2017 Artist Survey: Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2017 Artist Survey: Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone

Hart on #MeToo and Sexual Harassment, Woody Allen, Music Critics, and How Concerts Should Be More Parent Friendly

Feb 02, 2018 Annie Hart Bookmark and Share

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For Under the Radar‘s 15th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last year. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2017 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Annie Hart. She is best known as being one-third of Au Revoir Simone, who memorably performed two songs on the revival of Twin Peaks last year. In 2017 Hart also released her debut solo album, Impossible Accomplice, via Instant Records.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about the various sexual harassment and assault allegations, the “Me Too” movement, the chaotic first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Charlottesville alt-right rally and racism in America, embarrassing moments, professional regrets, which Breakfast Club character they are most like, the end of the world, and much more.

Top 6 Albums of 2017

I don’t believe in hierarchies, so I’m making an un-numbered list of albums I listened to have on repeat this year.

Juana Molina: HaloDark, flowing, and hypnotic.

CEP: Drawing the Target Around the ArrowGently repetitive luxurious sine waves.

Julie Byrne: Not Even HappinessThe depth of her voice, stark against simple guitar, nudges in the cracks and fulfills my soul in that way only a certain blend of acoustics and lyrics can. I strive to emulate these textures in my own work.

Fazerdaze: MorningsideThis suits me when I feel like my step needs springing.

Madeline Kenney: Night Night At the First LandingI love the power Madeline projects with her strong, nuanced voice and haunting repetitious loops. The recording is excellent, but do yourself a favor and watch her spin these sounds into song live. It’s a profound experience.

Kendrick Lamar: DAMNWhat can I say about this that hasn’t been said? It feels so raw and honest, rare in mainstream music. Composition is creative and full and captivating. “LOVE.” is so moving I can’t hear it without a boulder forming in my chest and crashing into some internal ocean. He’s a genius.

I didn’t make it to 10 because I spent the majority of the year listening to Laurie Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe. I’m not even joking.

What was the highlight of 2017 for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

I was very excited to release my first solo record, Impossible Accomplice. It was an epic journey of dedication and focus, and it’s a big milestone that I was able to jump through so many hurdles to release it. I had two awesome kids to take care of (and have my flow constantly interrupted by), limited technical knowledge, limited money, limited time, limited equipment, and a complete shift in my songwriting process going solo from Au Revoir Simone. And somehow I managed to overcome that and have a record that people really like and means something to them! Strangers, even!

The low point was inauguration day. I can’t even write about it, it’s so depressing.

2017 saw sexual harassment and assault allegations against many men in the music industry, film industry, journalism, politics, and elsewhere (including Harvey Weinstein, Matt Mondanile of Ducktails and Real Estate, Brand New’s Jesse Lacey, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, Democratic Senator Al Franken, and others). Why do you think the floodgates opened in 2017 and do you think any meaningful change will come from it or will sexual harassment and assaults continue to be prevalent in certain industries?

One can hope that this is a shift in thinking. Though it’s on a completely different playing field, remember when Bloomberg banned smoking and everyone thought the live music industry would die? Turns out, most people prefer not to breathe a cloud of smoke and stink for days just to watch music. Personally, I would rather live in a world where sexual predation isn’t the norm, and I think by labeling and calling out, we can shift the culture. By calling out men on defining intolerable behavior and ejecting them from their areas of power, you leave a space for women and feminist men to occupy it in a positive way. Floodgates open when people realize that others have their backs, and hopefully what this backing allowed to be revealed will be strong enough to not let it perpetuate.

In 2017 the “Me Too” and “It Was Me” social media hashtags further brought sexual assault and harassment to light. Have you ever been the victim of harassment or assault, or witnessed such behavior, or been the perpetrator? And what concrete steps can be taken to combat sexual harassment and assault in the music industry and make it a more welcoming place for women?

I’ve definitely been the victim of sexual harassment and assault, and I was so conditioned to be “nice” that it took me years to deal with labeling it and feeling comfortable again (and to be honest, so many men have been so creepy to me, I don’t always feel easy in certain places). There’s such a spectrum of crappy behavior, from wasted guys coming close to you at shows and saying gross shit, to being admonished for having a nice conversation with a stranger without revealing you aren’t interested in getting laid by them, to being groped in a crowd, all the way to being asked to come to an “important” person’s hotel room or private event. What would have helped me in these situations was knowing my agency and power to step away and to not be afraid of calling people out by asking what they are doing. For me, that could have happened through having a pre-emptive support network like feminist meetings like I used to have in the riot grrl days. Those networks are really important for sharing information in a safe space, such as specific men’s behaviors, or more general information like, “no, it’s not normal to have to party with people all night to get your music on a particular radio show (or blog or whatever).”

