Interviews

On DIY venues, political agendas in music, and the future of ANNAKARINA

One month after the initial IDIOTEQ x ANNAKARINA feature, we’re back with some more thoughts on the band’s local scene, the role of politics in music, and a lot more. Put on the headphones, shut out the world and reward yourself with some terrific musical intensity and (hopefully) enjoyable and thought-provoking interview.

Here’s my chit-chat with ANNAKARINA‘s guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Flynn (in the photo second from the right).

Hey Jeremy! What’s up man? Haven’t we just finished off our video interview? :) What’s good at your end?

Ah well I’m just at work right now. The temperature finally went up to like 20F today; it’s been negative all week. But yeh I’m good! About to eat a grapefruit! And yeh the video interview was great, thanks again! Apparently youtube has some sort of auto-subtitle thing now, so there were all these odd failed subtitles accompanying the interview that were pretty entertaining and unintentionally revealing.

Haha, exactly! What feedback did you get from your friends and followers after this little feature we managed to produce for IDIOTEQ?

Oh it was all very positive and kind, the questions were well thought out and a pleasure to answer. It was also nice to see you guys posting some stories about other local bands that we are really fond of like MERE PHANTOMS. I think it’s really cool that you guys are dong what you do, it seems like you guys have a better hold on aspects of our scenes and bands here than some publications that are here, though I’m not particularly tuned in to music blogs all that much so I am certainly no authority on the matter.

Thanks so much! By the way, IDIOTEQ is a one man army, so it’s only me here.

Btw MERE PHANTOMS, how did you come to know each other?

That is incredible that this a one man show! Much respect to you! We all met MP when we played a show together at a house outside of Pittsburgh called The Cook and Maid. They just slayed, plain and simple. At one point Cody’s guitar strap broke so he was sort of hunched down trying to play it with no strap so I ran over to my guitar case and gave him my strap for the remainder of the set. We sort of chatted and kept in touch after that, played another show together last year with PLANNING FOR BURIAL, that was a really fun night. They are all very nice people who play unrelenting music. Cody sent me some mixes of the album they are putting out and it is fantastic.

Nice. By the way house shows, do you prefer them over gigs in regular venues? Are they popular in your area? House gigs are ultra rare here in Poland.

Oh gosh what a question! There are definitely some aspects of house shows that I love, and I definitely go to more house shows than venue shows I guess, so you could say I prefer them on paper, heh.

That is too bad that those are not prevalent where you are! Alot of it has to do with pre-existing infrastructure or whatever ie, you need a house with a basement and neighbors and police that will tolerate or ignore it(I have no idea what thats like in Poland, whats it like???). It would be too easy to say that I love house shows because they subvert traditional venues and promoters and music business models, because I know alot of good people that book good music in more conventional venues, namely at the DIY space The Mr.Roboto Project, who are very good people who are really doing it the right way. But at the same time I know people who book in conventional spaces and I think those people are pretty much scum. And in that I think is the beauty of house venues and of DIY in general, in that it provides an option out, no matter how slight or brief. Do you think a promoter or venue is not concerned with artistic merit? You can now book a show at a house and more or less avoid them altogether. That option to avoid is very important, not only because it is useful in itself, but also because you realize that if you can avoid unethical or bad people or practices in one aspect of your life, than you can most likely apply it to other aspects of your life as well. Im certainly not one to preach, my face was not straight when I just typed “ethical’ . Heeee.

And yeh Im very happy to say that they are pretty popular where we are! Pittsburgh is full of basements! But we have odd basements! Odd shapes and sizes! Thats part of the charm of course!
What I love most about house shows is that living spaces become, for a short period of time, inextricably intertwined with music and culture and human drama and collective energy and stuff.

Its uncomfortable in some senses sometimes, but thats a good reminder to have now and then, that you need to remember how so many of the best things in your life come about from situations with little bits of discomfort.

Oh man. Very well said, my friend.

You certainly don’t need a basement to put out a house show here in Poland. I remember MEN AS TREES, SINGLE STATE OF MAN and FURNACE‘s performances in an old tenement building here in Warsaw. It was amazing to see all the people gathered on the stairway, discussing stuff, hanging out. The apartment was located on the second or third floor and I was really stunned someone managed to organize such enjoyable events. Nevertheless, we’ve always had more small clubs and squats than houses and flats. The culture of squats is thinner now, but I’d love to find out how it looks like in your area.

There’s also a really cool thing makeshift space here called CERTAIN DEATH, and that’s essentially a venue that is outside, I probs shouldn’t say where, mystery and everything ya know. But its outside and you need a generator to do shows there. I went to a show there once and it was pretty incredible.

Also I’m like totally ignorant of squat culture to be perfectly honest, what does it mean to you?

