Tag Archives: DOOMSQUAD

Q&A: Anna Mayberry of HSY and ANAMAI talks folk roots, contemporary dance

HSY's Anna Mayberry gave Toronto a free taste of her solo project ANAMAI with a Sonic Boom in-store to support her new EP in November, but tomorrow night (Dec. 11), ANAMAI plays another free gig at June Records. Photo: Tom Beedham

HSY’s Anna Mayberry gave Toronto a free taste of her solo project ANAMAI with a Sonic Boom in-store to support her new EP in November, but tomorrow night (Dec. 11), ANAMAI plays another free gig at June Records. Photo: Tom Beedham

Interview by Tom Beedham

I’ve been sitting on this for a while, but with ANAMAI playing a free gig at June Records tomorrow night (Dec. 11) and HSY playing The Drake Hotel Thursday (Dec. 12), the stars seemed lined up right enough to make this an appropriate time to let this go.

Although she released an EP with HSY just back in September, Anna Mayberry dropped a release of her own under the alias ANAMAI just last month: the Alter Coals EP. Joined onstage for the first time by a full live band consisting of Allie Blumas (Doomsquad), her mononymous HSY bandmate Jude, and David Psutka (whom produced the EP), Mayberry supported her new release on Nov. 15 with two Toronto performances – a free afternoon in-store at Sonic Boom’s Kensington Market location, and a club gig at Holy Oak later that night. Following the Sonic Boom gig, Mayberry and I huddled by a wall outside the Augusta Avenue shop and talked about her new project, growing up in a Toronto folk community, and how contemporary dance influenced HSY’s video for “Tartar Mouth.” Full interview below.

Tom Beedham: You seem to have created some pretty distinct voices between what you’ve done with HSY and what you’ve put together with ANAMAI. How do you approach writing material for this project as opposed to what you’ve done with HSY?
Anna Mayberry: I think that the way I write songs for this project is really different from how we write songs for HSY right now. With HSY one person will bring in a riff and we’ll kind of just jam together and make it together. These songs are kind of more fully formed in my head. And it’s also like a different atmospheric vibe that I’m going for with these songs. There’s some similarities and kind of darkness and letting noise laugh over the songs that happens in HSY, too. But yeah I think they’re just coming from a different artistic idea with HSY. It’s a bit crazier.

TB: Where are you hoping to take things with ANAMAI now that you’ve got the EP out there?
AM: I’m working on a bunch of new stuff. I hope to record over the winter and write new songs and stuff. On the EP it’s just three songs, and I have more that I play live. There’s a pizza song in there. I’d like to do a little bit more vocal looping – not necessarily more poppy, but just a lot more layered vocals – and kind of push in the same direction that the EP’s started us in.

I drive boats in Toronto Harbour in the summers. So yeah I basically have one more week of work left and then I’ll be free to sing all the time all day.

“…we wrote down names for dance moves that haven’t been invented yet and then we’d kind of shout them out at each other while the one person was dancing…” -Anna Mayberry (on filming the video for HSY’s “Tartar Mouth”)

TB: When did these songs come about?
AM: When I was living in Montreal I wrote most of the songs there. I was studying for my BFA in contemporary dance at Concordia. Contemporary dance. So art dance.

TB: Did that inform the “Tartar Mouth” video [for HSY]?
AM: Yeah! I guess so. I felt like for that I kind of directed people’s dance moves, but I wanted them to kind of make up dance moves. Our process was we wrote down names for dance moves that haven’t been invented yet and then we’d kind of shout them out at each other while the one person was dancing so I guess in terms of that it’s kind of interpretive. My choices making dance work are always to kind of use the dancers and get them to contribute, so in that way it’s kind of related I guess.

TB: Most of the lyrics you write are from a first-person perspective. At least it’s true for all of the songs on the EP or “Space Girl” [from HSY’s Sick Rey cassette]. Is there something you find particularly interesting about that perspective?
AM: I think it’s nice to write from a first-person perspective because it kind of just grounds some of the lyrics or some of the stories. Coming from a folk background, pretty much everything is written in the first person or like a story about specific people because they’re these kind of recurring characters or recurring themes and everyone who sings the song, they’re taking it on. I really like hearing a woman sing a song that’s written from a male perspective or vice-versa. That’s a nice folk thing that happens. So I guess I’m just tied to that in a certain way when I write songs. That’s how they come out.

