Annuals Interview

Initially lauded as standouts amongst a pool of grimly labeled "blog bands," Raleigh, North Carolina's Annuals are now relative veterans amongst a continually shifting indie rock landscape. Following a string of EPs, the band released its full-length sophomore album late last year, entitled Such Fun. The album signaled a shift in direction for the Annuals, showing more restraint and concentration compared to the overpowering sound of the band's debut, Be He Me.

Bassist Mike Robinson recently heeded some in preparation for the group's upcoming Minneapolis date. Discussing the band's growth over the past few years, Robinson also expanded on the group's decision to return to a venue they last played in October. The band will kick off a 34-date tour this Tuesday at the Varsity Theater--important then that Robinson also detailed how the group is taking the nation's bleak economic conditions into consideration as the tour rolls out.

This will be the band's second show at the Varsity Theater in the past three months, having played back in October with Minus the Bear. Do you typically make it a habit to return to familiar venues?

Mike Robinson: We do typically try to revisit the places we play, and the Varsity Theater in particular has been very good to us the last year and a half or so as they've let us come back and play more than a couple of times. Easily one of my favorite venues in the US, it's just a very unique and cool place.

What's the first thing that comes to mind from the time spent touring with MTB?

Mike Robinson: MTB left a lasting impression on us for sure—no first thing really comes to mind but that's just because it doesn't feel that long ago and its still a bit blurry. Definitely the most show-packed tour we've done with the amount of dates we played (and show attendance for that matter!)

This time around you'll be joined by Phoenix's What Laura Says and Jessica Lea Mayfield from Kent, Ohio. Have you played with either before?

Mike Robinson: We've played with What Laura Says a handful of times before, and they remain one of our favorite live bands. We've never played with Jessica Lea before but we all think she's great and can't wait to meet her and her band. I definitely think we've achieved a really great balance across the bill for this tour. Both of these acts are sure to bring their own unique energy to the shows and it's hard for me to see things not going extremely well.

What Laura Says released Thinks and Feels through Terpsikhore Records last year, a label that members from the Annuals were influential in launching on a national scale. Has Terpsikhore's focus been primarily on North Carolina bands since first opening as a recording studio back in 2002?

Mike Robinson: We started doing Terpsikhore in high school and never thought moving beyond NC was ever going to be very realistic. But what we've managed to accomplish with Annuals has helped get a lot of people in our circle at home very inspired and working on the label more. We jumped at the chance to work with What Laura Says because we love their music so much and as it would turn out our manager did too! So we've continued to work them and we feel this next tour will be a significant statement as far as Terpsikhore's musical agenda is concerned.

Do you foresee a push for the inclusion of more bands from across the nation (as with WLS) in the future?

Mike Robinson: As far as Terpsikhore reaching beyond the Carolina's again--I'm certain something will come along at some point that will make us seriously consider a move like that. But right now we're very focused on our own scene here in NC.

How much does the current economic uncertainty affect how much you guys have been able to tour and promote last year's Such Fun?

Mike Robinson: We've counted ourselves very lucky to have the support of Canvasback. We have certainly felt the effects of the national and global economic crisis, but there's been uncertainty across the music industry for years now. Everything else seems to finally be catching up in some ways. But it is a bit discomforting sometimes to see how incredibly fast the landscape of the entire music business can change in the 21st century. It gives new meaning to "here today gone tomorrow." We're thankful to be on a label that can still provide support for us and we're sticking to our guns with Terpsikhore in the face of it all as well. Maybe we're naive but we still believe that the music alone can be the path to success.

Everyone will be touring together through March, but have you thought ahead as to what might come after for the Annuals?

Mike Robinson: We're really excited to be holding/playing a Terpsikhore showcase at SXSW this year! That is what we're heading for right now as far as an endcap to our schedule. Beyond that it could be anything at this point--more touring, more recording, more news from the Terpsikhore roster, maybe all of the above? We're going to do whatever we have to do and everything that we want to do as well!

The band has had a few repeat visits to some notable performance spots in the past couple months including Late Night on Conan O'Brien and most recently Spinner's The Interface. Having originally visited each back in 2006 & early 2007—do you find yourself reminiscing on how things have changed? What's your fondest memory stemming from your appearances on Late Night?

Mike Robinson: I'm personally fond of getting to tell Charles Barkley where the men's room was at our last Conan stop. I didn't get a picture or anything but it was a very interesting experience. We always love being thwarted into situations where we meet and see different, completely random celebrities. I think what we notice has changed the most is ourselves, but in the best way. We feel that even though we've been playing together for so many years now, musically we're still growing into something that I can't put my finger on. I personally am still just as inspired and constantly pushed forward by my band as I ever have been, if not much more so.

Though it's most likely far too early start thinking about this, has there been any thought on what sort of songs the band would like to record next? Could another EP be in the works?

