By: Shayla Lee
If you’re a fan of folky pop in the realm of Sarah Bareilles, Big Thief, or Julien Baker, LA-based indie songstress Anna Vogelzang is a musician who should be on your radar. On Friday, Anna released a new track, “Icarus”, from her upcoming album “Beacon” which will be released on October 4th. “Icarus” is a lovely blend of percussion and guitar woven together with Anna’s beautiful vocals and innate sense of lyricism.
Accompanying her track “Icarus” is a beautiful music video made by campers at the Rock n’ Roll Camp For Girls Los Angeles. Anna has worked as a counselor with the camps for years, both in Madison, WI and now in LA. “Icarus” was selected by students in a blind selection process and then turned into a music video with the help of a team of female filmmakers. The campers wrote, directed, and filmed their vision for the music video in a week.
Femme Riot is proud to debut Anna’s music video for “Icarus.” We also had the chance to chat with her about the experience of filming the music video, her self-care practices, and what fans can expect from her upcoming album.
Femme Riot: To people unfamiliar with you and your music, how would you describe yourself and your music to them?
Anna Vogelzang: When I meet someone in a coffee shop or something and they ask me what kind of music I make, I usually say that I write songs about feelings. Because I do! And also because it’s easier than pinning down a genre. I’ve always felt like I have one foot in the catch-all singer/songwriter camp and one foot in the… I dunno, anti-folk and indie-rock and soul-loving, raised on musicals and top 40, classical music school graduate, DIY touring forever, person-with-a-guitar-who-hasn’t-stopped-writing-songs-for-the-last-twenty-years camp. That’s a camp, right? Sometimes I play by myself and a lot of the time I play with a full band. Feelings are always involved.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music? Who are some of your musical influences?
My inspiration has always come from what is happening in my life, since I started writing as a way to process feelings. But about 5 years ago, I worked on a project where I wrote a song a week, and then re-kindled that with an in-person songwriting group that I co-host at my place in LA with my friend Adam Levy, starting in late 2016 – that has really changed my relationship to inspiration. Rather than wait for it to strike and catching that lighting, you have to channel it even when you don’t feel like writing a song – you have to hunt it down. So my emotional life is continuously inspiring my writing, but so are writing prompts, my friends, something I see on the sidewalk while I’m waiting for an uber, a hook I hear, my songwriting students, my kid, the sky. I think trying to keep your eyes open is a muscle you can exercise and it’s proven to be so helpful to me.
My top 10 all time musical influences are Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Ani DiFranco, Mirah, Whitney Houston, Lyle Lovett, Fiona Apple, Neko Case, Thao, and The Mountain Goats. There are more but this list started with 5 so, you know.
Some people and friends that I’m super inspired by this month are Lizzo, Madison Cunningham, Rosie Tucker, A.O. Gerber, Anais Mitchell, Sharon Van Etten, J.E. Sunde, Runnner, Emily Hope Price, & boygenius.
Your new album “Beacon” is set to release on October 3rd. What did your creative process for this album look like? What can fans expect?
This album has been my longest project from start to finish. A bit after I moved to LA, I discovered I was pregnant with my first kid. Armed with a buoyed sense of community from the songwriting group and this approaching huge life change, I decided to record an album through this very transitional process, despite – and because of – the uncertainty of what the other side would look like. I figured if I made something while I was pregnant, I’d still have a project to work on waiting for me once I was a new parent. That feeling of living within the transient physical state of pregnancy while also living in totally new surroundings is the foundation and origin of Beacon. It’s about fearing and trusting both states of the unknown. The songs were born from that place, and ultimately proved themselves to be inspired by the west coast ether; I co-produced the whole album with my friend Tyler Chester, and it really touched on a sonic landscape I’ve never delved into before. We recorded the songs live in the room, which caught a huge amount of magic, and all of the songs have gorgeous textures on top of their bones – almost all of which I owe to Tyler’s ear. It’s a really sweeping, but grooving, record. I also owe so much to Todd Sickafoose, who mixed the album, and Eric Boulanger, who mastered it. Tyler, Todd, and Eric are like the dudes-with-great-taste trifecta.
Favorite lyric off the new record?
Ooh so hard to pick. One of my favorite lyrics from the title track is,
on my knees
underneath the weight of the wonder
the moon takes its shape
shifting from its slumbering season
You have done a lot of work with Rock N’ Roll Camp For Girls both in Madison, WI and then in LA. Can you tell us more about your involvement with this empowering nonprofit?
Man, Rock Camp is my favorite place on earth!!! I wish the whole world could be like rock camp all the time. I started working with the Madison camp in 2009, teaching voice and coaching bands. I joined LA in 2017, teaching songwriting, guitar, voice, and coaching. These campers come in with no previous musical experience and have to collaboratively write an original song in under a week. It’s breathtaking. The ideas the girls come up with are amazing, they push through fear and self judgement and doubt and write these badass songs, and then perform them at a big music venue at the end of the week. I’ve taught instruments, songwriting, led workshops, but my favorite thing has always been coaching the bands. It’s the best feeling help the campers shape their ideas into a song, and then watching them get up on stage and show the world their power is just unreal.
It’s also about the community of grown ups, not just kids – each day, you’re surrounded by womxn who are there to support each other, empower girls, and be their most authentic selves – and in turn, you become your most authentic self. I always find myself asking how I can help, being more empathetic, holding space for others and their feelings, throughout the whole week. It’s a place where vulnerability is cherished, which is not something you find many places.
Your track “Icarus” was chosen in a blind selection process by the campers. Along with a team of female filmmakers, the teenage girls wrote, directed, and brought their vision to life. How did it feel to have your song chosen for this? What was it like working with the girls?
Oh man, I was beaming ear to ear when one of the camp co-directors told me. I yelled “I feel like I won an Oscar!” and started jumping up and down. Knowing that my music connects with kids is a different kind of special. This was the third year I submitted, and it felt amazing to be chosen.
Working with the campers was just… so rewarding. We shot all day, and they had totally come up with their own vision for the song, lyric by lyric. At first they were a bit timid, but found their voices quickly with the support of their mentors. I absolutely love the direction they took with the video. I’m so proud of the amazing piece they created! I love the elevator shots in slow motion, I think they’re beautiful.
Mental health is something that is really important to us at Femme Riot and we love hearing about how others maintain balance in their lives. As a busy musician, what practices do you implement to ensure your health and well-being are taken care of?
I have staples that I follow – I deal with anxiety and depression, and it’s taken me a long time to find the right balance for me. When I’m at home, I go to acupuncture and therapy every week and maintain a steady yoga practice. I also try to be outside and off my phone for some period of time every day, though that’s obviously easier said than done. I try to carve out rituals when I’m on the road, too – taking time to call a friend, stopping at rest stops to do some squats or jumping rope, making sure I find a salad bar… With a toddler, it’s not as easy to find quiet moments, which is why building these self care practices into my home schedule is totally necessary.
What is the biggest piece of advice you could share with a fellow female in the music industry?
I mean I think for anyone in the music industry, it’s about sticking it out. To keep writing, even if there isn’t an album on the horizon or if there isn’t a giant life event burning to be written about. Because I’ve found that when I do the work on a regular basis, things come from it – relationships, projects, gig opportunities. The practice creates the “career”.
Also, I’d say to say hi to people – which is simple, but really hard to do. With most of the musicians I met in LA, it was either because a friend introduced us or because I said hello after they played at a show, just walked up and introduced myself. Almost everyone was kind, and nobody made me feel dumb. And some of my greatest friends and collaborations came from just walking up and introducing myself.
The practice creates the “career”.