A drummer's shattered elbow. Delayed album releases and label struggles. If you only read the history of Autolux, you may assume that it's the story of a band that's constantly facing hurdles and adversity in order to live its dream.
If you talk to drummer Carla Azar, you get a completely different picture — one about a trio of musicians simply doing what they love and always looking forward, never looking back. After all, hurdles were meant to be jumped over.
The band released its debut album, Future Perfect, in 2004, but it took six years for the follow-up to see daylight. Transit Transit was released on Aug. 1 and, if you ask Azar, shows a lot of growth from that debut while still maintaining a desired innocence. While the album is just being released, Autolux has been playing a few of the tunes on Transit for years — "Headless Sky" and "Science" among them.
"I will read things where people say it's not different from our first record, which I completely disagree with," Azar says by phone while on the road in Canada. "Greg is singing more. There are songs that are based around piano and vocals and there's nothing like that on our first record. I think there are two or three songs that may be a natural progression and are similar to the first one. I think we're more vulnerable on this album."
Azar's career got started in the early 1990s in Ednaswap, a group which also included current Paul McCartney guitarist Rusty Anderson. Since forming Autolux, Azar has done some session work with PJ Harvey and Vincent Gallo. Autolux, however, is where she feels the most comfortable.
"I think I'm more involved in this than anything I've ever done," she says. "This band allows me to write more and sing and it's sort of a free-for-all musically."
Her career almost came to a screeching halt in 2002 after she fell from a stage and shattered her elbow after Autolux had opened a show for Elvis Costello.
"I didn't think it would end my career, although that's what a lot of people thought," Azar says. "My elbow was broken in three places right at the socket. They had to take part of my hip to rebuild one of the bones. It was pretty extensive surgery, but I somehow thought it would be fine. It's not a Frankenstein elbow. The scar is about four inches long and pretty minimal. You can feel some of the screws that are there, but I feel really lucky that it healed fast. In four months, I was playing drums again."
While the band struggled with different labels and trying to figure out how to release its sophomore effort, the members continued to write and perform. Azar says her drum beats are worked on to be simple while still being interesting.
"A lot of things we do when we write is hearing sounds and tones — anything is music to us if it sounds good — from a door shutting to someone falling off a bridge and landing on a rock," she says with a laugh. "Anything that sounds good to us can be made into a song. We're always trying to do something that's a little bit different, but not doing it because of what's cool."
Aside from the music, which is atmospheric and artistic in its own way, Autolux has also worked to build its own lighting rigs to help create the right vibe on stage. "If you've been on stage and played some clubs, it goes from KMart lighting to the weirdest thing where a lighting guy leaves a yellow light on you for the whole show or the other extreme of using every light they have in the first 10 seconds," Azar says with a laugh. "That's why it started. When we get bigger, we can have a lighting guy that can do what we want, but in the meantime it's easier to be self-contained."
Azar notes that the lighting is very simple and nothing jaw-dropping, adding "It's better to have a little something rather than nothing."
Autolux With Gold Panda and Cement Stars. $10 in advance, $12 day of show. Sept. 2. 9 p.m. Tremont Music Hall. www.tremontmusichall.com