Comprised of Robin Jax and Amber Bird, The Companions are a transatlantic duo with a difference. Both are on the Autism spectrum, and both are “lovers of music and fighters of demons”. The pair find meaning in science fiction and the “warped edges of a reality” which gives their sound a “hint of the cosmic” and a tint of the extraterrestrial.
The Companions released their debut single ‘New Earth’ via UK-based label Tiergarten Records (a home for neurodiverse musicians) in 2018. Today, we’re premiering the video for their latest single ‘(parentheses)’ alongside a guest blog from one half of the duo: Seattle-based musician and author Amber Bird. Read her thoughts on being part of a transatlantic duo, the influence distance and autism has on her work, and her thoughts on the band’s new video below…
I have had a preoccupation with distance for as long as I can remember. With the flavours it comes in (physical, emotional, mental, chronological, etc). With why it’s good and why it’s bad. With how to bridge the distances I hate and maintain the ones I love. And it’s a relevant preoccupation being part of The Companions, a transatlantic Autistic musical duo.
Being on the other side of the world means we’re too physically far apart to spend time together in a practice space, building songs and enjoying our friendship. It means sometimes we don’t seem like a real band. But also sometimes it gives us the flexibility to fit our work into busy lives. It means few of our decisions are made in the emotion of a moment; all our songs, ideas, and designs have at least a few hours to simmer as we wait for the other person to wake up and check them out.
As much as I’m human like you, being Autistic means my brain works in a way different to yours. I have spent great swathes of time feeling the distance between my experiences and others’ experiences. Feeling the mental and emotional distance that that can create, especially when people can’t easily see my differences and just know I am not aligning with their expectations. Feeling more like an anthropologist from outside the non-Autistic world, watching how neurotypical people think and feel and interact, aware of how often I’m faking or guessing in order to try to bridge the distance sufficiently.
The video we’re premiering today exclusively with Get in Her Ears is for ‘(parentheses)‘, the b-side to our ‘New Earth’ single. I did the lyrics, vocals, and video; Robin did the instruments, backing vocals, and some production. Whilst it’s the only entirely non-cynical song I’ve written about love, it’s still got things to say about distance. About how it feels when you close the distance that seems to hang around you until you’ve found the right person or people. (That gap can certainly be closed by friends; I don’t think romantic love is always or only the answer.) When I wrote this, I was grappling with the distance between what I wanted in a particular relationship and what I actually had. In a way, this is a love song to what I know can be.
When Robin sent me the music, it added another dimension of distance. An aural display of how cosmically huge the distance we sometimes have to cross to find what we want and deserve. We may feel like lone satellites pressing through the vastness of space, pinging the darkness. Hoping to find another signal, another earth. Much of what’s out there and of the tools we use to see and be off Earth are round things, curves promisingly like parentheses that might hold us. So put on your golden record, my fellow voyager. Sing to the black and stars. And listen for an answer worth the journey.