Local pop/folk/electronica outfit Audiafauna grows up on debut LP, ‘Grow Down’
When it comes to thrift store shopping in Santa Cruz, there’s no deal that’s too good to be true. But nobody understands the value of thrift stores better than Krikor Andonian, the guitarist and keyboardist for local pop, folk, and electronica-laden quintet, Audiafauna. It was at a thrift store on Front Street in 2008, where Andonian—then a grad student studying plant ecology at UC Santa Cruz—met singer Kelly Koval, who was studying literature at the time.
“I noticed her in the store, and we ended up in line together and started chatting,” recalls Andonian, who now teaches at De Anza College in Cupertino. Their chat continued past checkout and evolved into a musical partnership, even though he admits, “We never tried to make a band. We just sat down and wrote songs together.” Koval made a lasting impression on Andonian, who gushes, “I really do love the way that she communicates through music and the lyrics.”
The pair debuted their first three-track EP, The Leaflet, in 2010, with songs chock-full of subtle electronic beats, plus chilling keys and strings. The opening track, “Fallen,” leaves the listener on pins and needles, as Koval sings an apocalyptic version of “Rain Rain Go Away,” combating the end of the world as swiftly and efficiently as a seamstress: “The day the sky fell from the heavens/ I grabbed my needle and thread/ and lifted my head up to the heavens/ and sewed it right back up again.”
Adding texture to the rich, assorted sound that is Audiafauna, is R2 the Specialist (drums/electronics), Alexis Hawks (cello), and Natural Bridges State Park employee Chris Lynch (violin/keys), all of whom are featured in the video for “Roots,” in which they alternate between playing instruments and pretending to do so with tree branches. In the chorus, Koval sings: “Somewhere there’s a tree that grows up endlessly/ for all of the life you share with your friends and family/ the roots sing to the core/ the roots sing to the core.”
“Roots” is the second track off of Audiafauna’s 17-track debut LP, Grow Down—recorded and mixed by R2, whom Andonian affectionately defines as “the mastermind” and “The Wizard of Oz”— released on their Bandcamp page on May 5. Grow Down clocks in around the one hour mark, approximately 10 times as long as The Leaflet; with this duration, the band has succeeded in its efforts to showcase its miscellaneous music, influenced by all sorts of genres and artists.
Andonian says Lana Del Rey is a big influence for Koval, who has “been really into that minimalist, really simple … piano and vocals, subtle effects” type of sound. “For me, I’ve got one foot in the electronic world,” says Andonian, “building this world between folk and beautiful human melodies with [that of] the electronic. SBTRKT and James Blake have been super influential.”
He explains that Blake is “doing exactly what we want to be doing—really pushing the envelope as to what is pleasant in your ears. He manages to make harsh, abrasive tones palatable.”
On Friday, Audiafauna will celebrate the release of Grow Down, which took a year and a half to record, at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park. Part of the proceeds will benefit Santa Cruz state parks. Asked why the band chose to perform there, Andonian said, “Rather than support a bar or a venue, it’s something we believe in.”
In an effort to further help the environment, the band was insistent on eco-friendly packaging for its new album. “Except for the CD, there’s no plastic in there,” Andonian says with pride. “The tray is made of recycled egg carton. The central thing that keeps it in place is made out of cork. It’s pretty much biodegradable.”
Audiafauna plays at 8 p.m. Friday, June 1, at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, 144 School St., Santa Cruz. $15/adv, $20/door. Visit brownpapertickets.com.