Who ARE Annie Christian
by Michael Fairbairn
Soul Burn Magazine
TransAction's Scotland Correspondent
Edinburgh 4-piece Annie Christian have had a busy two years. They have managed to scratch the surface of the U.K. psyche and convince a few people that they are a band and not a female solo artist. Soul Burn caught up with David Hunter (bass) and Larry Lean (vocals/guitar) in December last year, at their successful Christmas show at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh, before the release of their debut album, 'Twilight'.
The band are now looking towards their second album, and further success, but what did they expect to encounter when they first formed the band?
"It's funny, when you first start, I think the objective is to write good songs and then it's to get a record deal . We want to reach as many people as we can."
Do you feel the attitude has changed since you formed?
"It has changed. The ambition has changed from starting the band to getting a deal, then you want to have a modicum of success and reach a lot people."
In the two year period since signing their deal with Equipe Ecosse/V2 the band have toured throughout the U.K ten times, playing more than 200 shows. This has earned them a solid base of fanatical enthusiasts.
"I think we've got a lot to offer to a wide range of people, so we obviously want to reach them. Any bands who don't want people to buy their records, well don't, sit and play for yourself in your bedroom. If you get into this, you've got to go into it with your eyes open and know what you want. We're in it for the full thing. We wouldn't have got the record deal with the company we did if we just seemed content to meander on. Y'know, we've got to go for it. You only get one chance and you've got to take it."
This positive attitude within the band shows a real sense of commitment and dedication but sometimes life in a band isn't all it's cracked up to be.
"There's some good and bad points. The deal means I don't have to have a 9-5 job and I don't have to get up early to do something I don't want to. The touring, being away form home a lot can be annoying. It can take up a lot of time and that puts a strain on things." Despite this, the bassist remains positive about his fortunate position. "The best thing is getting to do this every day and making music. That's what I wanted to do, what we all wanted to do."
"We don't actually have a plan for the future," admits Larry.......If stuff happens then that's great but I'm the happiest at the moment. I can't imagine being any happier."
Success doesn't come without a lot of hard work and the band are fully aware of this. Their busy schedule looks set to continue.
"The level we're at, we have to tour constantly. People don't know who we are so we have to go out and play to them. I think the first two or three years of a band's life are spent pretty much on the road, unless you go mega straight away. It's better to take your time though, because you get more of a fan base from the people who go to see live bands.
The band have literally played almost everywhere there is to play, from their own headlining jaunts to a prestigious support tour with Echo And The Bunnymen, an appearance at Glastonbury this year and opening for Blondie at the S.E.C.C. in Glasgow. Do they notice any shift in the type of audience that comes to their shows now they are more successful?
"I think it's different in the fact that people actually have some of our stuff. Larry was talking about this recently. You sit in your bedroom, you write a song and then you go down to London where you see people mouthing the words to everything you've written. It's a really great feeling. I'd like these people to respect us for what we do. Commercial success is important but I mean Bill Hicks was a huge influence on us and the way he talked about life and music you realise you can't sell yourself short or sell out at all. I'd like people to think, no matter what we achieve, that we've always been true to what we started out to do, which is basically to play for us. It's still pretty much us, we try to keep it 'pure' I suppose", he smirks. "That's the direction we had and still have. I trust the friends of the band we've had since the beginning to tell me if they think we're changing or diluting what we should be doing."
On record, the band combine ethereal moments of light and shade with a more Punky element. The live experience is an entirely different prospect and people might not get the full picture without experiencing both.
"We talk a lot about bands we liked when we were growing up, like Teardrop Explodes and things like that. I mean, Larry and I are still huge fans of Jane's Addiction and Levitation, which are obviously heavier bands. I think that comes across live. Larry offers his opinion on the situation. "It's the same with people like Iggy Pop or Julian Cope. If you were to only listen to their albums, having never seen them live, you would never get it." "It's only half the picture", agrees David. "I think we are a different band live but I hope the people who have bought the records will come and see us live, so they see the whole thing. I mean, we are quite manic live. A bit frenetic."
