Interview with French of Annie Automatic

Hiya French! How is everything going? Your debut album Don’t Look Down is scheduled for an August 23rd release. What are your musical, and/or other, plans in the meantime?

Hi! Yes, August 23rd release, we’re extremely excited.
Other than waiting patiently, we’re rehearsing like crazy for upcoming shows! Always fun.
I’m also working on a collection of really beautiful acoustic songs I hope to release later in the year, and working with a couple other artists – including the sultry siren, Briana Cuoco.
Really good stuff.

From what I’ve read, you formed Annie Automatic in 2009 and have a 4-member line-up. Who’s in the band? Is it safe to say that you’re the captain at the helm as well as singer, song-writer, and guitarist?

Yes, for the most part.
When “Annie” came together, it was a side-project.
I was on hiatus from touring with my previous band, and couldn’t stop writing.
I put the Fighting Chances EP together, with David Berg, Mike Benigno and Dylan Howard, in a few weeks – more for fun than anything else. It was a blast.
And people started really picking up on it, so it naturally turned into my main focus.
Currently the line-up is Trevor Howard on lead guitar, Andrew Perusi on bass, Sara Sinclair on keys and backing vocals and Dylan Howard on drums. They’re all insanely talented, and we’re all hilarious friends. I handle most of the keys and vocals in the studio (as well as guitars), but Sara has been really helping the sound get to another level live.
I usually come to the table with a song, but allow everyone else to play around with it and we shape and mold it together from there.

I’m diggin’ your first single, “Burn This Prison”, with its catchy and full-on, sweeping chorus. I just did a short review of your tune for this site and I mentioned that I hear shades of Thursday, AFI, and The Cult in the song. Are my ears deceiving me or would you count those bands among your musical influences?

Yes! I saw that!! Haha that’s so awesome, thank you.
Yeah, well those are some seriously radical groups to be mentioning, so I can’t help but smile about that. All 3 bands were absolutely influential, especially The Cult. I think Ian and his huge, direct, commanding voice definitely had an effect on me growing up, for sure.

I’ve heard some other songs off your new album and “Don’t Look Down” also caught my attention. I really enjoy its restless energy and your emotive vocals. I love how you let loose on the chorus sections of this song (as well as others). As a listener, it’s an exhilarating feeling to hear you go for it vocally, and I’m wondering what it feels like for you when you’re singing.

Ah, thank you.
Sometimes I’ll try some different things, and I often want to be a little more subtle or calm…but when it comes down to it, I end up just going for it and it feels more right. Everyone usually goes, “Yeah, the other stuff was cool, but just go for it dude.”
It’s a beautiful thing, to just drop your fear and let go of doubts, be direct and strong and take a running leap off the cliff, you know? There’s no holding back, which is what I’m usually trying to get through to people, that if we hold back, the message gets lost and we miss it completely.
That song was written in the hospital actually, while I was staying there, taking care of my girlfriend.

I haven’t had the chance to listen to your album in full yet, so I’m curious to find out if it’s wall-to-wall alternative rock or if perhaps you have some quieter numbers? From what I’ve seen online, you did record a lot of acoustic guitar parts for the album.

Yes 🙂
I have so much Love for things that are pretty and emotionally-based.
I’m always writing on acoustic, and I love doing softer songs too.
Yeah, there are a few songs that are much more soft and beautiful on this record. It really covers all the bases, from huge crazy rock, to more low-key alternative, to even a couple ballads. There’s even one that’s all piano, with some friends from the LA Philharmonic who sat in on strings.

Where did you record the album? Was it only at Ladybug Sound or did you go to more than one studio?

No, we did a lot of it at Conway Studios and EastWest Studios – both of which are like 2nd homes to us. Amazing, legendary places around Hollywood. Ladybug is a studio my engineer, Seth Waldmann, and I built in a loft overlooking downtown, which is where we’ve been getting vocals, some guitars and editing and stuff done. Experimentation. It’s like my private lab.

In conjunction with the release of Don’t Look Down, you also created a comic book titled Annie Automatic: Killer In Disguise. Who did you work with on the comic and how does it tie in with the album?

Yes! Oh man, what a fun process.
I put the concept together with my good friend, and comic book expert Joey Feldman.
Our story and script were written by the awesome Sam Scott, British screen-writer, and then everything was brought to life by the amazing illustrator Russell Dauterman.
It came out so well, very chic and sexy, we’re really happy.
It goes into the character of “Annie Automatic” – who she is, where she’s from – and involves me and the Howard brothers (my drummer and guitarist), as pieces of the puzzle. It’s a fictional story, of course, but it provides a better look at the deeper levels we’re all about. There are references to lyrics and song titles (“Killer In Disguise” is in reference to “K.I.D.”, a song from the album), and implies a lot about what we’re really all doing as artists, or time-travelers, and even throws a couple jabs at big silly companies like Marvel. It’s cool.

I think you were recently at Comic-Con and distributed a ton of copies of your comic book for free, which is awesome. How was the Con and did you get to be a fanboy and meet all your heroes and heroines?

Ha! No, no. Unfortunately I was caught up in the studio and didn’t get to make it this year, but I was there last year for the 1st time – that whole thing is pretty unbelievable. I’ve seen some really large crowds, but nothing like that! Our team was there though, they had a blast. They handed out 10,200 I think, to be exact. For free, directly to the readers, the comic book fans. Response was great! People seem to really love it, I think, because we tried to avoid all the corporate pitfalls, people appreciate that.

