We met up with ANR—a Miami-based duo who have taken 80s nostalgia and spun it into epic yet danceable beats—at a coffee shop in Brooklyn during the last hours of the band’s three-day stint in NYC. ANR recently played the Mercury Lounge with another A44 favorite, MillionYoung. For a little over a year now, both bands have been collaborating within the greater Florida music scene. Though ANR’s Michael-John Hancock and Brian Robertson, who met at music school, are originally from Maryland and Rhode Island, they have been in-and-out of Miami for 10 years now.
“Its more spread-out in Florida,” explains Hancock. “From Miami, to West Palm Beach, to Lake Worth; everyone just really plays together… Being so spread out, you are kind of left to your own devices, and so your music evolves independently. Miami is a great place to have fun, be lazy, and still be productive. I think that’s why a lot of music coming out of Florida is just really fun.” Although the Miami scene can also be a challenge for bands like ANR. Explains Robertson, “so many venues in Miami aren’t really set up for bands, since it is such an electronic-music driven town. You will have a 10-piece band show up in a space where they will have a DJ mixer, two microphones and expect there to be a live show. But it’s changing, it’s definitely changing.”
The two musicians formed ANR in 2004 as a sort of side project. “We’d get together and record just for fun and make some funny music on this 8-Track,” Hancock joked. “There was sort of a double meaning to a lot of the stuff that we wrote. We had a serious desire to make political music, but not wanting to beat people over the head with it, we added a humor element.” When the band first started putting out records, they called themselves Awesome New Republic. Hancock explains that they soon adopted the acronym instead: “when coupled with the more humorous elements of our music, it could have easily been misinterpreted as like, ‘cowabunga pizza party.’” And although they of course love pizza and parties, it isn’t exactly the vibe they were going for.
The newest album, Stay Kids, is the first time the band has concentrated on addressing specific ideas and revisiting cohesive musical themes. Says Hancock, “a lot of the album concentrates on one theme, and is informed by the time when we were writing it: the earthquake had just hit Haiti and then the BP oil spill happened. It was definitely on everyone’s mind in our circle of friends.”
After this weekend’s show at Washington DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel, ANR return to Miami for a busy few months. “We are going to be filming a short movie,” says Hancock, “it’s basically going to be a music video for the album. It’s going to be like a Slasher movie.” It’s a natural fit for Hancock, who admittedly “loves horror movies,” Robertson notes. “We are also working on scoring a couple of short films with the same people, in exchange for the video.” ANR will also, of course, be writing much more music to come.
For those of you in the DC area, check out ANR tomorrow night, February 19, at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Keep an eye out for ANR’s future tour dates, including a few SXSW dates as well.—Annick Mayer