The B-Side features collaborations between The Phoenix and WLUW 88.7.
Shortly after arriving at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, WLUW programming director Paul Quinn and promotions director Kaylie Plauche kicked off Pygmalion, an annual indie rock music festival, by heading over to the Blackbird to watch Anna Burch and Nectar.
The bar, Blackbird, was small and inviting. Entering through the beer garden, the pair grabbed drinks, shuffled to the front to stand in front of the backdrop of electronic slot machines and watched Nectar.
After Nectar’s quirky yet lively set, Quinn and Plauche had the opportunity to chat with Anna Burch over her beer of choice, Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter.
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Paul Quinn: “Quit the Curse” (Feb. 2, 2018) was your debut album. How does it feel to put it out on a record label like Polyvinyl and then tour the world?
Anna Burch: It’s been definitely a more legitimate year than I thought I would have, so it feels great. It kind of caught me by surprise and I think I’ve been too busy to overanalyze it too much.
PQ: Being in Europe for the last month or two, what’s been your favorite part of being overseas?
AB: The hospitality is really great. Lot’s of free food, booze and places to stay. … That’s been really nice. It’s a little bit of a tease sometimes because you know you go to a place you’ve never been before but you’re only there for like 18 hours, or something. So that can be a little bit of a bummer. But I mean I think European audiences are a little more appreciative.
PQ: What’s one European cuisine you’ve missed since coming back?
AB: I’ll tell you what I don’t miss, and it’s only been 2 days, the endless amounts of bread and cheese. … My favorite European thing though is a soft boiled egg that you crack into from the top and spoon out. … It’s so good — no one does that here.
Kaylie Plauche: So you worked with pop artist Paul Cherry on the album — how was that process?
AB: It was really casual. We were kind of just friends passing the time. He was in music school at the time doing a lot of self-recording, and I wasn’t really doing anything with music but we became friends while I was living in Chicago. Just kind of happened by accident. He asked if I had any songs we could work on and I had written like one song years prior, so we worked on a little demo together and it was really fun and [he was] supportive. [Cherry] told me to write more songs and come back and we would work on a record together.
KP: You have a lyric in “What I Want” that’s, “I won’t play the victim, just because I can’t get what I want,” What did you mean by that? Is there a story behind that?
AB: It’s weird actually talking about this in the context of the last year because it’s obviously a lot more loaded — the word victim particularly. What I meant was basically, if someone hurts your feelings, then it’s really easy to get defensive … Just put yourself in the role of the victim and it’s not a very productive way to go through life. Sometimes it just takes a little time to step away from something and think ‘yeah I contributed to this scenario, in my own way, and this person isn’t a bad guy.’ Not everything has to be so black and white.
KP: I really reconcile with that a lot. I was in a relationship where I started to victimize myself, but I realized I was just as much at fault, I said hurtful things too and I’m the bad guy just as much …
AB: I think there’s a lot of nuances that has gotten kind of skimmed over in some ways, in those dynamics and I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. Anytime you kind of put your life into this narrative of good and bad binaries, it’s just not a good way to live.
PQ: Now that you’re back home and relatively close to Chicago, what’s one thing you’re looking forward to being back in the city again?
AB: Well, I’m not in Chicago. I live in Detroit. Actually, I didn’t move back to Detroit because I really never lived in Detroit — I grew up in Southwest Michigan, actually closer to Chicago than Detroit. But, yeah, I moved to Detroit [about] four years ago. I really miss Chicago a lot. … The thing I miss most about Chicago is all the good movie theaters. … Showing classic movies and screening 35mm and all that stuff. … I love Music Box and Gene Siskel and Doc on the Southside.
KP: Anywhere you’re looking forward to visiting specifically when you come back to Chicago for your show at The Empty Bottle?
AB: If I have time, I’ll actually try and catch a screening. But, it’s the last date on a two and a half week tour, so it’ll probably depend on my band. … I’m looking forward to the Bottle — maybe get some breakfast at Bite Cafe (1039 N. Western Ave.).
This article was edited for length and clarity.
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Burch took the stage about 10 minutes after the interview. The artist went straight into her performance without an introduction.
When Burch announced her title track was released in February with Polyvinyl, the audience cheered with excitement. She went on to say, “Pretty sure this is the Polyvinyl staff party,” as the crowd chuckled at the underlying truth of the statement.
Burch went on to talk about the Champaign-Urbana based label and visiting their office just after returning from her European tour two days prior. She said, “It’s, like, 6 a.m. over there but [I’m] ready to party,” before playing her most popular track to date, “2 Cool 2 Care.”
Simmering down from her more upbeat song, she took a moment to introduce her next song.
“This next song is about dating a drug dealer” Burch said. “It’s called ‘Asking 4 a Friend.’”
With the lights dimmed, per request from Burch and the band, a seedier, intimate atmosphere developed. Taking notice to this, she said “We’re gonna slow it down a little bit, and play a country ballad,” while tuning her guitar for the song “Belle Isle.”
She asked the members of the band to exit the stage before playing a newer, solo song. Burch invited band members back onstage to close out the show with her more emotional tracks, “What I Want” and “Tea Soaked letter.”