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How much to say here? Like the Good Book says, “were everything to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would follow.”
Annie quasi-formed in 1994. We had our first date in 1994. But we didn't for real form until Spring, 1995.
Patrick and I started our first real band in Fall, 1995. It was called Scatterscent. We had a song called “Jesus Walks In.” We released a 20 song tape. We thought of ourselves as a sort of Christian Nirvana Pumpkins. We played some church gigs, and one house party. (No alcohol.) Then our drummer moved. It was really sad.
Somehow I had heard Stephen sing. (He and David played in a band called the Cories, but I don't think they ever played any shows, whatever they might say. They had this one song “Frame” that I thought was amazing. I remember hearing that song and being like, “This dude, though kind of dorky, is operating on a different level.” I'm not sure why it never became an Annie song.) And I knew, without any doubt, that he could sing so much better than Patrick or me. I also knew his drummer, David. And David was a righteous dude. He drove an old pick up truck with a mallard duck for the stick shift. He was really funny.
So we–Patrick, Stephen, David, and myself–decided to start a band. This was Spring of 1995.
Initially, our main influence (in my mind) was Luxury's Amazing and Thank You. We would soon discover, and become obsessed with, early 90's British shoegaze–My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Jesus and Mary Chain, Verve. But it was our discovery of a little band from South Carolina–The Drag (their Starcraft EP, not the later record on Island)–that I think of as shaping this early period: jangly, noisy pop, with a wild live show. This whole tape bears the marks of these bands, but you can especially hear Luxury in “Nosering Queen,” and The Drag in “Sparkle Girl.” And if I remember correctly, “Velvet” was written right after we saw the video for “Stars” by Hum.
We did not get along at the beginning. At one point, David, Patrick, and I attacked Stephen with old crusty brownies. Slowly, we got used to one another.
In the Fall of 1995, we recorded this tape at a place called Cat House Studios in Chattanooga, TN.
released October 1, 1995
Stephen - vocals, guitar
David - drums
Patrick - bass\
Jeff - Guitar
Artwork: R.M. Hendrix (yes, that R.M. Hendrix)
Towards the end of our senior year of high school (Spring, 1997), we (Annie) decided to break up. I can't really remember why, but I remember the occasion of it very clearly. We had just played a show somewhere in N. Georgia (like Ringold or something) at some church. We all met back in Cleveland after the show at Waffle House. We sat down at a booth, all together, and–as I remember it–with one voice declared, “Let's break up.”
I think we were mostly just bored. High School was ending and we all sort of felt like doing other things.
Anyway, the following fall (still 1997), we all stayed roughly in the area for college (Cleveland and Chattanooga). I don't remember how it came about, but we decided to get back together–or at least start playing together.
At the time, there was a place in Chattanooga called the Urban Art Institute. They let us use it on Sunday afternoons to practice. We didn't really have any plans in terms of shows or recordings. We would just get together on Sunday afternoons and play and write. (I remember very distinctly that we worked up a cover of Acrobat by U2…for what purpose, I don't know.)
Anyway, Matt Goldman was in the process of starting his own studio. (We met him in Fall of 1996 at Rocket Town in Nashville. Piltdown Man was there recording with Steve Hindalong, and we were there because of Tattoo Records.) Matt agreed to record the new material we had written for free (I think) because he wanted the practice. We were his willing guinea pigs.
So we recorded these four songs. Like I said, I'm not sure any of us thought much about them. I don't think we really had plans to start playing out. But Matt gave this demo to Dave Vanderpoel of Bulletproof Records, on the basis of which he offered us a contract. After much back and forth (we really did not want to sign with a Christian label), we decided to sign. So, we were back together.
Curiously, even though we had written all these songs in Spring of 1998, and we recorded Sci-Fi in December of that same year, we were very adamant about not putting this material on that record. (We were always sort of reacting against our own stuff.) So, these songs got us signed to Bulletproof and then disappeared.
released March 1, 1998
1999 Bulletproof Records
As a result of the “and Sounds” EP, Bulletproof Records wanted to sign us. Eventually, around November of 1998, we would sign with them, and, soon thereafter, record Sci-Fi.
The period leading up to Sci-Fi was, creatively, a really fruitful time for us. We were all improving as musicians, and discovering a lot of new music. By far the biggest influence on us at that time was the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. (At least from my perspective. Maybe the other guys would disagree.) It was all any of us listened to. And so even though we had up to that point produced sort of moody, noisy stuff, we really wanted to make a sort of Baroque Pop experimental record.
This period was unique as well because we had added a new member: Joel. When we started playing “and Sounds” out live, we realized we needed another person in the band. Our friend Joel had always hung around with us, come to our practices and shows, and was an incredibly talented keyboard and trumpet player. And we loved him. So, we asked Joel to join the band.
