Monday, November 26, 2007

Interview:
Annuals



















Last week Femme Fatale and I had the opportunity to sit down and have a beer with Adam Baker and Mike Robinson of the North Carolina band, Annuals. On this night, the last of the band's tour with Manchester Orchestra, we talked about apple pie, Arcade Fire comparisons, and Absinthe, among other things. Despite the fact that our chat occurred only two days before Thanksgiving, and that Adam looked a bit ready to make it back home to see his loved ones (he did officially end the interview by saying, "I have to go write a letter to my girlfriend."), the two young men were extremely engaging and talkative.

Range Life: Today's your last show of the tour, right?

Adam Baker: Yeah, so sad.

Mike Robinson: Not looking forward to going home.

RL: Do you like being on the road?

AB:I’d rather be on the road than at home.

RL: You guys have been compared to all kinds of different bands and I’m wondering if that’s just because your sound is so unique that they’re having trouble approximating it. I was also wondering if there were a few bands you’ve seen yourself compared to where you think, “What?”

AB: There’s been a couple, not to name any names. I’d like to think its because we have unique music and its hard to compare it to anything, but its relatively the same.

MR: Most of the time we get compared to somebody, its always pretty much a good thing. That’s how you connect other bands. Its like,“what do they sound like?” and name some other band.

RL: I recently saw you compared to Broken Social Scene. I though that was an interesting one.

MR: Yeah, yeah. I didn’t really get that one.

RL: I didn’t really get that one either. When I first saw "Brother" posted on Pitchfork over a year ago, they mentioned Animal Collective and Arcade Fire.

MR: That’s the one we get a lot, yeah.

RL: Arcade Fire?

MR: Yeah.

AB: That’s like, that’s like the biggest one.

MR: I’m pretty happy about that one, though. I think it's probably just because of the multi-instrument thing, because they switch up on stage.

RL: It seems like any band that does that anymore gets Arcade Fire comparisons.

MR: Well, they were the first to get big.

AB: Who do they get compared to?

RL: Uh…the Cure. Talking Heads.

AB: Aw, I wanna get Talking Heads. (Laughs). Damn! Those are good comparisons, please!

RL: I’ll lie and say David Byrne was here if you want.

AB: That’s a damn good comparison!

RL: David Byrne and Robert Smith are in the corner watching Annuals play…

AB: Singing every word.

RL: I know you guys are a younger band. How does that work with you playing in a lot of clubs and bars?

MR: Well, I’m 23.

RL: Do you buy all the beer for the band?

AB: There’s only one under (21), it’s, uh, Kenny the guitar player. He’s 20. Soon we won’t have anyone underage. So...yeah, yeah, finally. Usually they don’t give a shit anyway. Me and Kenny, pretty much we were the only underage ones while we were on tour, right?

MR: When we were first starting out, yeah.

AB: Yeah. But they (the venues) never really gave a shit though, just because they just assume most times. Unless they’ve read their interweb lately.

RL: Did anybody celebrate their 21st birthday on the road?

AB: Uh, Anna did.

MR: I did, Adam did.

AB: In a venue that flooded.

MR: Yeah, yeah, that’s right.

RL: In a venue that what?

AB: A venue in England that flooded out. The night we played it was raining a lot. If you wanted to watch the show you would have had to stand in about 2 inches of water.

RL: Was it an indoor venue?

AB: It was indoor, it was in the basement of a really bad venue. We got some absinthe there, though. That was awesome.

RL: What was absinthe like?

AB: I don’t remember, honestly. It gets you pretty quick. It's green. It kinda tastes like licorice a little bit.

RL: Do you have to pour it over sugar, like a sugar cube?

AB: No, we just drank it from bottle because they left us in the bar unsupervised. Just took a bottle of Absinthe.

MR: Didn’t somebody bring a bottle home?

AB: I think Anna did?

MR: Yeah, she did.

AB: Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! There’s that thing you guys were looking for. (Into tape recorder) I mean she did not bring home [a bottle], no, not at all.

RL: What are you guys going to do on break?

AB: Record. And I think we’re playing South by Southwest, but other than that we’re recording and relaxing.

RL: I’m curious. I know that you have two EPs out right now, the one that’s digital only and there’s one that you can only get on tour that you guys did with Manchester Orchestra. Why did you guys decide to go with that unique distribution for those two?

MR: Um, that was pretty much a label idea.

AB: It wasn’t our choice I would rather...you can’t…no, nevermind, I’m not gonna…

MR: What?

AB: I was gonna…talk about our cards.

MR: Oh, the little drop card things?

AB: Yeah.

RL: Cards?

AB: We’re selling these little cards at the merch table since it’s a digital EP, just a little decorated card with a link on the back and the passcode...but then you can’t pop that in the car after the show, you know?

RL: Well, I heard that you guys are being called a “blogger’s band,” so is that an attempt to reach out to the online…

AB: I think it's an attempt to make as much money as possible for the label because they don’t have to pay for anything but some little cards.

RL: Well, what’s your preferred media. I mean, are you fans of CDs or vinyl, or...

AB: CDs.

MR: Yeah, CDs. If we could do just a tape, that’d be cool.

RL: I’m really beginning to think that the next wave of, like, kitschy music listening - not that vinyl is kitschy...

MR: It’s going to be cassette tapes. Of course it is. It's all going to go back.

