ARTIST TO ARTIST: ANAMAI (EGYPTRIXX & ANNA OF HSY)

The pair are set to release their second album as duo this spring in the form of "What Mountain".

ARTIST TO ARTIST: ANAMAI (EGYPTRIXX & ANNA OF HSY)

The pair are set to release their second album as duo this spring in the form of "What Mountain".

The infamous side project, the alter ego: the cause and the effect. 

Anamai is the collaborative project from Anna Mayberry and David Psutka who are perhaps better known for their respective work in HSY and as Egyptrixx. The pair are set to release their second album as duo this spring in the form of "What Mountain". The release follows a quiet spell for the pair who's first full length project came back in 2015. 

Space, evolution and distinction is notable in the music they produce, it remains somewhat detached from their own individual musical representations. We caught up with them as they interview one another below...

David Psutka:

A lot has changed for Anamai since we did the first album. The project has a fairly established identity now - the aesthetic, atmosphere and objectives feel crystallized, even outside of the group itself and with people at our shows, promoters etc. With all that in mind, how was working on this material different for you personally?

Anna Mayberry:

I liked how we decided to share bits and pieces earlier in our process than before. I used to protect my songs until they were "finished", at least lyrically. But I think we've built a good relationship of trust and brutal honesty so writing and arranging together has started to happen naturally. Sending unfinished demos let us slot them together in ways neither of us could have thought of alone. Like Hailstorm - I remember walking to your house and stopping every few blocks to write those lyrics down in my notebook, and when I got there you played me that guitar riff and it all fell into place immediately. Trust pays off.

You and I have talked a lot about performative choices and being specific about the space we want to inhabit/ create. I've never really asked you though- what was your first experience performing?

DP:

Ummm I guess my first experiences performing were having like quiet little nervous breakdowns during conservatory piano recitals as a 8 year old? If there actually are children out there that enjoy that whole thing, I definitely wasn't one of them. I think i've always have a anti-centric feeling about musical performance - 'de'emphasis on whats happening on stage + emphasis on the climate of the space and the audience instead. Its still largely a work in progress but I think there are elements of it in live versions of all the projects. I just want to let people live with these sounds for a little bit, let them feel and be flooded by it.

AM:

Haha ya I remember being on stage for the first time as a 4 year old and I put my violin on the wrong shoulder because my teacher was facing us and I got confused. I started crying and my dad hopped up onstage and scooped me into the wings. He made it feel cool to watch the other kids from that angle. Maybe its good to feel like you can maintain individual perspective as an audience member? Like you can try all you want to communicate a vibe, but ultimately everyone is going to interpret the same moment so differently.

DP:

Do you remember what your vision for Anamai was before it really existed?

AM:

Hm that's a good question. I think I wanted to sing songs I wrote keeping a lot of noise around them and underneath them. Like the truck backing up outside my window, the hiss of my bad microphone, the creaks of the old building i lived in in Montreal. To somehow make music that was tiny and enormous simultaneously. I was also just starting to let myself access the folk patterns and lyrics i grew up singing and allow them to become distorted by my immediate surroundings. Like, this song is about a crow, and there are so many songs about crows. But i can't finish writing it until one flies over me and I realize I'm not in love anymore.

DP:

Thats actually pretty close to what it has become, nice one. Part of the excitement of the project (for me) is how it kinda traffics in tropes and units of musical familiarity but undoes them subtly and completely - messing things up is part of the labour. That particular characteristic reminds me The Durutti Column - a really unique idea that is also perilously close to something super familiar and gentle.

AM:

That's a nice perspective. I agree. Ironically, the Durutti Column is pretty close to my idea of perfection. I was talking to my friend yesterday who mentioned he gets a kind of ASMR spine tingle from music sometimes, and that it usually means a song is amazing. When you're working on music, how do you decide when it's complete?

DP:

Thats a good question, I usually work from notes which gives me something to refer back to whenever a project gets unclear or hazy (which is every time ha). I also work in short intervals to avoid getting too enveloped, I think the challenge for artists who produce/engineer their own material is to retain some kind of macro perspective throughout the process...its so easy to hyperfocus. I try to be mindful of these things throughout the work and usually its pretty clear when something is done. Definitely no tingling unfortunately...

AM:

I was thinking about our acceptance of mistakes and imperfections, especially in performance, which has become somewhat of a deeper process for me. I wonder if there's anything you can imagine that would actually destroy an ANAMAI show? Just totally ruin it?

DP:

Hmm it would probably be something to do with the setup of the show - like if Anamai ever got asked to do a single song at an award show or something i'm sure it would terrible haha.

AM:

Oo yeah. Cut to people crying in the audience would be cool though.

DP:

...the most bored/depressed award show in history...so what are your listening habits while recording? Do they change from your regular listening habits?

