Anna Calvi

We chat to Anna Calvi about exploring desire, community & gender on new album 'Hunter' - an absolute battle standard of masterfully subversive guitar pop.

  • By Alex Rusted
  • 31 Aug 2018
  • min read
Desire, community, gender. Anna Calvi’s latest album Hunter is a compelling statement of honesty and reaches an absolute zenith of how entertaining an artist can be while addressing cultural and societal issues.

Calvi describes the album to be ‘exploring a more subversive sexuality, which goes further than what is expected of a woman in our patriarchal heteronormative society.’

And as a battle standard for feminist ideals and for those challenging gender norms, Hunter certainly does the trick. It stomps and screams with primal energy and chugs through an hour of masterfully subversive guitar pop.

Produced by Nick Launay (Nick Cave, Grinderman) at Konk Studios in London, the record was a chance for the BRIT Award and double Mercury Prize-nominated songwriter to bare her soul in a gorgeously cathartic and theatrical release.

Musically, Calvi exhibits a captivating stylistic diversity and adaptability, embracing both the darkest and lightest elements of her sonic aesthetic in sequence throughout the release. Shout, shuffle, swoon – this is a record that could evoke all manner of responses.

We caught up with her to talk about the new record and find out a little bit more about the release and the artist that dreamt it up…

What does the album format mean to you?

It’s the main way I grew up consuming music. As an artist, the album is the most creatively enriching thing you can ever do. It’s like a slow-motion snapshot of the state of mind that a music maker experiences when they’re making it.

One song is a much smaller microcosm of that – the album lets you explore different themes and really go deep into a subject. It’s far harder to do it with just one song.

What’s your take on the digital age we’re living in when it comes to music?

The fact you can have access any music you want is really amazing. It’s incredible to have this huge treasure chest where you can go anywhere inside it. Creatively, I think it’s helpful too. Whenever you feel like you want to hear a certain artist, you can find it instantly without having to go anywhere else.

In terms of your own music, ‘The Hunter’ is your latest album. What have you learned about the creative process work with this latest release?

Simplicity is often the best route to finding something that sounds honest – it’s one thing I’m still learning but I certainly learned from creating this record. Being clearer about intention is also a big thing, it’s really a mark of success for me and if a song works or not is.

It’s not about whether someone will like it or not as you can’t control that. But making sure the intent of what you’re trying to achieve is clear. Then I think that’s a successful outcome.

There’s a lot of anticipation about this new record - is it daunting or exciting for you?

It’s certainly a bit of both – it’s been a while since I’ve released a record, there’s a big tour ahead of us – and it’s been a little while since this has happened – but on the whole, I’m excited.

What’s ‘The Hunter’ about? And where did the themes come from?

It was written over a couple of years - and I found myself writing about what I’m always thinking and talking about.

This album allowed me to write about what I’m always thinking and talking about, exploring themes around the restrictions of being made to perform your gender even if it doesn’t necessarily feel a part of your character. I think about this a lot and it makes sense for it to come out in my music – when I noticed it, I went with it as it’s an interesting thing to explore.

Gender conformity definitely seems to be featuring in more cultural conversations.

It’s a great thing and about time too – it’s interesting that there are more voices being heard and that can only make for better art – we need to see view points from all different kinds of people rather than the lucky type of person who always gets their voice heard.

How has the wider political landscape fed into your music?

You can’t really be an artist and not have a political stance or be affected by what’s going on.  Being creative is about exploring what’s happening in the world or yourself in relation to the world and making your own interpretation of that – especially now, in such a critical time, it’s the job of the artist to work through this and try and make sense of it.

Are you optimistic about the future?

Not overly – I guess, I feel there are good and bad things happening simultaneously – my biggest fear is how climate change fuels scapegoating of different people, increases racism and inequality – whenever there’s an economic downturn, people always scapegoat those who are different – and in that way it feels like a potentially scary future.

In terms of the music industry – has that changed for the better since you’ve been a part of it?

Journalists have certainly changed. I’ve noticed less questions that I wonder why they’re asking me - so with the first record, I got a lot of ‘how does it feel to be a woman playing guitar?’ I’ve had none of that this time round which must be a marker of how things have changed. So, it certainly feels like things are in a better place.

Have you any advice for aspiring artists?

Make sure your vision is water tight, see it through and take it as far as you can possibly can so no one can pick it apart and tell you to it differently. That’s the best way to be original and the best way to not have people mess with you and your music…