Anna-Lynne Williams Interview

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*This interview was originally published by Ocean View Press in August 2004 and was conducted by Rob Watts. Since the time of this interview, Anna-Lynne has formed her own solo project Lotte Kestner, has performed with various bands and solo artists, released a new collection of poetry titled “in the night i go sailing”, performed on the track “Hold Tight London” on The Chemical Brothers album “Push the Button” as we’ll as a trove of other endeavors. We hope to catch up with Anna-Lynne again soon but until then, please enjoy our previous interview with her from 9 years ago.

August is here, the summer season is still strong and music on modern rock radio is still boring!! Need some new sounds? Check out “Different Stars” by Trespassers William and I promise you, you won’t be sorry. I caught up with Anna-Lynne Williams, lead vocalist for Trespassers William, and got “the who, the what and the where” from her. She had great things to say about her band, her book, her sound and everything else so check out the interview and check out their music!! Enjoy.

Rob- Before we begin, how are you doing today?

Anna-Lynne- I’m doing warm thanks.

Rob- For starters, can you introduce yourself and tell us what instrument(s)you play?

Anna-Lynne – I sing and play acoustic guitar. I write the songs for the most part. We’ve been working on some new material and I’ve just started to play some electric guitar so that’ been fun for me.
More options. I would like to play some piano on the next album.

Rob- The band was formed in 1997. Where did the band form and how did the four of you get together?

Anna-Lynne – Matt and I started off just casually writing songs together or with random friends who enjoyed music. We would play small local shows, mostly playing covers until we had enough material. We recorded Anchor pretty much as a twosome. Over the years we cycled through some different band members until about 4 years ago when we became a four piece,that’s when Jamie the drummer joined us. We met Jamie through a common musician friend, jay Buchanan. And just recently met Ross via the internet who has been playing with us just over a year. He has strange amounts of things in common with all of us so it was a great fit.

Rob- Who conceived the name Trespassers William and what is the meaning or history behind the name?

Anna-Lynne – Matt and I were playing some local shows without a band name. I was reading “The tao of Piglet”, the philosophy book on milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories, and came upon the Trespassers William story. It was charming, and as I was a Williams, I suggested the name to Matt. I suppose a less neutral name might have been a good choice, something that suggests the sound of the band. But we have had this name for a long time now.

Rob- How long did it take to complete your 1999 debut album “Anchor” ?

Anna-Lynne – Off and on for about a year. Naively, matt and I thought we could finish most of it in one day. Our friend Josh who was drumming and playing bass with us at the time hooked us up with a studio in San Diego for the day. We actually got a lot done, almost all of the drums for the album, a couple of vocals and other parts. We ended up only spending 2 days in a real studio. Matt and I were both working and going to college and whenever we had money we would go to our producer’s house and try to finish more vocals and guitar parts. We spent a lot more time trying to figure out the whole process of recording and producing, and less time trying to perfect our performances.

Rob- Who handles the songwriting duties on your albums?

Anna-Lynne – I write the songs as acoustic pieces by myself.
Other than Let You Down, which Matt wrote. Singing one of Matt’s songs taught me a lot about being in a band. I felt connected to my vocal in that song and made up some new melodies at the end. I realized that the guys do that on all my songs, and must feel how i do, that there isn’t really just one songwriting, even though that’s where the backbone of the song and the lyrics come from. And we have recorded a few covers of the years. No so much on purpose, more by accident….. For tribute albums and the vapour trail cover was on a whim of Matt’s.

Rob- 2002 brought us “Different Stars”, which is one of THE BEST albums of this decade. Flicker is my “over and over again” track at this point. What was the inspiration behind that song?

Anna-Lynne – Thank you! Well that’s too bad because “Flicker” was cut from the UK version of the album, and probably won’t appear on future versions… we seem to grow out of our more upbeat songs first. Like “Alone”, which people seem to like. I think the sentiments in the sadder songs are things that i continue to relate to more.
“Flicker” wasn’t so much about one event for me, but a sequence of these sad images. Like last dances. I guess the pivotal line was “…the one waving at the train even long after I know that it’s moved too far away.” the songs I used to write (and flicker is one of the older ones, alone is also an older song from different stars) were more like collages to me. One feeling, but a handful of images that represent it. I think the songs I write now are more about one acute thing that happens or one particular thought that you can’t get away from.

Rob- Aimee Mann comes to mind when listening to you sing. However, instrumentally, I hear a lot of Icelandic/Nordic tones to the music. Are you fans of that regions music at all?

Anna-Lynne – That sounds like a fitting comparison to me. There are 2 main ingredients to our music. The songs exist first as this acoustic songwriter piece, and then get fleshed out into something very textured. With this album in particular, I think both matt and I put a lot of effort into trying to make something lovely with our parts. So there is a very sweet sound to the album, where it will probably be a bit more challenging on our next work, I hope. we all are fans of bands like Sigur Ros, but at the time we first wrote the parts for different stars, we hadn’t heard of them yet…… by the time we finished the album we were big fans. I have been very into Swedish and Icelandic singers lately. just a particular something to the accent, there’s a whole particular brand of falsetto that only the men of that region seem to be able to do; I’m a sucker for that as a fan.

