Interviews

A whole circumference of where it could go – an in-depth interview with Annique

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A few months after closing the Masada Marathon – a series of articles chronicling the release of The Book Beriah, the third and final chapter in John Zorn’s legendary, twenty-five-year Masada project – I found myself researching some of the featured musicians, to see what else is on the horizon for the Masada family.

Whenever I’m out to discover new music, one of my first go-to guys is generally Koby Israelite. Not only has this maverick multi-instrumentalist produced one of my absolute favorite records in the Book of Angels, he always seems to have something interesting going on. Whether it’s an upcoming album with Romanian accordion virtuoso, Roberto de Brasov, or just videos of himself playing an entire tune by using only the apps on his motherfucking iPhone, Koby is a musician with a few tricks up his sleeve.

A project that immediately caught my eye is his collaboration with Annique, a charming British singer-songwriter with a chic, retro-vibe and a refreshingly candid delivery. With a style best described as counter-clock pop, this contrasting duo has put out a conspicuously homogeneous record in the recently released Lady Wonder. Their second collaboration follows Heads Up, which came out in 2015 under the Asphalt Tango label.

I’ve recently had the chance to speak with Annique, whose real name is Lucy Randell, about her career, her collaboration with Koby, their two records, being a professional musician in the UK and using profanity in song titles.

I’m going to open with this question: Why Annique?

Okay, so, my real name is Lucy Annick Randell. I’m a professional musician, as is Koby. That’s how we met. I’ve done everything from drum and bass, dance tracks or voice over work to live bands of all shapes and sizes. Years ago, when we first started, we had a manager who was trying to pitch the project to a venue. The promoter was like, “Okay, well, who is she? Is she going to give drum and bass? Is she going to give…” You know, he wasn’t finding the music as what it was. He said it would be much easier if we just pick a name and then every bit of traffic is just going to go to that. Then everyone who will be researching you or your music will just end up with that. We were thinking of different names. Obviously, I’ve got quite a snazzy middle name, so that’s why Annique. (laughs) But it is my name so…

It’s a very elegant name. I think it reflects the vibe of the music. 

Yeah, it’s French. It’s my mom’s first name and she gave it to me as a middle name. It’s spelled differently from the way I spell it in my passport, for instance. English people don’t usually pronounce things well. It would be pronounced very differently in English as to what it would be in French. It’s A-n-n-i-c-k. So I changed the spelling. But it’s a nice name.

Could you tell me a bit about the collaboration between you and Koby. You seem to have vastly different styles as musicians, yet you’ve managed to homogenize that very well in the music. 

Very weird, isn’t it? Well, he’d probably give you some weird, sort of out-there answer or make up a total lie. (laughs)

I’m sure he would.

We met in a band. He was the drummer. I was one of the singers. I thought he was extremely grumpy and tried to cheer him up and he thought I was a bit weird. So a friend of his said, “No, no, she’s got something. She’s got that zazz.” (laughs)

He needed a bit of session work on his King Papaya album. So I did that. Then, a year after that, we did this writing session. He had this idea for this song, “No Man’s Land”. That was the first song we ever wrote together. He composed the music to it and wanted somebody to write some lyrics. I turned up and he was like, “Okay, I want you to write about something dark.” I had done writing before but it had been very chorus-verse-based and stuff like this, whereas this was nice because I like things that are interesting musically.

I love pop music. I love almost every single type of music, but it’s nice to kind of get your teeth into something that’s a little bit quirky. So I really enjoyed it. I also sort of steered him towards adding another section in it. We just worked really well together. That was “No Man’s Land”. We were like, “Okay, this is really good actually. We should start a writing project together.”

We did the next session and it was horrendous. (laughs) He played me this song and it was a merge of… I think there’s every single type of music in there. It’s just a hot mess. It’s not even a hot mess, it’s just a mess. It was terrible. After that, we were like, “Well, maybe it was just beginner’s luck and maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” I said, “No… come on, we had a good one, we had a bad one, we should meet up and do at least another session. We can’t just cut it off.”

And he had these other backing track that he had conjured up in the sort of depths of his computer and he was like, “What about this?” I was like, “Okay, this sounds pretty good.” And that was “Never Forget The Times”.

It’s one of our best songs, really. I think it’s a great song. That gave us confidence. That’s kind of how it started.

How long ago was that?

Oh, my god! I don’t know. I’m probably guessing now. Seven years? Koby knows. Maybe ask him. (laughs) Ages ago, because it took us ages to get the album out.

Is Koby featured on both albums?

