Interview: Anomie Belle | by Jo Whitby & CB Lux
Anomie Belle doesn’t like shopping. “Neither do we” yell the poor husbands dragged religiously around ‘Marks & Spencer’ on a Saturday morning, their wives posing unanswerable questions like “what do you think?” and the dreaded “what do you mean I’ve already got a shirt like this?” (which is more of a statement than a question) – of course this is an obvious gender role stereotype but one we have witnessed on many occasions. Well, for Anomie it’s a bit more serious, not in a rash inducing kind of way, she is an artivist determined to alert you to the mind controlling evil that is consumerism via the communication tool known as music. She’s rather good at it too. We caught up with Anomie Belle via email for a chat about her latest EP, complicity and sexual identity…
Cat On The Wall: Bonjour Anomie Belle! Where are you at the moment? What are you up to?
Anomie Belle: I’m actually down in Los Angeles at the moment shooting a music video with my friend Yppah. He’s got a new album coming out on Ninja Tune this spring and I’m featured on several of the tracks. (http://ninjatune.net/release/yppah/eighty-one
COTW: The ‘Machine’ EP came out at the end of last year and features collaborations with Mr. Lif and Ian Pickering from Sneaker Pimps (a band that was very underrated in our opinion). How did you come to work with both of them? Will you consider doing more collaborations in the future? Is there anyone you’d particularly like to work with?
AB: With both Lif and Ian, when we met, working on music happened organically. In both cases we connected immediately around shared values. Lif and I have spent a lot of time together and become very close friends over the years. I love his ethics, his engagement with the world, and his sharp intellect. Ian and I found we shared a really visceral aesthetic sensibility around music right away, which made creating music together quite natural and a lot of fun. We spent several days holed up in a smoky room in London writing songs together over this past summer, which was great. I love collaborations; there is always so much to learn, and I absolutely intend to keep the list growing.
COTW: Your vocal style has changed considerably since ‘Sleeping Patterns’ which was only released 4 years ago. What brought the change in your vocals?
AB: I think of the voice as an instrument like any other. There is a lot of versatility and possibility for expression with the human voice. One of the awesome things about being a multi-instrumentalist songwriter/producer is that I am able to play with uniquely shaping the mood and aesthetic environments of each song and album in accordance with what feels right. In this way, the vocals may vary from song to song or album to album so that they suit what I’m feeling/expressing in that song or album.
COTW: ‘How Can I Be Sure’ is your most listened to track on Last.fm and was featured on the TV show Jersey Shore as well as the Xbox game Alan Wake. How did those two features in particular happen? In relation to your artivism what was your reaction to having your work featured in such commercial/consumer orientated entertainment products?
AB: Licensing existing music is actually nice in the sense that I don’t have to compromise my art form or message when someone approaches me to use a recording I’ve already created. In both cases, I was approached directly for use of the song. In the case of Xbox, I was flattered that so much thought had gone into requesting my music based on the aesthetic and fit with the game.
The ironic thing is that the song “How Can I Be Sure” is about our collective relationship to consumer culture and entertainment media, and when I license my music for use in commercial media, I walk the line between being critical of consumer culture and complicit in it. This is a line I think most of us walk these days, and I find that tension a provocative and complex source of inspiration. Not to mention that the exposure from such placements is sort of like being a graffiti artist who gets to tag a high profile location, which is awesome.
COTW: You’re very hands on with your online activity via twitter and facebook especially. Why do you feel the need to be so present online? How does that sit with your views on alienation?
AB: I was slow to get on the bandwagon with social media. When viewed as a one-way sort of marketing platform, social media are pretty one dimensional and superficial. The turning point for me happened when I started really connecting with my fans online. As a relatively introverted person by nature, it is an amazing experience to interact with and derive inspiration from people who are genuinely into what I’m doing; it’s really one of the best rewards of putting music out into the world.
COTW: On your wikipedia page it states that you are openly queer. Assuming that wikipedia is correct have you found it a strength on both or either account(s) of being queer and open about your sexual identity or not in such a male dominated environment?
AB: To be honest, my sexuality has not affected my experience of the music industry as much as my gender has. My experiences of a male dominated industry were largely what motivated me to learn to engineer and produce my own music. On the flipside, I think that we put too much focus on identity (sexual or otherwise) in our society. Human sexuality is fluid and diverse, giving it strict boundaries just confines a beautiful and living thing. I’d rather explore and experience such things without the limits of our preconceived definitions.
COTW: Amongst all of your artivism what do you do for fun/how do you unwind?
AB: I spend a lot of time with friends, but to be honest, just getting to play and to write new music is really my favorite way to unwind. I feel so grateful to be able to do the thing I most love for a living.
COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
AB: I’m excited to do some touring with Yppah when his album comes out, and am working on new material for my next album in the meantime.