words and photography Lamont Abramczyk
cover photography Brittany Lucas
I’m sitting on a bench at the edge of Dufferin Grove Park. The weather has somehow reverted to a state of purgatory, reminiscent of Mother Nature approaching menopause, and I’m left with nothing but the desire for full-fingered gloves. I look up and see Anna cutting across the path, all teeth and smiles. It’s incredible how much this scene embodies my notion of ‘Sallows’, an eerily beautiful LP showcasing a more discrete side of HSY’s Anna Mayberry, in collaboration with electronic musician and producer David Psutka (Egyptrixx/ Hiawatha). I caught up with Anamai prior to their LP release show to talk about the album, thoughts on Tidal, and what it’d be like to work with David Lynch.
CREEP: What have you been up to this past month?
Anna: We’ve been playing a bunch of shows. I’ve played a lot of shows, David’s played about half of them with me. Pretty much every Anamai show we’ve had in the last month has been with a slightly different band playing with me. It’s been fun to improvise the set and change things up.
David: Yeah, there seems to be a real spirit of open-mindedness around the performances, which is good for me. It keeps things interesting, and I think Anna prefers it as well. My other project, which I’m touring with alternately at the same time, has a similar kind of vibe so it suits me. It’s never boring; it’s always engaging and unpredictable.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you met and decided to collaborate with one another?
Anna: I came to see David play at Metropolis in Montreal. We’d never met before, but my friend was a friend of David’s and she had tickets. We went to see him play but actually missed [his set] so hung out afterwards, and we ended up going to Foufounes and getting really drunk.
David: Especially our mutual friend.
Anna: Especially our mutual friend got really drunk.
David: She won the Gold Medal.
Anna: She won the Gold Medal because she tried to light a joint on the patio and we got kicked out and we’re like, “Oh, I guess this is really rowdy. I guess we’re doing this,” [laughs] but it wasn’t. It was actually quite nice.
David: It’s funny that it’s such a rock n’ roll start because neither of us are real party animals or anything.
Anna: [Laughs] So yeah, and then I think we kind of just talked about music and I mentioned that I had laptop demos that I’d made. I send them to David and then moved to Toronto and we decided to record them. Yeah, that was the start, and then we just started playing.
David: It’s interesting; it sort of evolved into a collaboration. It started as me just kind of helping Anna record but even throughout that period, it seemed like it kind of created a separate identity. It felt a lot more collaborative, or felt like a genuine collaboration.
Both lyrically and melodically, Anamai is just about the polar opposite of HSY and Egyptrixx. How does your approach to writing tracks as Anamai differ from previous projects such as the HSY EP or Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power]?
David: To me, there’s a lot of continuity between the projects. I think the ideas of arrangement or physicality of sounds, which are important ideas to me in music, are present in both. Obviously, superficially, they’re very different projects – different instruments, probably very different atmosphere. Anamai songs are vocally driven, and first and foremost about Anna’s song compositions but to me, they’re a lot of similarities. I made both those records simultaneously and I think that there’s a lot of textural similarities, or arrangement similarities.
Anna: I was actually thinking the other day about the different ways that I write lyrics and melody, in both HSY and Anamai. It’s kind of a basic difference but with Anamai, thus far, I’ll write a lot in my head without instruments and just singing, or I’ll write words and keep those and go back to them. With HSY, what often happens is it’s a lot more immediate and based off jamming with other people. Like filling in space and interjecting, babbling – words kind of first come out in sound phonetically, and then later going back and thinking, “Okay wait, what are some words I want to say,” instead of just some bullshit I kind of spit out.
David: Yeah, substituting in more personal or precise language.
Anna: Yeah, but I mean also the fun part is that sometimes the first things you spit out are the most felt.
David: It’s such an important thing for a creative person to get a nudge, or encouragement to do things quickly, without so much preciousness.
Anna: Exactly. Sometimes they’re throwaway jams, but sometimes they become our favourite songs.
How does this new musical direction influence your approach to live performances?
David: I think that for me personally, there are a lot of similarities between these two projects. The ideas we bring to our live shows, and kind of why it’s so freeform is that we’re trying to fill in space with sound and create some kind of circular sound environment. Anna is a great songwriter and a great singer and that can become a focal fixation for some people, but I think the live set is more of a circular thing and that’s a spirit I think I bring to Egyptrixx performances too. It’s just more of a freeform sound installation than just a sequence of songs.