Yes. Koby is the producer and the co-writer on Heads Up and Lady Wonder. That’s kind of what the project of Annique is. It’s the two of us merged together.

Since Koby plays a lot of the instruments on the albums, how do you perform the music live? Who do you perform it with?

It depends on the venue and the spec for the gig. If I’m allowed and the budget’s there, we already have a band in place for those types of gigs. There’s two to three backing vocalists and a drummer, which is Koby. Koby is on the drums for most of it and there’s a keys player as well as guitar and bass. Basically, there would be a breakdown in the set where they go and me and Koby do this little thing which, I guess, is how the project started. He’ll go on the ukulele and the accordion and he gets his little time to shine. (laughs)

What are the musical influences behind the project?

I think it’s an anything goes thing. It’s almost a curse and a blessing, in the same respect. I have a very eclectic taste in music, as does Koby. Nine times out of ten, his range is quite different from mine. So when you put the two of us together we have a whole circumference of where it could go.

I think in Heads Up we were experimenting more with that. I’ve got a rock influence, from listening to the Beatles and things like that. I listen to a lot of grunge-influenced records. My parents had a good taste in music as I was growing up. I got a lot of my mom’s influence. She loved artists like Joni Mitchell and Queen. Koby likes things like that as well but, I mean, he likes thrash metal. I’ve only enjoyed a few artists that are thrash. But Koby loves that.

It’s difficult to answer that question because usually, we just start off and see where it goes. I’m usually quite bossy. If I like something I like it and if I don’t, I don’t. Occasionally, Koby’s tried to do something that’s like a pop song, the famous four chords that all the pop songs are written in. I’m like, “Mate, that’s not our style. It’s gonna look weird if we’re gonna try and do something we’re not.”

And I do music for the love of doing it. I’m not really young anymore to be breaking out as a pop artist. Because it’s a talent writing pop music, as well. What’s the point of trying to write pop if your influences are Balkan and rock? If you’re going to write music write it with your influence and be true to yourself. That’s kind of where I come from. And if you can make money off of it, it’s like an extra woo-hoo. (laughs)

How did you get your start in music?

I was always good at music from a very young age. My mom is a singer. But she’s in the classical, kind of theater and folk realm. I did things in school and some am-dram stuff. Then I went to a college in Guildford, which focused on live-band work. It’s one of these kinds of colleges that’s good for launching you into a career, so you kind of do jobs for less money but you get some experience under your belt. I guess it’s kind of like an apprenticeship. Some people don’t like the idea of those colleges because it made the competition higher for the professional musicians. Obviously, I can’t complain about it because it totally sorted me out.

Going to that college connected me with pretty much all the work I’ve ever done. For instance, the band I met Koby in and the drum and bass band people. I wouldn’t have gone into that band if I hadn’t been friends with the person who’s now my best friend. She was in that band and the only reason she was there was because one of the tutors from the school offered her to go into it as a backing vocalist.

From that, I started working with Koby and – another link from there – with a drum and bass band. My sister wouldn’t have even met her husband – put it that way –  if I hadn’t gone to that college all those years ago. It’s weird how that pans out. If I hand’t done that, would my nephew be here now? It’s weird, isn’t it.

Do you work as a full-time musician?

Yeah, I’ve had moments where I’ve gone off and had to do little bits of extra work. Usually, for me, it’s everything from May to January where I have manic periods. February, March and April are usually quiet. Particularly April is very quiet. I’ve had four or five gigs and they’re usually quite little ones.

Is that a British thing?

That’s a British thing. I think the American industry is different, from what I know. I think if you’re in the record company thing, making it as an artist or writer or something, I don’t think there’s the same amount of work. There’s just bars and restaurant and stuff like that.

With England, I think it’s easier to get work. I know Germany is insane. There are musicians out there that get paid 500 Euros ‘cos they’ve got so many conventions and stuff like that. Like, they’ll have a big Audi convention. So the whole thing out there is to have a live band to entertain the clients who come over. So the musician will have like a Monday-to-Friday job and get paid 500 Euros a night. That’s a good wage. (laughs) In England, there’s more the weekends and a few evenings. There are different circuits. There’s the backing vocals and then there’s the theater circuit and the party bands.

Tell me a bit about the creative process behind Heads Up. How did you decide to put out your first album?

Koby had a whole bunch of stuff on his computer that he’d already created and he’d be like, “How do you feel about this?” We’d kind of go from there. “It’s Life” was one of the songs where it really started to kick off as kind of a combined writing effort, you know? It’s very theatrical. It’s such a mental song.