Real creeps are so subtle in their initial actions, they prize being able to winnow in and catch those who are off guard. When I get a weird feeling, I usually ask mutual acquaintances if a man’s inviting me to meet up (or do whatever innocuous thing) is creepy, and it’s wild how many men don’t know but answer that the guy is fine. I have more than my fair share of outed creeps in my circle that I thankfully have kept a little distance from that have gotten the seal of approval from people I trust. So, maybe for a start, if a lady asks you if a guy is cool, men could answer “I don’t know, do you want me to come with you when you meet up?” instead of “I think he has a girlfriend and is so nice, I’m sure it’s fine.”

Making the music scene not just for partying types would diversify the crowd and make the sea of people trying to get laid/have power trips proportionally smaller. I would really love to see live music more inclusive for older people with families and day jobs and other “real world” obligations. Wouldn’t it be rad to have afternoon shows with childcare? Or practice spaces with co-op play spaces for kids? Or start as simply as shows that start at eight on a weeknight instead of 10? Way more women and parents come out to see me play when it is at an hour that allows them to get up in the morning to get their kids ready for school and then also be awake at their jobs. There’s a huge segment of the population that is dying for the cultural and community opportunities afforded by live music. That alone would allow parents to have a more active role in populating concerts and leveling the playing field for all types of artists.

It has been said that 2016 was the year your favorite artist died, and, because of the litany of sex scandals, 2017 is the year that your favorite artist became dead to you. Which artist did you stop being a fan of this year? Which public person would you be most devastated to learn had a history of abusive or predatory behavior?

I experienced a changing of my threshold for asshole and predatory behavior this year as a direct result of all the conversations around the revealing of certain men’s actions. Although his disgusting behavior was already well-documented, I’m having a hard time tolerating anything made by Woody Allen (see next question).

Should we be able to separate an artist‘s work from his or her actions? Or should an artist‘s negative behaviors completely negate the quality of his or her work?

I don’t think there’s a “should” in your own emotions and reactions, but I can tell you personally that I am an empathic person, so I can’t see the difference between an artist and the art. It may also because I am an artist, and I see myself so clearly in my art. As genius as Woody Allen is at capturing human emotions and relationships, a lot of what he is capturing is creepy “lite” and his marriage and romances in real life certainly reflect a penchant for preying on young women. So how can I sit down and see him “acting” out a relationship in Manhattan that is an edited and semi-socially acceptable version of what he did with his daughter? Giving people time and money for their art only perpetuates this behavior.

The first year of the Trump administration has been chaotic to say the least. What has President Donald Trump done so far that most concerns or angers you? Is there anything President Trump has done, proposed, or said that you actually agree with? Why do you think his base continues to support him?

The worst for me is the negligence on climate change. That’s irreversible and keeps me up at night. I do agree with his rhetoric on bringing manufacturing back to the USA, but I have yet to see any legislation or actions that bring this up in any way that benefits the working class.

Many predicted President Donald Trump wouldn’t last long in the White House and yet he’s still there. At this point how hopeful are you that he’ll be impeached? Barring that, how optimistic are you that he won’t win reelection? And although it’s still very early, is there already a potential candidate you would most like to see run for president in 2020?

Him being elected at all made me so depressed in human nature and how willfully people ignore their best interests. Almost all the Democratic candidates and representatives I admire still have that “politician talk” that glosses over so much detail that drives me mad. I think Elizabeth Warren is my kind of politician if Bernie can’t run again, but will she win?

The alt-right/neo-Nazi/KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the ensuing violence, and President Trump’s reluctance to condemn such hate groups further showed that racism is alive and well in America. What concrete steps can we take to improve race relations in America and the world at large?

