Ten years ago, Ryan Winters was a 16-year-old kid falling helplessly in love with an underground indie scene in this town which was in its infancy. A new generation of blithe and youthful bands producing infectious and thoughtful material delivered with a characteristically irresistible slack-rock swagger were just beginning to pick up guitars and finding stages (or living rooms) to play.
A good deal of that scene at the time revolved around Lo-Life Recordings, the small cassette label previously run by Cameron Smith (War Party, Sur Duda) — before the brand’s Voltron-like merger with psyche label Dreamy Soundz, which formed Dreamy Life Records and Tapes, the current helio-center of the local garage-punk scene. Winters discovered this pocket of music early. To learn that pseudo noisy- or punk-type bands existed in the town he grew up in was a revelation for him. He would dream of one day having his own such band, playing at the popular spots frequented by those groups — places like the now defunct Where House or 1919 Hemphill.
A decade later, and his dream is now a reality. Winters is now squarely enmeshed in the very scene that fascinated him so much as a teen. This weekend, his own band, Annie Void, is releasing its debut EP, Nice Dream, through Dreamy Life, the label of his heroes.
“Growing up, I was obsessed with a handful of those Lo-Life bands, like War Party and Bitch Bricks,” Winters said over the phone. “It’s really cool to think that all those bands that I thought were so cool and I kind of idolized at that age … I’m very good friends with all of them now.”
Winters formed the concept of Annie Void during his stint as guitarist of shoegazers Desert Museum. The band was on hiatus after frontman Lambert Carsey had temporarily moved away. The new name, he said, derives from a sort of pseudonym he created by marrying the name of a favorite old-timey Southern heroine, Annie Oakley, with an air of spaciness.
Originally the idea was to do a one-person “band” a la K Record’s Microphones or like his friend, lo-fi musician Austin Keeler, who performed under the name Heavy Boots. Winters wrote and did some rough recordings of songs in his bedroom, not really knowing what to do with them.
“I was very into folk-punk, which was a whole thing,” Winters said. “Like less aggressive punk and mostly acoustic stuff. I wrote a bunch of stuff like that, but it was really at a time when I was still figuring out the right people to talk to or the right resources to get a show going.”
With Desert Museum shelved, he started to look for a way to launch a proper band. He recruited bassist Austin Smith, a friend who co-rented the rehearsal space where Winters was practicing. To round out Annie Void’s live lineup, Winters brought on drummer Joel Perez and guitarist Scott Willems, both of whom he previously played with in Desert Museum. Together, the four would develop the songs Winters wrote, ultimately creating what he describes as the band’s “lo-fi, cute, garage-y sounding music.”
Last year, the reformation of Desert Museum pulled Perez and Willems away from the project but not before Perez helped Smith and Winters to record. Off and on throughout 2019, the trio headed into Cloudland Recording Studios to track Nice Dream’s six songs. The sessions were engineered by Rubio “RN” Narcotico, and Britt Robisheaux (Pinkish Black, BJ Thomas) mastered the tracks.
Brian Bailey (Unspell) has joined Annie Void on drums after Perez’ and Willems’ departure, and the group is now playing as a trio.
Two singles –– the thick, fuzz-driven “Manic” and the Pixies-esque sing-along “Summer Sucks” –– were released over the last two weeks to tease the upcoming EP. The tracks are a nice introduction to Annie Void’s disaffected whimsy and Winters’ direct and uncomplicated lyrical bent.
“The way that I write songs is, certain lines are very literal,” he said.
He prefers subject matter “that [come from] real experiences, things that have happened to me or my friends, but I’ll generally take those experiences and use them as ingredients to blend and create a narrative that is not literal. It allows for exaggeration, not for the sake of being dishonest but for expressing the feelings that are attached to those literal experiences.”
A mini-festival release show is still tentatively planned for May 1, barring a continued and worsening shutdown of large social gatherings, at MASS, and it will feature a few of Annie Void’s new labelmates — The Prof. Fuzz ’63, Sur Duda, and others. Tables set up with visual artists showcasing their wares are planned as well. CDs and cassettes of Nice Dream will be available through Dreamy Life’s Bandcamp page beginning Friday.