This is the transcript of a disastrous interview I conducted in July 2007 during the Indian Summer festival in Glasgow. Annuals' debut Be He Me was a favourite of mine at the time – the North Carolinian sextet's single Brother was the kind of mammoth, stirring opus that should have projected them into the realms of Arcade Fire reverence - and the opportunity to speak to frontman Adam Baker and drummer Nick Radford after an opulent, swaying set proved to much to resist.
Now, festivals are rarely the most conducive of settings for a comprehensive interview as far too many factors can go wrong: drunk band members, drunk interviewer, pissing sheets of rain ruining recording equipment or, my own personal favourite, inebriated fans (or should that be fannies) trying to get in on the interview. So it was hardly surprising this chit-chat with Annuals became a bit of a challenge. Sat outside a hut on Victoria Park’s bowling green, things seemed to be going fine, there was booze, merriment and the photographer, John Lewis, had taken some wonderful shots, but a couple of minutes into the interview - a whisky soused - Adam dropped the dictaphone he had been diligently balancing on his knee. After a mild panic everything seemed to be okay but once the interview was completed I tested the levels to discover that only the first 2mins 33secs had recorded – much to my utter horror.
With Jason Pierce’s voice booming in the background as Spiritualized’s Acoustic Mainline set began gushing from the PA, neither Adam, Nick or myself (John had already buggered off by this point – these photographers have an easy life, coming and going as they please) were entirely comfortable doing the interview once again, so agreed to cut down the questions to a minimum. So, what lies before you is a down-sized version of an interview that was an initially articulate, funny and intriguing insight into one of 2007's great, unsung acts. Thankfully, the interview never ran when it was supposed to because Annuls had just finished promoting Be He Me - they were flying back to US the following day for some much needed rest judging by the black rings around their eyes. But they were lovely, endearing guys who played a stunning live set (2 percussionists always does it for me) and I would thoroughly recommend you check them out this year.
Hi guys, thanks for taking the time out for a chit-chat. How was the show?
Nick: It was great, man. It was a pretty good crowd too although it started raining. You guys have the most fucked up summers
You’re darn tootin’ right we do – you should try our winters mate. So, do you guys actually enjoy playing festivals or is it something you’d rather do without?
Adam: We love festivals actually
Nick: Yeah, it’s nice to see when people are actually enjoying your music instead of killing time.
Adam I guess when you spend that much money to go and see something you’re gonna have to be enthusiastic about it and it’s always nice to be on the receiving end of that.
So how do UK festivals compare to those back in the States?
Adam: There’s much fewer US festivals than there are here in the UK. Band’s tour round the country all the time and people have the chance to see all these bands constantly and festivals are more of a wrapping up or what not. Over here the festivals are way more important and its more of an exciting experience because this is one of the only chances you get to see all of your favourite bands with all of your friends.but the weather here kind of determines whether you enjoy it, I guess.
Not so my friend. Spin and Needles has had many a cracking festival knee deep in human excrement whilst the big man upstairs pisses out a relentless stream of aqueous content but never mind that how did you guys get it together?
Nick: Well, pretty much both parts of our band started playing in different bands in North Carolina but we got together through Kenny's [Florence – guitarist] girlfriend and from then on we started practicing together and playing a few shows. Then when the band started to get a bit more more attention we decided to put all our eggs into one basket and set out as The Annuals you’ve seen today.
On your debut record Be He Me you seem hell-bent on creating escalating, symphonic soundscapes. What were your influences when creating the record?
Adam: [sighs] God, if I had a dollar ever time someone asked me that. In essence the record was inspired by some and perhaps non of the following: Brian Wilson, Phil Collins, Paul Simon, Mr Go Go, Toni Toni Toni, Bjork and, of course, Annuals,
Phil Collins? Really?An, um, interesting choice. The album has been well received globally – Did you *ahem* feel it coming in the air tonight?
Adam: [Horrified] We didn’t know what to expect at all. Were really new to any sort of attention outside of our home state – from two years ago past it’s always on a local sense. I guess you’re competing with 20 bands and they’re not very good anyway – I hope no-one heard that back home. Really I didn’t expect to be here a year ago. I didn’t expect to be playing to as many people as I did here in Glasgow and then doing the interview after. It makes me feel proud of all the work we’ve done – it’s very humbling.
With such intricately structured songs that tend to involve two percussionists, I’m guessing Be He Me wasn’t a stroll in the park to put together?
Adam: You’re right, there was a lot involved in it. We have a studio in our best friend’s basement and we would go in and work on it at anytime of any day. So if I wanted to I would go and work in the studio when an idea came into my head. We ended up saving for studio equipment because me and Mike [Robinson - bass player] knew how to record music. We had the opportunity to be perfectionist about it.
So how does the songwriting process work for you guys? Is it a group effort or does democracy go out of the window?
Adam: I pretty much took the reigns for most of [Be He Me] because its hard to actually involve everyone when you come up with ideas for a song in your bedroom alone most of the time. I go in and record it and get a backbone to it then we start building the song piece by piece – its an ever growing ever creating process. People come in and give you better ideas and it all works out as a very nice experimental process.
Are you at all sick of the Arcade Fire comparisons?
Nick: No, not at all - the comparison is a good comparison I would say. People have to compare you to someone, even to someone you don’t know or don’t like so in that respect it’s a good thing.
Adam: I suppose there is no other way to explain music – you cant explain what a violin note sounds like or how the violinist played that note. You’ve gotta think of something it sounds like and everyone’s personal library will tune into that. I don’t really think we sound like them though. The only reason I started listening to them was because of the comparisons and as we’re my favourite band I thought I was going to love them. But if we do sound like them that’s fucking cool with me - they’re a great band and put on fuckin' cool shows.
It sounds like you’re enjoying being out on the road right now. How has the constant touring to promote the record been for you?
Adam: It’s always fun playing – we spend every hour of the day with seven other people in a van fucking farting all over the place and then we get an hour to play in our own space - I would recommend it to anyone.
Nick: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now – I cant imagine having a nine to five job waking up at the same time every day. I just couldn’t do it. I worked in a laundry shop at one point and it fuckin’ sucked.
Adam: We all knew we didn’t want to do anything else. We were the only people in our general area who knew how to do that and it seems to have worked out for us thus far. It seems very natural to us but we’re all very lucky to be where we are. There are so many bands out there who are so much better than us and how don’t get the recognition they deserve. We’re extremely lucky to get the recognition we get. – don’t know if we deserve it but we’ve worked so fucking hard to get where we are. We don’t make much money being such a large band but it all works out though as we don’t have to work a job we don’t believe in
And what do you think you can achieve with the band?
Nick: Ah man….. at the moment we’re just taking it as it comes and hope it lasts for ever.
Adam: No musician is built to do anything else but play fucking music. We’re going to take this as long as we can and as far as we can so we don’t have to do anything else.
Nick: I want to be in the music industry some how or somewhere in the long run – no matter what the fuck it is.
Adam: It’s either that or we chop fucking wood for a living.
Well, I’m pretty sure it won't come to that. So what have you got in the pipeline for the next twelve months?
Nick: We have a lot of songs on the back burner that are even older than the songs on Be He Me. There’s an endless supply – we’re always going to be doing music. there’s never going to be an end to the ideas. We’re confident we’ll do well.
Adam: [obviously hasn’t listened to the question] We’ve been doing this for 8 years so it just feels right. There’s a never ending supply of music coming from us and none of us wants to stop. Even if it’s a week straight of never ending misery I cant imagine not doing this. It’s not going to stop until one of us loses an arm. I’ll be dead before I take any other job.