INTERVIEW: Anna Vincent

Having previously charmed us fronting indie-pop outfit Heavy Heart (who headlined a dream of a gig for us at The Windmill a while back), and as a touring member of Happyness, after two decades making music London based Anna Vincent has now launched her first solo venture. With her debut album, Under The Glass, set for release tomorrow (29th October) on Max Bloom (Yuck)’s new label Ultimate Blends, she has recently been charming our ears with a number of shimmering singles. Exuding a spellbinding majestic grace alongside the stirring heartfelt emotion of Anna’s exquisite sparkling vocals, each track offers a truly blissful, captivating soundscape.

We caught up with Anna to find out more about the album, what inspires her, her feelings about the industry, and more… Have a read!

Hi Anna, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thank you! I’m a singer-songwriter from London and I’m releasing my debut solo album Under the Glass on 29th October.  Before going solo, I released albums with several bands – most recently Heavy Heart, and before that My Tiger My Timing – and was also a live member playing bass in Happyness, Ski Lift, and with Max Bloom. I’ve always loved being in bands, but when Covid hit it felt like a good moment to explore some other ideas, and that’s how this solo album came together.

What initially inspired you to start creating music?
I’ve been writing songs since I was about fourteen, and what initially inspired me was simple: The Beatles. I was lucky to grow up in a household where great music was always playing – from Bowie and Iggy, to Joni and Patti – and I’d loved them since I was a little kid. When my brother got a guitar, I started to realise that it might be possible to play those songs myself. James was always a far better guitarist than me, and I’ve had the privilege of being in both Heavy Heart and My Tiger My Timing with him, but even with my rudimentary skills I did love the way that you could accompany yourself on guitar with just a few simple chords and suddenly have a song. My first songs were really just lyrics, but I distinctly remember the moment where I made the leap and actually put them to a melody. It’s weird because one minute you think “how the hell do I write a song?”, and the next minute you hum something into thin air and you’re a songwriter. I found that exhilarating; the idea of creating something from nothing. Even to this day I don’t really understand how it happens, it’s like magic. 

Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen I played in local bands in New Cross (mostly grunge and nu metal covers!), and quietly taught myself to write and record songs on my Tascam 4-track. I could happily spend hours in my bedroom multi-tracking guitars, MIDI drums, and harmonies, and then bouncing them down and walking around the neighbourhood listening to them on my headphones. I really wanted nothing more than that, and I had no real ideas about anyone else listening to my stuff. Eventually I got into being in “proper” bands and started releasing my music on a wider scale, but I was probably never happier than in those early years when it was just about the songs and nothing else.

I love your beautifully heartfelt, twinkling sounds, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Thank you! I have so many influences, but when I was making this record, I was definitely exploring folk and folk-rock a lot more, particularly things like Crosby Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, Simon & Garfunkel, and John Martyn, alongside Joni Mitchell (who I’ve always loved), Sheryl Crow, and Nico. I also got really into Wilco, Elliot Smith and Teenage Fanclub quite recently, so those were definitely in the background too when I was making the album. I don’t know if any of this stuff comes through in the songs or not, but these artists definitely inspired me and gave me a particular mood and approach I think.

Youre about to release your debut album Under The Glass – are you able to tell us a bit about this? Are there any particular themes running throughout the album? 
Under The Glass is definitely the most honest and personal album I have ever made, and although I’m excited for people to hear it, it’s also scary putting myself out there in this way, and I do feel quite vulnerable and exposed. There are a few main themes which run throughout the album, of which the central one is love. I’ve written about love in the past, but never this literally or this intimately, so this has been a new departure for me (although I am aware that writing songs about love is pretty much as normal as it gets!). 

At the start of the first UK lockdown in March 2020, I initially felt no desire to write music or really put anything into the world. It just seemed pointless and futile. But after a while, and despite myself, I picked up my guitar again and some songs started to take shape. A lot of the lyrical ideas came from poems I had written back in 2019. Halfway through that year, several things happened in my life all at once. Firstly, the long relationship I had been in suddenly came to and end – and with it, Heavy Heart – because we were both in the band. Although Patrick and I have remained great friends, at the time it was a huge change that I wasn’t ready for, and it felt like everything we’d been building over the past five or more years was gone. But then, something amazing happened out of the blue. Max and I had been friends for several years and had even played in each other’s bands at various points, but I don’t think either of us expected what would happen. But one night we met up for a drink and something changed (I always think about that Pulp song). Suddenly mixed in with the sadness of things ending, was this incredible, magical high of new love, and I was walking around the place feeling like I was on some crazy drug. I actually wrote a song called ‘Seeing Double’ about that very evening, and I’d say more than half of the songs on the album are little moments from our story. Which I know could potentially sound very soppy, but I think that with those intense feeling of love can also come feelings of insecurity and doubt about whether they feel the same, whether it will last. So being a natural worrier, there’s still a healthy dose of what I’ve come to think of as my trademark melancholia in there!

