Azari & III: "They Say We Brought House Back, But It Never Went Anywhere"

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Toronto electronic dance music outfit Azari & III reek so much of style that it's disgusting.

Pure unadulterated chic wafts off flamboyant vocalist-frontmen Fritz Helder and Starving Yet Full. And it oozes from the group's intoxicating cocktail blend of classic house and electro.

Azari & III exploded onto the international EDM scene in 2011 with "Hungry For the Power," an instant classic that burned up Miami dance floors during WMC. And while every subsequent single has only added to the hype, it wasn't until last month that the foursome finally dropped its eponymous debut album.

Crossfade caught up with Azari & III producer Alphonse Alixander Lanza III ahead of the group's gig at Grand Central to chat about the album, inspirations, and the church of house music.

Crossfade: Who is Azari & III? How did the group first form and what were you each working on musically before you got together?

Alphonse Alixander Lanza III: Big first question! The small answer is Azari & III are producers, performers and lotharios Dinamo Azari and Alphonse Alixander Lanza III -- hence the name Azari & III. We are often joined by strange and beautiful vocal magicians, such as Fritz Helder and Starving Yet Full, Mathilde Mallen and Julie Kendall, as well as those yet undiscovered sirens. The fragile, fleeting and forecasting voices of our self-embodied mythos.

Toronto's electronic dance music scene appears to be in full bloom with international stars like Art Department, Nitin, My Favorite Robot, and yourself at the fore. How has living and working there informed you as artists? Is there a sense of community as far as you exchanging ideas with other artists?

We all know and tolerate each other, but there is no real tight community or peace-love-unity-respect thing happening here, that we're aware of. We all hide out in our gated studios and critique each other from a distance! There is lots of vital and original art and music being made here, and yeah, it does seem we've had a little renaissance the past few years, when all the purple sweater-wearing indie rock fiddlers gave way to the hoard of Traktor DJ photo bloggers. [Laughs]

How do you typically approach the creative process in the studio? Is it a full-blown jam session with the whole band present, or do the vocals come second to the songwriting and production?

It can be anything from a single guy, being up all night in his underwear with a laptop and a steaming PG Tips, to 6 of us crowded around an SSL and an MPC60 firing off ideas at each other and seeing what sticks.

Was there a general concept or theme tying the album together, or did you approach it more as a collection of tracks?

Yes. Moments in love. Soft lights of the metro night. The dream and the illusion. In the city, concrete dissolves to dust, metal to rust, and from the empty darkness.

Your sound, while modern, has obvious references to dance music's past. Why do you think so many artists in general are looking to the past instead of the future for inspiration? And what IS the future of dance music, in your opinion?

One should rather access the now and accept that neither past nor future hold any grip on reality at all. We are swept away in the moment, and a lifetime can be lived in that one instant of precious awareness. Dance music is as it should be: we praise the acids of house -- we worship in a church or our choice.

Your sound is not precisely four-to-the-floor house music, despite your crossover success in that scene. Where do you personally see yourselves in the contemporary electronic dance music landscape?

In the middle of a bleak, worldwide electro-razor meltdown, we brought back the R&B and the funk into dance music -- the darkness, the wandering hopes and crystalline fantasies. They say we brought house back as a whole, which is nonsense, because we all know that those aging, brown-corduroy-and-blouse wearing housers never went anywhere...

So what's next for Azari & III? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to?

We are jumping in the back seat and letting someone else drive for a bit -- taking in the scenery, sights, sounds and smells before it's back to outer space again and the damn anti-gravity blues.

And what can Miami expect during your performance at Grand Central? 

You can expect a meteoric symphony of overlapping agendas and idealism, swathed in the pale luminance of a dying dream and vanquished by a melting lava lamp sunrise.

Azari & III. Friday, November 16. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via fla.vor.us. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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