2016 Artist Survey: Annelotte de Graaf of Amber Arcades
De Graaf on 2016's Best Albums, Trump and the Election, First Kisses, Self-Driving Cars, and Scary Movies
Jan 24, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern (for Under the Radar)
Find It At: AMAZON
For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Dutch musician Annelotte de Graaf, who records as Amber Arcades. Her debut album, Fading Lines, came out in 2016 via Heavenly.
For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.
Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.
A shorter version of Amber Arcade's survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.
Top 11 Albums of 2016
I did 11 because I couldn't choose.
1. Quilt: Plaza
2. Chris Cohen: As If Apart
3. Weyes Blood: Front Row Seat to Earth
4. Angel Olsen: MY WOMAN
5. Ulrika Spacek: The Album Paranoia
6. Kevin Morby: Singing Saw
7. Cate Le Bon: Crab Day
8. Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch
9. Meilyr Jones: 2013
10. Nap Eyes: Thought Rock Fish Scale
11. Vanishing Twin: Choose Your Own Adventure
2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?
There was a bunch of stuff happening in the lives of people close to me, which was tough. My grandparents had to move house, a good friend learned she had a serious medical condition, a close family member lost his job of 14 years, and another friend was struggling with depression. All these things were even tougher because of the fact that I was on tour for much of the time when all of this was going on so I felt like I couldn't be there for them in the way I wanted to be there. That being said, it's kind of a double-edged sword because the highlights for me this year were definitely also being on these tours. So many magical moments. We spent a morning in a sauna by a beautiful lakeside in Connecticut, went horseback riding in the Blue Ridge mountains, explored a bunch of awesome cities for the first time, and made some truly special friends along the way.
What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?
It was definitely interesting. I'm a Dutch national but I followed the U.S. election pretty attentively. Also we were touring in the U.S. in September and October so I got a pretty good look at the whole thing. I watched some debates and it just felt like a big insincere TV show to be honest, with both candidates just going for easy point scoring by means of personal attacks, vague rehearsed-looking blanket statements and playing into the audience's gut feelings. No one really addressed the actual important big issues in a meaningful way.
Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?
Again, I'm not an American so I can only offer an outsider's perspective. But as an outsider, the rise of Trump leaves me with the impression that the USA is in a very tense place right now. It seems clear that a lot of people are fed up with the status quo (economic crisis after economic crisis, politics being mixed up with big corporations, a lot of people being unable to afford proper medical care, etc.) and are looking for a way to make a radical change. I think in a way Sanders' popularity is due to these same feelings of being fed up with the status quo, only he offers (in my opinion) more durable solutions than Trump, who just picks some vulnerable scapegoats to pin it on. What I'm concerned about with regards to Trump's presidency is that he does not seem to care about the environment and global warming at all, has said he wants to restrict abortion rights, and says awful things about women and immigrants, feeding the confidence of right wing extremist groups and polarizing society even more. Also he seems to change his mind on these issues almost every day. Even though I am in a completely different part of the world, I feel like I will have to deal with the results of his presidency. The whole world is so closely connected nowadays. Right wing anti-immigration and anti-EU parties are gaining popularity here in the Netherlands too and Trump's victory will only strengthen them. We have elections coming up in March and I'm already scared for the results. I would like to say to Trump supporters (but also to Dutch PVV supporters and British Brexit voters) that I don't think you're all racists, and you have valid reasons to be angry and worried about the status quo, but please let's try to find a solution that works for everyone and that doesn't involve the blaming of minorities.
What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?
The last time I watched reality TV was probably when I was about 15 so I'm not very up to date with reality TV stars of the current times. And even then I basically only watched The Osbornes. I can't really picture Ozzy as president more than the Donald, TBH. Sharon on the other hand, she's put up with that husband of hers for years and years so it can definitely be said she has the required "stamina."
If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?
I would revise the visa procedure for foreign performers who want to perform in the U.S. The visa process is a nightmare. I don't think there is a legal term by which they have to give you a decision so they can basically make you wait as long as they want, prompting you to begin a "fast-track procedure" which costs twice as much. Especially for a beginning musicians like me, spending $6000 on visas is at best a huge financial setback and at worst impossible.
What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?
It's definitely all connected, as far as I can see. It's the same feelings of despair about the status quo and a desire to take back control over their countries that prompts people to look for a radical change, it being leaving the "elitist" EU or voting for a president who says he's going to make things great again and "clean up the swamp."
We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?
I don't have a lot of thoughts about this. People die, even ones that are famous and great musicians, that's just nature. And it seems like they had pretty good lives. I don't mean this in any way disrespectful, but for me the shit that went down in 2016 on a political level is far more worrying then three great musicians dying.
What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?
I'm not even so sure yet what their earthly life projects sounded like exactly.
Which Friends character are you most like?
I took a quiz on Buzzfeed and it told me that I am Rachel. I don't know what this means, but hopefully it means that people like my hair.
What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?
My parents were kind of strict with regards to scary movies and watching television in general. I remember seeing a bit of Jurassic Park at a friend's house one time and I found that quite scary. No trauma's though I think. I saw it again a couple of years ago and found it just as scary but I just suck at scary movies.
Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?
Totally. It will provide so much interesting food for thought. In university I did some research on the legal possibilities to afford copyright protection to works created by computers or robots or other non-human entities. Is creativity by definition a human quality? Can robots ever be creative? Should creativity (or rather: originality) be a condition for copyright protection? And if there is a copyright protection for computer generated works then who should get the rights? Also criminal law poses some very interesting questions: what if a self-driving car runs over and kills a person? Can't wait to break my head over these things. Also, as a touring musician who can't afford a tour manager yet it would also be pretty cool to have a self-driving tour van so you don't have to have arguments about who is going to stay sober to drive after a gig.
Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
There was a very sweet man who told me about how my record had helped him through the summer after his father had passed away in the spring. That one definitely stuck with me as a pretty good answer to the occasional "why am I doing this again" question.
Tell us about your first kiss.
I had a best friend in elementary school and we were also kind of on and off boyfriend and girlfriend for a couple of years then. One time when I was about 10 we were playing hide and seek. My mum had to come find us and we were both hiding in the garage in between some dumpsters. We kissed there and then for the first time. So glamorous, innit.
Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?
I'm sad that MTV doesn't play music videos anymore. Also there's the Internet and all that of course, which I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand I think it offers amazing opportunities for everyone to have almost instant and unlimited access to so much creative content. That exposure in turn will inspire more and more creative works to be made. On the other hand it's very hard to earn any money with music these days, except for the really big stars like Biebs and Drake probably. Which in turn makes it harder for artists to keep creating new works. I think streaming really is the way of the future and I hope conditions of that will become better for (smaller) artists.
If you have kids or plan to have kids one day, will you encourage them to be a musician or artist or would you prefer they get a more stable job?
I would encourage them to do that they want whether that is being a musician or getting a more stable job. It would be entirely up to them.
What's usually the biggest stumbling block to your happiness?
My brain, worrying about all the things I am and am not doing with my life and whether there will even be a world to live on in a couple of years.
What celebrity, musician, or historical figure, living or dead, would you most want to be stuck in an elevator with?
Trump. I feel like he will maybe cause less damage to the world while being stuck in an elevator than being outside of it. Maybe we could be stuck for like about four years.
As an artist, what do you have to do beyond making your art to make a successful living?
Please tell me if you know! Seriously, like, email me.
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