After a series of acclaimed singles, Annie Bass will release Control, her six track debut EP, on Opulent in May 2019.
Drawing inspiration from Nina Simone, John Coltrane, James Blake and Portishead, Control’s six songs have an intimacy that is both intensely private and impossibly inviting. The production, chiefly by Los Angeles rising star Kito (Jorja Smith, Mabel) with additional work from Melbourne’s Sam Gill (Ara Koufax), is understated and spacious, allowing the purity of Annie Bass’ voice, and the unflinching emotional honesty of her lyrics, to shine through.
Born Annabel Weston, the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter studied music in both Adelaide and Melbourne. She completed a jazz vocal degree, performed in local groups, and by her own estimation sang at “about 200 weddings”. All the while she was writing and recording her own music, personal and deep and completely removed from jazz, but shared it with almost no one.
Annie moved to Sydney, to LA, to New York, always working around music but also always composing, creating and producing for herself. In Sydney she would work six days and two nights a week, but would still catch a bus to her friend’s house in Marrickville to write and record.
“I never had a real goal set for myself,” she says. “I was working in music, around other people’s release schedules and promo plans, but I always had this ever-present feeling that I needed to keep writing and working.”
Annie remembers this time as working a lot, drinking a lot, not sleeping much and barely eating. She knew something had to change, but wasn’t sure what or how. Then in 2017, a song she had recorded with producer friend Christopher Port was uploaded to Unearthed, and the very next day the elegant, heartfelt track Don’t Want was playlisted on triple j itself. It has now had well over a million Spotify streams.
Annie began to play her own music live, and has since performed at Splendour in the Grass, Vivid LIVE, Falls Festival, Big Sound and Groovin the Moo, as well as supporting Wafia, Alta, Touch Sensitive, Total Giovanni, No Mono, Elizabeth Rose, Banoffee and others.
After two more tracks released with Christopher Port via Future Classic & Opulent, Annie knew that it was time to make her own statement.
She flew to Los Angeles to finish her debut EP Control with Kito and returned to Melbourne to mix it with John Lee (Laura Jean, Beaches). Matt Colton (FKA Twigs, Four Tet) was brought on to master the release. For Control, Annie drew on songs that she had formed and reformed over years: tracks that were born from voice memos on her iPhone, recorded alone on a piano in her home.
On Control, Annie pushed herself to be honest, to be direct, not to hold back. The results are almost deceptively powerful – the gorgeous settings lull you at first, before the emotional depth of the songs becomes apparent.
As with her recordings, Annie’s live performances draw the audience into a private and cathartic space.
“Learning to perform through jazz school and in bands, it was always alongside instrumentalists (usually guys) playing with me or for me,” Annie explains, “Walking onto stage alone and being completely responsible for everything was the most terrifying and empowering feeling. I can’t wait to keep building my live show.”
These are songs born from a dark place, from personal trauma and heartache, but in Annie’s hands they soar, transfigured.
“Control was written when I felt alone, and writing music was the only contribution I had to give to myself or anyone else,” she says. “When you’re in that lonely place it doesn’t matter who loves you, or if you love yourself. But I still needed to write and make music. For a long time it was really the only thing I had.”
Annie addresses assault, mental illness and self-destructive behaviour on Control, brave enough not to shy away from issues that cut so close to home.
Of lead single In Your Arms, she says,
“I was going through probably one of the darkest times of my life. It really felt like everything was falling apart, my job, my home, my relationships, everything was breaking. One night I was on the phone to my sister, and in that moment she said to me ‘Just so you know, you’re not alone. Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.’ I wrote the chorus of this song as a promise to her.”
Ultimately, though, Control is a triumph, a testament to determination and self-belief. It’s a record about knowing when to reach out, when to put aside self-doubt and grab what you’ve always dreamed of holding.
“I spent a long time not feeling like I was ready,” Annie Bass says, “but I know I’m ready now.”