Dark Punk from Texas: ANNEX “Despues de VI” LP streaming, review and interview!
Annex began in the Summer of 2013, but only recently released their ambitious dark punk debut LP, Despues de VI, on Mass Media Records in the US and on Imminent Destruction in Europe. From the Texas/Mexico border town of McAllen (or closely surrounding areas), the band fuse together a sometimes surprising assemblage of UK “positive punk” (i.e., proto-gothic rock), raw ’77 punk, and deathrock styles (deathrock of the sort that came out in the southwestern US in the early 1980s, that is). By “raw ’77 punk,” I mean the original punk bands like Penetration, X-Ray Spex, and the early version of Pink Military, bands that were female-fronted (like Annex) and that refused to conform to the expected norms of what “punk should be,” even back in those earlier days. Especially pertinent to Annex’s thoughtful sound are early 80s UK peace punk bands like Lost Cherrees, The Dead, Blood and Roses, and Rubella Ballet.
Annex’s off-kilter, postpunk-influenced-yet-still-mid-tempo punk approach features heavily on this debut LP, which follows last year’s eyebrow-raising “Nightmares” EP and subsequent short tour. Despues de VI is a collage of various punk, postpunk, and deathrock styles, all informed with the DIY punk ethos that fueled the approach of members’ earlier bands – bands that have included Bastard Sons of Apocalypse, Porkeria, and others.
Despues de VI is a galvanizing sampler of the various guitar-driven postpunk, deathrock, and anarcho-punk styles that have always informed and influenced the darker side of punk’s history, and this LP is a perfect summation of those sub-genres into one cohesive, holistic package. Highly recommended.
Stream Annex’s debut LP below:
It seemed right to get back in touch with Annex and see how things were going since their recording of this new LP. Annex was interviewed by Oliver in May, 2015.
So what new has happened since our last interview, last Summer (August 2014)? Your LP has finally come out…. How was recording that, and seeing it through to its release…?
Migas (guitarist): Our LP Despues de VI came out on May 26th. It was a great experience for everyone, we actually went into the studio to start recording a little after our last interview with CVLT NATION last year. The recording process was amazing! We all had lots of ideas with what we wanted to do and to make sure our sound would be well developed with lots of dark and experimental effects. Mass Media Records (U.S) and Imminent Destruction Records (U.K.) were so great with us through this whole process. It has been awesome working with both labels, everyone was real receptive and supportive! Since we started recording for this LP, we’ve been busy playing shows across Texas and working on our upcoming East Coast tour (August) in support of our LP and 7” “Silencio” which will be out this summer on Occult Whispers (U.S.).
I asked you all to describe yourselves musically last year. I’m wondering if you could do that again, and if you think the band has changed anyway? Has Annex changed musically? If so, what is the new direction?
Migas: The way we perceive ANNEX is more like a dark wave/post punk type of sound with vocals that are loud, that can be heard across the room.. With our live performances, we do like to be experimental at times, either through intros to a song or in between songs. I think for the most part we’ve always kept the same sound, we just never released anything else prior to our demo. We wanted to wait to release all of our songs on a full length LP, so we could bring everything we’ve got.
Nikole (singer): I think we can all agree that our sound is now more defined than what we released on our demo in March 2014. We’ve basically stuck to the same direction for our music throughout this past year ,but can more easily pin point what we’d like to create, since we are more familiar with our dynamics as a group making music together.
For folks who didn’t read the last interview, can you briefly state who plays what instruments in the band, where and when you all started, and where you’re located now?
Migas: We’re all from cities close to McAllen, Texas, a border town in the Rio Grande Valley. It’s way at the bottom of Texas, the southern tip… We live about 15 minutes give or take to the Reynosa US/MX bridge. ANNEX started in the Summer of 2013. We really liked what we were doing and thought it’d be fun to get some friends of ours to help out with a band. We parted ways with our first drummer in early 2014 and Arno took over with a different approach which really catapulted our sound. Our line up is Nikole – Vocals, Gabo – Bass, Arno – Drums and Me on Guitar.
I understand quite a few members have roots in the Texas hardcore scene – bands like Porkeria and Bastard Sons of Apocalypse. How has that DIY hc/punk background informed or influenced what you’re doing in Annex? Is Annex a punk band?
Migas: Yeah, we do have ties to the DIY hc punk scene, but I wouldn’t consider ANNEX hard at all. We fall more into the dark wave/cold wave/goth/deathrock scene that is gaining fans all over the DIY punk scene in these past few years. We are punks playing post-punk, and yes, we’re all fans of all types of punk, so I would say we are a punk band, but I think this band is more involved in the dark punk scene. Everything we do is diy, so the same ideals we had when we were in those bands apply the same to what we’re doing now. We just wanna have fun, jam and meet new people and musicians from all over the world!
Nikole: ANNEX is the on the edgier side of this dark wave movement. I often think dark punk – but I wouldn’t want that term to water us down musically. It’s typical we will have a pit going on during our sets. And then we have our dancers in the front. I think this is because of the power of the band and I see us as a high energy force that brings different scenes together because there is something for everyone. I really can’t see us going softer at all, and maybe this is why we still remind ourselves of our roots. That being said, 3/4 of us are currently in different hc punk bands, so we siphon our more aggressive musical tastes into those projects.