I don’t know, but I wish I did. I feel really lucky that I grew up in a very integrated place where I was able to be friends with a wide variety of people form a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. I mean, we were all working-class, which is a big uniter, but it became part of my brain fabric that kids of all ethnic backgrounds came in “nerd,” “drama kid,” “athlete,” “pot-smoker-behind the dumpster,” “straight-A student,” etc. It blew my mind when (mostly white) people were speaking openly on Facebook and in person that they stereotype based on race all the time. I just couldn’t believe people weren’t using their powers of observation objectively. So for me, the answer would be more integrated schools and neighborhoods to simply acquaint community members with each other as friends and advocates for their local areas, but as America becomes more and more stratified on a class basis and affirmative action is being flushed down the toilet, the likelihood of this feels less and less like a real possibility. So maybe just be nice to your neighbors and actually talk to them and invite them over for dinner? See people as people and their happiness as your happiness and their plights as your plights and LISTEN.

2017 saw several music festivals cancelled due to low ticket sales (not to mention the Fyre Festival debacle in the Bahamas). Are there too many music festivals right now?

Europe has such a thriving music festival scene (and live music is more of an everyday phenomenon), it seems like this is a bigger cultural issue. I would love it if more people in the U.S. saw live music regularly, but I don’t know how to change that. It stems from such a micro-level of venues, talking, charismatic local people getting people out, that I wouldn’t know where to start on the bigger level of festivals. I don’t ever go as a visitor though, because I dislike porta-potties so much. Let me pee in the woods like a normal person.

Which Breakfast Club character are you most like and why?

Whomever was the one who shook dandruff on the desk.

Tell us about the best and worst dates you’ve ever been on.

I only ever went on one date in my life and I married the guy. I guess it was a good date. We both discovered we were captains of our percussion sections in high school marching bands and love The Mountain Goats. If you don’t marry that person, you’re pretty dumb. Everyone else I was ever with I just made out with until they were my significant other.

What’s your biggest professional regret?

Not asking for more help and making my creations public with confidence. Using the word “just” a lot in emails and conversation.

If you heard that the world was ending in one week who would be the first person you’d call and what are some of the things you’d do in that week?

My parents and we’d play a lot of cards with the kids. Definitely would sky dive on the last day.

Would you be open to having your phone and other technology implanted into your body in the future?

Fuck no. I’m a human.

If you could time travel what advice would you give to your childhood or teenage self?

No one knows what they are doing. Don’t present yourself as a hack when so many others are at the same level as you and acting like they are experts. Just trust your instinct and edit your final output until you like it yourself!

A 2017 Wall Street Journal article pointed out that music critics have been giving less and less full on negative reviews of late. In the era of streaming when almost any album can be easily accessed, do you still find value in music criticism and have music critics gotten too soft?

I think criticizing music is stupid. It’s a completely arbitrary art that appeals to completely different tastes (for example, despite being exceedingly popular, Oasis and Maroon 5 both make my skin crawl). I remember being really angry when I read a review of Electrelane’s No Shouts No Calls that I can paraphrase as “well, they aren’t trying anything new, so the album inherently isn’t interesting.” That is an amazing album! I can’t understand why an artist’s previous output would have any bearing at all on the value of their current work. It sucks or it doesn’t. And that is completely up to the listener to decide. I think it’s better all around to write about stuff you like and explain why it rules, and then let the sub-par music languish in unwritten-about obscurity. There are so many bands and so much music, why would you review a crummy U2 album just because they are famous when you could spend your time and space writing about Thick? Reviewers can cultivate trusted fans based on this application of sharing their tastes.

How different do you think America would look now if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election? What issues might be on the agenda in that scenario, and how many of the same problems (gun control/race relations etc) would we still be grappling with?

Who fucking knows? At least all this garbage is coming to the surface. I don’t know if it’s self-perpetuating or expanding because I’m not in the middle of it all. I can only hope that it will harden people’s resolves to stay informed and VOTE.

If you had to rename your band or stage name due to a legal dispute, which new name would you pick?

DJ Fuddyduddy.

CHVRCHES and Tegan and Sara are appearing in the new The Archies comic book series as themselves, interacting with Archie and his friends. Which comic book would you like to guest star in?

East Village Inky.

Besides the environment and global warming, what most worries you about the future of this planet and the world we’re leaving to our kids and grandkids?

As we move to a virtual social space, I worry about the lack of community and social interaction in society. There’s nothing like talking to someone face-to-face and enjoying their company to make you put up with opposing viewpoints and clarifying context. It’s difficult to misconstrue someone when you are hanging out and playing cards together in person, you know?


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