TB: Let’s talk about that “folk background” that you brought up. I read on Chart Attack that you grew up in a folk community in Toronto learning traditional English and Irish music. Appalachian folk, too.
AM: Yeah. My parents do English folk dancing, and I basically grew up having these kind of crazy folk parties where at certain points people would be playing fiddle and banjo and piano and whatever in the living room, and then in the kitchen, people are all singing these kind of big sea chanteys or ballads or whatever. And the fun of that is everyone’s kind of getting drunk and trying out their harmonies, and it could sound really good or really bad, but it’s just very inclusive, and it’s kind of like if you’re going to be in that room you have to be singing. So I guess I just kind of practice singing when there’s no pressure on and it’s a good way to do it I think. It’s a good way to learn to sing.

TB: You mentioned people playing banjo and stuff – did you join in on any of that? When did you start playing guitar?
AM: I played fiddle a bit when I was a kid. A lot of my parents’ friends are professional musicians and I was taking violin lessons. So every time there would be a party in the morning all the fiddle players would teach me songs when I was a little kid, maybe seven years old, and like [simulates fiddle noises] on my little half-size violin so yeah I mean I guess I trained that way and then guitar I took some lessons when I was a teenager like everyone does and tried to learn Jimi Hendrix kind of thing. I couldn’t play the Jimi Hendrix.

TB: Do you consciously bring any of those influences from your childhood into your music now?
AM: Yeah I think so. It’s an interesting thing. I feel like I wouldn’t be making this kind of music if I hadn’t played in HSY or played a lot of shows with HSY before that. Because I think that the way I grew up seeing folk artists starting their careers or playing or whatever, it’s just a whole different network, a whole different scene. I’m kind of taking that folk stuff that is in my blood but putting it into the scene that I live in versus playing for a bunch of older people sitting down.

Photos: ANAMAI live in-store at Sonic Boom (Kensington location) – Nov. 15, 2013
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Another Long Winter

Inauguration of Long Winter’s second year hints at a less Fucked Up forecast
Words and photos by Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant on the main floor of The Great Hall on Nov. 8. November 8 marked the first time Long Winter used the restaurant as a venue for its programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant on the main floor of The Great Hall on Nov. 8. November 8 marked the first time Long Winter used the restaurant as a venue for its programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

When Long Winter returned to The Great Hall on Nov. 8, it came too with the suggestion that audiences would receive a different version of the monthly melting pot-facilitating evenings than they might have come to expect from it last year.

To wit, the one reliable feature Long Winter regulars have become familiar with is the dependable lack of predictability tied to each night of the season spanning (and extending) arts and culture community event, but the first night of this season came with a significant rebranding.

The cover of Long Winter's program for Nov. 8. Noticeably absent is mention of Fucked Up, the band slated as the presenters of last year's Long Winter events. Photo: Tom Beedham

The cover of Long Winter’s program for Nov. 8. Noticeably absent is mention of Fucked Up, the band slated as the presenters of last year’s Long Winter events. Photo: Tom Beedham

Ushered into fruition just one year ago by Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker of ever-enterprising Toronto punk outfit Fucked Up, the monthly night of music, art, food, film, poetry, photography, dance, speakers, and (eventually) video games began as something that would allow Haliechuk and Zucker to program a local event. Throwing each of the nights to impressively broadened masses as all-ages, pay-what-you-can affairs, Long Winter established itself as a beacon for fairly accessible multi-media entertainment programming (unfortunately the Great Hall is only accessible by stairs; there is no elevator service), and as the events snowballed in scope as well as popularity, its varied offerings came to tessellate more and more of the rooms and hallways that make up the building accordingly.

The events relied on the somewhat small community of connections their band had both established and immersed itself in, and Fucked Up headlined most of the five shows, appropriately cited on Long Winter programs, posters, and online event pages as the force that “presented” each of the series’ instalments.

