Meet Anamon, the Rochester-based trio behind this year's album Stubborn Comfort. We chatted with Ana (center), Benton (left) and Aaron (right) about the band's sound, their creative process and the Rochester music scene.
Please introduce yourselves?
Ana Emily Monaco - Vocals/Guitar
Benton Sillick - Bass
Aaron Mika - Drums
How did each of you get started as musicians?
Ana: My first grade teacher had a piano in her room. We had one at home that I hadn't really paid much attention to 'til I walked into that classroom. Being competitive I wanted to be able to come in and play a song. So my mom taught me Heart 'n Soul. I picked it up quite easily. I had some formal instruction (Suzuki violin in first/second grade, flute grade 4-6), but never could commit to practicing, although I was first chair (if that even means anything in middle school). I always did everything by ear. I've been writing songs on piano since first grade. I picked up guitar in 7th grade and played bass in a few bands though out high school. Been winging it ever since.
Benton: I started piano lessons in 3rd grade. Trumpet in 4th. Electric bass in 6th. I was always in band throughout highschool and studied music education for my undergrad at SUNY Potsdam, and musicology in the Masters program at CUNY Brooklyn. Definitely musically institutionalized, which helped in a lot of ways, but kept me from just getting "out there" for quite a while.
Aaron: When I was 6 or 7 years old my teenage cool cousin Charlie bought a drum set and I became obsessed with it. In middle school I joined the marching band, where I met my best friend who I discovered rock n' roll and other dangerous music with.
How would you describe your band’s sound, and has that always been the kind of music you’ve been drawn to making?
Ana: Oh man, I don't know. It's rockin' and sad. It's a tossed bag. Some soul, some folk, some Patti, some twang. And It's my coping mechanism. I've been playing in bands since high school. It's always been some derivative of "punk". This is my first project that is my own, where I'm writing the lyrical content, writing on guitar/piano and letting it out.
Benton: The band has a garagey punk foundation with twangs of country western influences. I've been in what seems like every type of band. Even just currently, aside from Anamon, I play bass in a psychedelic rock project, a heavy metal power trio, as well as trumpet in a soulful roots reggae outfit. If the music is played well, and evokes a visceral reaction from me, I'll play. I am constantly finding myself watching a live band, thinking, "Oh man, I want to be in a band like this." I'm rarely satiated.
Aaron: I think we sound very sincere. The songs are soulful and honest. I listen to music that moves me and I play music to move people. Hopefully blow them away. Anamon sounds like three friends who like to rock together.
Who would you say are some of the musicians that most influence your music?
Ana: Neko Case, Patti Smith, Fiona Apple, Bjork, Des Ark, Townes Van Zandt, Django Reinhardt, Ella, Billie, Sarah V.... so many, all heartbreakingly beautiful. Anything that speaks from the heart and is sincere is usually good by me.
Benton: The first batch of songs were all almost fully written by Ana. All of the inspirations for the newest songs are varied. There is rarely a "sound" that we keep in mind. There isn't a feeling of needing to play a different way than I enjoy playing. Our personalities are apparent in the parts we play. And I think that's what makes this music appealing. It's the interaction between Ana's style, my style, and Aaron's style that clicks.
Aaron: It's ever changing for me but there's a few drummers that I pretend to be in my mind.
Ana, can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you lyrically, when writing the album?
Ana: Sure. Most of it just comes out as I'm sitting at the piano or with my guitar. It's rare that I have an idea of 1. exactly what I want to write and then 2. be able to do it. Lyrics are the hardest part for me, honestly. Words have always been elusive. But for this album specifically, dreamscapes and heartbreak fueled the content over the years. I was in some pretty messed up ways, self inflicted or not.
Can you describe the process you go through from first conceptualizing an idea for a song to recording it?