Anna: I think of it in a way, not even so much establishing a certain space, but putting things out in the space and letting them exist for people versus trying to be right in the song and embodying the song. Instead of doing that, just letting it go. And in a way, I feel that with HSY as well. Even though the energy is higher, I think it comes from the opposite direction, getting to a point of total loss of control where then you have no choice but to take your ego out of it and just be like, “This is what it sounds like now – it sounds chaotic, or horrible [laughs].”
David: It’s funny because sometimes, it’s pretty formalist. We don’t really rehearse. This is our fourth rehearsal ever, today…maybe [laughs]. Sometimes having that unpredictability is great. It’s a bit of a gamble because sometimes it doesn’t work but when it does, it’s pretty exciting.
Last month you released a music video for “Lucia”, a chilling yet beautiful narrative depicting Anna outside in the dead of winter. This seems to be quite an emotional piece. What can you tell me about your approach to this video?
Anna: That was a video I made with my friend, Adam Seward. Basically I had this goal to make a video, not necessarily for that song but just in general, in a snowstorm. I started talking to Adam and we decided to do it and developed a loose narrative. We thought of places to go and picked the [Toronto] Island. Because we had to get the video done on a certain timeline, we’d almost given up on the snowstorm idea and had just decided: “This place is beautiful, it’ll look nice regardless. It’s cold out – you’ll see your breath and whatever, it might be okay.” We ended up going there that day and half way through, it started snowing and just didn’t stop. It was perfect because at the beginning of the day when we set up, we’re outside for a lot of hours and it wasn’t even that cold in the beginning. I think it was about zero and it just got really cold and really windy. I was walking to this pathway where there were all these reeds and you’d walk one way, then come back along the path and your footprints were gone. There was like half a foot of snow – it was crazy.
A couple of weeks ago I caught up with Allie Blumas and Doomsquad to discuss Kalaboogie and other various collaborative projects. What can you tell me about Open Fortress?
Anna: Open Fortress is Allie, myself, and two of our other dance friends who moved to Toronto in the past year from Montreal. We met up one day to work on this project that we’d gotten and decided we wanted to become a support community for each other in dance, in a way that isn’t project-orientated or stylized. We wanted to create this tiny, I guess, collective. There are a lot of arts collectives and I’m kind of shy about that word. It’s basically just a collective to support each other and to share studio space, critique each other’s work if we want, and whatever opportunities come up maybe jump on. We performed once after forming, which kind of started the collective.
We performed once at the Great Hall for Long Winter. That was a really interesting piece. We kind of just interjected ourselves into this teenage rave party. That was the end result – it was totally unexpected. We thought we’d be party hypers, but we ended up being this party police. It was totally unexpected, like one of those projects where you say you’re going to engage with the public, and then you actually do and it’s completely different to what you thought it’d be. That fact that they were sixteen and on MDMA was definitely a surprise [laughs].
David, you recently launched your own record label. Following the release of Transfer of Energy [Feelings of Power], what can we expect this year from Halocline Trance?
David: I have one more record that will be coming out in the fall, which is another project of mine. And that’s about it, a few other small things, shows, tours. There’s a few things tingling in the ether, but I haven’t announced them officially yet.
Musical aspirations aside, how do you like to spend your downtime (if any)?
David: Downtime? I don’t have any of that.
Anna: I haven’t had any in a while. I don’t know, working? [laughs]
David: It’s been a busy year.
It’s hard to talk about Toronto’s shifting musical landscape without bringing up Buzz Records. What does their support mean for artists such as yourselves?
Anna: For me, it’s been really great. I became involved with them a few years ago. I guess I became friends with some people and joined HSY and Buzz, and through that Anamai became involved as well. I think it’s just people pulling their efforts to work with each other and giving each other a lot of support in both friendship and physical ways, like putting out a record.
David, do you find there’s musical support for artists in your field as well?
