Interview#1: Anna-Lynne Williams.

Anna-Lynne Williams is one half of the wonderful Trespassers William.  She also has a solo project called Lotte Kestner.  She is featured on The Chemical Brother’s song “Hold Tight London” from their album, Push the Button.  She has also worked with artists such as Au Revoir Borealis, Anomie Belle, Minotaur Shock, Phononoir, AFI, and Robert Gomez.  When she came over recently to the UK and Europe for the Trespassers William tour, she stopped off in Edinburgh to play a show for Trampoline and The Kays also supported Trespassers the next night in Aberdeen.  Though we didn’t have a chance to speak at length whilst she was here we have become good “internet friends” since and she has very kindly taken the time to answer some questions I put to her in a new interview feature for the Steinberg Principle.  Check out Trespassers William . And Lotte Kestner here.  Enjoy.

TSP: On facebook recently, you left a post stating that most of your favourite artists were from Europe and asking for nominations for the best bands to come out of the USA. Who then would you say are your favourite European artists (not influences) and why do you think that Europe produces more of the music that you love than the USA?

ALW: I could make guesses and say that it has something to do with my parents being British and playing lots of Beatles and Elton John in the house when I was young. But I think there are really just different sensibilities and moods that come from different locations. I think I changed my own approach to songwriting when I moved just from Los Angeles to Seattle. How can it not affect someone to have snow on the ground, or rain making sounds around the house? And every artist is affected by the artists they meet and what they’re exposed to. And I think there’s just something magic that’s been going on in England for decades. And recently in Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, and Norway. There are tons of great American artists, certainly. Especially solo folk artists. But my own sensibility is inherently European, I guess. And that’s where my own music is best received.

As for my favorites… (from Iceland) Sigur Ros, (from Sweden) Kent, The Knife, (from Denmark) Under Byen, (from Norway) Kings of Convenience, (from Scotland) Cocteau Twins, (from England) Elbow, Radiohead, Kate Bush, Talk Talk, James, Goldfrapp… this is an endless list.

TSP: You’ve just returned to the USA from your UK/European tour. How was the experience for you?

ALW: Honestly the best time of my life. The company we kept, the quiet of the audiences, the turnout of people in cities I’d never even heard of before, the intimacy of playing as a three-piece for the first time (with Rich Knox from Glissando joining us for six weeks), the Swiss Alps, small French bakeries… It was the best holiday I’ve ever been on and the hardest I’ve ever worked. We had an aggressive touring schedule and a lot of ferry rides back and forth. I felt like our music had taken over like a vine, somehow, without us being around to see it. We hadn’t been to Europe in years, and we came back and were welcomed so amazingly. I was inspired.

TSP: You mentioned that on this tour Europe had stolen your heart. Where was your favourite place to play, and what was it about the culture of each place that particularly affected you in such a positive way?

ALW: Yeah if the world allows, I think I’m going to spend a good part of next year in Europe. I’m really missing it now that I’m home. We only get to have little glimpses of each city and I’m still curious, plus we met a good dozen people that I can’t wait to see again. Driving through Switzerland made us all feel euphoric, it was so beautiful. And certain cities like Prague and Paris made me really want to delve into the city far more than I had time to do. But my favorite shows were at Paris Syndrome in Leipzig, at the Steinbruch in Duisburg, and both of our shows in London (at the Luminaire and Wilmington Arms). Besides those ones having an overwhelming turnout of really attentive people, the venues were beautiful and sounded great, and there was something magic that happened on those nights. We also played one house show on the tour, in Madrid, which was possibly the most fun I’ve ever had playing for people. Lots of chatting, and no microphones.

TSP: Do you find that you have a larger audience in the United States or in Europe?

ALW: It’s hard to gauge that since the US is such a huge place. We recently did a very brief West Coast tour and we always love playing in those cities; it’s like going home, and people are good to us. But there’s a huge expanse of the US that it just seems unnecessary to go to. I wish we could get out to New York more, but that’s hard to work into our tours, logistically.

