To paraphrase an old saying: The family that goths together stays together.
Such is the case for siblings Bret and Bart Helm, who’ve been the core of post-punk band Audra since their inception in 1991. For any local veterans of dark music, the Arizona band’s signature blend of goth, glam, and moody post-punk will strike a familiar chord.
Audra nevertheless have spread their shadow across the goth underground. They released their first two albums through Projekt Records and went on tours supporting big names like Peter Murphy, The Mission U.K., and Gene Loves Jezebel. Bret Helm also did a musical tour of duty as a singer for dark cabaret/classical band Black Tape for a Blue Girl. And now they’re back with a new album, Dear Tired Friends, their first new release in nine years.
We got a chance to talk to Bret Helm before the band’s upcoming album release party at The Lunchbox on Friday, September 27. We talked to him about Christian Death, crowdfunding, and why it took the band nine years to follow up with a new record.
In the lead-up to the release of your latest album, you started an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund its release. How did crowdfunding work out for Audra?
We hadn’t put out an album at that point in nine years. So when you haven’t done something for that long, you’re really kind of putting yourself out there hoping there’s going to be any interest. If the response is nothing, it’d be soul-crushing. We actually got an overwhelming response and it ended up being an incredibly positive and successful experience — it helped us make enough to be able to press up CDs and vinyl for Dear Tired Friends.
Speaking of that nine-year gap: What happened? Were you all working on other projects, or did y’all just need to take a break from Audra?
We still played live here and there throughout that time period. But we personally ended up going through so much stuff — not as a band, but each of us individually went through so many personal trials. It was really tough. So it took a while for us to come together to record a new album.
You were a part of Black Tape for a Blue Girl for a while. How did that happen?
It was 1999 and there was this club in Scottsdale called The Atomic Cafe — I think it’s called Pub Rock now. We were kind of the house band there for a while. The owner, a guy named Randall, he opened up another one out in Austin and then he phased out the one that was here. But we kept up in touch, and he called us up and said that he had a band coming in through Austin — Black Tape for a Blue Girl — and wanted to know if we’d come out and open for them. I was already familiar with them and Projekt Records, so we went out to Austin. A few months later, they came out to Phoenix and we did a show together at the Mason Jar. And then we just ended up keeping in touch. Eventually one of the singers in Black Tape gave Sam — who owned Prokjet — our EP and he signed us. So we put out our first two records on Projekt, which is the same label Black Tape was on.
So a few years later, I did a few vocals for them, played guitar. And then we toured all over the country and went to Germany. When it came for Audra to renew our contract for the third album with Projekt, we just decided to branch out on our own.
I saw that y’all contributed to a Christian Death tribute album in the past. What’s your favorite album by them?
Oh yeah! Catastrophe Ballet — that’s their second one, back in 1984. We were friends with Gitane DeMone, who was a singer and keyboard player in Christian Death from '82 to '89. She and some of our friends were putting together a compilation of Rozz Williams/Christian Death cover songs. So we recorded a version of “This Glass House” from Catastrophe Ballet. Man, I haven’t listened to that in probably a decade.
Audra are scheduled to perform on Friday, September 27, at The Lunchbox. Tickets are available via Eventbrite.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.