Other themes on the album are to do with the passing of time, growing up and getting older. When I calculated it I realised I’d been making music for about twenty years, and suddenly it felt like something I should embrace, or at least explore. In the music world, everyone is meant to be eternally young, and the idea of ageing, especially for women, is taboo. But I’m writing better songs now, I think, than I ever did in my twenties, and I want to be able to be proud of that and not hide myself away. I haven’t fully come to terms with getting older, and some days I don’t want to be a grown up at all, but I was able to put a lot of my thoughts about it into these songs and I do think that has been helpful.  At the very least I’ve made something I’m proud of. The album title track came from this idea I had about moments in time being like butterflies that we’re always trying to catch and pin underneath glass. As a songwriter, every song is my attempt to capture a fleeting moment or feeling and preserve it for other people to experience.

And how have you found recording and promoting an album during these strange times? 
Recording the album has actually been the best thing about the pandemic for me and I feel really grateful that I’ve been able to keep working even during lockdown. When I started writing these songs I had no intention of releasing them, they were just something to do so that I wouldn’t feel like the year had been totally wasted. I actually think that writing without considering an audience or a release really gave me the freedom to explore different sounds, and made me creatively unafraid in a way I hadn’t experienced since those early forays into songwriting back in my teenage bedroom.  I actually got back to writing for the love of it, and with no other objective than to make a song I felt proud of. 

My boyfriend is Max Bloom, who is an incredibly talented musician, songwriter and producer, and he produced the whole album here at our home studio, and recorded almost all of the instruments you hear, so I’ve been very lucky. We were so fortunate to have a space where we could record everything (expect drums – those were done remotely by the brilliant Adam Gammage), and it meant that we could both keep working. Max was previously in Yuck and released his amazing second solo album Pedestrian earlier this year which I highly recommend listening to.  

Adapting to working in lockdown definitely had an effect on the sound of the record, as all of the songs were written with just an acoustic guitar, even though we did add drums later, and going solo rather than working with a band was as much out of necessity as choice. But I’m really happy with how it came out, and I feel so relieved that I have something to show for that weird year. We’re releasing the record through Max’s label Ultimate Blends, and so far the reception to the singles I’ve put out has been really lovely.

How have you been connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
Obviously without live shows it has been harder to connect with any audience or other musicians, although I did do my first solo acoustic show the other day in London supporting my dear friends LIINES and it was so much fun. I’m not a big performer and I haven’t always enjoyed being on stage, but I think this is the longest I’ve gone without playing live since I was a teenager, so it did feel really good to be back. And it was so lovely talking to people afterwards who said they enjoyed the set. In previous times if I wasn’t playing myself, I would always be at gigs seeing friends’ bands, seeing new bands, seeing any bands, so I do feel very out of the loop now. But it really has made me appreciate the fact that people are still putting out music in spite of so many things being against us as musicians (not just Covid).

And has there been anything/anyone specific that has been inspiring you, or helping to motivate you, over the last couple of years?
I have to give huge credit to Max for making me play him my demos for this album even though I was shy about it, and for insisting we record them properly. At every stage where I felt like I wasn’t good enough, he encouraged me and gently pushed me forwards, and it’s safe to say this record would not exist without him. Although I’m releasing this under my own name, I do view it really as a collaborative project and I feel privileged to have been able to work with such a brilliant musician and producer. As far as inspiration goes, I’d cite all of my amazing musician friends, and all the people I’ve been fortunate enough to make music with throughout my life.

As a woman in music, how do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? Do you feel much has changed over the last few years? 
I’m actually so out of the loop with the music industry now, and I’m really happy that way! I’ve spent my life trying to somehow break my way in to little or no avail, and I have almost always ended up DIY-ing it, so my perspective has tended to be that of an outsider. That used to upset me a lot, and I’d feel like there was some conspiracy against me or some kind of list of names (oh the arrogance of youth!), but now it’s a bit of a relief. I don’t feel the burning need to compete so much any more and I don’t really want to play those games. Which is not to say that I’m giving up, or don’t want my music to be heard – quite the opposite, I feel more energised than ever and I know I will always be making music (for myself and anyone who wants to hear it). It means so much to me when I see that someone across the world (or across the road) has listened to my songs, so I hope I can reach more people by just doing it my way.  

I think it’s harder and harder for new musicians – there’s this perception with the internet that the opportunities to release your music are endless, and in some ways they are, but it’s also a huge turbulent ocean of bands trying to make their own waves, and the damn algorithm seems to squeeze things so tightly and it feels like independent artists are often stifled because of it. I used to worry so much about “success” when I was starting out, but eventually I realised that the only thing in my control was the songs, and I’ve written a lot that I’m really proud of, so I guess that was its own success. It’s great to see so many amazing new female artists coming through, and I do think that things are slowly changing for the better, but sadly a lot of the sexist old ways of the music industry are still alive and kicking. I guess the difference now is at least we’re starting to be able to talk about it.

