Editor’s Note: This interview originally ran on Feb. 4, 2020. Annie in the Water will be performing at Stowe Cider in Stowe, VT on Sept. 26. For more information, visit the event page on Facebook here.
Annie in the Water has just completed the most successful year in their career and is now embarking on the most ambitious tour of their career beginning this week. This tour has the band teaming up with Hayley Jane to perform Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album in its entirety and will visit venues across the Northeast throughout the month of February.
Annie in the Water’s second album Time to Play was released last summer. It’s an album comprised of songs the band has been playing live for years but hasn’t received the studio treatment until now. It’s an album that gives a snapshot of a band on the rise and a band ready to take on the live music scene with a vengeance.
The Spread Rumours Tour kicks off during Saranac Lake’s Winter Carnival on Feb. 5 at the Waterhole and concludes Feb. 22 at the Higher Ground in Burlington. Stops along the way include Frog Alley Brewing in Schenectady on Feb. 7, the Disruption Network’s Third Anniversary Party at the Jewish Community Center in Utica on Feb. 8, the Buffalo Iron Works on Feb. 12, and Flour City Station in Rochester on Feb. 13.
While they call the North Country home, Annie in the Water has roots all over the map. Their origin story stems from a chance meeting between singer/guitarists Michael Lashomb and Bradley Hester at Hobart College in Geneva in 2007. The two hit it off immediately and began jamming together. They would reconvene during summers off from college, jamming together and coaching at lacrosse camps. They recorded their first album Destination in 2011 while Hester was a graduate assistant coach at Jacksonville University.
Since forming, the band has undergone several lineup changes, with Hester and Lashomb the only constant over the years. The band is now a six-piece with the addition of former Formula 5 keyboardist Matt Richards last July. Brock Kuca (drums/percussion), Ryan Trumbull (drums) and Chris Meier (bass) complete the unit.
Annie in the Water and Hayley Jane have been rehearsing for this tour for the past several months and are set to kick it all off this Wednesday in Saranac Lake.
We recently sat down with the band to discuss their history, their influences and the upcoming Spread Rumours Tour with Hayley Jane.
Mike Kohli: First, I’d like to start by finding out more about each of you individually. Where is each of you from? What path brought you to where you are today?
Bradley Hester: I grew up all over the place, born in Colorado. I also lived in Ohio, Japan, Virginia, and I came to Upstate New York by way of Hobart College. Since college, I’ve been in Upstate doing the Annie in the Water thing but also coaching lacrosse. I will probably always coach lacrosse because it’s one of the ways I am bringing my value to life and I have learned so many things from the game that continue to impact the way I live my life.
Michael Lashomb: I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. My parents were originally from Ogdensburg, New York. We would go visit Upstate and work on my grandfather’s land whenever we had time off from school, so I was able to become familiar with the North Country landscape and inner-city life throughout my childhood.
While I was in Cleveland, I was exposed to a lot of diverse styles of music. There was always new music coming through mainstream radio when I was a kid, also a lot of hip-hop and funk influence in the city. In the North Country, I was exposed to more roots style and country. So I had a good blend that influenced me. When I was about 11 years old, I heard blink-182’s song “Dammit” on the radio and I immediately thought of ways to learn the song. That motivated me and I just started diving into all sorts of musical styles. I specifically started basing my early style of play on John Frusciante’s (Red Hot Chili Peppers) fretboard work.
Throughout my late teens and early 20’s, I was always picking up different jobs to try to make it work. I moved down to Florida at one point and was recruited to be a lacrosse coach and teacher at a prep school in Jacksonville. After that, I went out to L.A. for a short time and worked on the TV show The Amazing Race. In my late 20’s, I decided to go full-time music. No Plan B for me. I couldn’t imagine not pursuing music as my life path.
Brock Kuca: I was born and raised in a little town called Morristown on the St. Lawrence River (Thousand Islands). I started playing music at the age of 10, the saxophone. That didn’t really work out so well. I discovered the guitar at age 12. That’s when the sparks flew and music became the main priority in my life. Before joining Annie in the Water full-time, I cooked fancy food in a local restaurant. I was also a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and worked production at music festivals. Although I have a deep passion for cooking, it’s hard to really imagine my life without some kind of musical influence in it.