Also of course you are right its very narrow of me to think that a basement is essential for a house show. There is a cool place here called The Abandoned Store that does noise and experimental shows primarily on its first floor. It has a wonderful hardwood floor and high ceilings, I’ve only been there sparingly but it seems like a seance should happen there, and most likely already has.

There was a culture of squatting in Europe even during the communist era. Squat culture expanded after 1990, especially in Germany, but it’s still developing all around Europe. The oldest squat in Poland is Poznan’s Rozbrat, established back in 1994. The mightiest squat in central part of our country is Warsaw’s Przychodnia, created after the infamous eviction of Elba squat in 2012. Head over here – I bet you’ll find a lot more insights there.

Squatting means building something from nothing and self-organizing to organize and promote certain values and independent culture – that’s basically how I see its core sense.

Back to the generators-powered gigs, have you seen the recent Foo Fighters documentary “The Sonic Highways”? I’ve just recalled this cool piece on a tiny Californian studio located in the dessert and a bunch of bands connected to the early stoner rock scene. You know, KYUSS and all :) They used to organize outstanding DIY shows powered by a couple of generators.

Yen! My roommate turned me onto that show! I think it’s a great idea to point cameras on all of those things. I wish I knew more about these things earlier on, maybe that show will do that for people! Of course there is a huge irony in the fact the FOO FIGHTERS are simultaneously examining their roots as they musically abandon their roots in more or less inverse proportion, but ah well what are ya gonna do?

Also when I was a kid I read a David Grohl interview and he said that the secret to his wonderful smile was a lifetime of grinding his teeth against mics. I may just need to grind my teeth against more mics, but my teeth are still mediocre. Ah well.

I believe that the intimacy of areas like old Brooklyn or Berlin’s Kreuzberg impacted the early punk scenes and created unique atmosphere that it’s hard to find these days. I mean, there were times where punk scenes were smaller, and more personal, being a massive cry against inequality, injustice, and racism. How do you feel about the genre exploding into a massive phenomenon?

Oh gosh I dunno. I mean the genre took off and expanded until it lost almost all of the original or intended meaning, but that’s more or less what happens to every major concept or idea or institution though isn’t it? The catholic church, words, movements, whatever. Things become warped inherently. It’s always going to happen. It’s not a negative though, because as inevitable as loss of solvency is, it’s just as inevitable that reform and re-evaluation is possible. Punk re-evaluates its self so perpetually though, more perpetually than most anything really, because it’s not exactly too big too fail yknow? RISE AGAINST is too big to fail, sure. It’s not malleable, its tied down. But truly independent music is always or almost always so far away from money and semi-interested-but-fully-invested third parties that perpetual re-evaluation is always gonna happen. Were blessed to live in an age of info where this re-evaluation is now the most possible that it has ever been. It will never achieve a perfect balance but it’s always in balance yknow?

Also I’m so far removed from the initial movement that I feel almost totally unqualified to answer this question.

Do you, as ANNAKARINA, see your local scene as an extension of your politics and message you try to communicate to your listeners? Or is it more about showcasing certain musical form and art meaning creation and expression? Do you have an agenda with your songs?

There are certainly common values that we as a band hold dear that we see reflected or magnified in our scene, and I appreciate that aspect. One affects the other and vice versa. The person educates the group and vice versa. To isolate a relevant example I was almost totally ignorant in literally every sense to the issues that affect transgender persons on a day to day basis, and since my growing participation in this scene, I am glad to say that I have been very much educated by persons within the scene in that regard. Once you realize ignorance within yourself to any degree, it is very amazing! What is even more amazing is education and knowledge.

Of course every action is a political statement, but in a long enough timeline statements of all kinds lose their political meanings, or those meanings are dismantled. And in a similar way, musical forms abandon their intended and received meanings very quickly. So I guess what I am trying to say is that I attempt to both balance AND move beyond politics AND musical form when I write, because what I write is going to move beyond both politics and musical form very soon on its own. This is a very interesting question and I’m sure you’d get three very different, but still very right, answers from the other people in the band. Many different balances.
This all sounds very grandiose, and I’m sorry for that. It’s very hard to write honestly, and it is even harder to just be honest about what you want to write about. Politics is difficult to approach in writing for me because it is not something that motivates me to write. How does inspiration even work? Inspiration is one of the oddest things, it seems to me like some religious systems are entirely devoted to attempted to explain inspiration, but that’s another story.

Politics does motivate me, yes. It motivates me to ensure that my house is as safe and accessible to as many people as I can make it during a show. It motivates to talk to my friends and to educate myself and to be a better person. I think it would be very bad if I tried to write about something and did it poorly, it would be very bad if I devalued the concept, yknow? To come back to MERE PHANTOMS, I think they are a fantastic band with an inherent political message, that they are able to effortlessly, and essentially, incorporate with their music. Every aspect of that band seeks to elevate every other aspect, and that is very rare and really vital.

Do you really believe the political messages in music motivate fans and become a catalyst for discussion?

Yes definitely. Do you?