Ana: Yeah, it happened pretty seamlessly. I had the songs already and both Benton and Aaron did such a beautiful job adding their magic. As I touched on earlier, it's hard for me to really know how a song is going to pan out until.... well, until it has panned out. We didn't intend for this album to be our debut album until Sam recorded it and we heard how warm and full it was. We're a band that runs with it, goes with the flow, and follows our instinct. Except when it comes to an empty college town show at 2PM on a Sunday and we still think we're gonna get paid for the gig.
Benton: Stubborn Comfort fell in our laps. The songs were mostly written. Aaron and I played what we thought we should play and they turned out great. Our friend Sam Snyder knew our sound and proposed we track it all in one night, live to an 8-track tape machine. It was quite serendipitous. This new batch of songs is beckoning us to flesh out the arrangements in the studio. We don't exactly know what that will turn into. Every move this band has made has been driven by spur-of-the-moment inspirations.
Aaron: In the beginning Ana had written all of the songs. Now sometimes it's like they write themselves. If it's on and its groovy and we're feeling it together then there's a hit song in a few minutes.
You guys are based in Rochester, what’s the music scene like there?
Ana: It's awesome and I love it. There's more women/queer folk playing music than there was even two years ago, so I'm really happy to see that growth happening here. There's so many talented people. On any given night there is a show under $10. Or when I'm not at a show, I'm playing music with other people (that aren't in Anamon). We play off each other, inspire each other. It seems like everything has been on the rise. I have friends that are starting to do residencies, recording, setting up tours. It's very exciting and reinforcing. We have good people in our corner.
Benton: I love it. There is an immense amount of talent in and around Rochester. There is a wonderful community of bands and venues. I can go out almost any night and catch a great show. And there are always new bands popping up that are feeding everyone else's desire to keep doing better. Everyone plays with everyone else. It's a great time and place to be playing in a band.
Aaron: It's seriously the rock n' roll capital of the world. Musicians here are all super inspired and very good at playing. There's so much good original art happening here that you really have to give it all ya got or you will go from overnight sensation to yesterday's papers.
You self-released Stubborn Comfort, it seems like most emerging musicians these days are not only playing their music, but mixing, producing and promoting it as well. Do you find that kind of self-reliance liberating or frustrating?
Ana: Liberating, for sure. It holds us accountable and allows us to keep the fire burning, or not. Ultimately it's up to us. And I'm learning so much! But this time around it wasn't all on us. We couldn't have done it without our friends. We are incredibly fortunate to have a network of people surrounding us, let alone wanting and offering their help. I can't say much that Benton hasn't touched on.
Benton: We have relied on some talented friends to help us along the way. But it has been totally self-propelled. We are the ones ultimately in charge. Sam Snyder engineered our album because he wanted to. He recommended the tape duplication company called Cryptic Carousel. We hired our friend Gabriel Birnbaum as a publicist. I booked the tour. Another friend (Justin Pallini) designed our insert. Mike Martinez took our press photos and shot and edited our music video purely because he wanted to help. And all of it was done on a very low budget. It has all been completely supported by a network of very generous friends that want to see their friends succeed. We are truly lucky. It can be overwhelming to keep track of everything going on. And wondering if the decision we made was the right one can keep me up with all of the "what if"s. But there is such a sense of accomplishment when things start to fall into place. We have been working very hard this last year.
Aaron: We've had some help along the way.
What’s next for Anamon?
Ana: Recording some new songs in the next few months. We have ideas for a music video that sounds like it could come together easily. Cultivating new friendships we met on the road. An early spring tour could be in the mix, who knows? I'm hoping this winter provides some quality nesting time for songwriting. Just keep on keepin' on.
Benton: We are headed back into the studio with a fresh batch of songs. We met some great people on tour last week that have become prospective tour-mates. It's exciting because there isn't really a definite goal in mind. We want to keep writing killer songs, recording them, and playing them for people. How those points manifest themselves is as much of a mystery for us, as they are for anyone else.
Aaron: We're about to record an album that's going to be more of a production than Stubborn Comfort. We're gonna call some friends in and have a hootenany.
Check out Anamon's Playlist:
Interview: Emily Saunders - @thesaunder
Photography: Colin Hughes - @colinhughesphoto