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Annie Bass is in 'Control'

10 May 2019 | 10:39 am | Emma Jones

With her long awaited debut EP out today, we talk to Annie Bass about taking back 'Control' and getting by with a little help from her friends.

ANNIE BASS is a name that has been floating around the electro/pop landscape for a couple of years now. Real name, Annabel Weston, has been slowly but surely chipping away, carefully releasing singles since her debut in 2016 on 'While I'm Waiting'. Her stunning voice has the potential to absolutely soar or be as soft as a whisper, and is perfectly suited to the left-of-centre electronic production on each release. Picking perfect production partners, she's worked with the likes of Christopher Port and Ara Koufax's Sam Gill to bring her music out of the solely pop realm and into a space entirely her own.

Fans of Annie Bass have been waiting patiently for her first body of work for three years now, and today the wait is over with the release of her debut EP, Control. A long time coming, Control is an intensely personal, vulnerable, and intimate journey through Bass' life. It's dynamic in the sounds she effortlessly glides over thanks to Gill and pop powerhouse Kito, and while its rooted in Bass' life, it's also incredibly relatable. Control is a testimony to Annie Bass' songwriting abilities as she lets you in so deeply that it's almost like reading her personal diary, while also leaving enough room for you to inject your own story into her lyrics. Nothing is off limits as she openly sings about her mental health, assault, personal trauma and heartache, but Bass tackles it in a way that's equally respectful of her past and optimistic for her future.

After spending years feeling a total loss of control, it's exactly that that Annie Bass takes back on this record. From the devastating and defiant opener, 'In Your Arms' which was written in one of Bass' darkest times as a promise to her sister to not do anything stupid, to the relentless and thundering 'Something Changed', Control is a rich sonic journey through the mind of someone who has been through some shit and has come out the other side. What could very easily have been an EP of forlorn ballads is instead a triumphant step into the light for Bass as she refuses to shy away from her past, openly leaning into her experiences and finding the joy in those moments we'd all rather not share.

Here at Purple Sneakers, we've been following Annie Bass' journey since 2016. From playing at our shows to sharing her releases with us, it's been a loving relationship between her and us, and so it was only fitting we'd dive deep with her to talk all about her brilliant debut EP. What has evolved from voice memos that were never meant to be heard by anything, is a collection of songs that show the beauty in all different stages of life, and it serves as a warm hug from an old friend.

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Read our chat below and nab your copy of Control here.

Control is out May 10th! It's been such a long time coming, how does it feel? 

Oh it's been such a journey. It's funny, I hear people say it's out May 10th and apart of me knows it, but most of me is like, "No, no, no, it can't be happening now." I'm definitely ready, I've been ready for a while, but it still doesn't feel quite real yet.

Congratulations on it, it's seriously stunning. It's so beautiful. A lot of these songs have existed in some way, shape or form for a while - how has it been revisiting these really personal songs after however long, and also now having them about to be released to the world? 

The biggest part of my last two years has been taking these songs from very personal, intimate voice memos that were never really intended to see the world this way... I've had so many people share in this songs which has changed the way I feel about them, and then change it back, and then change it another way. I've been in so many different spaces with [the songs]. I was really lucky to have people who I trusted so much help me figure out where these songs belonged and get me out of my own headspace on what they are now because they've had so many different lives.

Does it offer new perspective looking back on old memories or, in this case, old voice memos and does it allow you to reshape moments now that you're out of it? You can look back on it now and go, "Oh, that's what that was."

Completely. Even now when I listen to these songs, I hear things that unlock these different little realisations about myself or what I was going through then. When I wrote them, I didn't really know what I was writing about until I went back much later and really listened to what I was saying and I went, "Oh, that's what I was going through. That's what I was talking about." It's all about hindsight for me. They're still giving me new information, even now.

You teamed up with Kito and Sam Gill on this EP, and Christopher Port prior to this. Do you think working with friends has allowed you to open up in such an intensely private way, where you can pour yourself out a little bit more?

The way it happened was so natural for me. I was terrified to show anyone these songs because they were for my ears only. I was working with Sam Gill who was apart of my management team early on, and he asked for these demos. I wasn't sure if I should send these, they're a bit emotional, but once he heard them he was like, "These are the songs we should be working on, and this is the kind of stuff we want to work on."

Sam Gill is obviously apart of Ara Koufax which is an incredible duo, but he is such a brilliant producer and a brilliant mind. I guess we kind of finish each other's musical senses so to be able to work with him so closely in different capacities, I don't think I could've done what I did without his help. We were in the room together a lot with the development of these songs. We sat together and he'd be able to articulate me when I'd be like, "I want it more like this, I want it more like this." I would explain it to him as a feeling or a colour and he'd just get it. But, I think we did get a little too close to the project so having Kito, who is this pop powerhouse with this beautiful pop sensibility, she came in and just went, "Cool, I see you both, I see this vision," and she took it up to another level.

