"Into You" from the album Groovin' a Little Each Day
For most young couples, a month on the road together is often enough to derail the relationship train — or at least put on the brakes. But for Eymarel's Mary Frances and Lee Allen, the time they spend traveling together just stokes the fire.
"We probably spend more time together than most couples would ever wish to — we really are best friends and lovers at the same time," says keyboardist and vocalist Frances, as the pair talks to City Paper on speakerphone from their car. "I think that transfers more than we realize into our stage presence and the direction of the music."
Allen manages both his drum kit and triggering samples during performances, and says their time together on tour feeds their songwriting material. Lately, the Wilmington, N.C.-based pair have made a second home in Miami, where they've been working on a full-length studio album with DJ Le Spam, a follow-up to their debut effort, Groovin' a Little Each Day. "Maria," a Cuban-infused track on the forthcoming CD [slated for release in early 2009], typifies that experience-based style.
"Maria is really Mary's alter-ego. It's set around a Cuban/reggae bassline," says Allen. "DJ Le Spam provided us the space and ear to further refine what we were hearing in our heads. We use a lot of loop-based samples, and we record them all live. [Spam] pushes us to keep everything as real and organic as possible."
The band's connection with Spam began while touring southern Florida, where they kept seeing his name pop up in concert listings. After finally catching a show, their booking agent and former bandmate Travis MacDaniel co-booked them with The Spam All-Stars for a gig. DJ Spam was impressed, and eventually offered his knob-turning services on the new album. All of the tracks from their yet-unnamed sophomore effort have been recorded in Miami over the last year, requiring Eymarel to drive down, record for a week, then return north to play gigs and save money for another trip. The relationship has paid off though, with the All-Star's guitarist, bass player, and horn section all contributing to the sessions.
To transfer studio-created tracks to a live setting, the duo uses two approaches. For some songs, they'll sample the original recording of an instrument in the song — like the bass line in "Maria" — and Allen will trigger it to play in the song. On others, Frances doubles up, playing bass on the keys while also hammering the melody and singing lyrics.
Eymarel played their first major festivals this summer, and with the new album almost under wraps, they're optimistic about the future.
"In the music business, you have to keep sticking with it. All the little breaks, everything you do, hopefully it adds up to something that's bigger," says Allen.
For a band with only two members, Eymarel's sound is already fairly big. They attribute some of the balance they find between multiple instruments, life on the road, and playing with a significant other to both of them being Geminis. From scraping to make ends meet to the inevitable car problems on tour, "we're each others' therapists," jokes Allen.
"Living like this has taught us how to live close together, with nothing but the basics — food, water, and gas to get to the next stop," says Allen. Then Frances shouts from the background, "And love, baby!"