Anne Bacheley – Self-portrait

Anne Bacheley lives in Poitiers, France. For over twenty years, she has been writing songs, drawing, dreaming – discovering secret patterns in the fabric of days. In the early 2000s, she produced a tiny A6 perzine which she called – with characteristic, self-deflating humility – ‘Un fanzine à la taille de mes ambitions’ (‘A fanzine the size of my ambitions’). The small pages were alive with real and made-up characters – scenes observed or intuited. At some point she drew a series of posters for 1960s bands which never existed. There is something almost fictional about her homemade music, too. It always seemed to me her songs were addressing a crowd of imaginary friends, unknown yet mysteriously close confidantes, benevolent strangers. At any rate, I certainly felt involved – strangely attuned to them. She is an approximate, self-taught musician, yet a tenacious one, and there is an unmistakably focused vitality to her music. She knows what she is doing, and is visibly doing it the way she wants. When a friend introduced me to the home-recordings of US songwriter Linda Smith, made on the East Coast in the 1980s and 1990s, I was reminded of Anne’s songs. There was something similarly stubborn and fragile about their voices, a kind of courage and openness: the sparse songs were suggestive of something much bigger. Over the years Anne has recorded albums and EPs – some of which were self-released, others on small DIY labels (Mimikaki, I Wish I Was Unpopular). More recently, she has also started a bedroom electronic project – anneemall.

In an interview conducted in late April 2021, she answered a few questions.

Merci, Anne!

I first came across – and treasured – your wonderful perzines in the early 2000s. Do you remember your first steps into the French underground scene(s)? Did making music stem from your engagement with drawing and zines?

It was the music that came first, and then the zines.

Drawing by Anne Bacheley

How and when did you begin playing the guitar? Do you have any idea where the courage to write and sing your own songs came from in the first place?

I first grabbed a half-broken guitar as a teenager when I discovered The Beatles and tried to play their songs. That’s how I learnt some chords, but some of them were a bit tricky and I thought it was easier to write my own songs with chords I could manage – so much for courage!

A lot of your art seems to be about reaching out, and making meaningful connections with others. You have also recorded a few duos over the years, and played with other musicians. Many of your songs directly address other people, characters, or perhaps communicate with a fictional or younger self. Could you tell us about particularly memorable or heart-warming encounters/connections which happened through making music and fanzines?

Many encounters – mostly virtual – came with swapping things, like tapes, zines or CDs.

When I played at a small festival I met the band Buggy which I loved. Renaud Sachet, the leader, invited me on stage for a song. When I was writing my Headquarters album and felt the song Energy sounded a little too plain, I thought of asking Renaud to sing it with me.

When you collaborate with others there is always an element of surprise. Things don’t turn out exactly how you imagined them. For instance, on that song, I thought Renaud would sing the other part, and I didn’t expect his friend to add an effect on the guitar solo. The idea is not to be in control of everything but to open up to what the other brings.

What was the music you grew up listening to?

Not much during childhood, but with the discovery of The Beatles I dug 60s music like The Who, The Beach Boys, The Byrds. At that time, Nirvana was huge and I started listening to contemporary bands.

‘Service Station’ strikes me as an ode to DIY – an urgent invitation to act, without delay. It is also the first song you have released in over a decade. Could you tell me more about it? Did you suddenly get up one day, with the urge to record again? Was this related to lockdown at all?

One day I was going through files on my computer and came across a rough demo of a song I had left from 10 years ago. It sounded fine to me and I picked up where I had left it, then wrote more new songs including Service Station. I imagined that one played on piano, but as I don’t play piano I asked one of my workmates who recorded the part from his home.

Beyond an ode to DIY, the lyrics are about life in general, an invitation to empowerment, to be an actor in the world instead of complaining and waiting for happiness to come to you from outside, an invitation to try things and have fun.

On that matter, lockdown is what got me to start the anneemall (electronic) project, having time to experiment and play around with software. I have a very child-like approach to it, and apparently it shows!

Drawing by Anne Bacheley

Has your relationship to DIY changed since you first begun making zines, or do you feel that ‘DIY’ has become a slightly different thing in the age of Bandcamp? Apart from music and drawings, what do you most enjoy making?

My idea of DIY is to be able to do things with humble means without feeling limited. I like that aesthetic but it’s alright to use more equipment or skills when you have them.

Nowadays it seems more people share what they create – it can be overwhelming for listeners. You can stick to labels you trust or be more adventurous.

Apart from music, I sometimes draw with my son. I enjoy reading, watching films and useful YouTube videos, hiking.  I also love my job (I work as a librarian).

Are you planning on releasing a new EP or album in the coming months?

I would have enough songs for an album but I don’t know whether I am going to record them.

How did you start experimenting with electronics? Do you see the ‘anneemall’ and ‘Anne Bacheley’ projects merging at some point, or do you prefer to keep them separate?  

My only foray into electronics before last year’s lockdown was the track ESTP that I made 20 years ago. I included it onthe first anneemall EP, Hello!.  It’s a really different approach from the ‘Anne Bacheley’ songs and I don’t imagine the latter with electronics.

Could you tell us about your ‘recording corner’ at home? Do you have a small home studio, or is there a specific room where you tend to record all your music? Do you enjoy recording, and what kind of equipment do you tend to use? Are you a disciplined home-recordist or do you let things happen, experimenting with what is at hand? And when do you tend to write/record music?

The recording is the convenient thing with the electronic music: I only need my computer. At the time of Headquarters I had a room I could leave my equipment in but it’s not the case now.  I have an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar (Squier Jagmaster), a small amp and a mic, and I record on my computer too.  For the collaborations I send files and the others send them back with their parts.

The  ‘Anne Bacheley’ songs are all written before being recorded – the complete opposite of the ‘anneemall’ tracks which I build a bit like a construction game with no particular idea in mind.

Drawing by Anne Bacheley

How do you archive your drawings and songs?

The files are on my computer, but I keep drawings in a box and I still burn CDs.

Could you tell us more about living in Poitiers? Does it feel like a good city to make music? Do you feel part of a community there, or does it sometimes get a bit lonely? On this note, would you have advice for home-recordists who may feel isolated, or slightly lost and confused in the digital DIY ocean?

Poitiers is a pleasant city to live in, of moderate size but with many students. I don’t feel some places are better than others to make music. A while ago I tried finding people to form a band. I met a couple of very talented people but unfortunately they left town shortly after – I hope this wasn’t cause to effect!

My advice to home-recordists would be to do it for the sake of it, because you feel like it, and not in order to be noticed. Make music you enjoy listening to, that’s a good start!

Finally, what music have you enjoyed listening to most recently? How do you find out about music these days? What book are you reading at the moment?

Some albums I have really been into lately:

  • Beautify Junkyard – ‘The Invisible World of Beautify Junkyard’ (a psychedelic blend of folk, electronics and tropicalia),
  • ‘Fuubutsushi’ by Chris Jussell, Chaz Prymek, Matthew Sage and Patrick Shiroishi (ambient jazz)
  • ‘AM’ by Arctic Monkeys

I find out about music through several sources: reviews, random finds because I’m attracted to the artwork, bands from the past I have overlooked.

I am reading books about countries I have never been to because I’m curious about them, for instance Egypt through Naguib Mahfouz, Israël and Palestine through Joseph Kessel, Barcelona through a crime novel by Aro Sainz de la Maza.


Links:

https://annebacheley.bandcamp.com

https://soundcloud.com/annebacheley

https://anneemall.bandcamp.com/

https://soundcloud.com/anneemall


— Published online on the 4th of May 2021.