Because of the presence of Joel, and because of our newfound love for the Beach Boys, we set out to make a record that was very different from anything else we'd done: poppy and well-crafted on the one hand, but weirder, noisier, and more psychedelic on the other. This would really come to the fore on the EP that followed Sci-Fi, and in the music we were writing at that time, but which we never recorded. But you can hear it beginning on Sci-Fi.
We wrote the songs that became Sci-fi quickly–in about four months (Sept-Dec). We recorded them in 5 days (Dec. 20-24).
This was the first full length Matt Goldman recorded. If I remember correctly, our label (Bulletproof) gave him a $5,000 advance, which he used to buy studio equipment. He brought that equipment to Cleveland, TN, and recorded us in the Music Building of Lee University. 2 weeks later, he recorded Luxury's third record.
As I remember it, we got to the end of the recording, and only had seven songs. Matt G. suggested we put one of the songs from the EP on the record, but we were really resistant to the idea. It was because we needed one more song, at the very last minute, that Stephen put together Ice Storm.
The song “Dining Victoria” ended up being on an NBC Sitcom.
released February 28, 1999
Stephen Nichols - Guitar, Voice, other stuff
David Morton - Drums, other stuff
Patrick McNeely - Bass, other stuff
Joel Bordeaux - Trumpet, voice, synth, other stuff
Jeff WIckes - Guitar, voice, other stuff
Sci-fi was released in February of 1999. We never toured behind the album, though we did play a lot of shows locally, and a couple of Christian fests in the summer. I don't think we had any intention of releasing a second record on Bulletproof. Our plan, insofar as we had one, was to move to Atlanta in 2000 (after Stephen had graduated college), start doing regional tours, and hopefully attract some label interest.
In the meantime, in the Fall of 1999, a small label (Minty Fresh) expressed some interest in signing us. But they wanted to hear material beyond Sci-fi. We recorded these three songs for them in November, 1999, again with Matt Goldman. As I remember it, they sort of said, “Ok, keep us updated.” We broke up two months later, so this was never released. At the time, we also had about four other new songs, but these were never recorded.
released November 1, 1999
Stephen Nichols - guitar, vocals, keys
David Morton - Drums
Patrick McNeely - Bass
Joel Bordeaux - Keys, Trumpet
Jeff Wickes - guitar
Matt Goldman - Production, Engineering
Annie decided to break up for good in November of 1999. We played one final show, at Rhythm and Brews (Chattanooga), in February, 2000. Just after that, Stephen and I moved to Atlanta. I do feel a bit sad when I remember this time, and for two reasons: one the next nine months would be pretty awful (Stephen and I living in Matt Goldman's basement, working shitty jobs, unsure of the future), and two, Annie broke up (in my memory) very casually. We just sort of let it go. I do regret this. (Others?)
In our first few weeks in Atlanta, Stephen and I had no jobs and we would sit around all day and try to write music, just playing together. We would record these “jams” (most of them Godawful) on a tape recorder. “Comforts of Home”–possibly my favorite song that Stephen and I ever wrote–came out of one of these jam sessions. I remember the compositional process very clearly as one of repeated stripping down: the stuff we were playing got simpler and simpler, more and more raw emotionally. We eventually ended up with the guitar riff on the song, around which Stephen wrote the lyrics. It was clearly our elegy for our hometown, our mourning the loss of home. (I'm being melodramatic, I know.)
I don't remember much about the rest of the songs, especially Country, County and Vanishing. I do remember a little bit about Quicksilver. I wrote it at a time when I was listening to Joni Mitchell constantly. I loved the loneliness of her album Blue, and the piano part was inspired by that. By the time I wrote it, I was living back in Chattanooga, Stephen was in Atlanta, and David came down from Murfreesboro (where he had moved to study sound engineering) to help us record it. He did so using his 8-inch reel-to-reel. It was awesome.
Stephen would go on to form a new band, the Good Players, who would play at least a couple of these songs out. But that's a story I don't know much about. Stephen?
01) Comforts of Home
Stephen: Guitar, Voice, Keys, Drums
Jeff: Guitar, Voice
Matt Goldman: recording and production
02) Country, County
Stephen: Guitar, Voice, etc.
Jeff: Guitar, Bells, etc.
Joel: Trumpet, keys, etc.
Matt Goldman: Drums, production
Alex Peterson: Bass
Stephen: Voice, Xylophone
Jeff: Piano, Voice
David: Piano, Drums, Production
Stephen: Guitar, Voice, Keys
Joel: Voice, Keys
Jeff: Guitar, Voice
Matt Goldman: Drums, Production
Alex Peterson: Bass
released December 31, 2001
Matt Goldman - recording and production
David Morton - recording and production