Anomie Belle

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Anomie Belle

The world of Anomie Belle belies everything you’d instantly conjure when told about a classically trained violinist from Portland, Oregon. She’s played with Grieves and Mr. Lif for some hip-hop cred. She’s composed film scores and worked with Anna-Lynne Williams of Trespassers William for the folk side of things. She’s toured with Tricky, the Album Leaf and Sea Wolf and collaborated with The Posies. Forget the box at this point and just enjoy the music.

Anomie Belle’s latest, The Crush, is a downtempo masterpiece that echoes multiple comparisons here and there yet cohesively owns the entire affair. Here she tells us about her many friends and what she’s learning along the way about making resonant art.

SSv: Anna-Lynne Williams has written for us before and she’s quite talented. I saw you worked with her.

Anomie Belle: She just e-mailed me the other day and said she had some new songs and asked me to record some violin. I did some stuff for some of her songs a little while back. I don’t know if this is a Lotte Kestner or a Trespassers William  or that project that she has with, I forgot the name of the project but anyway I don’t know actually. We are pretty good friends, so whatever she needs I’m happy to do. She has been one of the easiest people to work with. She’s awesome. I really like Anna-Lynne.

SSv: What’s the history there? How did you guys come together in the first place?

I have a feeling that this is somewhat of a shared experience but we live in this society where everything is really rational and intellectual. I don’t feel like we have great language to even talk about these things and express them and so for me it’s such a beautiful to me that art can be such a direct way to tap into that.

I have a feeling that this is somewhat of a shared experience but we live in this society where everything is really rational and intellectual. I don’t feel like we have great language to even talk about these things and express them and so for me it’s such a beautiful to me that art can be such a direct way to tap into that.

Anomie Belle: Well, we were actually introduced by my manager really early on. He showed me her music and I liked it right away. I have a lot of respect for her as a songwriter. She has a beautiful voice. And actually at the time, we only lived about a block from each other. We lived in the same neighborhood so we met up right away and became friends and then she ended up as a guest on my first album on a couple different tracks and joined the tour of the band for the first year and a half.

We slowly started working together and she’s going to be on a track on The Crush actually. I’m always happy to work on projects she has going on. I have a secret desire to produce an electronic album with her as a songwriter. But her taste these days is a little folky-er but maybe someday.

SSv: Can you talk about The Crush and what your headspace was in writing the majority of the songs here?

Anomie Belle: It was interesting record for me because like “Sleeping Patterns” was my little secret. I wasn’t working full-time at that point as a musician and it was my little closeted, pet, hobby. I’ve always made music but “The Crush” for me happened after “Sleeping Patterns” when I decided to do a series of events and kind of figure out my life as a musician full-time and really take care to really go for that. Working on this record, I’ve learned a ton.

I’ve got to work with so many amazing people over the past few years. Everybody I’ve toured with, I’ve learned so much from in how to transition electronic music from on my own into a live setting.  I feel really fortunate. The Album Leaf and Tricky were really good examples of bands that have different styles but both have to figure that and have done really well with that in a live setting.

And the composer Gustavo Santaolalla’s and his band Bajofondo have influenced me to compose and that slips into the record a little bit too. It was really fun to get to know him and get to talk to him about his experience as a composer. He’s obviously done some really great songs. This record comes out of me just really coming out of my shell and deciding I’m really going to do this and find my musical voice and be a little bit more daring, coming out of that music closet. And also from all the amazing people I’ve come across and gotten to learn from in a way.

SSv: With that as the goal, do you feel like you’ve accomplished that? Do you look and say I’m pretty certain of my voice compared to before?

Anomie Belle: I feel like this record was yes, but I’ve already done a lot for my next record and I feel like that will be me really showing on that record. And you can hear it beginning in “The Crush”. You know “Sleeping Patterns” kind of has this very synthuized quality to it. I was experimenting with different methods of singing and production that I was into at the time.