David: Yeah, I do. I like working with Buzz and I find them a pretty genuine cohesion. People use the word “community” quite recklessly but I think that Buzz is an actual community. Everyone’s friends and they involve each other, and involve themselves in each other’s projects. My network of artists is kind of transnational because I’ve been traveling as much as I’ve been in Toronto over the past five years, so I have close friends in different places and those people that I turn to for support or guidance or whatever. It’s a smattering of people in a smattering of cities, really.
Anna: I think it’s about someone for their honest and professional advice. It’s not just about asking someone’s opinion, they know this.
David: It is a rare beast to have truly loyal friends in a creative world or creative industry, like music. I just met the Buzz group somewhat recently through Anna, but I’ve had a good time working with them and they seem like a good group.
Jay Z recently launched his streaming service, Tidal, which has been met with controversy amongst many emerging and independent artists. Do you have any thoughts on Tidal, and how it changes the way we access music?
David: I don’t know anything about it.
Anna: All I’ve seen is that picture of Madonna, Nicki Manaj, Jay Z, and Kanye on a stage kind of frowning. That’s basically all I know about Tidal [laughs].
Lamont: It’s pretty much the same as Spotify. Jay Z bought it out a couple of years ago. It’s funny, I wrote this question last week and since then they’ve just dropped completely off the map. It’s not even in the top 500 apps downloaded. It’s a funny thing asking people to spend like $30 a month to access music
David: It’s subscription-based and then you have access to a database of music.
Anna: I don’t use those things at this point. I can understand their appeal and do know a lot of people who use them. I don’t know…I’m interested to see how that way of consuming music without owning it evolves. I feel like I’m kind of selfish – I like owning records, I like having them.
David: Also, I think the shear randomness of swan diving into this huge database of music and hoping to find something just seems totally random to me. I usually come to a record because it’s been introduced to me or I find it on some kind of personal search. I wouldn’t just switch on Tidal or whatever and scroll through however billions of songs. I don’t even know if that’s how it works. Maybe I’m being presumptuous.
Anna: I think it definitely doesn’t do anything to calm my existing anxieties.
David: It’s probably hard for them to muscle their way into a market that is already so saturated. A lot of people already use Spotify, or iTunes or whatever. I think they’re trying to use star power to force their way into people’s lives.
If you could collaborate with any artist/artists, past or present, who would it be and why?
David: I’ve always wanted to work with Ida No [of Glass Candy], or maybe some of the old Sufi Mystics from the turn of the century. That’d be cool.
Anna: I know he’s really expensive, apparently, but maybe David Lynch.
David: I don’t think in the music world – I don’t think he’s that expensive.
Anna: Maybe not.
David: Do you want to make a movie with him?
Anna: Maybe not. I just want him to tell me to do something. I want him to direct me and be like, “Anna, go put your head in that thing over there,” and be like, “Okay”.
David: “You’re a sunflower [laughs].” I’d fuck with David Lynch. Although it was kind of prissy how he backed out of the new Twin Peaks.
Anna: Whatever, he can do what he wants.
David: Yeah, he’s earned it. Although, his movies have been getting progressively weirder. The last one he made was Inland Empire right? That was by far his least coherent movie, maybe his most David Lynch. And that was like ten years ago.
Anna: I don’t know that coherence is his goal.
David: Yeah, true. You know, in that movie he didn’t have a script? He was writing it out while he was having coffee, just daily little post it notes of what he was going to do that day. He was building it like it was a sand castle, just slapping things on. So what would he be like to work with?
Anna: I don’t know. Have you seen any episodes of shows that he’s directed? There’s that episode of Louie that he directed and it’s fucking amazing. He’s in it too and it’s really good. I think he’s an interesting collaborator when you see him work with other people.
David: Well his albums are really collaborative. He brings in a lot of people on his albums. I just feel like he’s a different David Lynch now since Mulholland Drive, which came out like twenty years ago [laughs].
Plans for the summer?
David: We have some Anamai shows and some recordings. Is there anything else?
Anna: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. We’ve got a show for NXNE, maybe some other shows out of town. It’s coming, it’s almost summer.
David: I’ve got a few other shows and studio projects, so it should be a busy summer.
What creeps you out the most?
Anna: Men’s rights activists.
David: Flood water. Walnuts in brownies.
Posted on May 4, 2015.
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