- Acoustic duo Rachael & Vilray play Club Helsinki January 19.
It's a special kind of magic when two voices meet and immediately sound like they've never been apart. The voices of acoustic duo Rachael & Vilray—aka Lake Street Dive singer Rachael Price and, well, simply Vilray—are magical enough on their own, but when they blend in song the results are utterly sublime. Rooted in the jazz and Tin Pan Alley pop of the 1930s and 1940s, the twosome recalls the heavenly sounds of the Merry Macs, the Pied Pipers, and Les Paul & Mary Ford, crooning a repertoire of timeless standards and angelic originals. The pair met in Boston in the early 2000s and stayed in touch as Price made her ascendancy with Lake Street Dive and Vilray returned to his native Brooklyn, where he's plied his craft as a subway busker. Between studio sessions for their upcoming debut, the two are doing a series of cozy Northeast winter dates and answered a few questions via e-mail below. Rachael & Vilray will perform at Club Helsinki in Hudson on January 19 at 8pm. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day of show. (518) 828-4800.
You've known each other since 2003, when you were both students at the New England Conservatory of Music, which is also where Lake Street Dive met and formed. How did you actually meet? What drew you together?
Rachael: I don't recall the specific first time we met. Vilray became fast friends with Mike "McDuck" Olson and Mike Calabrese [of Lake Street Dive] and I recall thinking they were the coolest and I really wanted to be friends with them. I also recall Vilray being quite unenthused by my personality and I really had to force him to be friends with me. Because I knew that if he knew me, he'd love me. I was right.
Do you recall the feelings you had when you first sang together? What thoughts went through your heads during and after that initial duet?
Rachael: It was easily seven years after we'd met before we sang together. I knew we both loved this type of music and was sure we could do it together. But it took some forcing and couple of bad gigs to realize that there was something there. Once again, I was right.
What is it about the pop music of the 1930s and 1940s in particular that appeals to you? Who are some of your favorite artists and songwriters from that era and why?
Vilray: The Tin Pan Alley scene that produced or inspired the music we play expresses such a range of emotions with such an economy of words. The '30s-'40s period was the golden age, all the kinks had been worked out and the forms they were using were very hip, a little experimental, and sometimes very dark and lovely. It's a populist music: danceable, singable, easily understood, humorous, heartbreaking, authentic, and unpretentious. Fats Waller could perform a lighthearted bop like "I Simply Adore You" ("Looked at from all directions you're just perfection's design / There's no to be or not to be you just got to be mine!") and then go right into "Inside This Heart of Mine" ("Blue skies taunt me / Memories haunt me / You don't want me..."). What era of music, besides opera, served such a balanced meal to its audiences?
When can we look forward to hearing your debut album?
Vilray: Recordings are still in the planning stage. Right now, we're planning to have something to release in 2018.
What do you most hope people experience when they come to see you perform?
Vilray: We hope people experience some measure of intimacy and vulnerability when they come hear us. Whether they're told humorously or earnestly, these are songs of love and loss. We are singing them with our bodies and faces close to each other, looking into each other's eyes, sharing a single microphone. We are having real feelings up on stage and we hear it comes across. It's hopefully a different kind of experience for audiences today, when so much art is expressed ironically or from an emotional distance.