With the new record, I’m bolder and more experimental and I take more chances and I’m trying more new things. The past few years have been really cool because I’ve gotten to do that. I’ve gotten to try out a lot of different stuff and really stretch myself musically. I think coming out of that and releasing this record I finally feel like I have found my voice even if it’s not really my voice, if you know what I mean.

SSv: Does it feel strange like kind of just jumping through hoops to have to stand behind an album that might feel old to you with another album almost ready?

Anomie Belle: Yes and no. When I create music I’ll fully record and write it and then I’ll bring it to the live band and we’ll figure out how to play it. So in that way, The Crush is still a very live and dynamic thing for me in terms of figuring out how to best fit it into a live setting. I have a very phenomenal group of musicians and in that the music is still very much alive for me. I’m still really trying to work with and it’s alive through that context. I mean it is sort of odd to have that but in another way it’s kind of inevitable. I mean maybe if I had other people doing the engineering or mixing or the business side of it I could set that time down but it just takes a lot of time to rap that up and turn around and everything.

SSv: By the way, I’m really intrigued to hear about you working with Mr. Lif and did you work with Grieves as well?

Anomie Belle: Well, actually I play a show with Grieves and Lif was in town and we a music video for “The Crush” that weekend and then actually the last day he said “Hey, I’m playing a show do you guys [my live band and I] want to back me up?” And so we got together at 6:30am the day of the show and learned some of his tracks so we could do them together. It was a lot of fun. Hip-hop is a completely different experience and it was a lot of fun.

SSv: I have a secret soft spot for some good Hip-Hop and we ended up doing an interview with him last year and then even Grieves this year. So, when I saw those connections, it was really surprising.

Anomie Belle: Yeah, well he’s actually become a close friend. He moved out here last year. And I’m sure there will be more things we will do together. I just have so much respect for him as an artist and as a person. I think Grieves kind of looks up to Lift, which is really cool to see and obviously he’s taken his own path and done something that is very unique and cool. It’s awesome.

I laugh that we have happened to connect and I have a lot of respect for him as a person and as a MC. I don’t know if you knew he’s [Grieves] touring right now with Thievery Corporation. He guest on their new title track their new album so he’s touring with them right now. And then I think he’s on the new Cut Tennis album because he’s coming out to Seattle like next week or something. I’m supposed to meet up with him.

SSv: You’ve talked about what other people are up to but what about you? What’s got you most excited right now as far as your own opportunities?  

Anomie Belle: I had “How Can I Be Sure” off the first record has done fairly well. It was on an XBox game and then on a Showtime show [United States of Tara] and then last week it was MTV on Jersey Shore. That’s been interesting. The world of music for video games and T.V. has been something I just kind of stumbled into. I guess cause my music is of a thematic nature. I recently scored a T.V. show that isn’t out yet called Untethered. It was really fun. I haven’t done that before and it’s a sort of dark, mysterious, fantastical kind of scene.

I played at a festival in Czech Republic a couple weeks ago and I had been in touch with Ian [Pickering] and I then decided to stop through London because we will be working together anyway and I thought it would be really nice to meet and hang out and start collaborating in person before we are doing everything from a distance. We wrote a few songs together and now we are going back and forth from afar. He’s really awesome. It’s cool to work with people who just have a similar taste in music sensibility. He’s a good songwriter. That’s something I’m really excited about working on right now.

SSv: Can you define that a little bit further for me? Like what you mean when you say you have a common “music sensibility”? What are those common threads that you find in people you meet and want to work with?

Anomie Belle: Well, with Ian it’s simple because we are both drawn to a kind of darker, sexier music but also music that hovers, some of those uncomfortable spaces we don’t like to look at as people. It’s ideas about art being an opportunity to able to bring up some of those difficult themes of our place in history and how we are choosing to live in the world. And there’s sadness and confusion and there’s anger and there’s a feeling of hopeless and all these difficult themes of bigger issues in the world.

I don’t mean to sound cheesy but there is something about art that should be about connecting to something greater than yourself. When it’s done in a way that’s really authentic there is something really vulnerable and beautiful and genuine and sincere and that’s really connected and bigger than you. I think that I look for other people who connect to my music or I connect to their music in that same space.

