With a mix of various contrary moods, from dreamy soundscapes and soothing math rock passages, to the overwhleming feeling of exuberance caused by sprawling screamo parts, each successive record from Edmonton, Canada’s ANNA PHORRA has improved on the last, with the latest, “A conversation of consciousness for those who exist”, having set new horizons and becoming the most tantalising of their work so far. In an age of various post-hardcore references to the past, these guys’ idea of the subgenre separates them from the pack. They manage to capture various genres’ nuances through the use of interesting layering and inspirations used to convey different emotions. After a series of entries presenting their records, we’ve finally managed to sit down with the band and learn more about their craft, their ideas of cosmology, motivation for DIY art, and more.
ANNA PHORRA is: Garrett Peterson (lyrics/vocals), Katie Manchak (drums), Clay Francis (bass), Albert Nish (guitars).
Photo by Devan Finlay.
A conversation of consciousness for those who exist.’ was conceived originally in late 2015, but not recorded until the summer of 2016. This EP is the product of many individual struggles, lineup changes, and a huge amount of effort.
The music of ‘A conversation of consciousness for those who exist.’ offers yet another stylistic shift, that is still reminiscent of a lot of the core sounds that we have used historically. Conceptually, this release is inspired by metaphysical and theoretical concepts of The Multiverse, and the theoretical ethics thereof, particularly surrounding death, awareness, consciousness, and existence.
We think that this is our most personal and emotionally charged release to date. We hope that you enjoy listening to it as much as we did making it.
Photo by Devan Finlay
A few months ago, we witnessed you guys diving into more dreamy territories, and I were so struck because although I had listened to your varied records, I felt I recognized you as more mature artists, storytellers, and simultaneously truth-tellers. How do you define the purpose of your writing and how do you feel about your latest record now that it’s kind of congealed?
Garrett: My purpose in writing lyrics is to attempt to accurately channel some of the more honest emotions I’ve experienced. To try and create an understanding of what it means to be me and the things I’ve gone through. Because only you can really truly know what you’ve experienced emotionally and it can at times be very difficult to convey some of the more complex things you’ve felt. I feel this EP is my best attempt so far at achieving that. It boasts some of the most up front and honest lyrics I’ve ever written and I’m rather proud of it.
Albert: The purpose was to follow and develop a theme, I guess for me, personally, in writing the guitars. Instrumentally I wanted to explore my chorus pedal and reverb. I wanted to see what I could do with it in varying styles of softness/heaviness, which is why there’s such a prevailing idea of chorus/dreaminess through it all. I think the quantum mechanics-based philosophical theme derived from that skeleton I provided.
How I personally feel about this record is that it feels very self contained. It allows the listener to ask questions themselves with gentle guidance through the titles of the songs. It doesn’t really require any additional reading in terms of material. It’s something that lives on as its own, but it does take on new meaning as you delve deeper into the subject. It also doesn’t lock us into a style for any future releases, but presents itself as a very solid idea that works by its lonesome.
Each song is actually very different if you really get to the bare bones of it, but due to that overlaying theme of chorus/reverb/dreaminess/philosophy, they’re all tied together into one neat, cohesive package. I am very willing to further explore this style in future releases, but just don’t expect it all to be like this going forward!
How are you involved in the concept of The Multiverse that served as one of the main inspirations when it comes to the concept of this EP? Can you share your thoughts on your understanding of the universe? How broad is your scientific interests range?
Albert: It’s a very interesting concept to me. I’m not very deep into the exact science of it, but from a psychological and philosophical point of view, it’s incredible to me. It’s the idea that each action you take has a deep and profound meaning on the world around you, and that human consciousness, as we may or may not know it, can transcend space and time. The idea of our album art—a tree sprouting from a head—symbolizes the vast amount of worlds that spawn from our consciousness. All of our thoughts and decisions create new worlds constantly, like new branches in a tree which run concurrent to each other. Some die while others live on, but they all come from the original root that is your consciousness. I like to think our decisions in life are so important that they create new universes. It’s an important personal philosophy of mine. It’s interesting psychologically, as well. If there are multiple universes, why is your consciousness a part of the one you currently exist in? If you could jump to another universe, what would happen to the you that resides in that world? Would you switch places? Consciousness is a state of being—of existing, so it’s not possible to exist twice at the same time, is it? If you could switch to a world where you survive a possible death, would you be effectively murdering the version of you that you’re switching with, that now does not survive? But, if we talk about what it means to exist, is that version of you really you? While they are from a world that was made as a result of your decisions, you do not see through their eyes. It begins to beg the question of what it really means to exist. We come back to “Why do you live in the world you currently exist in?” Why are you not in another world? Where are the other worlds? Looking at Schrödinger’s Cat, we can ask, “Is my current state of existing in this world a result of the metaphorical opening of the box?” At a quantum level, is your consciousness really in a state of existing in every world all at once, but because you, as a person, can only recognize this current world as the one which exists, you’ve opened the box and killed the cat? Could you somehow revert to the superposition of existing in all worlds, and open the box to see the cat alive? And what effect would that have on your psyche?
