Annie Hart

While stuck in lockdown like the rest of us, musician Annie Hart took the time to talk with QRO....
Annie Hart : Q&A

Annie Hart : Q&A

While stuck in lockdown like the rest of us, musician Annie Hart took the time to talk with QRO. In the conversation, Hart discussed her latest record, A Softer Offering (QRO review), being a parent & homeschooling during a pandemic, making music in her basement, making a video in Union Square, livestreams, how her Au Revoir Simone (QRO spotlight on) bandmates are doing, their number one fan, being on the Twin Peaks revival, and more…



QRO: How are you doing, with everything that is going on?

Annie Hart: Really well! I think the best, possible, pandemic lifestyle… [laughs]

As bad as it is, I’m feeling really grateful for everything that I do have.

QRO: But you are in New York City, with your husband & children?

AH: Yeah.

QRO: How is it being a parent during a pandemic?

AH: I feel really lucky because I was homeschooled, so I kind of have a different approach to time away from kids, how to approach homeschooling, and what that even means. Also, my husband’s a tour manager, so both of our work is totally stopped, other than creative work.

Financially, things are like ugh, fail, but as far as life with the kids, it’s really going well.

QRO: How old are they?

AH: One is nine-and-half, and the other one is just about five.

QRO: So they were in school, before all of this.

AH: [The five-year-old] was in pre-K. The teachers still try to have Zoom meetings, but if you watch them, they’re a bunch of four-year-olds on their parent’s lap, picking their nose, [laughs] ‘Why are we here? There’s nothing going on.’ And just like, ‘Hi! Hi!’

QRO: [laughs] Zoom pre-K doesn’t quite work…

AH: No. I don’t think kids should be really watching anything, or if they do, it should be a treat, at that age.

So I don’t attend. I guess I ‘illegally took her out of school,’ you could say, but whatever – it’s a pandemic…

I feel really lucky because I was homeschooled, so I kind of have a different approach to time away from kids, how to approach homeschooling, and what that even means.

[The nine-and-a-half-year-old], on the other hand, has an hour-long Zoom meeting everyday, sometimes with optional extra time. He’s got all these math assignments, and writing assignments – he’s even got gym assignments, all these projects. He’s very busy with school.

To me the other day, he was to me, ‘I wish I had more time for the fun homeschooling stuff…’

I was raised – they call it “unschooling,” where it’s kind of child-led learning. Where basically the parents don’t do anything; the kid’s just like, ‘I’m interested in this.’ Read the encyclopedia, and then like figure it out. Kind of pursue your interests deeply, for years on end.

I kinda wish that I was able to give my kids more of that experience, especially Henry, ‘cause he’s older, and able to absorb more, and have more critical thinking in approaching it. And I always wanted to homeschool them, so I feel really lucky to get this time to attempt it.

But regular schoolwork is derailing it…

QRO: The weather just got nice in New York – does that make this easier, or harder, as a parent?

AH: I don’t know. I bring the kids out in all kinds of weather, I don’t care what, they’re going outside to play for at least an hour a day. So they go out and play, and we go on walks.

It is kind of hard, because the only play they have available now is street play, because there’s no playground. But we’ll like walk to the park, and then run a lap around the park, and try to wear them out. Because I don’t think it’s fair to children to not let them have at least an hour of outdoor play a day – they’re growing; they should not be indoors.

So I do that, even in bad weather. I’ll put them in their galoshes and make them go on long walks.


I kind of honed my skills on the first record, of like trusting my voice. It was definitely easier, the second time around, because you just used to trusting your inner self.


QRO: How was making A Softer Offering?

AH: Oh, that was awesome – so cool!

I had a bunch of songs. I had so many songs because I’m actually in the songwriters group with Keith [Murray] (QRO interview) from We Are Scientists (QRO spotlight on) and some other people. It’s usually about every month or so, we sit and try to write four songs, and then we present them to each other. So, at the end of a year or two of doing that, I had so many songs.

So I got all the dreamiest ones together, and then we recorded them. I didn’t feel any pressure. I just found the material from the vast pile of material [laughs] I had that really spoke to me, or I wanted to listen to again. Finessed it until it was a record.

QRO: Was the title meant to be so literal?

AH: Yeah. It really was. I’m really into all kinds of wordplay. I’m obsessed with the sounds of words, and how they flow together. I really like that title.

QRO: It was your second solo record (after 2017’s Impossible AccompliceQRO review). Was the whole process easier, this time around?

AH: Yeah, I definitely felt more confident in understanding, following my own heart. Because I was so used to working with Erica [Forster] (QRO interview) & Heather [D’Angelo] from Au Revoir Simone. We were all each other’s editors, very strong collaborators.