The debut album, 'Twilight' is a focused Rock album with a passionate blend of diversity. Do the four members of Annie Christian view song-writing as a labour of love, or is it more stressful than that?
"We're doing this as a labour of love but there is so much pressure on you to find the time", opines David. "The songs keep coming but if Larry has an idea he can only really play snippets on the bus or at soundchecks because we don't get the time. I mean, the ideas are always there and they keep coming to us. It's not like you finish an album and then you stop writing. It's an ongoing thing and the songs come whenever or however."
Larry has taken a different approach to the writing of the follow up to 'Twilight', favouring a keyboard/piano and drum machine to compose the songs.
"Larry is half way through the writing process for the currently untitled follow up to 'Twilight'", revealed band manager, Bruce Findlay. "The band have played some of these songs on recent tours and debuted new material in some experimental sets. Titles include; 'L'americana', (which is an infectious jibe about American culture), 'Don't Talk, Just Feel' and 'Life Is Sweet'. Many of the songs on the debut expressed the desire to escape form an urban frustration and despite the achievements of the past eighteen months, this subject is likely to translate on the forthcoming releases. The band are in talks with several producers with a view to releasing an E.P. of new tracks prior to Christmas. The new full-length album is expected to follow in February when the band will undertake a full U.K. tour."
Bruce Findlay and the band are equally appreciative of their respective talents and are thrilled to be working together.
"When I first saw the band, I thought they were like The Clash or something. Four good looking guys right up in your face. They've got Punky elements but the slower stuff is more Floydian and that's what attracted me to them, they've got light and shade in their music."
David appreciates the support. "We are lucky with the company we have behind us. Ronnie and Bruce are behind us 100% and they will let us do what we want. I mean, Ronnie signed commercial acts like, Stereophonics and Kula Shaker and he's signed a lot of other credible acts. To give him his due, he knows a lot about music and he's really forward thinking."
Bruce Findlay has also had his fair share of success, having managed Simple Minds (to name but one success story) and watched them achieve multi-million selling global success.
Larry refers to him affectionately. "He's a lunatic. An inspired, genius lunatic and a sweetheart."
This enthusiastic support from two of the most experienced characters in the music business must be a huge compliment to the band but have they received any other compliments that meant something to them?
"Tom Lappin", says Larry without hesitation. "He did a write-up on us for the Scotland On Sunday magazine. He's also quite a fan of Bill Hicks and he wrote something like, 'Bill Hicks would definitely approve...'"That was like, 'Ooh thank you'", he says with genuine appreciation. David agrees. "I think he was the first writer who had a real handle on what we're trying to do. There was a lot of A+R interest when we first started the band and there was one girl who listened to us play. She would say, 'I like it, I think the songs are really good, but I don't think you'll have much radio play. Ocean Colour Scene are doing a great Top Ten for us right now'. "It was like. 'Oh fuck off, you just haven't got it have you, have you never heard Jeff Buckley?' The first time Ronnie saw us, he came up and asked about lyrics. He's totally passionate about what he does."
Things have gone well for the band to date and it seems that a lack of planning on their part and strong judgement feelings have contributed to this.
"We don't actually have a plan for the future," admits Larry. "A lot of bands seem to map out exactly what they're gonna do and they set goals and they want to be playing Wembley Stadium by this time. We'd be happy playing places like Falkirk and Edinburgh. If stuff happens then that's great but I'm the happiest at the moment. I can't imagine being any happier."
T w i l i g h t
1. Love This Life
2. Kiss The Day Goodbye
3. The Other Way
4. Secrets And Lies
5. Here Is The News
6. Clearwater Goldmine
7. Nothing Is Real
8. Ode To An Indian Summer
9. The Boy With The Golden Arm
10. Hicks (1961-1994)
11. Someday My Prince Will Come Again
12. Stupid Thoughts
14. The Shattered Burlesque*
15. Satellites Spin*
16. While You Sleep*
17. This World Has No Time For Lovers*
*bonus tracks for Japan only
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