Anamai: The Camp Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Experimental folk and sing-song ambience
File next to: Neil Young’s Le Noise, Bibio, Twist, Del Bel
Playing: Camp Wavelength, Sunday August 30 @ Artscape Gibraltar Point
Get your ticket here!

I’m really not sure what to expect when I show up to meet Anna Mayberry at the Holy Oak one sunny afternoon. A punk screamer or a winsome mewler? An outspoken force or shy recluse? Turns out the incredibly versatile musician, who throws considerable weight behind both noise-rockers HSY and experimental folkies Anamai, has as many shades as a Pantone book. As thoughtful as she is thought provoking, her complexity is abundantly evident in the music she creates.

Is your personality quiet or loud?

I’ve been thinking about that lately. Both, I guess. I wouldn’t say I’m someone that speaks loudly all the time, but I’ve had a certain amount of training in being loud. I used to work on tall ships when I was a teenager. You had to learn how to yell. I learned how to be authoritative. I still drive a boat now, and you have to yell at people. So sometimes I’m loud, but generally, socially, I’m quiet.

There’s such a huge difference with what you do in HSY versus what you do as Anamai. Which do associate more with?

Strangely, I think they’ve both had a hand in developing each other. When I first started writing my own songs, I always wrote in the style of Anamai. But I was always interested in loud live music. Once I got to start playing it with HSY it kind of made me want to seek the more intimate performance of Anamai. But it also made me appreciate how to build an atmosphere and how to layer sound and how to let chance become involved more — more experimentation.

There’s no room to hide. When you’re up on stage doing the “quiet” thing, you don’t have distortion to rely on. There’s leeway in a wall of sound. But with something as delicate as Anamai is, I think it’s a little more revealing. Do you find it harder to do emotionally?

I think the difficulty relative to HSY is that I’m often only with one person or two people. It’s hardly ever a band like with four people that rehearses all the time or played together for three years. It’s a little more improvised all the time anyway. We always leave long gaps in songs to do other stuff. Maybe a song gets written on stage. That part definitely makes Anamai more emotionally draining. But to get yourself to perform at the level that HSY performs at is also hard to do if you’re not in the mood.

Do you find that you’re always in the mood to do Anamai?

It’s all in how I prepare, and I prepare for each differently. But it’s not like I have to be by myself, saying “Don’t talk to me.” But I do have to set up my mental state. There’s more room to not care what people are doing when you’re playing loud. It goes with the package. Like, I’m just gonna be a punk. With quiet music it’s like, “Oh you’re all talking over my set.” It’s a little bit harder to negotiate. It’s much more witnessed how you’re negotiating that situation.

Do you see yourself differently on stage as Anamai?

I can’t see myself on stage!

Good point. The audience sees you and are like, “Whoa, these are two different people.” I’m not sure why we expect people should be what they are all the time. Like, sombre all the time or rock star all the time. It kind of doesn’t work like that.

No it doesn’t. I feel like I’m different every day.

How did you come to team up with David Psutka (Egyptrixx)? Were you a fan of electronic music?

I haven’t been involved with the Toronto electronic scene, but when I lived in Montreal I was into the minimal house stuff that was going on when I first moved there. That was pretty interesting to me. My brother always made trance music when I was a kid. I love it, but I was never like, “Listen to this sweet new beat!” When I met David I had never seen him play. It wasn’t ‘til after we started making music together that I saw him play his stuff.

Why do you think it was such a match?

I made this connection the other day when I was explaining it to a friend. I spent a lot of time with a lot of loud engines going and writing songs and recording them on my phone. There was always a lot of background noise that distract from melody. I really enjoyed the sound of tension and mechanical noise against it.

When you write, is it still more in the style of Anamai?

I guess. I’ve written in a lot of styles, but these are the ones that kinda stuck. It’s what felt right. Who knows? In two years I might be writing different stuff. I can’t think of a lot of artists that I know that have really opposite things that they’re known for. But if you think about it, there are a lot of artists who, over their career, have many different faces. I just think people should just do whatever they want.

People who listen to HSY, maybe they don’t like what you’re doing as Anamai, or vice versa. Maybe that’s because they weren’t open to giving it any thought. Like you said, a lot of the time it’s like, “I like punk rock!” It’s definitely more closed-minded than someone who says, “I love music.”

My favourite is when I hear people say, “I don’t like music.”

That scares me, actually.

Really? I find that so interesting. “I don’t really listen to music.” I’m like, “Huh? What is your world? What is your experience?” It’s weird to me, so I find it interesting. Maybe that can be a new genre. “Music for people who don’t like music.” That will be my next record. I’m sure David would have a good idea of how to do that.

— Interview by Evan Sue-Ping

Anamai play Camp Wavelength Sunday, August 30 at Artscape Gibraltar Point (Toronto Island). Get your single day tickets here! Or better yet, join us for the whole weekend and get a Festival Pass!