And, as were a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands that youd recommend we check out?There are so many, but a few that I have to recommend you check out if you haven’t yet are Ski Lift (@helloskilift), Sunnbrella (@sunnbrella), and Malvis Key (@malvis_key), and special shouts – although they are both very established – to LIINES (@weareliines), and Max Bloom (@maxbloommusic), just because I love them!

Finally, in addition to the release of your album, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for you?
I’m really excited to be launching my album with a full-band live show in London at The Waiting Room next Monday (1st November), which follows my singles ‘Nothing Wrong’, ‘Thin Skin’ and ‘Naxos’.  Aside from that, I guess I might think about making another album. I do already have some ideas, but I want it to come together naturally, so I’m not pushing it at the moment. 2021 has gone quickly in some ways, so I’m not sure what’s left of it, other than my birthday in December which I am – for the first time in a long time – kind of looking forward to this year. A year older, and maybe this time, a little wiser.

Under The Glass, the debut solo album from Anna Vincent, is out tomorrow 29th October via Ultimate Blends. Order here.

Photo Credit: Max Bloom

Track Of The Day: Scrounge – ‘Leaking Drains’

Having continued to impress us over the last few years with both their breathtaking live energy and the unique, genre-bending sound of their recordings, South London duo Lucy and Luke – aka Scrounge – follow 2019’s EP Ideal with a brand new offering. Having received acclaim from the likes of John Kennedy and Steve LaMacq, we’re excited to hear where they take our ears next.

A stark soundscape reflecting on the state of society at the moment, ‘Leaking Drains’ is propelled by Lucy’s raw, snarling vocals and slashing guitar alongside Luke’s immense, thrashing beats. With a frenzied energy, it builds to a colossal cacophony before coming to a disconcerting, abrupt end – only adding to the stirring tension that has built up throughout. Oozing a ferocious power, the duo have created something that is striking both in its jarring potency and rage-driven force; a cathartic slice of poignant punk-poetry for the anxiety-laden times we find ourselves in.

Of the inspiration behind ‘Leaking Drain’, the band explain:

“This track is designed to be short and sharp, both lyrically and instrumentally… Living standards and life expectancy have dramatically dropped for the majority of ordinary people in the UK over the last generation or so, and it often feels like we’re at once completely weightless and under extreme pressure – a little like being deep underwater… The demonization and punching-down that constitutes most of the mainstream discourse around debt, housing, poverty and precarity in this country only compounds the issue. The anger and absurdity of a track like ‘Leaking Drains’ is driven by this stuff.

 

‘Leaking Drains’ is out now via Fierce Panda Records – buy it on bandcamp now. And Scrounge have just announced that they will be playing the SXSW Online Showcase next month – an incredibly well-deserved feat!

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Track Of The Day: First Frontier – ‘Take Cover’

Having been creating music together since last year, South London duo Helena Poole (who has previously played for us at The Finsbury in her other band Macadamia Sluts) and Paul Stafford – aka First Frontierpride themselves on choosing hope over fear and play over fight. Now, having spent time writing together throughout ‘lockdown’, they are ready to share their debut single with the world. 

Focusing on what we can control and devote positive energy to, ‘Take Cover’ is propelled by scuzzy hooks and thrashing beats, creating a catchy slice of fuzzed-out garage rock, tinged with dark ‘80s nu-wave vibes and swirling harmonies. A truly uplifting offering, urging us to live in the moment to avoid burnout, its driving energy and shimmering spirit showcases a band to get excited about: I can’t wait to hear what First Frontier come up with next. 

 

Engineered by Brett Shaw (Florence and The Machine, Foals), ‘Take Cover’ is out 18th September. Pre-save here. And find out more about First Frontier on their website.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Introducing Interview: The Frisbys

Having received praise from the likes of Amazing Radio, Gigwise and For Folk’s Sake, South London folk collective The Frisbys create twinkling, emotion-strewn offerings, oozing a sweeping musicality and celestial splendour.

With a new EP set for release this week, we caught up with Nicola Frisby from the band to find out more…

Hi, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about The Frisbys? 
Hi! We are an alternative folk/country band from South London. Our band consists of myself (Helen – vocals, flute), my twin sister Nicola (vocals – guitar), my husband Sam Keer (electric guitar) and three of our friends from university/college – Sal Palekar (piano and violin), Will Cattermole  (bass) and Tom Finigan (dums). We will be releasing our third EP, My Wicked Mind this week and we’re looking forward to hopefully playing live again as soon as we possibly can!  

