An interview with Texas dark punk/postpunk band Annex by Oliver Sheppard
With current and former members of Confused, Porkeria, Bastard Sons of Apocalypse, and Accuse in their ranks, McAllen, Texas band Annex‘s turn towards a darker postpunk sound might surprise some.
Started in Summer 2013, guitarist Migas mentions how the tight-knit scene in the band’s Texas/Mexico border town has influenced the band’s music: “I would say the scene here is very diverse,” says Migas. “Basically the people you would see at hardcore punk shows, there’s a possible chance you’ll see them at a goth night, or an 80’s new/dark/cold wave event.” Bridging these musically diverse scenes is something ANNEX has achieved with its 4-song EP, Joy Division covers, and upcoming dark postpunk material (An LP is in the works). In reality, Annex play a blend of peace punk, postpunk and deathrock that was not too uncommon in the “positive punk” scene in the UK of yesteryear (The clumsily-named proto-gothic rock/punk scene that included Vex, Blood and Roses, Famous Impostors, Brigandage, Lost Cherrees and others), before these disparate styles of music had become, well, disparate styles of music, and had lost all sense of relation to one another. Annex do a superb job of linking the music all back up together, and it was a pleasure to be able to hear their thoughts on music and what being in a band like theirs is like in a Texas/Mexico border town.
(Additionally, below there is some info on a mini-Texas tour of sorts of theirs coming up at the end of August.)
ANNEX’s Nikole, Migas, and Gabo were interviewed by Oliver in July, 2014.
Q: Can you give us all the lowdown on when ANNEX started, where you are from, and who all founded the band versus who is in it now?
Migas: We’re from McAllen, TX, where the heat is scorching…haha no joke! We live about 15 minutes away from the U.S./Mexico border, so you can say we’re at the most southern tip of Texas. The area we live in is also known as the Rio Grande Valley or the Valley for short. Our permanent line-up is: Nikole – Vox, Gabo – Bass, Arno – Drums and Me on Guitar.
Nikole: Migas and I started writing music together in the Summer of 2013, and it was basically an instant click since we share a lot of the same musical influences. We thought it’d be different to start a band like ANNEX since we’ve played and delved in other musical genres before, but never post-punk. Plus, playing this style of music isn’t common in the Valley. Gabo and Ramiro joined ANNEX around last November, Gabo on bass and Ramiro on drums. We worked with Arno and Threat to Society Recordings to record, produce and master our four track, self-titled EP. We released the EP this past March and played a few shows around Texas. Ramiro left the band so we asked Arno to join in on drums which has really flowed because he was already familiar with the music from the recording sessions.
Gabo: We’re all from little cities around McAllen, TX, but we just say McAllen because it’s so much easier to explain. I had known for some time that Migas was writing for a new project. He actually had invited me to check out what he had been writing. It was sometime in October, and I really liked what I heard and after that I wanted to join for sure. So we got together in November and Migas invited Ramiro to fill in on drums and we just started creating music from that point on. Although Ramiro isn’t with us anymore, our drummer Arno has exceeded our expectations and he’s such a great person to work with.
Q: I know Migas was in Bastard Sons of Apocalypse and also ACCUSE. What are some bands that some of the other members have been in?
Nikole: I played bass in Porkeria (McAllen, Texas) around 2009 for about a year and later joined Confused (Edinburg, Texas) in 2010. I met Arno when I was in Confused since he’s their drummer. Confused is a hardcore punk band from the 80’s which originated here in the Valley and has strong ties as one of the original HC punk bands in the Valley. All of us in ANNEX have been part of various projects that have been short lived or that have continued, and that’s really cool since we’ve all been musically active in different branches of the scene for quite some time.
Q: About your name, “Annex.” Who thought of it, and what it is supposed to mean or represent?
Nikole: The idea of “Annex” encompasses isolation or distancing oneself away from all external surroundings. I thought of the name ANNEX before I had written any lyrics because I wanted to write around the band name and the feelings it provokes. It calls for a state of seclusion where one is able to escape from things that may negatively distract them from engaging in their own well-being (at the risk of sounding selfish! haha). I also interpret ANNEX to be an extension of each of us in the band. This is really important since we all contribute in our own ways. I can definitely tell how this band has grown us and, now, when I think of ANNEX, I think of the effort we each display and the great times we have building this band together.