I can’t help the irresistible feeling that you actually need a strong encouragement to put a real political meaning into a song. Imagine how people in Ukraine feel like right now and how real (and tragic at same time) is their urge to make a change, to scream their lungs out, to use their words as weapons! Of course you don’t need war or a Russian assault to make your art a real struggle, but there are more life situations that create supernatural impulses that lead people to change their environment and fight for a better tomorrow. My point (not to be confused with concern) here is that most of young people have everything, we live in the era of cheap goods and often there is no true need for changing the world using tools like music and youth movements.

I think that’s an incredible point and you have an infinitely more important perspective on these things than I do.

Also what do you do for a job? Is IDIOTEQ full time?

Also not to sound concerned, because I’m not at all, this is a great convo we are having, but do you view music as a “tool” ultimately? Perhaps that is the term we diverge on? Perhaps I see music more as an end in itself, perhaps I simply have the socioeconomic privilege to view it that way?

Naah man, I wish IDIOTEQ was a full time shot, but for now I’m developing this humble undertaking that helps me helping DIY bands and digging deeper into the minds of underground artists, haha. The webzine format lets me focus on… my day job. I work for INTERIA.PL , one of the biggest Polish Internet portals and groups of services. My department has more and more ongoing projects and activities going on, so I’m really swamped. Oh man, the story of IDIOTEQ and the big idea behind it is really sad. Let’s not dig deeper here and simply hope I will enforce my big ideas sometime.

I have a 14 month daughter to care for, so it’s really a miracle IDIOTEQ is still running, haha.

About the “tool” thing, oh man… The role of thousands of musicians around the world has always been to provide others with information about social and political issues that can exceed others’ limitations. Around the globe, music, and punk rock especially, has been a tool for political and social activism. Hundreds of modern acts exemplify this, with a great mission of promoting their political agendas and the urge for changes. Despite the entertainment part, music has always been a tool for rebellion, revolution and political change, no doubt. But, of course, it doesn’t mean you HAVE TO preach and fight for your or others’ rights through your art. Music can be also a great tool for telling stories and moving the soul. Apart from the fun part, it would be nice to be able to learn a thing or two from it :)

Its a very good thing!

JEREMY guitars

Tell me more about how you guys write and form your tunes. Is there always a goal to keep your new songs as “ANNAKARINIC” as possible, yet try to move on and make them a bit different in order to stay progressive?

Yep! It should be ready to try out live by the end of the month I hope! Writing will usually take place when Craig or Me or Maf brings an idea up in practice, or sends us a rough recording of the idea. Then we just hash it out, listen to our ideas and try them out, record them, listen to them, develop, theory then practice until we start to all see more or less the same thing forming. Of course that is a generalization, and each song is different. Lyrics are always last, that seems to be a consistent rule for us.

Hah, I like that term Annakarinic! I think there are certain aspects of this band that we value and want to preserve, but those things are abstract things like emotion, complexity, catharsis, camaraderie, technique, ritual, ecstasy (to be overwhelmed) and energy. I think in a more concrete sense we are trying to move in new directions, to “move on’ sounds as if we are abandoning something, that phrase has its baggage but it is accurate. But of course we do not want to make Unceremony again because we just made that. We will be exploring new keys, timbres, forms, arrangements, and lyrical motifs and influences, or so we hope, with our next release. There will still be trem picking and blast beats of course!

Every work (an album in this case) is predicted by its predecessor and predicts what will come next. Unceremony is a very interesting predecessor because all four of us know it in four very different ways. The songs in a sense really all belong to Craig, and then they were hashed our and developed over the course of years. I contributed where it was needed, but in many areas the parts were more or less set for me, parts I love. The biggest difference with new material is that we are all four of us equally writing the songs now, and it is understood that we have less than four years to make them! So now I bring ideas in, Craig does, Maf does, Trav does. So we have a real diversity and a positive attitude, I like that! We try to inspire each other. I got really excited the other day because I wrote a more or less complex riff and I thought to myself “ohhh I wonder how much this riff will baffle everyone”. They figured it out in like ten minutes hah!

Is suffering many lineup changes a threat for this band?

At one point I did joke that we should sell t-shirts that said “I used to be in ANNAKARINA” on them, because we have had so many members, so I can see why you say that! That is all sort of before my time I guess, so I don’t really have much authority on that. I am happy to say that things feel more or less stable at the moment. People wanna put our music out (unreal) and we wanna make more music, that’s as stable as any project has ever felt for me personally.

Ok my man. Are there any more secret ANNAKARINA news you’d like to share here as a follow up to our video interview?

Nothing too secret I guess, were trying to record a video or two for some of the songs on Unceremony, so hopefully that will come to fruition soon. Also some friends of ours will be filming a live set of ours and doing some interviews with each of us next week at a house show, so that will be nice I think.

Thanks so much for the chat! Cheers mate!

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