Oct. 20 2010 10:55 AM

Azure Ray reunites amid a struggling market and uncertain future

Maria Taylor (left) and Orenda Fink, newly reunited
Photo by Gary Isaacs
Maria Taylor was still in bed when I called. She was back in Los Angeles visiting Orenda Fink, the other half of recently reunited dream-pop damsels Azure Ray, and she was hung over from one of those big-city nights that she’s missed after moving back to her hometown of Birmingham, Ala.

“It’s a very strange state right now in the music world,” Taylor, 34, says. “I’m very curious to see what’s going to happen. Is anyone going to make a career out of this anymore?” It’s a valid question: The rock-band business model that earned Taylor and Fink a lucky contract with Geffen Records in the mid ’90s—via their Veruca Salt-inspired, high-school-boband Little Red Rocket—is all but extinct.

For most of the past decade—they started a six-year hiatus in 2004 to pursue solo projects—Taylor and Fink have earned most of their living through regular touring, merchandise sales and, increasingly, licensing deals for TV shows and movies. The band’s songs have been featured in soundtracks for The Devil Wears Prada, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Six Feet Under.

“That’s probably most of the money,” Taylor says.

“It’s just crazy how you can basically take your royalties check from selling records and pretty much split it in half now. I would never advise [a career in music] for my children.”

She was essentially still a child herself when she made up her mind to pursue the career at all costs. But things were different then. Costs were different. People bought albums.

“I realized when I was 18 that this was one of those careers that you couldn’t dabble in,” she says. “If you wanted to make it as a musician, you had to give up everything and go for it. I quit school to go on the road. It has definitely taken its toll on things like personal relationships. It’s very hard to keep everything stable. But I take every opportunity I can to be on the road, all the time.”

But she’s still coming to terms with the reality that she has to take every opportunity.

“Now the only way to really make it is just tour all the time,” she says. “But with this new economy, people who saw you three months before are probably going to have a hard time coming out to see you again. The biggest thing is that people don’t buy records, and it’s just getting harder and harder to make money doing this. No one buys music. Everyone steals it. I’m guilty of it, too. I try not to, especially if it’s a band not on a big, major label. Then I’ll definitely buy it. But if there’s like a Michael Jackson song I really want to hear, then… you know.”

Does she worry about her future? Fink says something in the background. Taylor laughs.

“Yeah,” she says. “I worry about it. I worry about it.

I don’t know what the hell I’ll be doing when I’m 44. But my dream is still to just be able to make a living doing this 10 years from now.”

Azure Ray reunited pretty much on a whim. “We started hanging out more again, and it just seemed like the right time to make a record and take this party on the road,” Taylor says.

She probably hoped Drawing Down the Moon, the duo’s eagerly anticipated, recently released record, would have her off to a better start. The album has received mixed reviews, simultaneously panned and praised by critics for being nostalgic lyrically and even stylistically.

Talking with Taylor, you can’t help but think that an ignorance-is-bliss approach might have been intentional.

“I may grow tired of all of this eventually, especially if I ever have kids,” she says, “but right now, who wouldn’t want to play mellow indie-pop and get paid at least something for it? I get paid to meet people and drink wine and make music.”

For tomorrow, we download.

Azure Ray play with Tim Fite & Whispertown at The Loft at UCSD on Thursday, Oct. 21. myspace.com/azureray