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Life Records With Anna Arboles: Interview + Playlist

Sivani |
January 27, 2015 | 10:57 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

(Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)
Welcome to the debut of Life Records: a column where I interview people about the music they listen to and construct a personal playlist in their honor. In this first edition, I sit down with Anna Arboles – jazz guitarist and singer-songwriter - to talk about her experiences with music, from elementary through to college.

Here is a convenient playlist - created by me and curated by the wonderful tastes of Anna - encompassing everything from punk to indie rock to electronica. Listen along as you read to discover what lead Anna to these tracks:


Sivani: Talk to me about your current musical tastes, and what that’s evolved from.

Anna: I guess we’ll just start off with punk. Interesting thing about punk is that I arrived at punk through feminism, so me beginning to like punk wasn’t necessarily through liking other musical genres. It was more through a social movement and the social circles I was a part of, and how punk was used kind of, you know—to make a statement.  And through there I got into the Riot Grrl movement, which is something I really identified with… so that’s how I started liking punk music.

Other musical genres? I feel like most music you start liking comes from whatever your parents would listen to, and whether or not you identified with that. I think really liking music started coming out of really liking the guitar, and liking to play guitar.

S: How early did you start playing guitar?

A: Let’s see… it’s been a journey. I remember really wanting a guitar, and I got one in 2nd grade—Christmas—and I started taking lessons in the 5th grade. And from there it’s kind of just been a journey of getting more and more into music and the guitar. And lately it hasn’t been so much about guitar, but more about music as a whole. I feel like guitar is kind of the avenue by which I pursue music. Music is the goal—guitar is just the tool I do it with.   

S: When you look back, are there particular moments you recall – related to music  which were important to you?

A: Yeah. I think the first time I was aware of picking and really liking the music I was listening to was when I first discovered guitar and started listening to a lot of modern bluesy-rock type artists. And that was… I would say in middle school. And you know, early years in high school, indie was the thing, so I got into indie bands. I remember in high school, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were really popular. That was a band people listened to in high school, and like… The Kills, what else… Starfucker. Those were just the bands my friends were listening to. So there was this whole group of cool kids at my high school who would listen to what I would describe now as noir indie rock. That was the cool thing to listen to. [laughs] That was like, god… The Kills. And I know Autolux was on that mix CD. The xx. That was the thing, too.

Then moving on from there, later in high school my friend Josie—who is a highly influential musical figure in my life—was always giving me mix CDs. And she gave me one junior or senior year and it was filled with electronic artists like Ta-ku and Flume, and artists like that. From there, I started to really appreciate electronic music. Because all you ever hear about is the EDM stuff that’s like ravin’ and really intense. I never liked that—I don’t like the sound of it, I don’t like the tone aesthetically and musically. But the chiller, more downtempo music, I really liked. So from there I started to appreciate and value production in music—especially electronic production—and so that’s where I’m at now.

READ MORE: 8 Of The Best Concerts We Saw In 2014

S: So are you more into experimenting electronically with your music now as a result?

A: I think the thing with that type of electronic music is because I don’t know how to make it—I’m not versed in Ableton or most computer programs like that—it still holds a type of mysticism where I can really enjoy the music and not think about what it’s doing, or “what can I do to make it better?” Whereas a lot of rock music isn’t as interesting to me because I know what’s going on and I think it’s kind of boring. Which is sad.

S: Interesting. Yeah, people always talk about that. How once you’re in the craft, it’s different.

A: But let me qualify that statement for you.  Because a lot of people talk about losing the magic—for me it’s been a while since I’ve really gotten obsessed with a band. You know how you fall in love with a band and just go crazy over it? It’s been awhile since that’s happened, I think in part because I’m not so musically wowed as much anymore. The bands I tend to gravitate towards more are the ones that speak to me emotionally. Bands that are not just about their music, but they’re making a statement. And I tend to like them as people, and whatever culture they’re a part of, if that makes sense.

S: Talk to me more about that.

A: I have to think about this before I embarrass myself. [laughs] Let’s see. I think most recently, the band I’ve really felt for… I really felt for all the bands in the Riot Grrl movement, that’s my most recent thing. Previous to that, I think it was Flume because of the nostalgia paired with it from high school, and all the times I was listening to that in the car with my friends. And then before that it was probably Tegan & Sara. With a lot of these bands—even though I’m really into music—they’re not exactly known for their musical prowess, but mostly as the whole package, if that makes sense.

S: Definitely.