RL: We’re working on our top albums of the year, and we’re wondering what you guys would say are some of your favorite albums of the year.

MR: The new Radiohead.

RL: Yeah, we’re big fans.

AB: The new Between the Buried and Me. They’re a metal band from North Carolina. What else? The new Coheed (and Cambria). It’s a good record, you gotta listen to it more than once.

RL: You toured with Blonde Redhead this year, how did that go?

AB: That was probably one of my favorite tours because they’re, like, since I was a little kid, one of my favorite bands.

MR: Yeah, they’re amazing. And they’re such nice people.

AB: And they have the cutest little dog too.

RL: Oh, I’ve seen pictures of it.

AB: Colette.

MR: Colette! It was pretty funny, though, seeing them in their huge tour bus and we’re in our old dinky Dodge van.

AB: They’re pulling dirt bikes out of their trailers.

MR: Yeah, they’re pulling bikes and shit out of their trailers.

AB: Busting out the hackey sack.

MR: We get out we have, like, a trailer full of instruments and stuff, and no recreational vehicles.

RL: God forbid you use those instruments, though.

MR: Yeah, I know.

RL: Thanksgiving is this week, what is your favorite pie?

MR: Pie? Apple pie.

AB: Pizza pie.

RL: Pizza pie! Very nice. I think this is going to have to become our new staple question.

AB: You’ll probably get some pretty lewd answers though. Things involved with pie. Pie is a very sexual…

(Ed. Note: As Adam was talking I noticed Mike was looking at the tape recorder. At this point I picked it up to check and see if the recorder is still taping the conversation.)

MR: It’s still going, I was just making sure the light was still on. I didn’t see it for a second, I was like…

RL: Thanks for looking out for us.

MR: No problem.

AB: Well, there was one time in Ireland where we did an hour interview together. (To Mike) Remember that?

MR: Yeah.

AB: And the guy didn’t have the tape on the whole time.

MR: He was supposed to be recording the entire thing.

AB: It was like the longest interview ever, and at the end of it he was like, “can we do that again, man?” He asked every single question over again.

MR: That’s the reason why I was checking.

RL: I really want to know, was there any particular band, song, or album that made you wake up one day and decide you wanted to play an instrument?

AB: I think, no, it wasn’t a CD or artist or record or anything, it was actually the first time I went and saw a show in a small venue. My dad took me to see my drum instructor’s – well, I had been playing drums just because my dad had played drums – but he took me to a live show and I heard the drum kit through the house, at a little place called the Brewery back home. And it sounded so fucking, insanely good I almost pissed my pants, and then I decided I had to play on stage for the rest of my life.

RL: That’s an answer right there!

MR: Pretty good answer, actually.

AB: Is that good?

RL: I just listened to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins and was like, “I guess I could try playing guitar.” I like yours better. And your drum instructor, that’s way cool.

AB: He was in a band called the Nickel Slots.

RL: At least they told you it was “slots” when you were younger, right? Do you still talk to him?

AB: No, he lives in Virginia now. Plus, he was, like, ten years older than me. We weren’t “bros,” he just wanted another head to come to his show.

RL: So you guys are recording after this tour?

AB: Yeah, like immediately, I mean we’ve been recording, we just have to finish everything up.

RL: Are you playing new material at these shows?

MR: We’re playing one new song that’s going to be on the next record.

RL: Do you rehearse new material at sound check?

AB: No. At sound check we just (long pause) sound check. We just play the songs that we play during the show.

MR: Pretty much before every tour we just practice a certain number of songs just so we’re solid and everything. We just don’t want to be playing songs and be sloppy on stage.

AB: Because we already look sloppy enough.

RL: What do you guys do when you’re not on the road? Do you have jobs?

MR: I don’t know, I’ll probably end up doing a couple of classes, because I’m only one class away from having my graphic design degree, and I haven’t done that in, like, two years now because we’ve been doing this. It's like I’ve pretty much forgotten most of the things I’ve been taught, and so I have to go back and relearn stuff and then hopefully get a job with it.

RL: Was it pretty unexpected at first when you guys started getting recognition?

MR: Pretty much. Yeah, it pretty much just started from nowhere. The label came up, and then it just started escalating.

RL: Do you have any creepy superfans?

AB: Um….there’s a few.

MR: I’m my own creepy superfan. I’m a big fan of myself.

AB: There’s no one that’s really crazy. There are very, very excited people sometimes.

MR: Maybe a little too excited sometimes, but it's still good.

RL: Like when you get those drunk people that maybe love you a little too much.

MR: (chuckles) Most of our crowd is a bunch of drunks.

AB: Since we’re headlining, everyone’s had the whole show to get tanked. It’s different if you’re the opening band; I remember when we were opening for bigger shows and people would come up, “Hey, that was great show, I’m very intrigued with your music.” But if you’re headlining its like, “Jiiiiiiiiim...” (makes vomiting noise).

MR: And they just throw up all over you. Then it’s like, “Wow, I did a great job tonight. Some guy just threw up on me.”


Here are a couple more candid photos of Mike (left) and Adam (right). If you crave more to satisfy your Annuals fix, don't forget we have a live review of their show later that evening, accompanied by a video of the band performing "Fair".



1 comment:

Josh said...

By the way, real absinthe (with wormwood and everything) is now legal in the U.S. Drink up, compatriots!