Andrea and Pete Connolly of the folk-influenced band Birds and Arrows have a strong visual element to their work.
For their latest album, “Electric Bones,” they took it a step further, creating a corresponding concept music video. Taking centerstage is their beloved 1973 El Camino for the moody duet between Andrea and fellow artist Brian Lopez on “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’s never left the desert,” Andrea said.
“It’s like a road warrior that you would see in ‘Mad Max’ movies. Over COVID, I had time to learn to work on it… I was really able to dive into working on cars, which 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 ton of time in the desert. We take it out to Saguaro West. We will go on a hike and sit in the back of it after a hike, have a beer and look at the stars. It’s our vehicle that transforms us out of our everyday life into our own little world.”
The car just may make an appearance at Hotel Congress for Birds and Arrows’ Arizona Arts Live-produced show on Friday, Aug. 19.
“Electric Bones” has a ’70s classic folk-rock sound reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. For the album, the couple tried to bring thoughtfully written songs, moody soundscapes and dynamic harmonies.
“We both have this love of that time. The late ’70s and early ’80s is magical for both of us,” Andrea said.
The two started working on their sixth studio album right 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 although half of the songs were written before and half during the pandemic, the album is cohesive.
“I feel like the early stuff that was written had a little bit of an apocalyptic vibe to it before COVID even happened,” Andrea said.
“There’s a song that was written pre-COVID that was very anti-capitalistic and frustrated with that aspect as artists and musicians and having to think about it on a capitalistic side. So, there were lots of little things that were in it that came to a head during the pandemic even more.”
Pete said although the album doesn’t directly address COVID-19, the music speaks of the experience of living through a pandemic and the feelings of uncertainty that came along with it.
They recorded the album at Dust and Stone Recording Studio with a four-piece, which featured Andrea on vocals, rhythm guitar and synth soundscapes; Pete, on 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 engineer. Sullivan also produced and recorded their first Arizona album “Arbitrary Magic.”
Although the couple tends to tour as a duo, they like to record with other musicians.
“It’s nice to know what other people feel or think, get their vibes on the record and their presence because it really makes the record go to places, we couldn’t make it go on its own,” Andrea said.
Along with Lopez, the album boasts also has guest artists such as Saul Millan of Los Esplifs, Daniel Martin Diaz of Trees Speak, Chris Pierce of Katie Haverly and the Aviary and Marta DeLeon of Weekend Lovers.
The duo has also been part of compilation projects featuring Wilco, Big Star, Whiskeytown and Yo La Tengo.
The pandemic was a challenging time for the couple. They had to find other ways to support themselves when they couldn’t tour and perform. Andrea taught private guitar and voice lessons online, and Pete focused more on his visual art.
Being independent musicians hasn’t been easy despite the pandemic. They have often had to work other jobs to support themselves. This affected them before and during the pandemic.
“We had been hitting it so hard as musicians and artists and had been completely self-funded,” Andrea said.
“Neither of us are from means. It’s always been a struggle. No matter how well things are going, we still have to maintain rent and all the things that life demands. I think it was a mix where we had a lot of pent-up energy, and we wanted to be creative. We wanted to get back out there, but we also had to find other ground to stand on.”
Going through COVID-19 and unable to perform gave the couple a whole new appreciation and need for their music.
“When that becomes stifled and pent up in an environment where you can’t be as free with expression, there is some build up there that we were looking forward to and still are getting into with this record,” Pete said.
The pair started the group in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2007 and relocated to Tucson almost seven years ago. They moved to Tucson after visiting the city during a cross-country tour.
Right after their upcoming release shows, they will head out on an East Coast and Midwest tour during which they hope to engage with their longtime fans in places like North Carolina.
“We spent 10 years or more building an audience,” Andrea said.
“Our plan was to get back there once a year when we moved out here. We got back there once, and then COVID happened. Then, we haven’t been back since. We feel like we want to regain all the work that we have put in there.”
The group has already gained traction as in the Tucson music scene in the few years they have been in Arizona. In 2021, they were voted “best rock band” by Tucson Weekly readers.
Since moving to Arizona from North Carolina, where they met, the duo has given its music a harder edge.
“When we were in North Carolina, we were definitely doing more of a folk-rock thing,” Pete said.
“I think we got a little bit frustrated with being pigeonholed in the folk-rock genre. We purposefully reinvited ourselves when we moved to Tucson. We used that as an opportunity to switch up our style and our energy.”
Their newest album is a blend of influences. Pete and Andrea have always blended visuals and music into everything they do, but they have taken it to another level since moving to Tucson.
Pete and Andrea’s backgrounds are in visual arts and graphic design, respectively. They do the band’s artwork, graphics and videography, and, for other acts, designed T-shirts, album art and logos.
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 has illustrated two tarot card decks in the ’80s, and his paintings have been featured on network TV shows.
During their 16 years together, the couple have been involved in music together. Pete has been playing in bands since junior high. Andrea started doing community theater at a young age and began performing with bands at age 18.
Pete said from the beginning, they meshed well together musically.
“Our styles were different, but we had a similar foundation of music appreciation. So, I think it was easy to meld the slightly different styles. I think it came naturally,” Pete said.
“My style was a little moody and slower vibe rock, and Pete’s was a little more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. They definitely intertwined and become its own thing,” Andrea added.
Andrea said having a similar level of commitment to the music has been important for them.
“We have this mix of being creative people but also being grounded too. That helps us stay together and work together. And then we were super in love when we met and still are,” Andrea said.
Birds and Arrows: “Electric Bones” Release Show
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19
WHERE: Hotel Congress,
311 E. Congress Street, Tucson.
COST: $10 plus fees
INFO: 520-621-3341, arizonaartslive.com