A: I look for passion and energy in bands. I just went to go see this rock band called Dead Sara and it’s the third time I’ve seen them, and they’re still playing the same songs off their one record. And it’s interesting because the first time I saw them, it was really energetic—and of course it still is—and even before that, looking at videos on YouTube of them playing those songs, the lead singer was crying during one. And now she doesn’t do that anymore, ‘cause that song was probably written 4 years ago. But there’s something really fresh and passionate about their music that I like. The band that opened for them was kind of a generic garage rock band, and I kind of got bored. Like it was cool, and it would be cool to just play in the background. But the headliner Dead Sara, that was something that I would sit down and attentively listen to.

S: I know a lot of people say they can’t listen to music just in the background. Some people prefer to give music their full attention. Where do you stand on that?

A: It depends what it is. There’s some stuff that I will intentionally buy as background music—certain albums that I just wanna play and listen to and cook dinner, or whatever. Or listen to in the car. Or sometimes they’ll go good on some sort of mixtape or something. I notice bands are really good when they demand my attention. When I have to stop what I’m doing. I know a popular buzz band right now is Hiatus Kaiyote, and whenever I listen to them I just have to stop what I’m doing. I get distracted by how good their music is.

S: What kind of music listener are you? Are you a whole album sort of person, or do you go song-by-song?

A: I like the whole album. I think it’s hard to write an album that gels so well together. Because even as much as I like Dead Sara and I will listen to their whole album, I usually pick what songs I like most. Versus Hiatus Kaiyote—I will sit and listen to their whole album. I think some artists are less single-focused and more holistically focused on making one album sound like an entire song. I think Flying Lotus did that pretty well on his most recent album—though I haven’t listened to it much.

READ MORE: What’s That Track Wednesday: KATANA

S: Do you have a musical guilty pleasure?

A: Duh, of course! I’m the first person who will admit that I love pop music. [laughter] I feel like I spend all day attempting to study jazz, and then I get in the car and the only thing I want to do is listen to something that makes me feel happy. My go-to's for pop-sounding music right now are Katy Perry and RAC—he’s known for doing a lot of remixes, but he just came out with an album and it’s really catchy but with super well-written songs. Actually, I was listening to them a lot at the end of last year, right before summer, and they just resonated with me. They’re all kind of about LA too, which I appreciate because I’m from here—and I still live here. There’s a song about the 405.

S: I know sometimes I’ll have listened to a song so many times, and then one day I’ll realize what the lyrics actually mean - there’s this moment when it hits you. Have you ever had that?

A: There are a couple of songs that—this isn’t going to completely answer your question directly—but there are a couple of songs that I really like, and I can’t put my finger on why I like them. I’ll be singing along to it—learn to play it on guitar—and be digging it. And it’ll dawn on me one day: I like it because I feel like it’s about me. Like someone’s writing a song to me, or I’m writing it to myself. Songs like that… there’s a song “Wasted” by Brandi Carlile which I love to play. Especially because her vocal range sits perfectly with mine. I love doing her songs. She’s a great songwriter too, very sweet lady. That song, I don’t like so much lyrically—but the content speaks to me. And then the artist I just mentioned, RAC, has a song featuring an artist called Penguin Prison called “Hollywood” that I really liked too. I actually really like the lyric writing on that whole album.

S: Final thoughts?

I feel like if I were to sum this up—the music that’s most important to me are the songs that craft the soundtrack to your life. The songs that you listen to with your friends in the apartment, or in the car… the one that captured how you were feeling after a really sh*tty day. I feel like it’s those songs. At least for me, my goal with music and songwriting, and my whole philosophy around music, tends to revolve around the idea of using music to capture a moment. Kind of like a snapshot—a little present or a little gift of how you were feeling in that one moment. 

I still have the mix CDs my friend Josie gave me, and I don’t even know the names of half the songs. I just know them as like, track 13 on the magenta colored CD. So whenever I pop them in the car it’s like, this is what high school feels like. It still influences me today. Like I said, Josie was probably the biggest musically influential character in my life. She always texts me when she goes to concerts because she has a hard time finding people to go to shows with her. Our birthdays are 10 days apart, so each year for our birthdays we buy each other tickets for the same concert. So we’re really buying ourselves tickets, but we have a symbolic exchange. And then we go to a show together.

S: I think that’s adorable. Such a good idea.

A: [laughs] But I think in terms of sharing music… it’s so much more valuable when your friend takes the time out of their day to make you a mix CD. I wish people still did that.

S: Yeah, I’ve never had someone make me a mix CD but I would be the happiest person in the world if someone did.

A: … I’ll make you one.


And that’s how I manipulate people into making me mix CDs. Thanks for sharing, Anna!

Interested in an interview? Contact Staff Reporter Sivani here.



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