I met Mike and Brad some eight or nine years ago. Wow, that’s hard to believe. They would invite me out to play gigs in Potsdam, Alexandria Bay, Clayton and Watertown. I’ve shared the stage with various, very credible and outstanding musicians since then but the present combination of the six of us is a special thing. We are all writers/composers and are just starting to explore that realm with one another.
Chris Meier: I’m originally from Chatham, New York. My path to where I currently am heavily involved my time spent at SUNY Oneonta, where I met my bandmates from my first group, Space Carnival. We were lucky enough to have a great scene that eventually led to where I am now.
Ryan Trumbull: Well, I grew up in the Adirondacks. I was born in Saranac Lake. All of my family members had some sort of musical talent, especially my uncle who had played drums for a long time.
Matt Richards: I was born in Albany and reside just outside of the city in Delmar, NY. My life’s musical journey through multiple bands — my high school and SUNY New Paltz band, The Assortment of Crayons, followed by my three-plus years with Formula 5 immediately after college — is what brought me to Annie in the Water. If I weren’t making music, I’d likely be studying how birds make music.
MK: The group has evolved over the years, adding new members as recently as this past summer. Have the six of you started to gel as a unit yet?
BH: I feel we gelled the first time we played with each other in a rehearsal. The first show we played together felt like the right thing. The music and the feelings that go with it all get tighter as we continue to push ourselves into unknown territory. As long as we allow ourselves the freedom to explore at shows, we can uncover parts of our potential that would never have happened if we limited ourselves.
ML: The band finally became a full unit when Matt Richards joined in July of 2019. The first rehearsal we had, I personally felt that he was the glue of the entire unit and the gelling started then. Chris and Rippy (drummer Ryan Trumbull) had already been in the mix for six months and they were really sinking in with the backbeat and Brock has made considerable strides as a percussion player.
Everyone in the band is open to trying new things. They are constructive and they are professional. I am extremely lucky to have such great people in this band. I believe all of our collective experiences and knowledge have come together well. All of our individual skills have made the growth quick.
MR: We certainly have. I find our unity became most evident in what is now known as “The Church Set.” We were supposed to perform outside in Potsdam on Sept. 7 last year but due to poor weather conditions, we performed inside the local Methodist Church. We were effortlessly one cohesive unit this set, and have remained so since.
RT: I think we are just starting to mold our sound.
CM: Most definitely. We’ve really taken off as a unit and it feels like the sky’s the limit.
MK: How does the songwriting process work for you guys? Is there one person doing all the writing or is everyone given free rein to submit material?
BH: Songwriting works in a variety of ways. The album Time to Play is a collection of some of the songs Mike and I have been playing and performing for years, but I really enjoy opening up the floor for all ideas while we are creating. I feel like the best ideas can come into something with an open canvas, so even if one of us writes a song, everyone else can add ideas to it and add great elements. Everyone in the group is a creator, so I like to keep open the possibility of anyone bringing a song to the group and for the group to help develop.
ML: AITW music is a collective of material. Everyone in the band writes, which is terrific. Now that we have had some time to develop, we are more focused on writing as a unit. Sometimes a song can be written collectively but also one person may have a vision for a song, and as a group, it’s important for us to all do our best to help facilitate that creation. Songwriting will always be an evolutionary process for this band.
MR: We all have so many songs from our past that we want to work in this group. Perhaps everyone in this band is a terrific songwriter. There is a strong desire to work as one to create music in the future. Additionally, Bradley and I have performed a number of duo shos and write at least one song each time, live, in front of an audience. That is a process that is new to me but I love very much. Songwriting can be improvisation slowed down and improvisation can be songwriting sped up.
CM: This has been the most open format for writing I’ve ever been a part of. Everything is on the table.
MK: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
BH: When I was young, I grew up on Top 40 hits and was influenced by country music through my parents. Garth Brooks was a go-to of mine when I was in elementary school and, strangely enough, because of my older sister, the Backstreet Boys had an impact on me before I became a teenager. Throughout middle and high school I got into bands like Styx, 311, 30 Seconds to Mars, Finch, Our Lady Peace, blink-182. From the hip hop angle, Eminem is someone I paid a lot of attention to in terms of diction and delivery of language, Kid Cudi for breaking out of norms, B.O.B., Andre 3000, Sammy Adams for their unique approaches. Bob Marley is a huge influence on me as well. Mike introduced me to Phish back in 2008 and I had such an uplifting experience that I knew I was going to achieve similar things with our band with time and patience.