I was possibly rambling here, but it’s such a very interesting concept to me, and there are so many questions you can derive from it that it makes for a long think and a hefty discussion. I’d like listeners of ours to take those concepts and apply it to their life and their own personal understanding of their existence.
In terms of range, though, I guess I’d say I’m personally very interested in space, dark matter, and the like. I’m very obviously interested in string theory/quantum mechanics. Sound is a very big one for me, as is the psychological effects various forms of media have on people. Clay says he likes biology. He thinks it’s cool.
Have you professionally studied these subjects? Do you have an educational background?
Oh, not at all. It’s more of a fascination and interest. I like learning about it, but I’m no pro when it comes to the concept. In terms of education, we’ve all graduated high school, while Clay has just recently graduated University, actually. All of us enjoy learning various things pertaining to our interests in our spare time, however. The internet is a great place to learn, haha.
Photo by Devan Finlay.
You bet! Also a great place to soak in all kinds of untruths and bullshit stories made up to make lot of money out of ads, haha. Believe me, I’m in this business in my day job and you can easily assume that 90% of the Web is one big, fake, automated gibberish and crap.
Ok, but we’re here to change that, aren’t we? :)
Back to these concepts, are there other aspects of cosmology you’d wish to explore in your next songs?
Haha, yeah, but we try to keep on our toes about that stuff. Reputable sources and all that.
Not that we know of, right now. We tend not to think too hard about what concepts to explore (if any!) before we actually sit down and write/record a new record. We keep it pretty open, which is why we have such varied releases. Maybe in the future we could explore more, but that’s all up in the air, so to speak, haha.
Alright, so just to close the space talk up, what do you think are some of the most terrifying the risks of future breakthroughs in science? What would you name some of the most unexpected and dangerous offerings of the worlds of the future? An uncontrolled artificial intelligence? Our gret dependence on modern gadgets and technologies that make us dumber and dumber?
There’s not much that we’re scared about when it comes to technology and the future, haha. Generally technology helps a lot. Especially medical technology!
We think the biggest risk in the future would be misuse. Anything can be abused, and that’s pretty scary.
Photo by Veronica Fuentes
Ok guys, fair enough. Back to the back, you’ve mentioned line-up changes as one of the infuelnces of this record. Please introduce us to the current line up and drop us a couple of lines about your backgrounds. How did you get into playing DIY emo punk, and when did you know you wanted to be a part of this unprofitable business?
Katie: New and current drummer. I’ve been playing the drums for upwards of 10 years now, but I’ve never had the opportunity to play them in a band, until now. I met these guys like a true millenial. A mutual friend shared their post on Facebook about looking for a new drummer, and I almost immediately messaged them. My drumming ~style~ was formed when I was an angsty 16 year old listening to nothing but UNDEROATH. Usually I’m ashamed to admit that, but I think that worked in my favour for this project. It’s allowed me to explore parts of my creativity I wasn’t able to before, and I’m really proud of the work we’ve collaborated on together.
Albert: I’m the current (and original!) guitarist. I write and have written all our guitars from the beginning til now. I’ve been playing guitar for about 9 years now, but started playing piano 16 years ago. Piano helped me a lot in learning the guitar quickly, and learning how to write songs. I was essentially self-taught when it comes to guitar, learning songs by METALLICA, MEGADETH and IRON MAIDEN during my first year with an acoustic, haha. I soon started playing DANCE GAVIN DANCE (can you tell?) and listening to a lot of post-hardcore (and video game music!) and actually learnt and developed my style through writing my own songs as opposed to learning covers. I usually try to challenge myself through new songs I write to continually develop and grow.
