Anamieke Quinn is a Valley renaissance woman when it comes to the music world. By day, the 32-year-old Scottsdale resident represents a wide variety of music and artists on local record label Fervor Records, and at night, she morphs into musician mode. She plays in not one, not two, but three bands — she plays upright bass for the Sara McAllister Band, plays electric bass and does backup vocals for Ruca and is the frontwoman for Treasurefruit, which plays all her original soulful music. And when she finally gets a breather, she supports other local acts and organizes music festivals, such as her recent Sidepony Express Music Festival in Bisbee. And, oh, yeah — she founded Sidepony Music, her own artist management company that represents Valley acts such as Doctor Bones. Learn more about her here, and read on for why she considers Arizona her frontier and to hear five reasons why she loves living in the Valley.
What brought you to Arizona?
I was born in Thousand Oaks, California but grew up in the Arcadia area and went back to California for college at University of Southern California to study music industry. I was realizing that in order to pursue my goals as far as starting my own record label and building up myself as an artist while helping other people artistically, it was foolish to stay in a place with such high overhead as Los Angeles. If I wanted to spend all my money sending CD’s to radio stations and with postage and packaging, I didn’t really have the luxury of staying in an expensive place to live like Los Angeles was, so I decided it was more important to me to get stuff done than live in an awesome place and hope I’d meet the right person to advance my career. I moved back (to Phoenix) a little after college.
Where did your interest in music come from?
My mom was a trained singer and was a vocal coach at times, but I didn’t have any formal lessons. I grew up in a total musical family, half the time living with my grandparents and half the time with my mom, and my mom sang in bands to pay the bills. My grandfather directed the band for the Ringling Bros., and my grandmother sang with big bands, so music is in my blood.
What kind of music has influenced you?
I grew up with a lot of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and the like, plus my mom was obsessed with 1960’s Brazilian jazz, mainly Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. I had a Fisher Price record player that had a regular rotation of The White Album, Abbey Road, The Endless Summer and Bing Crosby & the Andrew Sisters.
When I was in junior high, that’s when I was introduced to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. That was awesome, and that really had a huge effect on me, and then Nirvana happened and Soundgarden and Pearl Jam and that whole thing, and then I moved into Beastie Boys and Beck, A Tribe Called Quest and then The White Stripes. I think all of those things had a huge influence on me, and all of those things they have in common is incredible honesty, that this is what I’m doing right now, and authenticity. I’m also a huge fan of world music, especially vintage Cuban stuff like Tito Puente.
You played upright bass competitively. What was that like?
It started in junior high, I’d do all the state and regional competitions, and I was in the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra, and we’d have regular challenges to advance to the highest level of your instrument, and that orchestra toured all over New Zealand when I was 15. We did all over Eastern Europe when I was 18. I thought I was going to be a serious classical bass player because I was on that path to doing that, but I started writing songs and decided to just do that instead.
What got you interested in music promotion?
When I was 16, my mom and I performed with Phish in Las Vegas as ‘the yodeling cowgirls,’ a novelty-aside in the beloved ‘Harpua’ ballad. Then it became our little claim-to-fame, so we built upon it and started a band for that type of music. I just realized we had this magic lamp. Everyone freaked out about our little yodeling trio, and everyone loved it. I played the upright bass, my mom played percussion, and her boyfriend played this beautiful jazz guitar, and we had this awesome thing, so I started booking shows everywhere. I really wanted to go to Bisbee and Prescott and have it pay for itself and spread our brand. That’s how I got into PR, too, because I would publicize and get the word out about our band.
What were your USC classes like?
The classes were all over the place, like the industry itself. We’d have straight music courses like Aural Skills, Theory, Piano, and Ethnomusicology. Then there’d be Recording Engineering, Recording Studio Management and Remote Recording, where we had to go on-site with recording gear to capture live performances. On the business side of things, we had a Publishing course, as well as Music Law, which dealt with contracts and copyright stuff. One class, which I didn’t care for much at the time but now is probably the most relevant of all, was called Live Music Production and Promotion where we had to put a show on at a local venue in town for a grade.
Were you in a band yourself in college?
Back then, I was in a band called Anamieke and the Elements. It was pretty fun. We always had a violinist or violist, a pianist, a jazz drummer, and a percussionist, and then I played electric bass and sang lead, and it was all my songs.
You worked at Capitol Records. What were some of your best memories from there?
