Best known as one-third of Au Revoir Simone, Annie Hart didn’t quite stop making music while her band is currently on a hiatus. She has been writing songs and now she ventured to put out her first solo album, Impossible Accomplice. We talked with Annie about the album, Au Revoir Simone and their appearance at one two of the new Twin Peaks’ brilliant episodes.
Since Au Revoir Simone released the latest album – Move In Spectrums (2013) – you’ve been working on your own songs. Tell me a little bit of how it was the process of crafting them and what has pushed you to put them out for the world.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always just played music and always made music. Now that Au Revoir Simone is not happening – one of my bandmates, Heather [D’Angelo], moved to California and became a scientist journalist. [laughs] And my other bandmate Erika [Forster] just had a baby and she’s spending much more time with the baby and enjoying that feeling. I just never stop playing music or making music. I wasn’t going to make it public or really do anything and I didn’t think it was that good, but actually Heather said I was crazy and that the songs were really good and it wasn’t fair to the world if I didn’t make a record. [laughs] And I said, “Ok. If you like them, I guess I’ll do it.” [laughs]
Was there a sound you seek to capture outside Au Revoir Simone?
Not really. I think to me they all sound different. For Au Revoir Simone, each played two keyboards or sometimes three keyboards and this is really just me playing and especially live, I don’t do samples or anything. I think inherently it’s just more minimal. When I play alone I really just play synthesizer and I just listen to the sound of the synthesizer. By having it so open sonically that you can really appreciate the nuances within one sound. It wasn’t like I was trying to do anything different from Au Revoir Simone because I’m using all the same equipment as we used for our last record and the record before that. It’s gonna sound similar, but I think it just has a little more space and less things going on.
What were your main references while shaping your sound?
A few things really inspired me. Musically, for Au Revoir Simone we’ve never really listened to any other bands and said “I want to make an album that sounds like this.” We just kind of played together and whatever happened, happened. I think you can hear that, it doesn’t really sound much like anything else. [laughs] With this album, I kind of had the same thing, but I was listening to a lot more synth music like this artist that I literally only listened to her record for like a month. It’s called The Expanding Universe by Laurie Spiegel and I love it so much and that really shows what you can do with one instrument like one synthesizer and just have so many different rhythms going on that keeps it so interesting, complicated and involving… No matter how many times I listened to that record, I just wanted to listen to it again… It’s almost like a puzzle for my brain to figure out in a beautiful way. I wrote the song “Breathing Underwater” after I saw Savages play a concert. I came home and I wrote the lyrics on the subway and the melody. I just started playing keyboard in GarageBand. I had already written the lyrics and the drumbeat on my iPhone and then when I came home I started playing keyboards along with it. The demo doesn’t really sound like the actual song; the demo sounds more like dark new wave. [laughs] There’s always an evolution in the sound no matter what you’re trying to do.
Impossible Accomplice is your debut solo album and it was all written, recorded and performed by you, in the basement of your Brooklyn home. Can you tell me more about the whole process?
On this album I’ve been playing a lot of bass as well, but the process… [laughs] I do this activity with my friends every now and then where we pick one day and the idea is you wake up at 9 in the morning and you try to write and record 8 songs in 8 hours. [laughs] Some of them are very good, some of them are not. [laughs] It’s fun and it’s really embarrassing because you’re bringing these terrible ideas and just trying to get them done for your friends and my friends are professional musicians. Having them hearing this bad stuff is really hard for me. [laughs] But the idea behind that was so inspiring and I noticed that every time I did it for about 5 days or one week after, I would have so many more ideas. Usually the songs that I wrote for that weren’t very good, but there are two of them on the record from those events. But the other songs I just added more ideas and it was more easily because I did that. Usually how the songs start is like I just sit down and start playing on synthesizer and then some kind of nonsense words happen. I keep a notebook with interesting things that I’ve heard or interesting ideas for words that have come to my mind, so I keep a list of two or three word sentences and then I use one of those ideas as a starting point for writing words.
Why name the album as Impossible Accomplice?
When I was thinking about that, I was reading an interview about these two women who became friends and they said “Oh, I thought she could be a possible accomplice for me in my crime” or something like that, and I was like “What about an impossible accomplice?” The theme of the song there’s so much of wanting this person around but it can’t happen and start thinking of the ideas, like if someone wants to be your accomplice but it’s impossible to make that happen, it’s out of your control.
On the album’s lead single “Hard to Be Still,” you said that it was the first time you had managed to write “a normal love song” and it’s about your husband. Can you elaborate more on that?
I was staying at my friend’s house in Portland and he wasn’t there, he’s a musician and he has all of this music stuff. [laughs] I had the day off and I just started using his stuff and recording. I got this idea for an almost punk song and I don’t really remember how I got the words or anything, but once I got a few lyrics I realized it was a really good true love song. I just went with it, but it was really strange for me because I’ve tried to write songs about him for years and they all just seemed so cheesy. [laughs]
“When I play alone I really just play synthesizer and I just listen to the sound of the synthesizer. By having it so open sonically that you can really appreciate the nuances within one sound.”
As you said, your husband Doug Marvin is also a musician and he’s in a band called Drawing Boards. Do you exchange ideas about each other’s bands and musical taste?
[laughs] We ended up on our first date finding out that we had two or three of the same favorite bands like obscure indie rock bands at the time. [laughs] We actually played in a band together called Pursesnatchers, but honestly he and my parents are the only people that I get stage fright in front of because they’re the only people I really care what they think, like with anybody else I’m like “Whatever. Who cares?” [laughs] It was hard for me to be in a band to create with him because I’m very critical but at the same time I don’t want to be mean.
Have you already played “Hard To Be Still” to him?
Oh yeah, he loved it, and my kids loved it too. [laughs] They like to dance to the songs. They go downstairs when I’m editing and just dance when I’m practicing to concerts. They are my number one fans. [laughs]
How’s it like tour life to you and to your family?
For the moment I’ve only played two tours and they were both just in California, and so I was only gone for a week, but it’s ok and easy because my husband is a tour manager and so when he’s touring I take care of the kids and then when I’m touring he takes care of the kids. If there’s ever a problem, both of our parents are really nice and they love the children. We have a good support. When my older child was like two or three, I did a lot of touring for Au Revoir Simone and nothing bad happened. [laughs] And it’s also nice to sleep because when I’m home I never sleep. [laughs]
I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk with you about Twin Peaks. Au Revoir Simone made an appearance at the end of the fourth episode of the awesome Twin Peaks’ comeback. You girls and David Lynch are great friends, but how did approach you to be part of that episode?
He asked a bunch of bands that he likes to play and perform. We’ve known him for years and so we were really excited when he asked us. We flew to California and it was so easy. He was just like “Oh, that’s amazing girls! That’s great! Oh beautiful, just beautiful!” I was really nervous because I wasn’t feeling relaxed or comfortable when it was happening, but I think it came out pretty great.
Any plans on releasing new material with Au Revoir Simone any time soon?
I’m willing and ready for a return, but I don’t know, I’m just waiting for everybody. I think Heather really wanted to become a scientist and get a job, but I don’t know… We’ll probably do some collaborations in the future. We did some composing for advertising and stuff together. There’s always something, but we’ll see. Right now I’m just gonna do this and then see what happens.