That’s kind of how we work now, really. Koby can dance around all kinds of different instruments. He usually starts it from the piano and he’ll be messing around with a little sequence and I’ll go yay or nay. Or it might start on that but then we’re not really following through on that instrument, so we might change it to a guitar or accordion and then it might sort of inspire me a little bit more. And then I’ll sort of mumble lyrics while I’m working out the melody.

For me, the melody writes the lyrics. If I get the vibe that it’s going to be a moody song or a happy song or a sarky song or a love song. I can usually get the vibe from the melody. Then, I’ll think about what’s been going on in my life or my experiences. Maybe people I’ve been close to at that time. I’ll just pick that and I usually go online and start researching maybe famous quotes surrounding that topic.

I find that, as a lyricist, I don’t like to repeat myself too much. I noticed that on Heads Up I mention the heart a lot. And I’m like, “Bloody hell…” Then, in this album… I like going on about time, actually, in my lyrics.

I noticed. I think it’s good. It gives the record a common thread, in a way. In my reviews, I like to call it a “narrative coherence”. 

“My Dreams” was another one where I started writing and I was like, “I can’t talk about dreams again.” So there’s this website called Rhyme Zone and you can have that as a thesaurus. You can sort of type in the word you’ve got so you can use another word or get some inspiration. For instance, in “Push It Away”, I needed something to rhyme with dreams, because I needed that pattern. I saw seems and I thought, “Actually, A second struck can cut your seems sounds a lot more poetic.” So that’s how, sometimes, things just happen by accident.

Do you study your own music?

No, but I might start doing it now. (laughs) It’s funny you say that, because it is kind of like a story, as you’ve mentioned. You look at the song and you’re like, “Oh, that’s when that was happening?!” Heads Up was written at a time when I was single for a very long time. I was single for about five years, which is kind what “No Man’s Land” is about. So all of the songs and stuff in there aren’t really related to relationships or love. There’s a few at the end, which is when I started dating my partner at the time.

For instance, “Love Not Understood” is about him and me. “Safe As Stone” and “Far From Home”, they’re all to do with my relationship with him. “Far From Home” is all about him and how he’s been very lost in his life and his career and stuff. I do this thing – I did it with “Lady Wonder” – where I disguise it as me, so he might not get a little bit, “Oh, you wrote a song about me on your album.” (laughs) Most guys I dated are like, “Am I on your new album?”

Even that boyfriend – who I’m still friends with – is like that. We get along very well as friends but it was just one of those things where you’re too similar and you just wind each other up. He’s a producer. When I played him Lady Wonder he really appreciated the whole music. He was like, “Are there any songs about me on there?” Even though he sort of moved on with his life. And I was like, “Yes, there is one about you on there.” So he’s like, “Good, good, I made it on to the next album.” It was a big ego fluff for him.

“Waiting” was about that boyfriend. It was written very early on in the album and it was about me wanting to just move on away from the hurt of that. You’re kind of in that stage of a relationship where you’re asking yourself, “Was it a mistake to break up?” and all of that. That was about the end of that one.

But I got another one now. (laughs) For the next album. A male topic for each piece of art. I should just have their faces on the album cover, not me. (laughs) It started off with Heads Up being pretty much about my friends and things that were going on and now it’s very very personal.

What is it usually that makes you want to write a song? 

It’s difficult, because I don’t play any instruments. I play a bit of percussion. I have a guitar here but I don’t play it. (laughs) So it’s not like I sit at home and I write songs. And it’s the same with Koby. He’ll work on something on his own, but he can’t sing, so when we meet we meet to write. It’s kind of clinical in that sense. Come rain or shine, it will get done. That’s my work ethic. Just work through the writer’s block, for instance. If I were writing a book, I’d write anything – even if it’s a stupid, cheesy thing – just to keep the flow going. I’d just work through it. Forcing something is always a better way to find a flow.

Has your creative approach changed in any way between Heads Up and Lady Wonder?

I think the music’s got a little bit more defined. With Heads Up, it’s very eclectic. It’s, like, very rock songs and very Latin songs and very folk, kind of acoustic songs. It’s how we work. But I guess Lady Wonder has got a little bit more cohesion. It doesn’t all stick out so differently, to me.

There were a couple of songs where I said to Koby, “Look, the production needs to change on this because it’s just too crazy. It’s not gonna flow. Songs like “Nil By Mouth”. We made that a little more ’60s, a little more Latin with the shaker and stuff. Whereas before, it was kind of pop-rock.

