking a dive into the bedroom pop world, with everyone recording at home and having electronic drums, so things sound very small. That’s why we waited it out to make sure we could have big production in-studio and live drums. Pete is such a great, groovy drummer, and to take that away is to take away half our sound.”
The core of the album is fairly straightforward rock songs with Andrea and Pete trading off singing, which is often surrounded by walls of guitar and drums. What really sets the band apart isn’t the music structure, but the texture. Songs jump between intricately layered rock songs with synthesizers, moody nocturnes, and loud jams perfect for diving through the desert. Pete describes the large, colorful production as a “kind of protest” after years of pandemic quietness.
The desert certainly has a presence on the album, from a saguaro on the album cover, to the song “Truth or Consequences” named after the New Mexican town, to guest performances from Tucson rock band XIXA.
“The ’70s sound, we really leaned into for production ideas. Certain things like builds and places where we wanted drums to be big,” Andrea said. “We’d seek through some of our old favorites for inspiration.”
An article about Birds and Arrows would be incomplete without mentioning the couple’s visual element. Both Andrea and Pete also work in the visual arts, and their music videos can be feasts for the eyes. The video for “Dark Watchers” is a sci-fi odyssey through the Sonoran Desert, opening with a title card: “Tucsonia, Pima District, 2064.”
With the album complete, Andrea and Pete shopped their music around for a record label. While the release was delayed due to the pandemic, an additional delay comes with printing it on vinyl, set to complete in August.
“It was definitely a weird time to shop it around, because everyone was backed up with projects they meant to release two years ago. So that was a process, but we managed to have it going to be released by Hookworm Records in Tempe,” Andrea said. “We’re really excited about it, because they’ve only done compilations before. So we’re the first band to do a full album on the label. And it helps working with a label from the area, because they’ve seen us live and understand the whole feeling of our sound. That probably gave us a boost.”
The album preview show on Friday, Feb. 25, at Hotel Congress will feature Tucson musicians Gabriel Sullivan, Ben Nisbet, Brian Lopez and Martha DeLeon performing with Pete and Andrea. In addition, other bands signed to Hookworm Records will also play at the show.
After years of uncertainty around live music, Birds and Arrows are taking this opportunity to perform with many of the Tucson musicians who helped make Electric Bones sound as large as it does. As Andrea puts it, this show is planned to be “a real event.”