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Annahstasia on Self-soothing Through Confession

The Los Angeles artist ruminates on artistic freedom, the creation of her EP Revival, and pulling from her heart.

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Annahstasia isnt here for success by any earthly merit. That sounds strange for an artist who’s appeared on COLORS and toured with rock legend Lenny Kravitz. The truth is her goals aren’t tangible but tangential, striving for, as she puts it, a “resonance with each other’s humanness.” The Los Angeles artist has just released Revival, a ‘Black folk’ EP that serves as her personal declaration of independence. After having spent the last few years soul-searching, it’s clear that Anastasia is on a path destined for greatness, defined only by herself to those that resonate with her stories. Throughout our conversation, one thing was clear, Annahstasia will spare no detail to tell her story, and she’s only just beginning.

Hey Annahstasia, how are you? How’s your week been?
I’m great. My week was great. I had the EP release party this week, that went really well. It was a really lovely venue with great people. Other than that I’ve been chilling; I’m about to be on the road for a while so just gathering myself.  

That show that you did looked really intimate. What was that space?
It was actually a church that turned into a bar called Chapel; it’s part of Fotografiska (Museum). It’s a very small space; they don’t usually do concerts, so you can seat max 40 people, maybe 100 if everyone stands up and packs in. But I wanted it that way. I wanted the people that have been there from the beginning of Revival’s journey, which started almost three years ago.  I also chose that venue because it’s cosy, gives off a Soho House vibe. Good drinks and low light, and we just hung out after the show. I wanted it to feel like it was your rich Aunt’s living room. 

That seems exactly the setting that your music lives in. This cosy, intimate space.  Is there a fear in you at all about losing that intimacy as the audience gets bigger?
I think all artists have to evolve with the audience. Where I am in my music journey, it was about making the music for my own self-healing. That’s why it feels so intimate; I’m trying to self-soothe through confession. Starting here, in terms of a journey, was intentional. Because I wanted to bring in the people that are good listeners, ones that really sit with you, empathise and feel their story in your song, I’m building a collective—people that follow the lore of you and follow the world that you create. Those people are going to show up again and again, and as that audience gets bigger, I hope that those same people start to resonate with each other.

In terms of me making music, I’ve always been an artist that pulls from her heart. My music Is probably always going to have the same themes of power, release and free will. Because I’m constantly ruminating over the same things; “How do I attain freedom?

I know, you had an EP out a couple of years ago. Called Sacred Bull, and you took that down from streaming. Does your quest for freedom have anything to do with your motivation behind that decision?
Sacred Bull was a beautiful experiment. It was me stretching my legs. I had come out of a pretty shitty label situation, and I wasn’t able to make music for a few years because of legal restraints. So I kind of quit music. I had been exploring fine art, ot a degree, and when I came back to LA, I met this guy from Melbourne, Jay Cooper.

It was exciting because it was the first time that I got to create with somebody and collaborate with no label breathing down my neck. Nobody talking about budget; it was just up to people collaborating. We just got to the studio, and we worked for like two years straight. I had this safe space with Jay, where I could be bad at guitar, and I could be bad at making beats. We created this very experimental landscape. I never had that before. Being from LA, everyone’s trying to discover you all the goddamn time. Ever since I was 16, you couldn’t get up to do a talent show without fucking Leonard Cohen’s wife being there. You couldn’t just be shitty at music for like two seconds, because people are always trying to find the next big thing.

By the time I finished the tour of Sacred Bull with Lenny Kravitz and we played all that music in a live capacity, I realised that the music that I had made was more of a collaborative project between me and Jay than my music. I started writing Revival, and I realised Sacred Bull felt like a deviation.

“I am the rock and the storm”

Where did the concept for Revival start?
So the first song that I wrote on Revival was ‘Midas’. I was at home during lockdown. And I was watching all sorts of insane shit happening through my phone at the time. In West Hollywood, there were guys going around beating up trans women, and I was just furious. I was just incensed by people’s cruelty, especially in this particular time. So I came to write this song as I did because it was about turning pain into power, how the moment before transmutation is paralysis. You’re just so stuck and overwhelmed, subjugated and oppressed. That’s why the song then shifts at the end, and it goes, “If I wait for it all to stand still, I’d be waiting I’d be waiting I’d be waiting for days until”.  It’s the knowledge you just have to keep pushing forward. Like Midas turns anything into gold. 

The next day, I went out for a drive, and I found in my Discover Weekly this album, The New Folk Sounds of Terry Callier. And this was a stunning folk album. It was done so simply it was just his voice, upright bass and guitar. That’s it. He did all the Folk classics like ‘900 Miles’, ‘I’m A Drifter’, all of these folk standards. I listened to that album, on repeat, for days as I just drove around LA. Here was this Black man who made this beautiful folk album! I remember when I first got discovered by a label, and I kept saying that I wanted to make folk music. And they told me that there was no market for Black people in folk, so here I was, all these years later—the pandemic hit and at a new juncture in my career after Sacred Bull, there came a slowness, this clarity that came where I knew, “I am going to quit music. If I have to keep doing it the way I’ve been doing it.”So I’m going to do what I set out to do when I was 17. Make folk music.

There’s a feeling of greater cohesion in regard to your identity on Revival. What has been the personal journey leading up to Revival?
On Revival, I really came back to myself; I am the rock and the storm. I think before; I was still so small. I believed in myself. I believed in my ability. I knew that I was bound for great things, whether that be great things long after I was gone, and somebody discovers my music then, or in this lifetime. Either way, I knew what I was doing had significance, I just didn’t know why. And I didn’t know what part of it was supposed to be a performance, what part of it was supposed to be me and what part of it to be a narrative. Revival is a womanly space. My territory, my own stories. What’s happened to me, what I’ve done to people, everything, I own it, and I move forward with it, and I carry that with me. A self-baptism into a new era of “I’m not going to explain anything about myself. I’m just going to tell you about my experience that you can take from it what you want.”

Now that Revival is out, have your goals changed from your ever-growing quest for freedom? What’s next for you?
The goal initially with Revival was just to make a Black folk album, and that was the end of the political point. Which wasn’t much of a political point. It was just like people told me I couldn’t do it, and the journey was yes I can!  Originally, I wanted to just do it on vinyl, because streaming services are criminal and steal from artists. But I realised that I was doing a disservice to Black folks like yourself, and folks globally, by it not being accessible. So I had to make peace with the idea that this is something I’m giving to the world, the flowers will come, the money will come, but I’m going to put out this signal and see who it reaches and see who gets called in. I think even with this new music I’m writing, that’s the goal now. Calling people in to resonate with each other’s humanness, it’s real hippy-dippy shit, but that’s what I believe will evoke purpose in myself, my collaborators and of course, my audience, even if it’s just one moment.

Follow Annahstasia here for more, and stream the EP Revival here.

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