Q: Tell me a bit about the town you all are from, McAllen. Were you all originally from there, did some of you move there, and, most importantly, what is the punk or underground music scene like there? Is it hard being in a band like Annex in McAllen?
Migas: I’m actually from a small town called Alamo, Texas. It’s right outside of McAllen. All of us are from different cities around the McAllen area, but every city is pretty much glued together, so you can say it’s very convenient to get around. By far, McAllen is where the scene is at down here for us on this side of the Valley. It has grown in population over the last decade, so it’s always good to see new faces doing their own thing. I would say the scene is very diverse, basically the people you would see at hardcore punk shows, there’s a possible chance you’ll see them at a goth night or an 80’s new/dark/cold wave event. Being in this band has been really fun and it seems like the people around us are very supportive and enjoy everything about us and how we present ourselves. I just think we’re trying to do something completely different versus what has already been done in this area.
Gabo: I grew up in Mexico and I moved to the Valley in my late teenage years. I’ve been in thrash and HC punk bands down here before and there’s a strong scene supporting that music. Living in a border town and being in a band like ANNEX has been a different experience so far. I guess it’s because people are more conservative around here and are used to what they’ve grown up with. Regardless, we definitely do receive support from people who have heard our recordings or who have seen us. Even friends from surrounding cities around the Valley are supportive. In a few years, maybe there will be a bigger post-punk scene down here.
Q: You all seem to have backgrounds in the DIY hardcore punk scene, but I wouldn’t call Annex a hardcore punk band. What sorts of responses have you gotten from folks in the hardcore punk scene? Have they been receptive, positive, or has there been snarkiness, etc., about the music being slow, riding a trend, and that lame crap that comes up?
Migas: Yeah I agree, I don’t really think we are a hardcore punk band at all… Although we are HC punks, I would just say we are a post-punk band trying to stay in tune and on time. Haha… But yeah, all of us are DIY punks and most of our friends are in hardcore punk bands, so it’s quite a transition when they hear us and see us live. We definitely get awesome feedback on how it’s a darker and more experimental side of punk than what most people are used to. I think that the pace we play at is full of expressions and emotions, and people who have seen us say that it reminds them of music writing from a different decade. Just as long as I’m not putting someone to sleep, that’s fine with me! haha
Nikole: Overall, we’ve gotten a really good response from people who have made it out to watch us perform. We’ve received comments about how ANNEX resembles 80’s darkwave or UK Anarcho Punk, which is taken as a great compliment. I think the sound we have is different from the majority of bands playing here in the scene. Typically, we fit in more with the darkwave, Goth scene that’s alive and kicking in the Valley, even though we’re mostly tied to the DIY scene. I think our sound has elements from punk to post-punk and dark-wave, that gains the attention of people who listen to different genres.
Q: And so about the sound of Annex: Are there any musical guideposts or influences that, well, influenced you to have the sound you do? I remember telling Migas after seeing you live it sort of reminded me of Vex, but of course with a female singer. I’m guessing the non-thrash anarcho-punk bands like Rubella Ballet were an influence? And what about gothic rock or deathrock?
Migas: Hmmm… There’s so much great music out there. Let’s see, my influences for this particular band are: Musta Paraati, Siekiera, Coïtus Int., Pyhät Nuket, The Skeletal Family, Vex, Crisis and of course Killing Joke! But I also listen to bands like Ruleta Rusa, Las Rodilleras, Crimen, Cuidad Lineal, She Past Away, La URSS, Rakta, Fluffers etc… I really like to experiment with different elements, sounds and altogether production from all sorts of genres. So I can’t really say our influences or our style comes from one source or one specific genre. It’s a mixture of what I think really fits. At the moment, everything happens to shift from one song to the next or from one practice to another… It’s awesome to hear how our sound is developing and constantly growing.
Nikole: The music writing typically flows because Migas and I share the same vision for ANNEX and, plus, we trust Migas’ music writing, ideas, and suggestions. More often than not, I am more attracted to European vocalists and tend to gain influences from their strong singing. We do have a lot of influences, yet I think we tend to extract certain components of songs, rather than an entire band’s style, and re-create the pieces to innovate our sound.
