TEENAGE YEARS – Ann My Guard
Eszter Anna Baumann from rising new stars Ann My Guard on the struggles of trying to break through internationally
Bursting out of Budapest last year came the intriguingly-named Ann My Guard with their first full-length album ‘Innocence Descent’. A sparky and spunky debut which at turns both battles and beguiles, ‘Innocence Descent’ is the first stop on a journey for vocalist/bassist Eszter Anna Baumann which began back in 2007.
“Originally,” she begins, “the band was formed in 2007, after I had recorded my very first demo in my home town, Békéscsaba. On that recording, I played on all the instruments except the drums. Afterwards I moved to Budapest to go to university, and started looking for other musicians to play these songs live with me.” Not that keeping a stable line-up was easy. “No,” she laughs. “I wouldn’t deny that the band members in the last seven years have been almost constantly changing; in my opinion it’s very hard to get the right musicians into your band, those who are totally committed to music and to struggling on, especially if you’re not particularly successful in the music industry at that time. So there were many disagreements about our musical direction with former members, and also about working hard at keeping the band alive, but I do think this problem has now ended with this current line-up,” which also sees guitarists Norbert Nagy and Krisztián Varga and drummer Norbert Tobola sharing the stage with Eszter. “As I said,” she continues, “Ann My Guard has been in existence in one form or another since 2007, and in that time we’ve played loads of live shows here in Hungary and abroad as well, recorded two EPs [‘Cinderella’s Syndrome’ and ‘Doll Metal’] and then released our debut album last year. But I feel that for us things have just begun and all these experiences and things from the past are very instructive experiences.” As for the band’s rather unusual name, “according to a Christian myth,” she reveals, “your second name is the name of your guardian angel. I am Eszter Anna, so that’s why ‘Ann’ is there. And rock music is my savour in life, so my guardian angel, if you like.”
Recorded in 2013 at Black Hole Sound Studio in Szeged (Hungary’s fourth largest city, apparently) by a line-up with featured guitarist István Tagscherer and drummer Joci Vadász alongside Eszter and Krisztián ‘Innocence Descent’ is not an easy album to categorise, pulling in influences from across the metal spectrum, and it’s perhaps not surprising that this reflects Eszter’s diverse musical education. “I studied classical music for fifteen years,” she explains, “so composers like Debussy, Tchaikovsky or Béla Bartok significantly influenced my music. Also, I listen to many Scandinavian – especially Finnish – bands whose melodic, dark and even symphonic music matter a lot to me. What else?” she thinks… “I like the heavier stoner riffs, nu metal and importantly grunge and alternative rock bands from the Nineties. From this period, I also admire female bands like Babes in Toyland or Veruca Salt, and I also get inspiration from the Riot Grrrl movement both from its musical and aesthetic aspect. And then there’s female singers for instance like Björk, or Chelsea Wolfe as well who I admire.”
The album itself is about “my teenage years,” she notes. “I wrote these songs back then and besides, lyrically ‘Innocence Descent’ is about a girl losing her innocence, the time at which she starts discovering her new identities. The guys in the band also put a lot of work into the songs, and we are very satisfied with the outcome. Although I hate the word ‘categorise’ [oops!] I’d place the album somewhere between melodic metal and alternative rock, which is probably what was usual from a female-fronted band many years ago, although we also think that it boasts a number of possible crossover hit singles in the likes of ‘Crush Honey’, ‘Dark Sea Blue’, ‘Ivory Ballad’ or ‘Morgana’s Song’.
“Our aim is to reach new audiences from all over the world,” she continues. “I try to communicate with a lot of musicians from several countries every day. I think sharing experiences with each other is very useful for independent artists. Everyone knows that music industry has changed and we – musicians –are at the core of it now. Nowadays, people have stopped going to see new live bands, or even many of the big bands. Labels rarely sign new acts, so you must have the money for recording your songs, or shooting your own music video. I know a lot of very talented people in my country who are close to giving up their musical careers because of the lack of support and hard conditions. But I always think positively and I know that even if it’s difficult as hell, with the use of social media and my art, I can reach people with my music.”
Eszter also has a realistic view of the way a band needs to approach its early days. “I see the band not only as an artistic act,” she concedes, “but as a marketable product which needs to be properly promoted. That’s why we’ve started to concentrate on our international presence. We signed to the Norwegian label Smash Fabric Records for three years, and have now started to work with the UK-based indie Shamanize Records. We’re planning to record some new songs in England this summer and also to organize a small tour over there. So, to be honest, I’d suggest to any band that they don’t worry about the current situation in the rock music business: just concentrate on your strengths, and work hard on getting recognised. I’ve been doing this for years,” she says, emphatically, “and never think about giving up. We have a message that we want to share. And we do our best with our live shows: we are literally crazy on stage! To sum it all up,” she laughs, “we are Ann My Guard!”
© John Tucker January 2015