Where did you get the idea for the cover art of your new LP, Despues de VI? I saw a photo of a cave drawing left behind by a Gothic tribe in the Crimean area that looks remarkably like the design on the cover. Is it a reference to anything? What’s the story behind it?
Migas: Well, when we first had an idea about the artwork, it was going to be based off the Aztec mythology and about the Gods of the underworld in Mexico.. We knew we could relate to it because of our Mexican heritage. We liked that idea, but we wanted something to have sort of a minimal effect to it. So we chose to do minimal art instead, to have something that resembled our sound and our influences from the 80’s. We’re all very happy with the way it came out.
Nikole: We wanted to go with a cleaner and more modern look to really represent our sound. Through our ideas and the help of the artist who helped us piece it all together, the artwork exceeded all our expectations. I really like the detail to the cover as well – the cloud texture embedded in the Despues de VI lettering matches the sky in our band photo on the back of the LP. The photo was taken alongside a Texas coast which is my favorite part of the artwork.
What about the title “Despues de VI” – what does it mean or what is it a reference to…?
Migas: Despues de VI means “After 6” in Spanish. It goes back into the gods of the underworld in Mexico… after the 6th god was Tlaloc, a water deity. He was god of rain, lightning and thunder, which was everything dark and ominous in our eyes. So we knew that would be our concept for our record, knowing that it was going to be dark, energetic and fun. Everything went hand in hand and all the elements were well put together.
Where did you record “Despues de VI,” and how was the recording process?
Migas: We recorded this record in Mission, TX with our good friend JD. He has a nice setup, with great gear, and I think we all enjoyed working together! We started early September and finished in mid-October. The process was an awesome experience, we really got to bring all of our ideas together and kind of paste them together. On some of the songs, like ‘Blank Minds’ for instance, I did a vocal effect and added lots of delay/reverb/chorus to it, so it almost sounds like wind or a breathing sound/wave, but with way more intensity! We added few effects on different songs to balance out to how we really play live.
Was there a certain sound that you all were going for on the new LP? What are your primary influences, musically, as a band and do you feel that shines through in anyway on the new LP?
Migas: Musically, we all kinda just listen to the same stuff, but our main influences would be Xmal Deutschland, Killing Joke, New Order, Musta Paraati, Near Paris, Paraf and The Danse Society. We really weren’t going for a specific sound, we just wanted it to be clean and crisp. Like later Xmal/Killing Joke quality! We did try different effects on different songs and we kinda just picked what would fit and what we wanted to project through the LP as a whole. But overall, you can hear melodies that remind people of certain bands, so I think we do utilize those elements in our music.
Nikole: I really like the power of the vocals of Anja Huwe from Xmal and Magali from La Fraction. It was important to me and us to keep that style of stronger vox in Despues de VI. JD did a really good job with keeping us in track while recording…in other words, we explained what we needed to go into the LP and he made many helpful suggestions which gave us the sound we wanted.
Do you have any thoughts on dark punk, or goth punk, and why a lot of formerly hardcore bands or purist punk bands started to explore these sounds several years back? Why do you think bands are doing that and do you feel like Annex is a part of that dark punk scene (I mean bands like Dekoder, Blue Cross, Arctic Flowers, etc.)?
Migas: Well, I think lots of the punks who are involved in the dark scene really started something with a different approach to things, other than just fast/aggression hc punk music. To me, being in a band like ANNEX, I think it’s been a lot more challenging than just playing 3-4 chord variations in a punk band. The timing to the structure of a song – everything has to be on time or the listener will be able to point out a mistake. So when we put this band together, we knew that it was going to be cleaner, tighter and altogether have lots of experimental effects to it. It was basically going to be a tougher task than the other genres of punk we’re used to playing. I think ANNEX fits right into the dark punk scene, along with all these other great bands. The response we’ve been getting from lots of our favorite bands have been amazing, everyone has been great to us!
Nikole: I know, for us, ANNEX was a musical project for Migas and me to take on together. It was new and different for us. We saw the bands that had emerged from the dark punk scene and we quickly created a vision for ANNEX a bit after we met. I think as musicians, we enjoyed creating something new, beautiful and appealing to us. We wanted to take what was currently going on, take our influences and take our personal styles to produce a sound that we could call our own. We wanted to be able to play with dark wave/cold wave/goth/deathrock /post-punk bands and DIY hc punk bands all on the same bill and it would make sense. I would imagine formerly hardcore bands turned dark punk have a similar ideas. The great thing is, we have all been able to do it…transform from a previous style of playing to this particular sound.
What shows or events do you all have coming up, and where can folks go to buy your new LP?
Our upcoming shows:
7/15 – McAllen, TX w/ Blank Spell and Haldol
8/3 – NYC
8/4 – DC
8/5 – Richmond, VA
8/6 – Philadelphia, PA
8/7 – Boston, MA
8/8 – NYC Latino Punk Fest 2015
8/19 – Mcallen , TX w/ Lost Tribe
8/29 – San Antonio, TX // San La Muerte Fest 2015
11/19-21- Brownville, TX // Ruido Y Desmadre Fest II
You can order our records through Mass Media Records (U.S.) and Imminent Destruction Records (U.K.) Please order from the closest to where you live to avoid high postage rates.. We will have some records for sale at our upcoming shows, so come by and hangout with us if we play your city. Thanks for your time Oliver!