I was feeling pretty intimidated after witnessing her spectacular set opening the final day of Wales Goes Pop! 2016. Interviewing people is anxiety-inducing enough, let alone when they blow you away with their performance beforehand. I sat down with A N i • G L A S S and soon my nerves dissolved into laughter, admiration and shared enthusiasm for all things Welsh, electronic and feminist.
RRW: Hey Ani, firstly, that was amazing, your performance is so…evocative. Your sound conjures up so many images in my head. It’s like sorcery, I thought sparks were going to come shooting out of the synth.
Ani: Aw thank you! Funny you should say, I actually really want to work some visuals into the performance. I’m a photographer as well but I haven’t kinda worked out how to put the two together for the set just yet
RRW: I’ve seen a lot of people using projectors, I always think they look pretty cool and it adds another element to the set, especially when you’re up there on your own. How was it today? I know you’ve been in bands before so this is different territory…
Ani: It is weird being on my own sometimes, but I enjoy it. I wanted there to be lots of people in the room today, but at the same time, not too busy in case it all went wrong when I’m up there by myself.
RRW: You did brilliantly, people seemed really into it. You sing mostly in Welsh, is it harder to get audiences engaged with Welsh language music?
Ani: Performing solo, I’ve not actually played any shows that have been marketed as Welsh language shows. I don’t think people who genuinely just love music mind that much. I mean, when I go to shows, sometimes I can’t really understand the words people are singing even in English anyway, unless I already know them. I think that’s the case for a lot of people with songs they aren’t familiar with. I wanted to create pop music that everyone can connect with, regardless of whether they can understand the lyrics.
RRW: I think you’ve achieved that, and then of course there’s some lyrics that non-Welsh speakers will understand, like in ‘Little Things‘…
Ani: ‘Little Things‘ is my Eurovision Song Contest entry. I love Eurovision. The song’s in Welsh apart from the chorus which I sing in English so people could sing along too. It’s a Eurovision pop song. I never did send it to them for consideration, but that would be my entry. So there’s the story behind that one.
RRW: I can see it on Eurovision, you’d have to spend so much time thinking about an outfit though.
Ani: That would be one of the best things about it.
RRW: I’m feeling wings, I see like a glittery, feathery cape. It would be cool to have a part-Welsh language song on Eurovision, I mean, people sing in loads of different languages on there.
Ani: Definitely, Eurovision jokes aside, I feel really strongly about Welsh language music. I want to put it out there just as ‘music’ and not ‘Welsh language music’ so that people eventually see it in the same light as they do music in other languages.
RRW: Totally agree. I do speak Welsh, I should probably be doing this in Welsh actually, oops… I’m second language and not a confident Welsh speaker but I’m so passionate about Welsh language music. I’ve not met many people who are open to it in terms of checking out a new artist if they know beforehand that the artist sings in Welsh… It’s something I’ve noticed from a fan’s perspective anyway.
Something else I’ve noticed from a fan’s perspective, specifically regarding Wales Goes Pop! is the number of women on the line-up this year, is that something you noticed too?
Ani: Oh definitely, I was looking at the line-up, like, “YES! Look at all the women!”. It’s awesome and so important. Since I became a solo artist, I’ve noticed stuff like that and appreciated more and more. When I was growing up and wanting to play music, I’d look on stage at shows or at festival line-ups and it would always be boys with guitars and I was just like…oh, ok then…it was disheartening.
One of the reasons I feel so strongly about doing what I do as a woman is because of that. If girls with an interest in music can watch me and think “Yeah she’s doing it, I can do it too”, even if just one girl watched me perform and was encouraged by it then it’d be worth it.
RRW: Women in music is something you’re obviously passionate about then. Would you say your ‘image’ for want of a better word, as an artist has formed from that passion?
Ani: I’m not really bothered about how I’m portrayed, particularly. I’m doing this because I love it. If I can do something I love and I can help put the Welsh language and women in pop on the same sort of level as everything else in music, then it’s even better, it’s all good.
RRW: So the aim is to portray it as ‘music’, instead of ‘Welsh language music’ and ‘pop artists’ instead of ‘female pop artists’
Ani: Exactly! I remember when I was with the band and we’d be described, and even describe ourselves, as a “female” band and I was like…why is that a thing that people do to female artists? As if it’s some novelty that girls can do this too. I still get it a lot now that I’m on my own, especially with the more mechanical side of things. I always get guys asking me, and you can tell they’re being patronising about it, whether or not I can do the technical stuff. Even when I’m setting up my own stuff, like, yeah? Of course I know how to set up and use my own things.
RRW: Yes! I struggle with the ‘novelty’ thing a lot. When I’m writing about artists, I never want to be gender specific, especially when it comes to female artists because…why should I have to? But then at the same time I just want to write “hell yeah look at all these kick-ass females and their awesome music in a male-dominated industry”. It’s a fine line, I don’t want to present artists in a way that they would be uncomfortable with, especially because I know both parties want to reach out to people who find empowerment in female artists.
Ani: I’m still trying to figure out what I’m empowered by. There’s more and more girls with guitars emerging these days, which is awesome, but not my thing and I won’t be alone in that! I love pop music and I love dressing a bit…weird. I personally feel more comfortable with more clothes on. I’m supportive of women who feel empowered by less clothes, but it’s not something I could do. So I kind of see what’s in the wardrobe and put layers of more unusual clothing on and that’s what makes me feel good. Hopefully I can reach out to the girls who are empowered by electro pop and weird clothes.
RRW: I get you, I don’t feel comfortable showing a lot of skin either. I always like, triumphantly punch the air when I see women who can do it absolutely owning it, but I don’t feel like I can do the same. I’m similar to you in the sense that I feel empowered by wearing ‘weird’, whatever weird is, clothing. I don’t think even my ankles see the sun, my jacket is covered in DIY patches and my creepers are held together with superglue and I feel good about that.
I’m also realising that we could sit here talking about this all day so I should probably try and wrap it up with a question I was actually supposed to ask. New music and upcoming shows?
Ani: Haha! Talking about this all day is no bad thing. New music hopefully in May and there’s a few shows lined up. I’m playing the Eisteddfod this year with a bunch of other Welsh artists and I’m really excited about that.
RRW: I think I’ll probably be along to the Eisteddfod, there’s so many good bands on the line-up and I’ve not been for years. Should probably end it here before we go off on one again, it’s been so good to talk to you about Welsh and music and feminism. I love talking about this stuff, so thank you, diolch yn fawr.
Ani: Diolch yn fawr! It’s so good to talk about these issues. People feel so threatened by equality. Whenever you talk about feminism, a lot of people, especially guys, almost seem scared by it. Guys don’t see sexism as much, so they don’t see the inequality as much and it just doesn’t cross their minds, especially in casual discussion like this. That needs to change if we’re going to progress.
Header image by RRW.