Rob- Touring wise, what is your favorite city to perform in?

Anna-Lynne – I think our French tour was a big highlight for us.
We got to play in Paris, which was a full-fledged “city”, and then in a small town called Ven Dome where we played in an old church and hiked around old castles during the day. it was tough not knowing the language though. I will have to learn some french for next time…..

Rob- Where would you like your tour to take the band in the future?

Anna-Lynne – I would love to see more of Europe. our trip to Spain was short, I’d love to see Sevilla and Madrid more. Italy would be fantastic. Wherever people are buying the album I would be happy to play, but it’s always a treat when that happens to be somewhere with history.

Rob- Are you currently in the studio working on a new album?

Anna-Lynne – We are beginning some intensive preparation for recording. Lots of writing and arranging. We are hoping to be in the studio in the next few months but this time around, for lots of logistic reasons, we will probably have a lot less time in the actual studio. So we need to know what we’re doing beforehand. We will probably record a few extra songs though so we will have an assortment to choose from. That’s what we did last time. there were some songs that didn’t make the cut.

Rob- Can we expect a similar sound or are you moving in a new direction?

Anna-Lynne – It feels like a new direction. Still slower and a bit sadder than most music you’d hear. Dark and introspective. But the songs are becoming more band driven. there will be less songs with sparse arrangements. Though it’s always nice to have one or two really bare songs, I think. Those will be there too. I was talking to ross about writing the other day and kind of stumbled upon an important change for me in songwriting. Instead of writing about boys all the time ,I’ve started to write about me. If that makes sense. Still love songs, or about fear and death and all of those things. But not in the “please love me” vein anymore. Just about trying to understand your own choices and weaknesses. As for the music, it will groove a bit more I expect, maybe a bit more masculine……. I use that as a good adjective but not in any anti-feminist way……..

Rob- When can we expect to see it released?

Anna-Lynne – early 2005 sounds like an almost definite guess.

Rob- What do you do for enjoyment when your away from performing music?

Anna-Lynne – Well to be honest the best times I have are music related -those great moments on stage, or when you’re writing a song that you feel is really strong. And our band doesn’t really hang out that much, we’re pretty professional about most things. But we do some road trip tours every few months and those are a highlight for me. Everyone letting their guard down for a few days and discussing everything under the sun. Talking is my favorite thing in the world, when it’s with someone you trust and respect.
That is real fun. So I guess I don’t get very far away from the band in my head. Other than that I just read all the time. I love independent film.

Rob- Who are your favorite bands these days?

Anna-Lynne- Radiohead is the all time favorite. Elbow, Idaho, Sigur Ros, Massive Attack, Kent, Mogwai, Cocteau Twins. Nicolai Dunger, Will Oldham, Ron Sexsmith, Lisa Germano, Mark Kozelek. Cat Stevens is my hero.

Rob- Tell us about your book “Split Infinitive”. How long did it take you to put it together and do you plan on releasing another book in the future?

Anna-Lynne – Thanks for asking about that. I intended to put a book out for so long and it was very rewarding to actually do it.
Since the response to different stars the album was pretty good and more people were showing real interest at the shows, I kind of took advantage of that and decided that maybe some of them would be willing to read 200 pages of my stuff. It was all already written, I had discs of writing from the last 10 years. It took a few months to wade through and eliminate the bulk of the weak pieces. There are still some almost embarrassing things in there, but I figured if my house burned down one day I would have most of my writing summed up in one book. But over the last year since it’s been out I’ve written a lot more, and more mature things I think, and would love to release a similar collection in another year or so. It’s just an expensive venture since I have to pay to press them etc. My real goal would be to write a novel but I don’t see that happening for years and years. It’s just a glimmer in my eye.

Rob- If you could give advice to a young up and coming musician, what would you say?

Anna-Lynne – Well Matt and I decided a while ago that we weren’t going to change things for people. We weren’t going to shorten our songs or speed them up unless we wanted that for ourselves. Of course some people’s criticisms are valuable and it’s worth listening to people. But I decided that one day what I do would be relevant and that I was willing to wait for that time, instead of trying to fit into a fad or be more like someone else.
By just being completely myself I figure I have more to offer for someone.

Rob- Have you enjoyed the interview?

Anna-Lynne – He he, I was just going to say that. I enjoy talking about music and the whole process a lot. I wanted to say thanks for asking me questions that got me thinking.

Rob- Any parting words before we end this?

Anna-Lynne-I feel very lucky that we get to play the sorts of shows we do, and meet the people we do…. because I don’t think we’ve compromised anything over the years and people have still been good and respectful to us….. I wasn’t sure that was something that was going to happen. I would play music and write forever if no one cared to hear or read it. But it’s hard to keep a band alive like that.

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