Photo Credit: Grace Sims
Packing up everything you hold dear and making the move to a large city can be intimidating, but every year many embark on that journey for various reasons. Usually, we’re chasing a goal, and often times we learn the hard way that it’s far from easy. Almost two decades in Los Angeles gave me skin thick enough to endure most, and I wasn’t even trying to do major things. Unlike Annabel Lee, who followed her heart and love of music to the City of Angels. We talked about the “personal vendetta” the city can make you feel it has against you, hitting rock bottom, her debut LP, ‘Mother’s Hammer,’ which drops March 8th, and so much more!
Kendra: Having moved across the country and away from everyone and thing I knew, I can relate to some of what you felt. Only I went away from LA. So what made that city the one and not say, New York City or even Nashville?
Annabel Lee: Oh, I was very close to making the move to New York. Honestly, since high school, I remember looking up prices for studio apartments on Craigslist on one of my teacher’s computers during study hall. It’s still my goal city right now actually haha. But I was working on a sync licensing project with Warren Cuccurullo ( Duran Duran, Zappa) for about a year before I moved to LA.
All of the people I was working with were out here, and telling me that nothing would happen for my career unless I made the jump. After coming out for the first time and doing some sessions and being treated like a real artist for a week, I was naive and sold. The project I moved here for ended up being my first big letdown, but it was absolutely the right move after all.
Kendra: You noted of LA, “…this place can really feel like it has a personal vendetta against you.” I spent 16 years there so I know exactly what you mean by this. It’s not a place for those with thin skin. Living there taught me how much I could hustle, but what about you? Have you gotten any grand life lessons from living out west?
Annabel Lee: Definitely. I’ve learned some instrumental lessons from bottoming out here haha. I learned that I can truly rely on myself no matter what and that I’m quite tough. I also learned that you have to protect your energy, and whoever and whatever you spend your time doing will affect everything. It’s all very sensitive. I used to let toxic shit take up too much of my time and space, and now I guess I’ve grown to take charge of where I find myself. I’ve also learned how to say no, and how to stop working when it’s not fruitful. I think I’m productive for about 3-4 hours a day creatively, so if I go over that sometimes I start being mean to myself for not having a good flow- which is not fair. So yeah I guess I’ve learned my threshold for making, and for humans.
Kendra: Speaking of LA, let’s talk about your latest single, “Los Angeles.” It’s this sort of rock bottom anthem, a style of song I gravitate towards more often than not, and what I love about this one, in particular, is that you don’t dress it up in symbolism. You were very straightforward with the reality of your situation. I did notice you wrote this back during the thick of 2020. Do you ever get any sort of PTSD from performing it three years later?
Annabel Lee: Thank you so much for saying that! I try not to lean on metaphors if I can help it. I actually wrote this song back in 2018 but didn’t record a cut of it until 2020. I was terrified to play it because I was still going through everything at the time. I for sure have a certain amount of PTSD around that time in my life- currently working through it all. I suffer from panic attacks, and I definitely have difficult low days, but I actually don’t ever feel bad when I play the song for other people. I feel emotional for sure, but I just feel like a storyteller in those moments. And it honestly makes me feel better to give the song to an audience than it does to talk about what I was going through during the time it was written with my therapist haha.
Kendra: Speaking of 2020, much of your debut LP, ‘Mother’s Hammer,’ was penned then. Of course, life will continue to throw things at us, but are you hopeful that for right now – that will be the darkest time we experience collectively?
Annabel Lee: I’m not sure I will be alive for the next pandemic, but I’m not sure we’ve seen the darkest. I think the climate crisis is going to give the pandemic a run for its money in years to come. I’m also not sure I see an end to the terrifying things that the US government continues to do to disenfranchise people of color, its overturning of Roe V Wade to endanger the lives of all pregnant people, and the way that gun violence has been met with crocodile tears, ignored and accepted by the people who are supposed to protect us. I think I might not be the best person to ask about hope when it comes to humanity, haha, but I DO have hope for art! I think incredibly important music, films, paintings, poetry, photography, multimedia, writings- really just all creative works are being made right now. It’s high time for some meaningful art! Artists are taking the responsibility back that we were originally entrusted with, and to me, that’s a reason to have a ton of hope in the future.
Kendra: I do wanna go back to “Los Angeles” for a second because listening to it felt like a moment, and I couldn’t help but think – this is a song that was meant for the stage. When you write, are you thinking of how it will translate in a venue setting?
Annabel Lee: I very rarely think about performing a song during the writing process. I actually don’t really do any thinking at all while writing haha. I do think about the show a lot once I decide to bring a song to my band though. Production around the show is something I really love to dream about. We always try to find moments for sure. A little drama. I actually like to go to venues before I play them to imagine myself on and off the stage so that I know what’s physically possible. But when it comes to all of that, it’s long after the song has been written and kept.
Kendra: Speaking of which, fans will be able to hear that and many more at the Moroccan Lounge on March 25th at your record release show. Not only will they hear some new music, but they’ll also have a chance to pick up a limited edition vinyl. There have been a handful of ways to listen to music over the years, but why do you think musicophiles favor vinyl most?
Annabel Lee: I am sooooo beside myself that ‘Mother’s Hammer’ is on vinyl. I am and always have been a big vinyl listener and collector. I think listening to music should be an experience. Sometimes putting a record on is the difference between making yourself a wonderful fried egg in the morning, or just standing in the kitchen, staring out the window, and struggling to make coffee at all. I think it can change your brain chemistry. It also makes listening to music into something tactile. You can call your best friend and have them over and just listen to music. That’s a thing we get to do! And we get to open it up and dissect the artwork, come up with theories about it, read the lyrics/liner notes. You feel like you know the artist. I think streaming has not only made us lose that physical closeness to the music, but it has made the album art feel esoteric and flat. I love that vinyl is something personal that will ultimately bring us all closer to the complete work, the way it was intended to be digested.
Kendra: Time for a side note – We’d love to know when you perform, do you have any sort of lucky charms you take with you on stage, or do you have any sort of pre-show traditions you do to ensure you have a great show?
Annabel Lee: As of right now, my only ritual before our rock shows is that we always do a big group hug as a band, where we say how much we love each other and just get really f*cking pumped up to do what we love and to leave earth together for 40 minutes. Also sometimes a stiff drink right before I get on.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Mother’s Hammer’ out on March 8th, what else can the world expect as we focus on spring and soon enough, summer?
Annabel Lee: So many big things are coming! We are super excited to play SXSW the week before our big release show at the Moroccan. The official showcase on 3/17 that we are playing is stacked with badass artists like Zella Day and Indigo De Souza, so I am very honored and ready to lose my sh*t on stage that night. I also plan to be on the road with my band in the spring/summer but more on that later!