AM:

When I'm recording I'm much more inclined to listen to direct influences, records I love, and listen closely to how things are organised. Sometimes there's a pretty big gap between my perception or memory of a song's arrangement or quality and the actual mechanics. When I'm writing though...I listen to things way further outside my daily realm which helps to dismiss my comparative anxieties. And sometimes when I'm writing I need to actively take music breaks to find out what's pattering around my brain. I think that's rather common really.

DP:

Yea, I know lots of people who actively avoid new music during recording for fear that it will be too good and cause them to question whatever they're working on. I can relate to that, but feel less susceptible to that compared to maybe when I was younger. We are both people with multiple projects on the go at all times, how does that effect your ability to write/record etc? does it help or hurt?

AM:

I'm a busy body. I like to have at least a couple things ruminating at once always, that way I can move back and forth between them. The only conflict I've really found is that I don't like performing with HSY and ANAMAI in the same day. My voice gets confused. In terms of creating though, even as my dance and music projects approach each other and overlap, each one is so collaborative that it's not hard to create in multiple forms during the same time period. Each group of artists has a unique energetic identity. HSY relies on unhinged immediacy, Open Fortress is large ideas filtered through multiple human bodies and digital/analog technology, and ANAMAI is the rumbling, slow burning pile of embers underneath everything I do.

You're someone who is constantly seeking out and engaging with new collaborators. But I think you also have very distinct rules for yourself and ways you like to work. What have you learned about working artistically with other people?

DP:

Thats a big question but I think briefly speaking, the key to having a good collab for me is finding the right balance between concise and rigid objectives/ rules for a project and cultivating a free, spontaneous and positive dynamic between people. Its a subtle thing to negotiate. I dont like working in tense or adversarial environments and i don't know many people who do. Its cool to be naive and impulsive about collaboration, but I like to start with an understanding of how it will actually work. I have a pretty good idea of how I like to work and my strengths/weaknesses so i find it useful to chat about the workflow at the outset. You work with a lot of close friends - i don't as much - how is that (lol)?

AM:

Wellllll, pal, haha, I suppose I try to treat my artistic and personal relationships pretty similarly. Individually, with each person, especially when they cross work/friend/love boundaries. As if they are each full of unbounded potential and future magic. Of course, many simply aren't. So they fall away, or alchemise. Most of my best friends make art I love and respect, and when we talk and get giddy and plans line up and it feels right it can spark some incredible things. It's definitely not always the easiest path to choose. But, fuck easy for the sake of easy. Efficiency matters, sure, but I think it's possible to be efficient and maintain raw emotional connection. The things that make it possible are empathy, honesty, and being able to set clear outlines of our shared projects. I don't want to spend time with anyone who can't be held accountable anyway. Only gems. Ok, thinking about the future and embodying dreams and all that- what's one thing you want to do with music that you haven't done yet? Should we do it?

DP:

Mmm, I think fundamentally i am and always have been trying to do just one thing - which is to effect people in a progressive way with like, raw sound. I can get at that from a few different angles but thats the only musical idea i really have any real loyalty to. All the other stuff is pretty secondary and fluid. Its definitely a;; still a work-in-progress and feels early or embryonic. Right now I think my main goal or whatever is to refine the projects I have and tighten up everything that is up and running, I actually feel really fulfilled right now creatively ha. I literally have zero urge to start anything new.

AM:

No new art! Haha.

DP:

That's the motto. So were there any unusual references that ended up in this record? Anything you were consuming or thinking about during recording that may have ended up in there?

AM:

There are some rather direct references lyrically for sure...Lady Macbeth in Air to Blood..."Pastures of Plenty" showed up in Sun Saw after I had learned some Karen Dalton songs for a small show at the Holy Oak in Toronto. For the most part though, I think most of the references were many layers deep underneath my own self-analysis. This record stretches over a couple years of learning, trying to figure out what I need to make my life into. Figuring out what power is. We started using some arpeggiating synths on this record to propel the songs. Do you remember what we used? How do they compare to the live versions you play now?

DP:

I wrote the synth arpegiations as guitar parts initially - basically as melodic anchors. Some of them didnt end up on the record but they are an interesting writing tool. I cant remember exactly but I think on the record I used a Roland Jx-3p. Live its all off of an arturia microbrute which is a pretty useful little synth.

AM:

On the topic of moving forward, artistic propulsion...what is something that you've done before that you never want to do again? Are there ideas or methods that you've used in the past that you've since decided to leave behind?

DP:

I dont feel concrete enough about anything in creative work to say i would 'never' do it/use it again but there are kinda basic ideas that I drift towards or away from...like for a while I was really excited about stripping things back and removing elements, now im more interesting in clutter and piling sounds on top of each other and generally treating sound like heaps of garbage/excess.


Buy the new album from the 28th of April HERE

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