How did you initially all get together and start creating music?
Although Nicola and I have been writing music together since we were teenagers, our line up as a band has changed massively over the last few years. When Nicola and I started creating music, we were an acoustic duo playing locally around South London with just harmonies, guitar and a flute. Gradually as the years have gone by, we’ve recruited some amazing musicians who also happen to be some of our best friends. Every member of our band is a friend that we’ve met through studying music at college or university. The most wonderful thing is that making music together has helped to reunite us again and I know that both Nicola and I feel incredibly lucky for that.

Your new EP My Wicked Mind is out on Friday – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the EP?
The title of My Wicked Mind stems from the idea that the human mind is just bonkers. I suppose I just find it strange how the mind can create such wonder and beauty, whilst at the same time be capable of causing so much anxiety and suffering. I wouldn’t say that this EP is thematic in its concept, but it is a collection of songs that explore both the inner turmoil and the resolute strength of the human mind. So, for example, the songs ‘I Heard’ and ‘Print’ are almost opposite viewpoints based on the same theme. ‘I Heard’ is a fighting song about pushing through even when everyone is telling you what you are trying to achieve is impossible, whereas ‘Print’ highlights the insecurity that lies beneath. Even if you believe in yourself and the path you’ve chosen, it can be very hard not to let those doubts overwhelm you. Everybody wants to be accepted. 

You’ve been compared to the likes of First Aid Kit and The Lumineers, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Unsurprisingly, Nicola and I have very similar musical influences. Our early days listening to my mum’s Simon and Garfunkel records or my brother’s Nirvana collection has meant that we have a pretty varied taste in music; which would maybe explain why our music can be so hard to fit into one genre. We like everything. As individuals, we all have quite different musical tastes. I recently asked the band to compile some of their favourite artists for a Spotify playlist and it was pretty amazing how diverse some of the artists were. Nonetheless,  there are always points where our influences cross. I would say that, collectively, we are inspired by artists such as Carole King, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles. 

How is your local music scene (in ‘normal’ times!)? Do you go to see lots of live music?
I actually moved very recently and so Covid has prevented me from getting out and about and testing out the local music scene, but before that we gigged a lot in the Croydon and South London area. Some of our very first gigs were gigging in South Croydon and we have a real soft spot for it in our hearts. What we’ve noticed as the years have gone by is that more and more of the venues that we used to play in have closed down and so now it can be quite difficult to find a venue that has a capacity for a band of our size. The good news is that there are some local musicians and venues who are constantly fighting this and putting on some excellent nights of music. I adore seeing live music and I try to see as much of it as I can. I prefer more intimate gigs to big arenas as I sometimes feel a little stifled by the environment. I need to move around and hate being restricted to a seat! One of the best gigs I’ve been to recently was watching Skunk Anansie in Brighton. The energy they created was just incredible and Skin’s stage presence is second to none.

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
I think our aim as a band is to make you feel something. Tom (our drummer) has a particular talent for creating set-lists and he always puts a lot of thought into making the set into a bit of a journey. We definitely don’t just have one style that we sit with, we try to mix it up. I love the fact that we can build the crowd’s energy with songs like our recent single ‘I Heard’, only to drop them back down again and make them almost silent with songs like ‘Give in to the Dark’. As horrible as it sounds, I quite like it when people tell me we made them cry! For me it means that we connected with them.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
One of my favourite bands I have found over the last few years is an American band called Joseph. They are a band of three sisters who create the most incredible live sound I’ve ever heard. Other upcoming bands we’d recommend are Theo Katzman (a multi-instrumentalist from California) and FlagTwister, John Lovell, Scott McFarnon, Chloe Ray and Dave Sears who are all local musicians we love to listen to.

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
I think there are lots of really wonderful opportunities for new bands at the moments. For example, anyone can submit their music to be played on BBC Introducing and there are some fantastic blogs (like yourself) who are out there promoting new music. More affordable music software has meant that it is cheaper for people to create music themselves which is so wonderful, but it does mean that the music industry is very over-saturated. Most bands now realise that they can make music without record companies funding them and so that has meant that it is a much more level playing field. I think it has meant that bands have to work harder to get their music heard and maybe they have to be more creative about how they promote their music, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing!

Finally, what does the rest of 2020 have in store for The Frisbys?
We recorded a live lock-down version of our new single, ‘I Heard’, in May and we are currently in the process of creating some more videos for our fans. We were hoping to be playing an EP release party this year and some festivals, but who knows what will be happening on the ‘live’ music front. Hopefully, we will find a way of playing an ‘online’ gig to help celebrate the release, so fingers crossed we can make something happen!

Massive thanks to Helen for answering our questions!

 

My Wicked Mind, the upcoming EP from The Frisbys, is out this Friday 26th June.