NMR Artist Spotlight: The Blue Hour
The Blue Hour blends dream pop, synth wave, and industrial with hints of psychedelia, folk, and electronica to create hauntingly beautiful songs, focusing on texture and rhythm and discord ... and magic.
What inspires your music? What is your story?
The Blue Hour’s new album, “Always,” is a tale of romance and loss and finding magic in the most unexpected places. It is Marselle and my story. She and I met many years ago as teenagers. She was homeless, living on the streets of Seattle. I soon followed. We drifted from the glitz of dance clubs to the squalor of abandoned houses, sleeping in door stoops, church yards, or curled on a hot-air vent in the shadow of a grand gothic building on the university campus. And the whole time Marselle sang, filling those neglected spaces with an ethereal beauty, singing Kate Bush or Nina Hagen note-perfect.
It wasn’t desperate however. Everywhere we went, we created a fantastic world. Even though we could be run out of a squat at a moment’s notice, she and I transformed our spaces into fairy tale homes, decorating ramshackle rooms with remnants of tapestry and paisley, tea candles, and artwork torn from magazines. When Marselle begged for spare change, she did so with a lightness that came from a belief that all would be well. But then we lost each other—we simply missed meeting up one day and never saw each other again. Our memory of that time was like a dream that cast a long shadow over our lives, insisting that beauty and magic is real. It was one of those dreams that you never want to let go of.
When we finally found each other again, we were ready to write those songs she’d been singing all those years ago, and we were ready to tell our stories.
Musically, we draw inspiration from a wide range of music. We both love the ethereal vibe of early 4AD bands like the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil and the beat-driven music of new wave and chill wave. For my part, I’m drawn to abstract electronic music, ranging from David Bowie’s “Low” to Current 93 and Coil, and the emotive electronics of Portishead, Bat for Lashes, and Phantogram. Basically, we like music that makes us move and feel.
What makes your music extraordinary/different?
The experiences that Marselle and I went through were quite different from most. To us, survival is finding beauty—even transcendence—in the most difficult situations. When you are really put upon, you show that spark that is your true essence. We try to reflect that in our songs, blending layers of distortion and dissonance with Marselle’s soaring vocals and harmonies rising above the noise, transforming it. For example, the song “One More Mystery” is a gorgeous vocal performance about begging for enough change to buy one more day of our magical existence. “Fire on the Rooftops” is a duet about finding a place to sleep, about the city being full of empty spaces we can crawl into to escape the dangers of the night.
I hope that our songs give people a sense of story. In addition to music, I write fiction—mostly magical realism—which I try to incorporate to give our lyrics depth. The words are glimmers of a bigger picture, hinting at worlds unseen. The song, “False Moon Glow,” for example, is based on a short story I published several years ago called “Imitation Moon, Imitation Night.”
I think that what makes us unique musically is that we returned to music later in our lives. Because of that, we have learned to be fearless when it comes to experimenting with sound and blending genres. We have nothing to lose for trying. For example, Marselle recorded the vocals for two of the songs on “Alone” on her iPhone using her earbuds as a microphone. Technically wrong; but doing so gave her the right environment to put herself into the song, so why not?
To me though, what really sets us apart is Marselle’s voice. I am constantly in awe of her vocals and top-line writing. She elevates my music, taking it places I hadn’t imagined. Her melodic sophistication is inspiring.
What are your plans for the upcoming year?
Marselle and I just completed our new album and are working to secure a label that can distribute our music more broadly that we can. In the meantime, we plan to release a series of bi-monthly singles though our Bandcamp page to keep things exciting. We also plan to work on videos for our music and some soundtrack projects. We occasionally play live and will update our show calendar on our social media streams.