Breaking is a recurring self-titled feature where we introduce you to an artist who’s on the cusp of greatness. This installment focuses on the innovative Floridian psych-pop duo ANR, or Awesome New Republic, featuring Michael John Hancock and Brian Robertson.
This magazine is a party. Our readers are attractive girls. How would you introduce yourselves at a party to an attractive girl?
Ha! Good one. “We put out ______ for free. Just insert ‘downloads’ there in the middle.”
ANR is based in Miami. What is the most inspiring thing about making music there besides plastic pink flamingos?
There is a rich variety of music blasting most hours of the day, somewhere in the distance, wherever you are. For the total opposite of that, you can always drive a short way to the west and stare at the Everglades. You will hear a lot of bugs, birds, hogs, and gators, though.
The new album Stay Kids is quite epic. What are your influences?
We like all sorts of music. Some of our big shared influences are Talking Heads, Cluster, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Nirvana, the Beach Boys, the whole Dungeon Family, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Neu!, The Band, Animal Collective, Thomas Dolby, Giorgio Moroder, John Carpenter.
All the punk and alternative everyone our age grew up on as well is a big influence, along with the jazz and classical music we studied in college. We’re also both very inspired by movies. More than by music. There’s more to mine for in those things.
We hear influences like TV on the Radio, and Pink Floyd. Are we completely off?
The first is right on. Brian especially, in his admiration of Dave Sitek. We were both super blown away by how the first two Liars albums sounded and have been big fans of his own group all the while. Pink Floyd are really successful at making a “themed” album with class. We’re into the narrative in music, as well as records that are sonically illustrative of that, so we get down with the Floyd. Plus they’re about as unavoidable as the Beatles when you’re growing up.
Production seems very important to the band being that the record is crisp, vast, and uncompromising in sound. Interestingly, lo-fi seems to be making a considerable resurgence in independent music. Why do you think that is?
Maybe the connectivity of everything, the fact that we’re all very much living the future described in old sci-fi novels, people want a dose of something primitive in their lives.
Or maybe it’s that, within a variety of sub-genres of music, people are mirroring the extremity of the world around them by taking their type of music to greater extremes. It does seem like the mixes on a lot of different records lately have less to do with a flat, huge sound and more with mixing stuff in a dynamic or unusual way. That’s obvious on garage and other new-nostalgic records, but also something like the Kanye album and how the vocals overtake and soften the track in parts, or the mix on a lot of the last M.I.A. record. A lot of stuff sounds sloppy and rushed in a great way, with an energy of impatience and uneasiness that is so relatable these days.
What do you guys do when you’re not rock stars?
We are regular dudes for the other 24 hours of the day. We both just work whatever jobs we can within the music field–gigging, scoring stuff, engineering, etc. All that pays the bills and allows for mobility and flexibility
You’re just a duo. So how do you re-create your music for live performances?
It’s in the arrangements, using different sounds than on the records, playing the kit a different way than what is played or programmed on the records. Trying to recreate the song and the energy of the record rather than the exact sound. It’s definitely a different beast, is much louder and more psychedelic, and is our preferred way of making music together.
Your 2009 EP Rational Geographic was promoted through a BitTorrent campaign. What are your thoughts on free downloading? And if you’re all for it (which presumably you are), how can musicians support themselves in this new industry?
Free downloading is how we both found out about a ton of music we listen to, or how we’ve gotten heavily into certain artists that we support. A lot of stuff out there wasn’t available regionally (or at all) for a long time, so if you wanted to hear this band, Neu!, that Radiohead was talking about, you had to go online and rip it off. In that same respect today, people are flooded with music, flooded with everything in their lives as far as media formats go, so to a point, the only way you’re going to get people outside of your town to hear your music is to offer it up for free.
The difference between requiring an E-mail address and not is even significant, with how quickly people’s attentions can be diverted. So how does one make money? By doing whatever one can, working around the clock while at home, trying to pack it in as logically and frugally as possible on the road. There are a lot of industries changing these days, and a lot of bright people within working harder and getting creative.
What are your plans for 2011? And which narcotics are involved?
We’re looking to tour a lot, to hone our live act and evolve in that setting. Also hoping to get into another album this year. Drugs? Neither of us have been to the dentist in a long time, so likely something that keeps the mind off the tooth getting drilled is in the cards.