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Sick Puppies: Emma Anzai

Written by Johnnie Vrana Sunday, 04 August 2013

Shockwave: I want to talk a little bit about your bass playing style. You play with a pick, your fingers and your thumb, often in the same song. What kind of training did you have to get to that style?

Emma Anzai: I did it out of necessity, it wasn't planned or anything. When I was playing with Shim - we met in high school and that's how we started the band - we used to play songs that had slap and also pick and fingers. I used to put the pick in my mouth, and I figured out that's pretty gross - you don't know where the pick's been! So how do I do this? I just did it one day (held pick under middle finger). I was playing with the pick and suddenly I came to a slap bit and I just naturally did it, and thought that's probably what I should do. So I incorporated it into songs. It's actually pretty useful, you can switch really fast, you don't have to reach anywhere.

In a lot of your songs, the bass is the lead instrument for the melody. Not a lot of bands do that. Is that a conscious decision the band made to feature the bass prominently?

Not so much, I think it's because we're a 3 piece and you have to make every instrument count. With a 5 piece, you can have rhythm guitar and a lead and everyone can sort of relax a bit. With a 3 piece you have to make it big and you have to use dynamics. I suppose I just like that style anyway because I actually started on guitar, and I already had the strum and pick thing going. As for the songs, we made a conscious effort to make sure nothing dropped out too much. Dynamics is a big thing.

In your live performance, you're very dynamic and expressive. You're not just standing by the drums playing, you're all over the place, consumed by the music. Are there people that you watched play growing up that made you want to perform that way?

Yeah I did actually. Both Shim and I love this band called Silverchair from Australia. The bass player, Chris, there was something about him. He wasn't the most fancy player, he didn't show off, but there was something about his style that really gelled with the 3 of them. They were a 3 piece too. There was something about him that was great. Can't quite put my finger on what it was, but I was always drawn to him. Also, musically, Flea is one of my favorites. His style within his playing is something I took notice of because he used rhythm and he has a great ear for melody. So those 2 combined are my greatest influences.

You have a new album, "Connect", which is a great album. One of the things I love about all of your albums is you don't know quite what to expect from song to song, or even within a song it may morph into something else. Do you experiment a lot with your song writing, in order to keep people guessing?

We do, especially since it's the 3rd album, I suppose it's a foundation album. You do your first one and the second one, and the third one is where you're supposed to arrive as a band, so to speak. For us, the 1st album is the 1st time we did anything in the States after coming from Australia. That's when we met Mark and started to find ourselves. Then we went on tour, and did Tri-Polar. This third album is the landing. We spent a lot of time crafting it and we write all the songs on acoustic instruments. I have a small bass amp, Shim has a guitar and Mark will tap it out. We map it all out before we do it electrically. There definitely is thought to it and we tried to evolve with this album. You don't do the same thing over and over again, you need to move forward.

One of the nice things on the album is we get to hear a little more of your angelic voice. On the Tri-Polar deluxe album with acoustic versions, we got to hear more of you. Is a deluxe version of Connect something we can look forward to?

It's a bit early to tell as the album just came out. People have said they like the duet songs where Shim and I sing. There's a bit more of that on the album as it is. Maybe. The songs do translate well acoustically.

With this touring and album cycle, what are your plans for the band?

I would say, just touring, lots of touring. It's been a long time between albums, we want to make this one count. If you want to go to our twitter @sickpuppies, and, you'll be able to find out about any shows near you. We're pretty interactive on twitter if you want to ask any questions or comment. We read it all and we reply.