I think with all the folks I’ve worked with, that has been something that’s really important for me to find. And just the way they are as people in the world to genuine and sincere and keep to their values. The music business isn’t an easy place to have a strong sense of those things and stay with people who you just genuinely connect with. That’s also a part of it.

SSv: That’s such an interesting juxtaposition when you say I don’t want to be cheesy, like it takes a disclaimer to even talk about it but what you’re talking about is the very substance of the music, correct? It seems there should be more permission to talk about this core thing of the music.

Anomie Belle: I do feel that way and I think that’s why I love making the music so much because this is such a huge part of who I am and what I feel being alive as a person in this world. I have a feeling that this is somewhat of a shared experience but we live in this society where everything is really rational and intellectual. I don’t feel like we have great language to even talk about these things and express them and so for me it’s such a beautiful to me that art can be such a direct way to tap into that. But it is weird.

SSv: I wish more artists felt they had the permission to talk about it and I think that would make it easier to have more language for it if we ever even acknowledged it.

Anomie Belle: I feel strange because I’ve been reading a lot more non-specific unusual type of writing. But I even feel weird with that type of language because it can be kind of charged and weird and political. I don’t consider myself a religious person but that’s one place in the world where people kind of try to talk about things like this. And then there’s like political or social change kind of language but those kind of languages have their own context and their own associations with people.

I want it to work in a way that’s it’s accessible to anyone because I’m talking about something that were all connected it and yet all the options for language are either alienating in some way or make it sound like I’m talking about a certain thing. I was in a PHD program before I started doing music so I can talk in an academic but that language is also not really accessible to everyone. It’s why music is just great because it is that thing.

SSv: By the way, Ph.D. program for what?

Anomie Belle: I was studying media and sociology and art activism cultivating. In the sort of sociology realm I took some time looking at the music industry. I was not sure if I wanted to jump into it. The commercialization of art has always given me pause but that’s something I studied and wrote about and stuff. I realized that analyzing something just wasn’t the same as getting to do it and that’s really where my heart lies.

SSv: You just didn’t want to get lost in the analysis of it?

Anomie Belle: With culture jamming, for example, are you familiar? It’s like when artists will subvert billboards to change the meaning. It kind of cool and worked with professors who actually studied this thing and it’s kind of ridiculous because it’s so specific. I worked with professor of rhetoric, English who would have said that these artists are basically taking the power from corporations and using their own corporate language to comment on it. And usually culture jams in some ways are criticizing the corporation or some message that is in the advertisement that might be harmful

I taught classes to girls in media literacy and I think that’s a great example of messages being sent to woman and girls that not necessarily positive or affirming and yet they affectively make people buy a product. So artists coming along in that and saying, “Hey, this is fucked up!” but doing it through art in the same language advertisers are using. I found that to be really awesome and cool. When I was working in Amsterdam I came across a lot of artists who were doing that kind of work. And I just thought it was really cool to combine those two things, using the lens of an artist to be critical while using that language of the powerful corporations.

SSv: Well, I’d like to hear you talk about what’s right in front of you with the end of 2011 and what that looks like.

Anomie Belle: Well, we are going to be playing some shows and my manager is setting up a tour for when the records come out. And I actually just got a couple of grants, one from the city of Seattle to compose a piece for my live band and string quartet. A couple years ago the Album Leaf asked me to open for him and also for the string quartet to play with him. It was really fun, so I actually applied for these grants to create something for the string quartet and the whole band. I’ve been working on a piece for that for November and then I’d like to play some shows with that later in the fall.

SSv: Wow that’s awesome to have support like that from the grants.

Anomie Belle: Yeah it is. I feel so lucky. It’s just so cool for someone to provide funds for such a specific project. And essentially for me as a violin player and growing up playing in a quartet but the songwriting and producing the for me has always been something separate so it’s neat to be able to bring those two things together. The combination of my experience composing and touring and playing all coming together is really exciting. It sounds very much like a action movie, dark, superhero kind of thing but it’s also very much a string quartet.


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