My main influences are jazz and soul. My dad said Lady Wonder is very dancy. There’s lots of waltzes and lots of 6/8s. Actually, as a musician, since I’ve been learning percussion and things like that, I’m very much more in tune with rhythm. I guess singers have a little bit of a bad habit. They’re known as quite lazy. They just turn up and sing the song and take all the credit. (laughs) So it does open up a different gate to your brain, musically, if you are into rhythm. I think there are a lot of singers out there who would find it quite difficult singing to sort of 6/8, or 7/5 or whatever ones Koby writes in. But once I’ve got my head around it, I think that the more complicated it is, the more I find myself excited about it.

What’s your goal for Lady Wonder?

It’s difficult in this day and age. You just have to send it out to bloggers and Spotify playlists and things like that and hope that you get some sort of response. I find it difficult to pigeonhole it to the right people because it’s a mixture of different genres. I think it has a little bit of theater in it, in a way. A friend of mine said she could totally imagine it as a musical. I don’t quite know exactly where to aim it. I think it would be great in film. I’d love for it to be in film.

Once you’ve gone through the blogs and Spotify, I guess you just send it off to all sorts of festivals, see if they bite. (laughs) Obviously,  I’d love to be playing the biggest concert halls in the world. That goes without saying. But the whole process of getting it off the ground is difficult.

Do you also perform outside of England on a regular basis?

Yeah, we do. It’s strange because a lot of the listeners on Spotify are in the UK, but I don’t really see it as a huge UK market. We have done festivals overseas occasionally and it’s gone down really well over there. Koby’s music has kind of got that flair to it. We did a little tour of Latvia.

It’s tricky when you’re trying to do stuff yourself and there’s no manager. You got to get things going yourself. Then you’ve got to fit in the rest of life and work.

Heads Up was released on the Asphalt Tango label. What made you decide to release Lady Wonder independently?  

Asphalt Tango were great. They were like, “You can put whatever you want in there.” There aren’t many record labels that would agree to put a song called “So Many Cunts In The World” on an album. It was really nice of them.

The main thing is we were just ready to release it. We asked a few labels that Koby knew of and friends and contacts that had connections to people, even in bigger labels. But, like I said before, nobody really wants to go and sign something or invest in something these days (record labels, as well as managers or promoters) if they don’t think it’s going to make them any money back. Even if the music is amazing, the chances that people are actually going to want to sign it is very small because I don’t have a huge following. So, if you’re not on X-Factor there’s no point in going through a record label these days.

So I thought, “Why don’t we self-release?” Then, if anybody did want my songs for a TV thing or something, it would be easier. We know a few publishing companies. They can come and ask me and I can release the song to them and have full control over it. In a way, it’s good, because I’ve also learned more. When you get an album signed, you just sit back and someone else is doing stuff for you. You don’t learn anything. I never had a t-shirt done or stuff like that. At the end of it, you go, “I did that and I organized that!” And you’re proud of it.

Are there any songs on Lady Wonder that you are particularly fond of? 

They’re all really significant. “Push It Away” is a real favorite of mine, because that was the turning point from when I was feeling really down about where I was in life and it talks about that. I’m quite a positive thinker and, you know, I’ve never really experienced depression. I’ve only experienced it twice in my life. I’ve never had depression as a full-time management thing. But I have experienced it for a few months at a time. That’s been after breakups with the last two boyfriends. I think ,when you get a bit older, you start telling yourself, “Yeah, I got my music, but am I just a dreamer? Am I just a failure? Am I just an idiot?”

It’s a really powerful song that speaks very well to that feeling that everyone gets sometimes, where it’s like, “Where am I? What am I doing? What do I want?” Which brings me to my next question: What do you want? 

What do I want… Out of life, in general?

What do you want from yourself, as an artist, in your life. What do you want from Annique?

What do I want from Annique? Like I said, I’d love to have some sort of highlight successful thing. I’d like to perform in a big concert hall and so on. I’d love for the music to be on film. I think that’s where it sits best. I love performing anyway. I guess, because of my job, I’m always doing it. It’s not something where I feel I have to prove myself as a performer. I’m a good performer anyway. Yeah, of course, it would be amazing to be out there doing my music in front of thousands of people. I think I have the genetic make-up and experience for that.

It’s hard, because I want the best for the music, but then I also don’t want to expect too much from it in a way that I end up being disappointed. So I’m always, like, “Yeah, if anything happens for me, it would be amazing.” But I don’t want to be too hard on myself. It’s great being creative and a lot of people do that, but to do it and make money off of it you almost have to be a sort of online genius today.

Follow Annique at https://anniqueofficial.co.uk/

 

 

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