It's interesting you say that because you and Sam connected so well together, that you got a bit too close to the project. Do you think that being able to work with people on this project adds to the level of authenticity that I am picking up on this record? Nothing is too manufactured, it's real. It's pop, but it's "real" pop. 

Definitely. Especially because Sam was so involved in the whole process, he knew my artistic vision whether it was how I wanted to present it aesthetically or the dialogue and the creative around the song, he knew it. I feel privileged to have had that extra relationship for this. He knew what questions to ask and where to go. But at the same time, musically, I've been really lucky to have worked with people who seem to click really quickly. I think it's such a beautiful thing being in the studio with somebody because it really is a mirror for me. I learn all the things I feel insecure about and Sam brought that out of me. I'd be self-deprecating about my abilities to produce and he'd just be like, "You can do this! You just need to find your voice," and he was really instrumental in doing that with me.

Do you think because this was such a long time coming, the time it did take worked in your advantage to be able to find your voice along the way instead of rushing out some songs when you weren't certain? Obviously you've taken your time, you've found people that really care about it, and now you really feel ready - was it because of that time? 

Definitely. I mean, the title of the EP itself is "Control", and that comes from my really gung-ho [approach]; I need things really quickly and I feel very impatient and I feel the weight of the world when it comes to getting things done quickly. I think as musicians, we all live in this world where we fear being irrelevant and I was really lucky to have people around me who believed this needed time and they trusted that, if we gave it the time it needed, it would work out. I would be like, "This is taking too long and I don't understand why this isn't happening faster!" They'd just say to me, "You just have to relax, this is what it's all about."

We might've gone a little too far, like we made so many different variations of these songs. But now I look back on that time and think about where I am in this moment, ready to release it, and it just feels like there could never have been another way to have done it.

Well, everything does happen for a reason I guess!

I know! [Laughs] I'm trying not to be too philosophical, but it's true! With the way that I feel about the music now and being in a place where I'm really ready for people to hear it and understand it as a full body of work.

You talk about mental health, assault and so much more on this record. It's not really stuff you can glaze over or touch on quickly and move on either. You want to give what you went through the respect it needs to acknowledge what happened to you. Do you feel like that has lead to that feeling of control and you wanting to take it back?

Absolutely. I remember sitting in my manager's office in New York and he asked me what the EP was about, and I couldn't answer him. I was like, "Oh you know, relationships. Being sad..." And he said, "Yeah but what's it about?" And I couldn't tell him. I couldn't say it out loud. This was only a year and a half ago. I just remember him saying we can't really do this if you don't know what it's about. I was really embarrassed and I went home and was like, "If I want to do this, I'm going to have to be really honest with people." I can't just expect people to know. So I wrote him a letter which is such a teenage girl thing to do, and I was really worried because what if he didn't want to have to deal with all this baggage and drama and whatever. But he came back and just said, "Thank you because now I understand what you're talking about."

It was in that moment that I realised if I want to do this then I really have to be honest with people about what this about and what led me to write these songs. I finally feel like I'm comfortable to do that in a safe environment whereas had I released these songs a year ago, I don't know if I would be able to do that.

It's a really personal EP and it really hit home in a lot of moments for me. It also kind of says to me now, that you can get through the dark times and you can face your demons, but it does help to have a bit of help from your friends on the way. Is that how it felt for you to know you're now ready, and you had these people beside you to help you get there, and now you're going to do it? 

Completely! I think there's so much emphasis on mental health now, but mostly on being happy. I think it's so unrealistic for most of us to feel happiness all the time. When people hear it and listen to it, I don't want them to feel sympathy or empathy, I want them to relate to it in a way that we all have our own stuff going on. We all have our past, our history, baggage, sadness. It's not something to feel poorly about or embarrassed about. It's just another part of what we're doing on this planet. It's emotional sure, but it's kind of more like opening a door. I'm just going to keep going; things are going to be good or things are going to be bad. I don't want people to feel like it's sorrowful. There's joy in there now. Maybe not when I was writing it, but I think there's a kind of joy or beauty in feeling those feelings, which we are told not to do.

It feels triumphant in a way. I think it has a lot to do with your songwriting, but also the production as it adds that level of defiance and saying, "No, this isn't a sad thing. I overcame it and I'm triumphant." Do you think the sounds and the production on these songs allowed you to break out of that sorrowful phase and move into this new phase? 

Definitely. When I recorded these songs, I recorded them just with a piano and vocal to really work out the song structure. I felt like it was cool but it wasn't strong enough and not the right kind of feeling. I was lucky enough to work with people who really got where I wanted this to go. You're right though, it needed more power and darkness and "grungyness", not just kind of the soft and sad sounds.

Photo by Daisy Clementine

Words by Emma Jones