There’s a very different attitude in Europe toward bands, that I really appreciate. Promoters really get to know the bands. Audiences seem to care more about the music than about drinking or talking. I don’t know if it’s because we’re from another country, that we’ve come a long way and we might seem a little exotic, that people are so kind about showing us around and making an effort to talk to us about our music. Whatever the reason, it’s good. And we sold out three of the shows, which is incredibly surprising and sometimes can move us to tears.

TSP: Can we expect to see either Trespassers William or Lotte Kestner back on our shores in the near future?

ALW: Yes please. If I do some traveling, I’ll try to fit in some Lotte Kestner shows. And I think it’s inevitable that Trespassers will tour Europe around the same time next year (fall). Assuming we get our album finished. It’s quite a good incentive, getting to play Europe again.

TSP: On this blog, and indeed at Trampoline shows, one of the things I like to focus on is promoting the best new unsigned or upcoming Scottish music. Are there any underground acts in Seattle or indeed the USA that you would recommend people check out?

ALW: Hmm… I wish I was a bit more excited about the music scene in Seattle. It’s hard to feel attached to Seattle when I don’t feel like what’s going on here creatively speaks to me. Which I feel bad saying, but it’s true. There are certainly interesting things going on in New York and Texas though. In Denton alone there are some gorgeous songwriters like Sarah Jaffe, Jeremy Buller, Matthew Gray, and Robert Gomez.

And I’m always going on and on about my friend Sergius Gregory, who lives in Alaska. And who I’m quite sure is going to release the most beautiful album of 2010. We might do an EP together next year, I think that might knock it out of the park.

TSP: Earlier you mention the Cocteau Twins as your favourite band from Scotland. Are there any other Scottish artists that are stand outs in your mind?

ALW: I’m sure I have a lot of Scottish music and don’t realize it. I love the Trash Can Sinatras and Mogwai.

TSP:  You’ve obviously worked with a number of other artists, most notably the Chemical Brothers. How did that come about, what was the experience like and if you had the opportunity, which artist would you most like to collaborate with in the future?

ALW: Someone had made a mix disc that one of the Chemical Brothers heard, our song “Alone” was on it. We were already planning to tour the UK that year, and they were in the studio, and it all lined up perfectly. They sent me the instrumental track and I wrote three different sets of lyrics and melodies, tracked all three for them in their studio, and waited to see what they chose to use. It was early morning. I remember that they offered me cookies and Guinness. I only did one take. It was a big deal when their album came out and they’d kept the track…

I generally like to collaborate with my friends. Feeling comfortable and safe when you’re writing and trying new things out is important. So I worship Leonard Cohen and Thom Yorke, but I don’t think I’d want to sit in a room with them and write songs. I spent several weeks of this past year with Robert Gomez, making an album, and now I’ve been spoiled and wouldn’t want anything less than that: equal and productive and hilarious.

I met some good bands on this last tour and I’m planning on doing some collaborating with several of them. Makes me feel like I’m still in Europe and doing something different every day.

TSP: You mention the location of an artist directly influencing musical output and identity.  I agree, I cannot imagine your sound coming out of California!  In this respect though is there any particular time you feel at your most creative? 

ALW: I usually write in the evening, when there’s nowhere left that I need to go, and it feels like everyone else is sleeping. I heard that the mind gets more creative after midnight, when you haven’t had any sunlight for a certain amount of time and certain parts of your mind are just shut down. It seems to work for me.

And, of course, I write the most when I’m falling into or out of something. When my life changes. I live the feeling for a bit first, and then I write about it. I usually don’t write anything when I’m truly overwhelmed.

TSP: Finally, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco had a profound impact on me and the direction I wanted The Kays Lavelle to take.  Would you say there was a record, or musical moment where you stopped and just new what Trespassers William was all about?

ALW: Hearing Wish at a young age definitely made me feel like there was a place for the sort of subject matter I wanted to address with music. He was singing about all of his faults and patterns, about getting drunk and saying the wrong things, about making a fool of yourself for someone and going too far. It was beautiful and dark, and I feel like I’d sort of been spinning in circles and that that album is where I stopped spinning…

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