It could be another EP or we may just dive headlong into our third album. We took our time between Be He Me and Such Fun, and while we don't know what opportunities may still present themselves, we do know that the next record will be another significant step forward for us as a band. We have completed a new Sunfold EP over our holiday break however, and we plan to have that available digitally via Terpsikhore going into spring 2009.

[This article was first published by City Pages.]

Rift Magazine Interview

Starting a blog or website is a process and usually a tedious task of getting to know how web blog programs and the internet works. After you get that all figured out, then you have keep adding content and then get people to read that content.

Chris DeLine has went through that process and his website/blog Culture Bully has garnered some attention and high internet traffic. As you read below, success in the blog world is sort of a fleeting moneyless endeavor, but like Rift, me and DeLine have found the personal relationships and occasional pat on the back seem to get us through the night.

Rift: Why and when did you start

Chris DeLine: The first blog I had was back in 2004, and I lost interest with it almost immediately. I can’t remember what it as called, but I think it was more of a personal blog… dealing with “life.” Around that time, probably in SPIN or something, I had read a list the best music blogs – Stereogum being tops of the pops.

Somewhere along the way, one of my friends had taken an interest in the “finer things in life,” movies and music that were slightly beyond the comprehension and taste of the average consumer. Or so he thought. The idea that you have a better understanding of what life is about because you “get” Sports Night was and is ridiculous to me… in some drunken conversation with friends one night I called him a culture bully jokingly… the name kind of stuck. Shortly thereafter I started the blog, trying to steal some of that sweet thunder Stereogum had… problem was, there were about forty thousand other sites just like mine, and the vast majority were better.

Rift: What has been the best part about doing Culture Bully?

Chris DeLine: I just finished a small project on the site where I worked with some friends from a half dozen countries around the world. A good portion of my real-life friendships stem from relationships that were first built via connecting with people online. The rare occasion that I get to go on trips, I know that I’ll have at least one person I can connect with because of the blog. Recently I met some guys in person who I had talked to sporadically online for a couple years.

I’m now but one of a handful of contributors on the site, and they’re all great guys who I’m honored to have met. Ridiculously, one of the first people I ever interviewed was Gary Numan. I can be honest in saying that I’ve played phone-tag with Todd Evans, formerly Beefcake the Mighty of GWAR. So, I’d have to say that the people I continue to meet is the best part about doing Culture Bully. Though the babes are pretty sweet, too.

Rift: What is your background and why are you qualified to run your site?

Chris DeLine: I’m severely under-qualified to do most things in my life, let alone anything having to do with writing.

I’m a poor writer (let alone editor, I won’t even get started with that), and occasionally commentors will call me out on it (pretty much any time I actually try to write something, actually). I’d like to try to explain to them that while growing up, my parents thought I was mildly retarded because one of my worst classes in school was language arts, but it’s easier just to correct my mistakes, try to learn something from them, and move on.

As a freshman in college, I dug A.F.I, when I was in high school I was a fan of nu-metal, and through most of my formative years 311 was my favorite band.

Combine a lack of journalistic know-how with a fairly bland, generic taste in music and you get me. How that evolved into anything… probably just dumb luck.

Rift: Is Culture Bully a full time thing, or is it a full time thing with another full time thing that actually pays?

Chris DeLine: I’m kind of starting over with life right now, trying to figure out what I want to do with it – and I figured that at the age of 25, why not? (Read: I’m homeless, unemployed, and confused.) Working on turning this into “something,” but who knows what’ll happen. In the past ten years I’ve been a chef’s apprentice, a receptionist, a teacher’s aid, a retail manager, a warehouse worker, a delivery assistant and a customer service rep… but I’m having more fun now that I’m struggling to make anything work in life than I can ever remember having before.

Rift: How come Culture Bully has a better web rating and more web traffic the this site? (I need some advice on how to get more people to my site)

Chris DeLine: I know a guy who knows a guy.

Rift: Do you have a favorite of all the local sites and blogs? Why is it your favorite?

Chris DeLine: You mean besides Rift, Culture Bully and City Pages’ Gimme Noise blog, which has a daily Gimme News feature that details the local goings-on in local music and forecasts the best of the day’s local concerts?

I dig Taylor Carik’s stuff at Mediation, the things that man does with verbs… delicious.

Rift: Any rants, opinions or good things to say about anything else?

CD: I watched The Wrestler last night, the new Mickey Rourke movie… man, that thing ate me up inside. I used to watch some of that extreme wrestling stuff, and was pretty aware of the ultra-violence involved, but there are a few scenes there that made me cringe. I’m a crier, but I don’t cringe – so the movie apparently triggered something inside of me there. The main point that touched me was the loneliness that Rourke’s character battled. There are moments where he’s happy, downright giddy sometimes, but overall he was a sad person. Then relating that role to Rourke’s personal life, his troubled bouts… I sat up last night until almost four in the morning, just thinking about the movie, and life, and the year. It’s been a long year.

[This article was originally published by Rift Magazine.]