So when I first started making music alone, I was like, ‘Ugh – I don’t have any reference point, whether this is good music or bad music, or if it’s boring, of if it needs a bridge.’ Anything that I had ever relied on them creatively for – that was just all gone.

I kind of honed my skills on the first record, of like trusting my voice. It was definitely easier, the second time around, because you just used to trusting your inner self.

My kids are writing their own lyrics on top of my new songs, which is really fun.

QRO: Have you been writing/making music during all of this?

AH: Oh yeah, totally, definitely! New songs, and then I’m working on another record. I’m working a lot on music, but obviously I don’t have free childcare six hours a day, [laughs] so the pace is a little different…

QRO: [laughs] You’re not writing kids songs?…

AH: [laughs] No, although my kids are writing their own lyrics on top of my new songs, which is really fun.

QRO: Are you tilting more towards happy or sad songs?

AH: I have this problem, where I can never write a happy song.

I think the only happy song I ever wrote was “Hard To Be Still”. Every single one of my songs is just a sad song. There’s nothing I can do about it… [laughs]

But I think the energy is happier. This album is a more upbeat album.

QRO: How much of a home studio do you have?

AH: I have like a basement with a lot of synthesizers.

But it’s not fancy at all. I don’t have soundproofing, or any sort of acoustic treatment. I have some monitors, and some gear. But that’s all I really want, you know?

Obviously, I would love like a Scandinavian wood, full-length window studio, but I don’t think that could even happen in New York City.

Plus I get so absorbed in the music that I don’t even really pay attention to anything. I have a lot to work with down there; I’m never bored.


Annie Hart’s video for “Longing To Care Less”:

QRO: How was making the video for “Longing To Care Less”?

AH: Oh, it was super fun. I made that with my friend Emily James, who also directed my video for “I Don’t Want Your Love”.

We had so much fun, making the video. She is really, really fun person to work with. I just really trust her, and I trust her vision. It’s such a tight collaboration that it’s really easy. I can be like, ‘Ahh – that’s a dumb idea!’ or whatever, or ‘That’s great!’ We’ll just roll with something.

But it also was a little bit depressing, because nobody cared. I had this climate change sign, and hardly anybody stopped. The only person who cared was this guy who was hauling trash for the Parks Department. He was like, ‘Oh, I love your message! It’s so important that people care about the environment!’ I was like, ‘Thank you, thank god you said that, because nobody else cared…’

I filmed that in Union Square – I never realized how many people there are tourists. They were all tourists. Do tourists care about climate change? No, they think you’re some kind of freak show or something…

QRO: Did you need a permit or anything to perform/record there?

AH: [laughs] I think you’re supposed to, but we didn’t, and nobody cared…

We didn’t stay in any one location for very long.

QRO: That song premiered on Oxfam’s website. How did that come about? That’s not Brooklyn Vegan or Stereogum…

AH: Yeah! That is odd, right?…

I’m actually friends with the music director, or cultural director of Oxfam. He was a huge fan of my husband’s old band. I’ve known him for fifteen years, on-and-off.

He follows me on Twitter, and I had written, when I was writing the song, that I wrote a catchy song about climate change. And he’s like ‘Oh, let me hear it!’ I sent it to him, and he said, ‘When you release it, we’d love to partner with you.’

They reached out, because I guess there’s not that many songs about climate change?…

I really struggle with it, because I feel like almost every time I sit down to write a song, I want it to be about climate change, and then I just never can. I guess I framed it more, not ‘self-hatred’, but questioning the order of the world, and then it was easier to approach, rather than like, ‘The planet’s getting warmer! Watch out!’


I really struggle with it, because I feel like almost every time I sit down to write a song, I want it to be about climate change, and then I just never can


QRO: I saw your Instagram livestream on Raw Dawg Radio a few weeks ago.

AH: Oh, you saw that!

QRO: I assume that’s your basement?

AH: Yeah, that’s my basement.

QRO: How do you feel about doing at-home livestreams?

AH: I gotta say, I love the intent of this whole thing, but the acoustics…

The reason I play live is ‘cause I love hearing synthesizer sounds on beautiful speakers.

I don’t mind performing, and if people are happy to hear it on their iPhones, that’s great, but I can’t hardly listen to. I think it’s a singer/songwriter – like Frankie Cosmos does one, and it’s really good. But I think you have to limit your sonic spectrum, and have it be more about your personality and performing, rather than the sound.

I’m just a huge fan of – I’m not going to say anybody’s name – certain ambient acts, instrumental acts; these beautifully crafted songs. And then you hear them through an iPhone – such a let down!

QRO: I heard about it after it was mentioned on We Are Scientists’ livestream.