Q: In my mind, you all are one of a handful of bands in Texas that belongs to a broader scene that seems especially big on the two US coasts and includes bands like Arctic Flowers, Stranger, Moral Hex, etc., and which I suppose also includes bands like Belgrado in Spain, Rakta in Brazil, Pleasure Leftists in the Midwest, etc., etc. Is that where you see yourselves fitting in, and what do you think of that side of the punk scene that’s been emerging over the past few years?
Migas: All of those bands that you mentioned are really great. I would like to think we do fit in the same genre, but of course every band has their own sound and their own twist to it. I mean, there’s a lot of good music coming out every day and it’s great because more and more people find it so appealing. The scene keeps growing and there’s a good amount of people coming out to shows and supporting each other… and that’s what it really is all about.
Nikole: I’d definitely say ANNEX fits into the post-punk/darkwave punk scene. When we first started writing ANNEX, we contemplated over how our music would be perceived because we could never really say we sounded like a particular band. We have actually just let others draw their own conclusions about where ANNEX fits in with well-established or up-and-coming post-punk bands. Every band has their own particular sound, yet they’re still collective through musical elements, which is amazing. All the relevant bands are able to keep their own identity while being a part of a unique genre of punk that ties them altogether. This wave is definitely a darker, maybe slower, more melodic segment of punk that’s intriguing and, I feel, a sort of revival of a sound that was left in the 80’s.
Q: Does Annex express anarchist convictions in your music? What are your political beliefs, and do these in any way guide the ethos or lyrics-writing process of the band?
Nikole: In a sense, a good portion of the lyric writing is derived from feeling free, however that may be perceived, and definitely being free from ties to organizations, authoritative figures, entities which try to hold a tight grip onto all of us. There are a couple of songs, like “No Warning” and “Spirit Sin,” that, lyrically, are politically related. However, the writing is mostly done from a reflective stance. I’ve never identified with being too politically concerned, and I believe that’s due to being tainted by the different levels of government. I just want to take a step back and anticipate that good principles and morals will overcome the inconvenience of politics. When writing lyrics, I focus on the way something or an event makes someone feel and it’s often done in a vague manner because I’d hope listeners are able to take the lyrics and interpret them to their liking, whether they feel a political connection or not.
Q: Fave question to ask bands: If you were stranded on a deserted island for the rest of your life, and somehow had the means to bring vinyl and make a record player work, what would be the 5 LPs you would choose to have with you for the rest of your life?
Migas: I seriously think that’s one of the toughest questions to ask someone.. Off the top of my head in no particular order… Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power, The Adverts Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts, Killing Joke S/T, Musta Paraati Peilitalossa, Siekiera Nowa Aleksandra.
Nikole: Depeche Mode Singles 81-89, XMal Deutschland Viva, Ana Curra Volviendo A Las Andadas, Avengers S/T, & Lebanon Hanover The World is Getting Colder
Q: I know you all recently contributed a Joy Division cover for the CVLT Nation Unknown Pleasures covers project. And you all have the cassette demo. Are there any upcoming releases you all have in the works? Where can folks go to get these?
Migas: It was much appreciated when ANNEX got asked to record the cover we did for Joy Division’s “Day of the Lords”… one of the few pioneers of the movement, and by far one of the greatest bands of our time. We have an LP in the works coming out really soon and our demo cassettes that are still available. We’re releasing a limited edition cassette (50) with 2 songs off the demo and 2 off the LP as a teaser till our release date. Hopefully you guys can get your hands on these! You can contact us at: email@example.com.
Nikole – We really put so much into the recordings we have! Being asked to be a part of the Unknown Pleasures covers presented such an awesome experience for us because we got to really see what we were capable of as a band, since we’ve only been together a short while. We’re currently in the works of completing our LP called Despues de VI. It’s an eleven track LP we are really looking forward to releasing because we’ve definitely grown as a band and our sound is now more defined and distinct. We’ll leak a couple of finished tracks before it’s released by a label but we’ll definitely keep everybody updated!
Q: Thank you so much for you time!
ANNEX: Thank you Oliver! Cheers!
ANNEX have a Facebook page here.
They also have a Bandcamp page here.
CVLT Nation’s write-up on Annex here.
The CVLT Nation Sessions: Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” covers (which features Annex’s cover of Joy Division’s “Day of the Lords”)