FM4 Soundpark Act of the Month: AZE

photo of Aze (c) Amelie Strobl
Aze (c) Amelie Strobl

picture of Radio FM4 logo

The FM4 Soundpark is a web-platform, community, and radio show for Austrian musicians. Every month, one act is selected to be highlighted both online and on air: The FM4 Soundpark Act of the Month. In June, the featured band is AZE.

The music of AZE is beautiful enough to cry to, and hot enough to fall in love with. Our FM4 Soundpark Act in June.

The basic mood is sad & sexy. Is there really anything else one needs to know about a band’s sound? AZE is the quintessential Austrian duo of the moment; a duo which has been writing their way up from newcomer status for two years now. The two musicians have just completed their first small tour and they played the opening slot for Lola Marsh at the Arena Wien. It’s safe to say: things are going quite well.

But what’s it like to have your first successes, while at the same time your current single (“Sweet Talk”) is once again hurtling up the steps of the FM4 charts? Does anything change about what you want out of your career? “Think big” are two of the words AZE doesn’t say directly in the interview, but they underscore their open, confident manner in conversation. “Our dreams were so big from the very first second – we keep them that crazy, too, so that things can keep going,” Beyza Demirkalp says with a laugh. Ezgi Atas, also laughing, doesn’t forget to quickly mention another most important role model: “My mom raised me at 120 percent. With AZE, I drive purely with 180 percent, so that it turns into something.”

Belief in what you do. Full stop.

photo of Aze by Amelie Strobl
Aze (c) Amelie Strobl

Beyza and Ezgi are childhood friends – grew up together in Upper Austria – and now live in Vienna. They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have known and liked each other since they were three years old. Many impossibly beautiful thoughts come together. How great must it be to have found a person who a) puts up with you all the time and with whom b) you currently also share your work and profession? The mood in the studio is relaxed, goofy, exuberant. Anglicisms and TikTok references dominate the conversation. It’s a sisterly familiarity that, as the best sibling relationship does, oscillates back and forth between pure adoration and being slightly annoyed. Here is a pair, writing music, that knows each other inside and out. 

Video: AZE – Call Me Back | live at buttersessions by buttersessionsv

“There’s no such thing as common ground” sings Ezgi Atas in the intro on one of the first AZE singles “Common Ground”, found on the first EP “Dead Heat” (2020). The music here is a shield against the outside, a holding onto and resting with oneself. At the same time, it tells of togetherness – things that are as old as time; while later in the song an urgent callback is requested because the longing is too great, despite all the fake coolness. Or as it goes in another highlight of the AZE catalog (“We Move”): “I’m scared of falling out of grace / hold me tight in your embrace”. There we are in the middle of young life, between love and disappointment, which always needs a counterpart; between self-discovery and usually a bit of self-destruction.

Video: Aze – We Move (Official Visualiser)

AZE writes music for people who otherwise like to listen to Frank Ocean, FKA Twigs or even Lana Del Rey. The art of most of their songs lies in how softly and gently they turn a seemingly meandering melody into a catchy tune with just a few notes. Nothing bangs extra loud here, the subtlety is the beauty, sometimes you might even think this works as background music in overpriced coffee house chains. The band even confirms this – not offended, but reflecting: “Everyone should take from our songs what they want” – no details, lots of details, whatever works. That’s also a way of defining good, quiet pop music: it tells you everything when you listen closely.

Video: Aze – Sweet Talk/Sidewalk [Official Music Video]

“Welcome to Hotline AZE, you are at just the right address for wallowing in self pity”.

And this is not just a nice joke. With the album we get, in the booklet and also as a spoken intro, an e-mail address and a phone number offered to contact: “We create solutions (or at least illusions that make things hurt less)”. So if you leave a message in whatever form, it will be picked up and discussed on AZE’s “Sweet Talk” radio talk show.

The album is intended to be a musical, but above all, as gathering in human solidarity. And the form is designed as a concept: Between already-known singles are short tracks and interludes, which at one point, for example, consist of a voice memo from Ezgi’s sister. But why now publish the first pop album as a self-/help-statement? “Because I think that mental illness is often addressed too seriously,” says Ezgi, “as a person with mental illness, I’m tired of crying about it. I’m not sad anymore. I’m not impaired, it’s just a part of me, and it doesn’t make me a worse person.”

"Hotline Aze" artwork (c) Amelie Strobl
“Hotline Aze” artwork (c) Amelie Strobl

The album, “Hotline AZE,” will be released June 24 via Ink Music.

Where Millenials have been struggling for years to raise awareness, when it comes to the topic of mental health in life and pop music, AZE, as Gen-Z members, are already one step ahead. This is neither arrogantly meant nor problematically. This is an individual solution proposal. In album form.

What characterizes the music of AZE, but even more their way of working, is nonchalance. In this case, you can also call it Schmäh (note: dialect for sarcasm, joking around). And even if there has rarely been a word less fitting to the genre of “elegant-smoother R’n’B-pop”, this is how an authentic bridge can be built. Life can be a real asshole now and then, especially in your early 20s when the feelings are excruciatingly intense. These are first times, after all, through which you have to maneuver your head and body. Confronted with their own inadequacy, weaknesses, and, time and again, depression (which is not a weakness), AZE doesn’t take anything lightly, but they don’t take themselves too seriously, either. And in most cases that is more than you can expect from stage performers.

Keyword “stage”: Soon you can see AZE live on July 8 at the spectrum Festival in Villach, on July 20 at their album release show at the Theater am Spittelberg in Vienna, on August 5 at the Szene Open Air in Lustenau and on October 7 at the 10 Volt Festival in Hallein.

Lisa Schneider

Translated by Arianna Alfreds from the German original published on June 1st, 2022.