I’m always influenced a little by the other bands in our scene, especially the bands we have the pleasure of playing with. Michael Franti and Spearhead, Andy Frasco, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Swamp Kids, Wild Adriatic, John Brown’s Body, Goose, Turkuaz, Big Something, moe., Twiddle, Nina’s Brew, among others. There are too many to name but I am slightly influenced by everyone I am lucky enough to experience!
ML: When I was eight years old, I was obsessed with the Grateful Dead. Not so much their music, but their artwork. I had t-shirts and patches on my backpack and everything. What is interesting is how their music has been woven into my style almost naturally. But besides them as an overall musical influence, I grew up on folk music — Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I’m also a big fan of The Band. I love Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem and Sigur Ros. Those are my ethereal outlets. I also loved punk in high school: Ten Foot Pole, MxPx, Pennywise, blink-182, Less Than Jake, 311, NoFX, but also heavy stuff like GWAR, Korn and Rammstein.
I got into jamband/bluegrass style stuff in high school. Stuff like String Cheese, Bela Fleck, Dispatch, moe., Umphrey’s McGee. Phish was a discovery that changed the whole game. But recently I have been getting more into traditional Celtic music like The Dubliners and different modern composition styles like Bon Iver and Hans Zimmer. Very grateful for all the music I have been exposed to.
MR: Steely Dan, Animal Collective, Ween, Yes, MGMT, Circa Survive, Phish, Vince Guaraldi, McCoy Tyner, The New Deal, RAQ, nature (like actual nature, not a band), Wilco, Dave Brubeck, Talking Heads. Okay, I gotta stop myself somewhere but I know I am missing at least 50 artists and will kick myself for not including them.
RT: Stewart Copeland, Brain (Primus), Anika Nilles, Benny Greb.
CM: Sly Stone, Beck, Motown, Steely Dan.
MK: When did you first develop a relationship with Hayley Jane? This tour sounds like it will be a fun collaboration. What was the genesis of the idea to do a Rumours tour together?
BH: I first developed a relationship with Hayley Jane back in 2016 when I posted myself doing a vocal exercise for the first time in eight months. She contacted me and was curious about what happened to me because she wanted to offer her experience going through vocal issues. We’ve been friends ever since, sitting in and co-creating whenever possible.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how fragile our vocal cords can be if they do not get proper attention and strength training, but they are also very resilient and can come back from injury stronger than ever, which is how I feel now. I was able to dissolve the cyst that formed on my right vocal cord by taking many months of pure rest and also learning how to properly warm-up. Staying away from alcohol and drugs and remembering to stay healthy and hydrated is key to my intention to make my vocal cords last as long as I can stay alive.
ML: Brad and I first met Hayley Jane about four years ago in Vermont and that’s when a relationship started. The Vermont music scene has a tendency to bring like-minded people together. The project idea started when we were all at Grassroots in Shakori Hills, NC. Our band had been on a pretty solid Fleetwood Mac kick for a while so when we were in North Carolina, Chris was talking with Hayley about playing a Fleetwood Mac song. I’m not exactly sure how the conversation went because I wasn’t there, but now there’s a tour put together and I’m playing in it.
CM: I’ve been aware of Hayley for a number of years but we formally met last fall at Shakori Hills Grassroots Music Festival. The idea was developed there over the conversations we had in our RV on tour.
MR: I first met Hayley through Formula 5. She would perform with us in Burlington at Nectar’s when we would get up there. I think since we all love Rumours it just felt natural we reach out to Hayley and see if she would be interested in doing this with us. It all fell into place seemingly well.
MK: Thanks to all the members of Annie in the Water for your participation. Best of luck with this most ambitious tour.
The upcoming tour will have Hayley Jane opening each show with a set of original material, followed by a complete run-through of Fleetwood Mac’s storied Rumours album featuring Hayley Jane alongside Annie in the Water and concluding with a full Annie in the Water set.
Tickets are available now for all shows on the Spread Rumours Tour. For more information on the tour and where to purchase tickets check out the Annie in the Water website here. Check out the band’s latest album Time to Play below.