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Somewhere between a Tim Burton landscape and a Dorian Gray painting, the music of Audra is fraught with passion, strength and dissonant beauty. Songs built on the unsettled emotions of past relationships, the untimely passing of heroes and friends, fervent erotic fantasies and encounters with the divine. Creeping through layers of silvery guitar, propelled by an undulating bass line and driven by a bittersweet baritone, Audra’s hauntingly seductive melodies grab for the heart, but capture the soul.
Brothers Bret and Bart Helm form the core of Audra. Weaned on an early diet of Bowie, Bauhaus, Iggy Pop, Joy Division and Velvet Underground, the brothers began their musical union while young, their dichotomous personalities adding fuel to their creative energy. Singer and lyricist Bret Helm is the moody intellectual poet, while brother Bart’s paintbrush guitar tones provide a jagged edge to the band's music. Together, their common artistic vision is Audra, touching the nerve and moving the spirit in darkly mysterious hues.
In 1998, Audra released In a Dark Room... on CD-r, which contained the memorial for Rozz Williams: "In Hollywood Tonight." In October of 1999, Audra released its second CD, Silver Music, containing the soon to be favorite, "In All Our Androgyny." (Tracks from these recordings form the core of their up-coming Projekt release.)
Audra opened for Lycia back in 1998; but they came to Sam's attention in 1999 when they drove to Austin, TX, to open for black tape for a blue girl. Communication began between Sam and the band, and Audra opened up for black tape for a blue girl again in June of '99 in Phoenix. Sam so enjoyed the catchy dark sounds of their demo (reviewed below) that he dsigned Audra to Projekt....
And all that remains are my two frail hands...
Audra - In a Dark Room...
Review y Caitlin R. Kiernan in Carpe Noctem Magazine
Hear Real Audio sound files of the songs mentioned in this review, by clicking on their title.
Okay, so this is the demo that convinced me of the value of CD-R tech and shows that a band can indeed produce a very high quality disc on an (apparently) fairly low budget. Audra is the Mesa, Arizona-based quartet of Bret Helm (Vocals), Bart Helm (Guitar, Drum Programming), Ross Ingle (Keyboards), and Janel (Bass). In a Dark Room... was my introduction to the band, though they've opened for such notables as Sunshine Blind, Switchblade Symphony, Lycia, and even Gene Loves Jezebel. In a Dark Room... is an opulent elegy to personal turmoil and psychosis, four rhythmic nightmares driven by Bret Helm's somber, roiling vocals and an exquisitely understated sense of the morbid. Audra's playing around with the sort of goth that could easily slip into tiresome, overwrought theatrics, which makes the disc all the more impressive in its simple sobriety. My fave tracks are In Hollywood Tonight (an LA-tainted requiem to Rozz Williams) and You're So Pretty (the best serial killer song I've heard since Murder Ballads). So, buy the disc, and if these guys play anywhere nearby, be sure to catch them live. Oh, and Audra gets extra spooky points for including the lyrics with the CD!
A brief interview with Bret Helm of Audra
Q: Are you and your brother twins, or just plain old brothers?
Bret: Well, that's kind of a tricky question. On the surface, Bart and I are not twins. Bart is two years older than I am. But there is something that is interesting about our family: I am the youngest of 4 children. Before Bart and I were born, my mom had twin girls who both died at birth. It's kind of strange because Bart and I would have never been born if the twins had survived. So, in a way, I believe that Bart and I, in essence carry with us and through us the image of our twin sisters. I know it sounds strange, but it is something I believe in.
Q: Would you say that you and your brother are similar, or that you are opposites?
Bret: Both. Bart and I are very yin/yang. Bart has always been seen as the intense one and Bret the relaxed one, but we interchange a lot. Like a lot of close brothers/sisters, we can intuitively communicate sometimes, where we easily know what one another is thinking. At times we are very different, but in a musical mode, we spontaneously create like thunder and lightning in a storm.
Q: Is there any other interesting info or insights into the relationship you and your brother have when it comes to making music?
Bret: Yes. Bart and I create very, very spontaneously. Songs such as “Spiked with Black and Rum,” “In All Our Androgyny,” “Nervous,” “In Hollywood Tonight,” etc. were basically written on the spot, with one musical idea and me grabbing my black book and improvising a melody with words that I had written. First take - done! That's the way we create and make music . . . very spontaneous, very childlike, very passionate. One time our old keyboard player had to leave practice to get an adaptor that he had left at home. By the time he returned, 15 minutes later, Bart and I had “Spiked With Black and Rum” written and completed: drums, bass, guitar and vocals. Since we were kids, we've worked on music together and what naturally came out of both of us, worked together. The song "Cupid", which musically was written in 1994, is interesting because Bart had written a guitar part separate from me and I came up with a bass line for a song -- we never heard each other composing our parts -- didn't know what key . . . and one day we played the two parts together over a drum beat Bart had created and what you hear on the album is the same exact way we played it then.
Q: What is the significance of your band name, Audra?
Bret: Originally back in 1991, for a week or so, the band's name was Audra's Pearls, named after the pearls that she wore around her neck. But when a certain band became popular that contained the word "pearl" in it, we dropped it and just called ourselves Audra. For me, the name is associated with the concept of the perfect person or soul mate . . . the one person out there that represents all of the qualities that you want in a person. Most of the time, those qualities are a reflection of qualities that you like about yourself, hence the lines "Being there is like holding yourself, like kissing yourself" from "In All Our Androgyny." Audra is my absolute life's passion, both artistically and physically. The songs on the album all kind of interlink, with “Venus” dealing with the idea of what if that person ceases to exist, or “Don't Whisper My Name in the Dark,” which deals with my own personal demise . . . “Nervous” is the intensity of "Audra" showing up at my doorstep . . . “Spiked” is me shedding the memories of the past . . . “Flowers,” “You're So Pretty,” and “The Dancing Images” are fantastical erotic images, effects along the way . . . “In Hollywood Tonight” is for Rozz and the absolutely devastating effect that his life, music and death had on me . . . “What Your Eyes Had Seen” is for my friend Mark who was murdered in a motel room in San Diego . . . “Cupid” is for our black cat named Cupid who tragically died, "an ancient soul encased in a youthful body... a flying god striking hearts with a purr" . . . “2 Girls in 1 Dress?” well, that's a very long story, but it deals with intuition and dreams . . .