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

Five Favourites: Dude York

Set to release their new album next week, Seattle trio Dude York pay tribute to adolescent romance and early noughties ‘mall punk’ with their whirring scuzz, catchy jangling hooks and gritty vocals. And we cannot get enough.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a new band/artist is by asking them what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Claire from Dude York to talk about her ‘Five Favourites’ – five songs or albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques, or simply take her back to a specific feeling or time. Check out her choices below, and make sure you watch the band’s new video for ‘Should’ve’ at the end of this post.

Jimmy Eat World – ‘Your House’
This is one of my absolute favourite songs and Jimmy Eat World in general was a big influence for me on our new record. Play this song very loud driving somewhere sentimental in your car, you might feel feelings! Our single ‘Falling’ is kind of about falling in love in your late 20s to the soundtrack of your early teens, and it’s supposed to start as a sonic reference to this song (and a lyrical reference to Dashboard Confessional if anyone is keeping track). I think there’s a lot to admire about this band; I love how expressive Jim Adkins’ voice is without being cloying, and the way he uses harmonies really intentionally and loud. Bleed American in its entirety is a pop record that can’t or at least shouldn’t be pigeonholed, it moves through totally different sounds seamlessly. They are masters of wordless bridges and hooks, so good lyrics would probably just mess them up. I have also done the important experimental research on a few tours now: If you wear a Jimmy Eat World shirt you will only meet nice people and have pleasant conversations, it’s a good energy.

No Doubt – ‘Sixteen’
I remember listening to this song with fresh ears when I was first starting to make music which required a.) figuring out how to sing and b.) figuring out how to write harmonies. The first 30 seconds stopped me dead in my tracks when I realized Gwen Stefani’s basically just yelling? In key? And it actually sounds amazing?!? At the time I didn’t have much of a singing range basically because I was afraid to be loud or sound bad at all before getting it right, but I loved how these harmonies sounded so I tried singing them alone in the car or the basement to see if it was even possible to hit that note and when I did it I felt like I had unlocked a superpower. It’s hard to choose a No Doubt song though, so I have to give honourable mention to ‘Simple Kind Of Life’ for having some of the most inspirational lyrical honesty and delivery for me. I always felt it was a special song in that way, but revisiting it this year at the same age she wrote it (and let’s just say during my Saturn return, although I think it may have been a few months late), it hits me that much harder. When she says “you seem like you’d be a good dad” you can actually hear the smirk on her face and it’s the best.

Yuck – ‘Operation’
I just love so much about how this song sounds. I’m not always drawn to vocals being mixed way down or being so fuzzy you can barely tell what they’re saying because it can feel intentionally buried, but in this song everything has enough space to be appreciated. The vocals are just another fuzzy instrument, not more or less important in the melody than the guitars and it all trades off with every section elevating into the next effortlessly. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think this song is (bad pun intended) well designed. And just really good.

Weezer – ‘I’m Your Daddy’
Weezer is a huge influence on me and sure, maybe I wouldn’t even play guitar if it wasn’t for “the early stuff” but that’s not as funny as this song. I’ve had a side project Weezer cover band for MANY years (despite only playing something like 5 shows) with a very specific premise: we play only songs the casual fan has never heard of and the serious fan hates. Usually, if I’m getting ready for one of these shows I’ll be playing the songs at Dude York practice and Peter or Andrew will say “what’s that?” and I’ll say “Goat Reward” and they’ll say “oh” or “maybe it should be a Dude York song?” and usually it’s too hard to divorce myself from the source material to even consider it, but I have to admit I did it with this song! I don’t remember whether it was before or after that but around the same time I heard the Rivers Cuomo episode of Song Exploder and he described doing essentially the same thing as part of his song writing process, copying something from a song he liked and then distancing himself and intentionally hiding the source material until he can’t remember where it came from, revisiting it and writing a new song around it. So that’s how I know it’s ok. He wouldn’t mind, he does it too.

Josie and the Pussycats – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
This movie came out when I was 11 years old and every single one of my friends had the soundtrack, knew every word, and we were all saying the same thing back and forth to each other, “Why isn’t this a real band? Why is this so much better than any real bands? Why can’t whoever made this soundtrack just become a real band because this is probably so much better than whatever they are doing right now?” This is obviously the narrow view of a pre-teen with limited googling ability in 2001, but in retrospect I think there was still some truth in it. The soundtrack really resonated with me at the time because the idea of this band from the movie coupled with the songs to back it up hit a sweet spot between the energetic sound of the dude rock bands on the radio I was leaning towards and the feminine energy I could actually relate to. That’s not to say those bands didn’t exist and thankfully I think there are more now than ever, but at the time it was hard for me to find anything that satisfied quite like Josie. We played a halloween covers show in 2014 where we dressed up as the Pussycats and played three of the songs and it was so fun. They were just fun to play and sounded great! Or at least I think they did, there’s no video evidence and it was a DIY show… But I think it re-opened the door to those songs in my mind, there’s no reason why bands like Josie and the Pussycats can’t be real. 

Massive thanks to Dude York for sharing their awesome Five Favourites with us! 

Falling, the upcoming album from Dude York, is out 26th July via Hardly Art. Watch the video for latest single ‘Should’ve’ here: