We’ve talked about Anna Rest Easy a few times here at EP – most recently reviewing the most excellent, ‘Retrospectre‘ – and thought it was high time we introduced you to the dark (and very very funny) wit behind her creation. So without further ado…
EP: What’s the Anna Rest Easy story? It’s an interesting name, how did it come about?
ARE: The name is less meaningful than it sounds. The only identifiable inspiration is Anna Paquin, an actress whose life and work I find both astounding and mystifying. Other than that, it was pretty much three words that rolled nicely off the tongue.
EP: Talk us through ‘Retrospectre’.
ARE: I’ve always respected albums that are more than just a collection of songs in a chosen order. The albums that stay with me are the ones that have a story, a theme and a purpose; I enjoy the musical journey of a concept album, and the feeling that I absolutely cannot skip a track or turn it off before the end, because it would not make musical or emotional sense.
The origin of ‘Retrospectre’ is the ninth track, ‘Interval’, which I wrote when I was around thirteen years old. I can’t remember the exact inspiration for the song, but I do remember how quickly the lyrics fell into place once I realised how easy it was to draw powerful imagery from theatrical language; words like interval, chandelier, audience, soliloquy etc. planted such grandiose visuals in my mind, and show business has since been my default context for expressing anything through song. People always say (rightfully) that you should write about what you know, and I don’t know anything about show business. Underneath it all, “Retrospectre” is an album about sadness – the forms, the causes, the effects – but I wanted to give it story and substance, which is why I chose to create a protagonist whose life would reflect these emotions. Each song takes Anna through a stage of life in the gritty limelight, through dream and aspiration (‘Look Around Yourself’), through various forms of rejection (‘Country Girl’, ‘Love Letter’, ‘Anna’s Aria’), through self-loathing and envy (‘Dressing Room B’), through manic depression and drug-abuse (‘Melancholia’), and ultimately to her final demise (‘Interval’), when she is robbed of life at that cursed age of 27.
EP: What are the main differences between performing in a band and performing as a solo artist? Do you prefer one over the other?
ARE: Performing is much the same. I loved my time with Pocket Satellite and still join them occasionally for gigs. I also invite guest performers to join me for more prestigious ARE shows, so the dynamic of group performance is still very familiar. The main differences lie behind the scenes. I’ve never really enjoyed writing with other people; I know where I want the music to go and am never satisfied if I’ve had to compromise. I’m also quite irritating – I don’t allow for grammatical misuse or certain chord progressions, and I’m a relentless perfectionist. Whilst I love its members dearly, I never fit musically with Pocket Satellite, which is why I left to pursue a solo project. However, the price was high, as solo song-writing is a deeply lonely affair.
Whilst I definitely miss the jovial social benefits of the band atmosphere, the feeling of being able to write, record and perform to my exact specifications is truly empowering, and I’m not sure I’d be able to give that up any time soon.
EP: Who do you cite as your main musical influences and why?
ARE: The Anna Rest Easy project all started because of Susanne Sundfør, and she continues to be my most prominent source of musical inspiration. I was introduced to her music by a Norwegian band called Harrys Gym, whom I befriended when they asked me to sing backing vocals for them on their UK tour. It turned out that Susanne had done the same for them in Norway, despite her increasing solo success, so I decided to check her out. I took one listen and rejected it; I didn’t get it at all. A year or so later, I realised I had gone back to listen to it enough times that I knew the entire song by heart. I had grown to love her without even noticing, and I am now the kind of stupid super fan than books six tickets to every London show without even checking the diary or asking anyone if they want to come.
EP: What’s your musical background?
ARE: I was classically trained at a specialist music school. In other words, I was pushed into a room and forced to practise until my fingers bled, whilst other children played I Spy and munched on candy necklaces.
In truth, I don’t regret any of it. The musical focus distracted me from the rebellious teenage behaviours that many people later regret, and I did always enjoy it. I was a member of the National Children’s Orchestra for five consecutive years, I reached Grade 8 standard in cello and piano by age 16, and those strong foundations have since facilitated all of my musical endeavours.
I don’t know when I started singing. I think I tried it once and someone said, “You can sing” and I just went along with it.
EP: Advice for anyone getting into the music industry?
ARE: Personally, I’m not interested in ‘making it’. It is a fulfilling hobby and I enjoy building a following and expanding the project, but I’m not chasing fame, so I can’t advise anyone wishing to make a career of it. The only advice I can give, which is widely applicable: Make sure you enjoy it enough to justify the effort.
EP: Top three fave tracks in your music collection right now?
ARE: ‘Straight for the Knife’ – Sia
‘Simone’ – Goldfrapp
‘Delirious’ – Susanne Sundfør
EP: Where will you be in five years?
ARE: Musically, I have no idea.
Generally, also, no idea.
EP: What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview but nobody ever does?
ARE: ‘What weapon would you use to destroy that song from Frozen?’ If you’re looking for an answer, I would drown it in its own sound waves.
‘Retrospectre’ by Anna Rest Easy will be launched at the Bedford, Balham, on August 24. Tickets here.