When Durham residents Andrea and Pete Connolly set out for Arizona nearly three years ago in search of a creative and physical life change, the couple’s band, Birds and Arrows, was known for its gentle, often romantic folk-pop. Returning this weekend for their first Triangle show since 2015 to support their new album, Arbitrary Magic, the pair say that living in the Sonoran Desert has helped inspire a new direction for their music, which may seem unrecognizable at first to folks in their old stomping grounds.
“There’s something about Tucson—and a lot of the Southwest, really—that emboldens artists, and it’s definitely done that for us,” the Connollys shared over email, mentioning how tough it was to shake their label as a sweet folk duo before the move. “There’s a sense of true wild freedom here where artists don’t seem held back by the conservative nature of their surroundings.” In the case of Birds & Arrows, that means Arbitrary Magic has a crunchier sound than anything they’ve released before, though both Connollys grew up playing in rock bands.
They’ve been significantly reworking their sound, they say. That’s involved Andrea shifting her songwriting focus to be more outspoken in light of the current political climate, particularly in the context of a border town like Tucson; she refers to “Stay Down” as her “angry #metoo song,” while “Overloaded” speaks to Trump’s demonization of Latinx people.
“We’ve been married ten years and are still madly in love, but artistically, it would be pretty damn boring to just continue to write about that,” she explains. “We’re ready to scream about change right now.” While excited to share their new material with their former home, they acknowledge that some longtime listeners may be thrown for a loop by the changes. “Some people might be a little freaked out, but we’re still the same honest, harmony-based, song-oriented band we always were—we’ll just melt your face now too.” —Spencer Griffith
Birds & Arrows play at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room Friday, November 16, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10–$12, Surrender Human and Rachel Kiel open.