But as it returned this year with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, although Haliechuk and Zucker continue to run the show, Fucked Up’s name was nowhere to be found.

Speculation could go on forever as to why the band’s pedigree has been removed from the ephemera surrounding the series, but in terms of the void they left to be filled by another headliner – this time a slot arguably shared by psychedelic Guelph rock veterans King Cobb Steelie in the main hall and siblinged Toronto/Montréal darkwave trio Doomsquad in the newly Long Winter-dominated Samuel J. Moore restaurant on The Great Hall’s ground level – it’s worth noting that the series’ website includes a statement from Haliechuk boasting a commitment to diverse programming and calling for outside submissions.

“Everyone is welcome, and everyone who attended last year should feel as much a part of this event as we do. We aim to be a reflection of all the great things that people do in Toronto,” Haliechuk says – emphasis on the “all,” no doubt. It would be no great surprise if Fucked Up’s reduced identity were implemented in favour of that virtue.

The first of a series of split seven-inch records Scion Sessions is giving Long Winter audiences for free upon entry to the monthly event this season. Photo: Tom Beedham

The first of a series of split seven-inch records Scion Sessions is giving Long Winter audiences for free upon entry to the monthly event this season. Photo: Tom Beedham

The first 350 patrons entering November 8’s Long Winter would have immediately noticed one other big change as they passed through the doors, each of them granted a free split seven-inch featuring Doomsquad and Lido Pimienta, whom also performed that night. Contributed by the Hand Drawn Dracula-courting Scion Sessions, the record was the first of a series of Long Winter artist-featuring splits slated to be offered to guests for each of this year’s instalments.

From there on, though, it was mostly business as usual for one of Toronto’s most immersive entertainment programming series: there was music, there was art, there was food, there was theatre, there was comedy, there were video games, and there was music. Did I say there was music?

If guests ventured further upstairs to the hall’s balcony level and coat check, they would have approached and become a part of Steve Reaume’s art/light installation projecting some truly debilitating algorithmic patterns into a corner, and once they’d recovered from the dizzying effects of that, there was William Andrew Finlay Stewart’s “Fall” – a looping video project – waiting for them on the ground.

If you skipped dinner to get there early or just wanted some late night munchies, the main hall hosted all-vegan food offerings from Windowshade Delicatessen, who’s reuben sandwich variant will certainly earn their west College street location a personal visit from myself and everyone else I successfully peddle it on.

At any given point throughout the night you could also fill your time by drawing on (and having your picture taken with) one of 1078 disposed coffee cups with “Disposable,” a consumption-considering interactive installation from Anrea Wrobel and Brian Cauley.

Wake Island's Philippe M at Long Winter in The Great Hall's main hall on Nov. 8. PhotoL Tom Beedham

Wake Island’s Philippe M at Long Winter in The Great Hall’s main hall on Nov. 8. PhotoL Tom Beedham

Things really got rolling with Wake Island, though. Opening up the multi-stationed concert portion of the night in the main hall, the Montreal rock foursome hammered things home with some expert delivery, cementing its set as something other performers should have worried about following with guitarist Nadim M’s final tooth-picked solo.

Nevertheless, performer Ben Kamino took the stage once they’d finished, instructing the main hall to slow-dance eyes shut in a herd, urging participants to touch each other – not just with their hands but with all parts of their bodies – and by extension, “everyone in the universe.” You can imagine how that went. It was awkward. Kamino repeated this experiment twice more following bands in the main hall.

 Esther Grey at Long Winter in The Great Hall's Conversation Room on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Esther Grey at Long Winter in The Great Hall’s Conversation Room on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 1 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 2 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 3 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 4 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 5 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 6 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 7 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 8
Next was Guelph garage rock act Esther Grey, warming up the Conversation Room. Bringing sometimes-member and saxophonist Dan Paille in tow, guitarist Steph Yates and bassist Nathan Campagnero’s plodding progressions were juxtaposed with some extra texture that I didn’t get to hear when I last reviewed them for their Kazoo! Fest show back in April. Paille’s sax is presented pretty sparingly in comparison to the core group’s output, so it works with the group’s minimalist explorations of instrumental spacing.

From Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly's

From Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly’s “Conflict. Resolution. Conflict,” an absurdist Beckettian skit performed in front of the crowd dissipating after Esther Grey’s set in the Conversation Room at The Great Hall for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Fixed with elongated cardboard masks, Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly ambushed the crowd remaining in the room at the end of Esther Grey’s set with a guerilla theatre performance called “Conflict. Resolution. Conflict.” Their characters mostly just argued over an onion, but eventually they made up with a sweet(?) embrace that saw them sharing bites out of the very real, very potent vegetable and then scuttled out of the room.

Recovering from Kamino and Kelly’s adventure in Beckettian theatre and wandering back into the main hall, Rheostatics founder Dave Bidini’s new group Bidiniband guided audience through a literary-minded tour of rock history, only playing four stream-of-conscience-y “long ones” to negotiate the restraints of their set time.

If you rushed from Bidini’s set to the conversation hall, you would have caught a very confrontational Abyss, whose frontman spent the majority of the group’s grindcore assaults sharing the mic with one listener’s face, whether he liked it or not.

Lido Pimienta performing in The Great Hall's main hall on Nov. 8 for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Lido Pimienta performing in The Great Hall’s main hall on Nov. 8 for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Next up in the main hall was Lido Pimienta, who should really get props for exacting some very hands-on parenting all while singing and dancing onstage.

“Single mothers in this city are gangster, y’all,” Pimienta said. She proved she wasn’t wrong with her highly danceable genre-benders.

Vish Khanna (right) interviews 2013 Polaris Music Prize nominee Zaki Ibrahim as Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast (left) sits in for additional perspective during 'Late Night with Vish Khanna,' a new talk show-style addition to Long Winter's  monthly programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Vish Khanna (right) interviews 2013 Polaris Music Prize nominee Zaki Ibrahim as Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast (left) sits in for additional perspective during ‘Late Night with Vish Khanna,’ a new talk show addition to Long Winter’s monthly programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Meanwhile in the basement, the last really big new thing for Long Winter was in full sway with former Long Winter MC Vish Khanna hosting his own late night talk show Long Night with Vish Khanna in the BLK BOX theatre. Complete with the house band stylings of The Bicycles and Light Fires’ Regina Thegentlelady wandering onstage to the show featured talk show style interviews with guests including musicians Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh) and 2013 Polaris Music Prize-nominated Zaki Abraham, as well as author and The Grid Senior Editor Edward Keenan, and Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast. While I missed Barlow entirely and only just made it downstairs in time for the tail end of Keenan’s portion of the show discussing his new Toronto political history Some Great Idea and recent developments involving Mayor Rob Ford, I did get to sit through Zaki Ibrahim, who also offered insight on the mayor, but more interestingly, her take on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s treatment of its Polaris prize win. (“I felt like I had egg on my face,” Ibrahim said, after commenting that GYBE’s treatment of the prize and the gala was “cool.” Ibrahim also related GYBE to the Grateful Dead, provoking some (not very successfully) suppressed laughter from Keast.)

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant as part of Long Winter on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant as part of Long Winter on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 1 Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 2 Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 3 Doomsquad. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 4

Last for me were Doomsquad – giving the Samuel J. Moore restaurant its first Long Winter performance – playing their new age-evocative electronic music in some cavernous darkness (save for a salt lamp affixed to guitarist Trevor Blumas’ sampling table). The Blumas siblings challenged the physical resilience of the restaurant’s wall-to-wall window with crippling bass, offering only the soft textures of a pan flutes as a possible remedy.

From everything I was able to take in before calling it a night, The Great Hall seems properly primed for another season of Long Winter, even with the SJM restaurant added into the chaos (despite the potential for sonic disaster in the new venue, only some quickly resolved mixing issues that initially placed Trevor Blumas’ sampler way too low in the mix presented themselves over the course of the set). And from what I could make of the faces I saw on Friday, I think audiences are ready, too.