Clay: I play/write bass for ANNA PHORRA and always have since the band started. I have previously been in one other garage rock type band and have been playing bass for 10ish years. I keep my musical tastes pretty diverse, and recently have mostly been into ambient black metal (WILDERNESSKING, etc) but most of my early years of music were spent listening to bands like THE NUMBER 12 LOOKS LIKE YOU and WAR FROM A HARLOTS MOUTH. I also had a lot of jazz influence, and still listen to a lot of WEATHER REPORT and BÉLA FLECK. For me I dig playing the music we do because I don’t feel bound into playing any one particular way or using a particular sound. I love being able to play around and mix up my approaches to the instrument.
Garrett: Hi! I’m the current (and also original) vocalist. Post hardcore and other punk subgenres have always been a large part of my life growing up and its pretty much all I ever wanted to talk about. Today, bands like ENTER SHIKARI, ROLO TOMASSI, and CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE still have a large influence on me, but nowadays I listen to as much different music as possible as it helps me come at writing with a unique perspective. Ever since I was 10 years old I wanted to be a singer, but quite frankly, I was awful at it. I was originally recruited to be a synth player in one of Albert’s early bands but they didn’t really have a reliable vocalist. I eventually convinced him that I was good enough and (for some reason) he let me. I was terrible. But it helped me to grow as a vocalist and a musician with Albert and Clay, and I’m really proud of how far we’ve come. In past bands we actually played more of a straight up post hardcore sound, but as our tastes grew so did our sound, and we decided to distance ourselves from our old stuff and created what we know as ANNA PHORRA. We continue to have a large progression in our sound, and even comparing our newest EP to our oldest ANNA PHORRA release, there is quite a stark contrast. I’m excited to see what we continue to create, because I know we’re not going to let genres hold us back from creating what we want to in the future.
Great! On a more personal level, are you more of a peace-and-quiet? How do you balance between your everyday stuff and the alteration of yourself while being inside your music?
We all pretty much just chill out and play video games and do nothing, honestly. A few of us are into competitive gaming. Otherwise, yeah, we’re pretty quiet outside of our music.
It’s less of a balance and more like a less quiet facet of our lives.
What inspired you to start ANNA PHORRA? Also, how did you come up with the idea for this name?
Albert: Honestly, I wanted to start a post-hardcore band in the same vein as early 2000s post-hardcore like THE FALL OF TROY, CIRCA SURVIVE, TIDES OF MAN, DANCE GAVIN DANCE, AT THE DRIVE-IN, etc. After assembling a few friends together, and writing music under various different names (taking up about a year or two of time), we decided to change to a more neutral sounding name so we could focus on any type of music without any preconceived notions. The actual name came from that meeting to change names, actually. We were looking through a list of literary terms and stumbled upon anaphora, which is the rhetorical device of repeating a word or phrase at the beginning of each line in a verse or sentence for emphasis or artistic effect. After messing around with the letters (and initially pronouncing anaphora completely wrong), we created the name and band ANNA PHORRA.
Photo by Devan Finlay
Do you have other art projects you’re currently involved in?
Well, Clay and Katie are in a couple of other bands. Clay’s in BRUNCH CLUB, a twee pop band, and FLESH CURSE, an ambient black metal band, while Katie’s in bedside., an indie rock band. Other than that, Katie says she paints with her toes sometimes.
Alright, so what tidbits of advice do you have for aspiring young kids that would like to start a band?
Keep at it, try not to get discouraged. Everything comes in small steps that you probably don’t even realize are happening. I mean, usually. Sometimes there are breakout successes, but don’t expect it. Don’t commit to every song you write. Creativity is a process that involves constant reiteration and hard work. Just keep writing, and you’ll write some songs you like. Also, it helps if you like the people you’re playing with.
Lastly, how is Edmonton at this time of the year?
Usually pretty covered in snow, but snow only really just stuck the other day, so not bad. It’s just started to get cold, but usually it’s much colder by now. So, warm by comparison, we’d say.
Would you like to wrap it up with some local artists reccommendations and a couple of lines that would sum up your local independent music scene for the readers, most of which have no idea how it’s actually like?
Sure! We’ve got I HATE SEX, YOU TAKE THE BUS WHEN YOU’RE DEAD, RAYLEIGH, COLD LUNGS, WEIRD YEAR, DAYDREAMING, BEDSIDE., and PIGEON BREEDERS. In terms of our local scene, there’s really not a lot to say besides there being a strong drive to “support local”. So we’ve got that going for us.
Awesome, thank you so much! I can’t wait to witness ANNA PHORRA converting more emotions into heartfelt compositions on your next record. Cheers from Poland!
We hope you’ll keep listening to us in the future! We’ve got some fun things planned. Thanks for having us, and cheers from Canada!