This is going back a bit, but did you move to the L.A. area specifically to start a band? If so, why L.A. and not New York or areas like Seattle, Philadelphia, or Athens?

No, actually.
You know, I’ve been making music since I was about 11, but I’ve never been too involved with trying to really make money with it – in a lot of ways I still don’t worry about that. It’s just what I do, by nature. I’m from Northern California originally, near Santa Cruz, so it’s not that far. I moved to Southern Cali for a girl (of course), a long time ago. Needless to say, that didn’t work out, as that sort of thing rarely does when you’re so young and insane. But, it was definitely a turning point in the adventure that is my Life.

Before your debut album, you released the EP Fighting Chances and 3 singles, one of which is a duet of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” with Kaley Cuoco, who stars as Penny on The Big Bang Theory (I heart Sheldon; you know, in a fangirl way. LOL). How did that come about?

Ha! Awesome.
Well, Kaley and I have been together for a while, and when she broke her leg, I was there.
I was fortunately able to push some work dates and stay with her in the hospital and help take care of her. It was really intense, she went through so much. She really is one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. I had a guitar there in the hospital room, and was getting some work done from there, when one night, when the pain meds weren’t enough and she was really hurting, she asked me to play something she could sing to – to distract her. I figured out this silly little way to play “Over The Rainbow” and got her singing, and in a few minutes she was laughing and smiling and we were trading off verses. We played through it like 15 times, into the morning, it was beautiful. We talked about recording it, even though, in her words she’s “not at all a singer”, and finding a way to do something positive with it the same way it was in the hospital room. When I got her home, I had my engineer bring our portable system to the house and we recorded live real quick in the living room. I spoke to our friends at The Humane Society of the United States about teaming with them on it and they loved the idea. They put the PSA video together, and, voila. The video is still online, and all profits from the download still go to The HSUS!

Sorry to be a pain and pry, but with the celebrity/entertainment connection, have you been able to party down and meet performers that you normally wouldn’t rub elbows with?

Yeah, absolutely.
I’ve been around entertainment for years now, and it’s always a little funny meeting and getting to know people who you’ve respected or admired for one reason or another. I see it more for the sociology of it all. Whether I know of someone and their work or not, I’m always interested in how all people are the same, how we all share experiences. The thing is, we’re all just people living our lives, doing our thing. But, I honestly tend to live in my own little world, and am blissfully unaware of so much. I rarely recognize people. Living in LA, that ignorance is an advantage, for sure.

You did a cover of the compelling INXS song “Don’t Change”, which is at your official site at: Why did you pick that song to cover as opposed to the zillions of other rad 80s tunes?

“Don’t Change” was a song that stuck with me from somewhere.
It just directly talks about how important it is to be ourselves, to be authentic, and not worry about what other people think. I wanted to reiterate that, in our own kinda punk way, and remind people that there’s no need to conform to any kind of generalized social ideas – like a “Hey, you’re beautiful. Just be you.” for our listeners. Plus, it’s such a fun one to play live!

Okay, I’m going to sound like a dinosaur now, but what is up with Twitter? I see that you’re on it and I’m wondering what it does for you. I just feel like it’s frittering up my time if I’m on it, but I seem to be in the minority! LOL

Ha!! I know, right?
Well, you know – all social media is a waste of time.
…I think that’s exactly what we need though.
Growing up, before the Internet blew up, we (me and my friends) wasted time with drugs and crime and other stupid things that we’d end up regretting. Now, I think it’s pretty great that kids can be at school, and instead of ditching if they get bored, they can check Facebook or Twitter, talk to someone on another continent for a minute if they want, or whatever – not need to reach so far for a distraction. Plus, how great is it that while we’re in line at the DMV or need a quick break from work, checking your Twitter feed can help you tap back into the world for a minute and plug you back in to something bigger than “Why is this line moving so slow?!” As an artist, though, I’ll say that there is really nothing greater than being able to so directly connect to the audience as well.

Who designed the cool band logo of the letter A in the crosshairs? Does the ‘automatic’ of the band name refer to weapons? Is ‘Annie’ a killer in disguise? I haven’t read up on the full story behind your band name. Can you go into some of it here?

The best answer to the question “Who is Annie Automatic?” can be found by reading the comic book. But, I’ll also tell you that Annie is a real girl, a crazy badass chick who followed my old band, Palmerston, through the Midwest for a while when we were out with Stone Temple Pilots. I came up with the idea for the logo, setting our sites on something beautiful, and went to my friends at The Ether Designs for help creating it.

You’ve got some way rad tattoos on your arms, specifically on the side of your left arm. Who inked you and what do the tattoos signify? Are you planning on getting more?

Ah thanks!
Yeah, I get ink done everywhere I can.
I started the cherry blossom tree that now comes down my left arm, in Montreal, Canada. I wanted to get a new branch done in each new country I visited, and it just kept going. It was finished and touched up by my good friend Frank, here in Downtown LA at Onizuka Tattoo in Little Tokyo. I always have reasons behind each tattoo. I believe that if it’s on my body permanently, there better be a reason for it. I will definitely get more.

Will you be doing any touring soon to promote Don’t Look Down? Are there other sites online besides you official one to check out to find out more about you?

Yes, absolutely.
Right now, still being without any kind of label support, touring is difficult.
It can be pretty costly, and tough to organize.
But we’ll definitely be doing some regional stuff, and if we can get the right kind of backing for tour support, we’ll be anywhere there’s people that want us!
All our pages can be found from our main homepage, but our Facebook, Twitter and news pages are great places to connect with us and other listeners –

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