AH: Oh right, yeah! They gave me a shout-out!


I gotta say, I love the intent of [livestreams], but the acoustics…


QRO: Have you been in touch with Heather & Erika during all of this?

AH: Yeah.

QRO: I’ve found that I’ve been more in contact with people during this, e-mails, texts, even talking on the phone…

AH: Yeah, totally.

QRO: Are they doing okay?

AH: Everybody’s doing really well.

Heather, she runs a perfume business, so she does online perfume classes. I think she mails people a kit? Do-your-own-perfume, which is so clever & cool.

But she also works for a coral reef… It’s like a laboratory that study coral reefs, and coral reef preservation [at Arizona State University Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science]. She does their marketing & social media campaigns. She’s got a lot on her plate.

Erika lives in Queens. She’s inside – she’s just like us.

Au Revoir Simone performing “A Violent Yet Flammable World” on Twin Peaks:

QRO: I have to ask: How was it when all three of you appeared on the Twin Peaks revival?

AH: It was amazing. It was so much fun.

QRO: How did that come about?

AH: Well, David Lynch is like our number one fan. [laughs] He’s a huge Au Revoir Simone fan.

When one of his books came out, Catching the Big Fish, he did a talk at Barnes & Noble, and we were invited to be the musical guest. There was a moderator that was talking, a handful of questions, and then we did some performing. I don’t know – he loved it, and he went on the rest of his book tour, telling all of his fans to listen to our music, every day.

He had a retrospective at a museum in Paris later that year, and we opened the exhibition. We stayed in touch through the years. He got married to our song! His bride walked down the aisle to two of our songs. He’s just like a huge fan.

We were like, ‘If David ever does Twin Peaks, or does anything…’ I think he did two projects, but didn’t ask us, and we were like, ‘I thought he loved our music…’ [laughs]

When we got the call, ‘Hey, are you girls interested in this?’ I remember, I saw the e-mail on the subway – I started screaming on the subway! [laughs]

QRO: [laughs] That’s the appropriate response.

Well, David Lynch is like our number one fan.

Was it surreal to actually do it? It’s a surreal show, and surreal that it came back, and then to be on it…

AH: Yeah.

The filming of it – we’ve done so much filming, filming videos, and bonkers… We were pretty popular in Europe, and there were like always these arty European video shoots happening. It wasn’t that unusual to be on a taping.

But David was super-supportive. I was like, ‘Is everything going okay?’ ‘You’re doing great – everything’s great!’

But then when I saw the show, I was so in the world of the show, because he’s such a masterful world-creator, that when my band came on, it was disconcerting. I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute! Why are we going into my own personal, intimate life?’ [laughs] It was this other world I was in.

I was just like, ‘Oh, everything I just saw was fake!’

QRO: Did you watch Twin Peaks when it was originally on? You might have been too young…

AH: I was a little bit too young. My older brothers were allowed to watch it. I remember sneaking out of my room and peaking at it down the staircase from upstairs, but I didn’t really get it.

But I probably watched it in 2006, or 2007; I watched the whole thing.

QRO: Did you watch it before or after finding out David Lynch was a fan?

AH: After. Then I was like, ‘Oh, I should really…’

We were never nervous around him, ‘Whatever…’ But afterwards, I was like, ‘I should really get to know his catalogue, because a lot of people seem to think he’s important…’ [laughs]

QRO: Was that the first time Au Revoir Simone played together in a while?

AH: Yes. Erika had wanted to take a break from the band. She was so tired of touring; it was wearing her out. And she had a baby.

Our last record came out 2013. We were touring for two years – we were just touring, touring, touring…

QRO: After doing Twin Peaks, did you think about getting the band back together? You’d have all the ‘heat’ from being on the show…

AH: If we had planned it a little more, or had known what a huge deal it was going to be. We didn’t even have the CD or vinyl that those songs were on, re-pressed. Thousands of people wanted to buy them, and we were like, ‘They’re sold out, sorry…’ We didn’t plan that far ahead.


I can never tell if I’m procrastinating or really enjoying the moment.


QRO: During this time, have you picked up and/or accelerated any bad habits?

AH: Huh… I don’t think so.

I guess my biggest bad habit is, I can never tell if I’m procrastinating or really enjoying the moment. I have so many unread e-mails, and my album is moving along so slowly and everything, but I’m just like in the garden, planting seeds, painting the door…

I’m doing all these, almost puttering around… Making sourdough bread. All these things that take a lot of time, aren’t necessarily ends unto themselves, but I’m really enjoying them.

QRO: Everyone’s either baking their own bread, or has watched Tiger King

AH: [laughs] I don’t even have time to watch TV. Everybody’s talking about all these awesome shows they’re watching.