I did Lollapalooza 2003 for 3 months. It was Incubus, A Perfect Circle, Audioslave, Jurassic 5, Queens of the Stone Age, Jane’s Addiction and tons more — back then it was coast-to-coast. I drove the Capitol Records van with a vinyl wrap of Radiohead on the way out, then on the way back it was all Jane’s Addiction. We had to drive straight through Texas with this really red, yellow lettered Radiohead van that said, “Hail to the Thief.” We had a lot of positive and negative reactions, real intense. I’d hand out all the free stuff from Capitol Records, and we had an XBox installed in the back of our van with our soundtrack on it, so it was a cross-promotion thing, and people would come up and stick the darndest stickers on our bumpers, and when we were driving through certain parts of the country, we became a target for the cops. We had to do undercover market research and attend all the events and report back at the end of the day.
Once you came back to Arizona, what was your involvement with music like?
I worked at the Old Town Scottsdale location of Oregano’s. When I worked there, I started touring as a solo artist. Because I had a service industry job, it was easy for me to leave as long as I could get my shifts covered. It was awesome, so I would go out in my 1980 Datsun, which is barely big enough for me and my guitar and a couple speakers, and I booked a tour from here to South By Southwest in Austin and back. I did that a couple times, then I did a little East coast tour.
What are the biggest challenges to touring on your own?
The biggest challenges are just getting it set up. I would try to book dates where I had friends or family who could help me street team before I got there or play at a hotel where they would give me a room. The hardest part is probably figuring out your lodging for the tour, and of course, fundraising for gas and emergency expenses.
How would you describe yourself as a songwriter?
I try to be really honest when I write songs. I try to be really open. I think that’s one of the hardest parts about going and being a songwriter. Most people struggle with the feeling of, ‘Why does anybody care what I have to say?’ ‘Why should I put my thoughts and feelings out for other people? What do they care?’ And you feel kind of awkward putting that out there, but it’s sort of cathartic. It’s not even your thing — it’s that the song wanted to get out there and find its way to other peoples’ consciousness.
What kinds of themes come up in your songwriting?
It’s funny, I’m starting to find a lot of consistent themes, like time and the future, and ‘Don’t give up on your dreams!’ It all has to do with living in the moment, don’t ever miss a chance to be awesome, don’t let things get you down — that’s always the main theme. Even the songs that are darker, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. I was telling someone some time, I don’t want to say things that will make people feel bad over and over again. It might be emotional, but I try not to write things that are negative or hateful. Sometimes I’ll say things that are political, but in a very subtle way.
What are some predictions you have for the music industry?
I remember writing an essay back in college in the early 2000’s saying, ‘I’m pretty sure that people will stop buying albums, but it’s either going to go to a subscription service, or everyone’s going to pay $0.99.’ That’s probably what’s going to happen, and I also think that albums are going to become advertisements for live shows, which is what happens now. People hear audio recordings, which is what makes them decide whether or not they’re going to see that band live. 10 years ago, what I predicted, came true. Artists are going to start making money by playing live and selling merchandise — they’re not really making money by selling records.
However, the last part of my prediction was that at some point it will all balance out, which is what is starting to happen now. Sure, a ton of people prefer the convenience and accessibility of a portable, digital, streamlined listening experience..and they always will. But some people are grasping for something more tangible to connect with and are falling out of love with the digital lifestyle and returning to their record and CD collection. I mean, there will always be audio-fidelity differences — mP3’s are literally reduced, processed versions of the original music. It is a hard and cold fact that they don’t and never will sound as good as a CD. Some people prefer the warm, fuzzy sound of vinyl, even if it’s technically less ‘clean and perfect’ than a CD. I’m one of those people.
But whether CD or vinyl, it’s still something to hold on to — something you can stare at for a few hours while you lay on your floor and ‘get to know’ your new album. Reading the liner notes, the lyrics, the names of the people who created it — those are a big part of the communion with the artist — and the art form itself. It’s very personal.
So I think that depending on who your audience is, you’d structure your business differently. I think that the growing pains of the digital revolution are finally starting to subside, and we are settling into two camps of listeners — one of which is actually helping the vinyl manufacturing industry spike at the moment. The days of mass sales in huge corporate retail outlets like Best Buy might be numbered, because they market to mainstreamers who are all going digital. But the counterculture bohemian sector are buying more records, CD’s and, believe it or not, even cassette tapes than they have in years. There may never be another Tower Records, but there will always be the Stinkweeds of the world.
What are your personal goals in music?
My ultimate goals in the music industry are to launch and create an awesome record label that releases my music and that of all those bands that I’m passionate about in Arizona. I want our music scene to be synonymous with innovation and quality on an international level. Seattle’s done it, Austin’s done it. We can do it. Arizona is a frontier. There is no big man holding you down or pre-established regime you have to assimilate to or fight. You can choose your own adventure and build it how you want it. I just see so much potential to build an empire.