Interview with Emma Anzai: Bass Player for Sick Puppies
The rock band Sick Puppies hails from Australia and took a chance when they moved to Los Angeles in 2006. That chance paid off as they quickly rose to fame with their “Free Hugs” video featuring their single “All the Same” on YouTube that has garnered them over 74,000,000 views. The band members are Shimon (Shim) Moore (lead vocals, guitar), Emma Anzai (bass, backing vocals) and Mark Goodwin (drums, percussion, backing vocals).
With two previous albums under their belt, Dressed Up as Life and Tripolar, their most recent album, Connect, was released on July 16, 2013 by Capitol Records and hit #17 the week following its release, making it the best debut album by the band in their career.
Currently on tour with their new album Connect, we had a chance to meet up close and personal with Emma and Shim at The Masquerade in Atlanta before their show, and discussed how the band was formed, their new album, connecting with their fans, their gear and more! Emma's interview follows, and stay tuned for our interview with Shim.
GGM: Emma, how did you end up being the bass player for the Sick Puppies?
Emma: Actually, I played guitar at the very beginning when I learned and when I met Shim in high school, that’s when I moved over to bass because Shim played guitar and sang. So all I was interested in was starting a band and belonging to something, so I moved over to bass, and that’s how it happened.
GGM: That’s kind of like the Paul McCartney story, too. He was initially a regular six string guitar player and when they started getting the band together, they needed a bass player. So you’re following in some good foot steps.
Emma: Yeah! Yeah!
GGM: You’ve been on tour this summer in support of your new album Connect, which I read was about connecting with your fans. What was the inspiration for listening and connecting with your fans, and how important is it in today’s music world to interact with fans on social networking sites?
Emma: It was not all about social media. The theme of it was a lot more universal… just to deal with human beings, and that kind of thing. And then also we related it back to social media because these days it’s so prevalent and it’s also so important and, yeah, I guess it sort of fits because you see the way people connect everywhere, even on Twitter and stuff like that. So, it’s really good because now it cuts out any sort of middle man. You get to do it from your phone; you can answer questions, and stuff like that. They can get in touch with you. So that’s something that we weren’t able to do as kids.
GGM: Right! That’s great. So you actually do respond to all your fans yourself?
Emma: Oh, yeah.
GGM: What is your most memorable moment from this tour?
Emma: This one?
GGM: Yes, you’ve been touring quite a while now!
Emma: Yeah, this one’s been a couple of months. Well, when we first started the tour, we played Omaha and they are one of our biggest markets and one of the first places we ever played. We keep going back there. The fans keep coming back and they remember us. It was a CD release party. It was sold out and it was just one of those memorable moments.
GGM: What is the writing process for the band?
Emma: Shim brings an acoustic guitar and I bring a small amp and bass, Mark plays something percussive, and we just sort of hash it out acoustically. Shim always says if it’s a good song when it’s acoustic, then when you translate it over, it’s sure to be just as good, if not better.
GGM: Is there any one particular song from Connect that is especially personal to you and why?
Emma: I would probably say the song called “Healing Now.” I remember when we first started writing it, I wanted to do a bass line like Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, you know how he’s got those really melodic, cool bass lines? I had that in mind when I went in and wrote that with Rock Mafia and it sort of turned into this Cold Play/U2/Chili Peppers type song. Also, the theme of it…the content is really relevant and really inspiring…those two put together. It’s one of my favorites.
GGM: Did you have any expectation that the “Free Hugs” video go viral and what was the inspiration behind that video?
Emma: We had no idea that it would do that. It started when Shim was working in Sydney and he was holding up a sandwich board sign and he met the guy that gave ‘free hugs’ and he was in the same vicinity and filmed him. He did all that and when he came over here, he compiled it into a video – The Free Hugs video – and it was simply just a thing to send to that guy because his grandmother had passed away at the time. And then, you know, just put it on YouTube and it kind of went from there.
GGM: How did you get the opportunity with Robert Knight to be featured in his documentary Rock Prophecies?
Emma: That was also when we were in Sydney. Our manager, Paul Stepanek, met Robert at a party over there. It was a real one-off thing where he said ‘you should come to the States and I’ll introduce you to a bunch of people.’ At the time, Paul was like, ‘uh, is he serious’ because the party was on Sunday and he was talking about going to the States on Tuesday. Paul didn’t know whether he was serious or not, but he took the opportunity. He went and that’s how we got our break into the States. We met Paul Palmer, who is our Indie label guy, and he introduced us to the producer and so it went from there. Robert was doing a documentary where he had filmed Slash and Jeff Beck and all these people, and he decided to add us to it as like the ‘up and coming’ band, so that’s kind of how it worked.
GGM: That was a great opportunity!
Emma: Yes, it was really good.
GGM: You started out playing guitar. How old were you when you got your first guitar?
Emma: I was 16 and the band Silverchair from Australia really inspired me to start playing music and that’s kind of how it all started.
GGM: Did you take lessons?
Emma: No, I did like instructional videos. I couldn’t really afford lessons, so I just had to take whatever I could get…instructional videos, just the bare basics.
GGM: What artists have inspired your musical style?
Emma: Flea and this guy named Victor Wooten who is a really creative and amazing bass player. And bands like Silverchair, Green Day, Rage Against the Machine…really great live bands kind of inspired us.
GGM: Favorite female rocker?
Emma: I never really had any female idols or anything like that but right now, Pink. She’s not a rocker, but she’s a singer and she’s pop, and she’s just one of those stand alone great female artists.
GGM: Are you one of those that finds it hard being a female in the music world?
Emma: I can’t say that it’s been like that. We’re a band. I’m sure people – they assume that I’m just a girlfriend of one of the band members. You get that a lot. But other than that, as long as you are doing it for the right reasons and you love what you’re doing, then it shouldn’t stop you.
GGM: There are so many organizations out there today for young girls wanting to rock – like Girl Rock Nation from Fender and the Girls Rock Camp Alliance to name a few. What would you say to young girls aspiring to become musicians?
Emma: The one main thing that I’ve come across a lot is people, girls especially, think they can’t be in a band. It’s great to know that you can do it. I think that the girls think that they can’t, and I don’t know for whatever reason because it is kind of like a male dominated thing – the rock band thing is kind of a guy thing. But I guess the one big thing is don’t let that stop you. If you want to do it, then do it, and do it because you love it.
GGM: Well, I think that we’re going to see a shift in that with all these organizations out there supporting young girls, starting as young as 13 years old and teaching them how to form bands and perform. So, yeah, definitely a shift. Can you tell us a little about your gear?
Emma: It’s pretty simple. I love Warwick basses and I play Ampeg amps and I do like a SVT classic for the head – real simple – and then two 410 cabs and then one 218 cab which is the custom. But other than that, just a tuner and an Ampeg distortion pedal. That’s pretty much it.
GGM: I know you’ve been touring a lot this summer. Are there any projects on the horizon for Sick Puppies?
Emma: I think just to continue touring is amazing. We have a new song coming out soon, if not now, so we’ll be doing a new video…that kind of thing. But other than that, just touring.
GGM: In one word, describe what music means to you?
To "Connect" with Sick Puppies, where to buy their new CD and for tour dates, check out their websites:
Facebook (OVER 1 MILLION LIKES) : http://www.facebook.com/sickpuppies/app_123966167614127
Cover Photo Credit: Myriam Santos
Connect Track Listing:
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