Lewiston-based but far-traveling psychedelic folk duo Arborea consists of the wife-and-husband team Shanti and Buck Curran. Their music is haunting and mesmerizing, full of ancient wisdom and poetic imagery.
“Fortress of the Sun,” their fifth full-length album, was recently released on CD, vinyl and digitally. Find the band on Facebook and at arborea.bandcamp.com.
Arborea formed in 2005, and their first album, “Wayfaring Summer,” was released the next year. The pair were introduced by mutual friends while both were living in Norfolk, Va. Shanti Curran was born in Lewiston, and the couple moved to Maine in 2000.
Buck Curran graciously obliged GO’s request for an interview, and turned in thoughtful responses to an array of questions.
What does the name Arborea mean?
“Arbor” is Latin for “trees,” so Arborea would be a sheltering grove of trees. Though for us, it has a greater mystical and spiritual connection.
Is it correct to say that you have both a national and international following? What’s been your success formula so far?
We do have a national and international following, and have toured across the U.S. several times, and have been touring in the U.K. and Europe since 2007. Any success that we’ve had has come through years of hard work and being present. The uniqueness of our sound comes from our unity, both spiritually and artistically (music, poetry, photography and art).
Where can people purchase a copy of “Fortress of the Sun”?
The album was a co-release between ourselves and the legendary NYC label ESP-Disk’, coinciding with their 50th anniversary. In Maine, it’s available at Bull Moose, online through Naxos Distribution and digitally through iTunes, Amazon.com, Spotify, etc.
Has your approach to songwriting changed over time?
It still evolves out of our poetry and improvising on our acoustic and electric guitars, banjos, dulcimers, etc. We do feel we have gotten stronger with each release. We also produce, record and mix our songs, and that is another part of the equation. We’re both very self-critical, so that definitely adds an important aspect to the quality control of what we release.
What inspired the song “Pale Horse Phantasm”?
Shanti created the phrase “pale horse phantasm.” It was originally the title of a poem she wrote, but later we reworked poetic verses into lyrics for the song. The pale horse is the harbinger of death, but in this case, phantasm is that which you think is real but turns out to be only a figment of your imagination. Thus, “Pale Horse Phantasm” is your death … that passes you by and gives you a second chance at life.
The official video for “Pale Horse Phantasm” was an intense collaboration between us and several friends from Bar Harbor. The video was filmed in late winter in Acadia National Park.
“Cherry Tree Carol” is quite spiritual. What can you tell us about it?
“Cherry Tree Carol” is one of the oldest known songs, dating back to the 15th century. We chose to record a version of this song because the lyrics are so haunting and otherworldly. There have been a lot of covers of this song, but none that we could find that really highlighted the eeriness of the tale.
Tell us about a few others on the new album.
“When I Was on Horseback” is another traditional song that we arranged musically, and I spent a few years rewriting the lyrics … changing the setting from Ireland to the American Civil War and reflecting the life and death of one its gallant warriors, Southern Calvary Gen. Jeb Stuart. “Ghost” is Shanti’s spoken-word poetry set to a musical improvisation she made. “Rua Das Aldas” (named after the oldest street in Porto, Portugal) is one of my acoustic guitar and flute improvisations.
Tell us something about Arborea that you’d like people who haven’t heard your music yet to know.
There are certainly traditional elements to our sound (folk, blues, world music and rock), but it is equal parts raw and ethereal. We create soundscapes, really … our music is inspired by visual elements, landscapes, waking and nighttime dreams. Our music is really our meditative communion … our “Fortress of the Sun,” the place we can go to get away from the complications and stresses of life.
Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at: