At The Crossroads with a Band Named ANSON
Based of the vast and varied Los Angeles music scene, ANSON is a three-piece alternative rock collective ready to break out in an epic way. To Be Or Nothing At All is the name of ANSON’S debut EP, jammed packed with superbly infectious songs you’ll want to revisit time and again. We caught up with two out of three ANSONS at a coffee house in Silver Lake to find out more about this dynamic new band to discuss each and every song on the EP, living the life on ramen and faith, donut, and other topics of intrigue. Meet lead vocalist Anson Li and bassist George Tello – now at the sonic crossroads and ready to rock your world!
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Anson.
Anson: Well for starters my name is Anson and I am the lead vocalist and songwriter of ANSON at the moment.
George: Hi, I’m George, I play bass in ANSON and that’s about it. Song writes, edits, video editor.
First, Anson Li. What was the name of the very first song you wrote, how old were you and what was that song about?
Anson: I’ve been writing songs since I was in the fourth grade. It kind of just came to me. The very, very first song I ever wrote was just a guitar piece. It was just notes on a guitar and I think I called it Guitar on a Beach. It was just a whimsical guitar note track. Because before I didn’t write any new lyrics or anything like that. When I started experimenting with lyrics I remember taking this old Eminem song. It was just like Guess Who’s Back Again, Shady’s Back. I basically replaced all the lyrics with my own lyrics and that was the first time that I experimented with lyrical content. But to really answer your question, I guess I wrote the song called Only One, and that was the very first one. That was like acoustic guitar and me singing and lyrics of my own. And I was probably fifth grade. It took me some time to play the guitar and sing at the same time.
George, how did you become involved in Anson and what other bands or projects were you involved with prior?
George: So I had a mutual friend with this guy and we went Airsofting, which is shooting each other with very little balls. (Anson and and I) started talking, we hit it off immediately. We liked the same music and we had the same musical vision when it comes to what we want to do and he drove me home. This was the first time we met. And he drove me home from Escondido to Los Angeles. He was like, I live in LA, I’ll take you home. I’m like cool. Let’s do it. And we just karaoked the whole way over there and before we knew it he reeled me in and said you’re going to be in my project. I’m like alright, let’s do it. You got me.
Were you familiar with Anson’s work, the other stuff he did as a solo artist?
George: I wasn’t. But I’m in love with the song called I Swear that he wrote. It’s a really good one.
Anson: He always plays that to mess with me. Because personally, that song’s for me is a little dated and a little aged for me. Being 24 now and stuff. But he’ll play it randomly. It’s almost like him icing me or some shit. Like randomly every now and then. He’d Snapchat me just singing the lyrics and random stuff. It’s great. Good times.
George: Other projects, I’ve done some metal projects. Like We Came as Romans era, The Color Morale. But jumping into this is like a whole other genre change. I’m excited for what’s to come.
Is there any story concept or anything beyond the album title, To Be Or Nothing At All? Sounds kind of Shakespearean.
Anson: It is a little Shakespearean. Yeah, the title is a little bit of a playoff of the To Be or Not To Be phrase. But the reason why I wrote that phrase was actually, I was looking not only for the album title but the single that came out a couple weeks ago. I didn’t have a name for it. It was originally called Untitled. But I’m like okay, this song is really good but it doesn’t have a name and the whole song is lacking inspiration. So I was trying to find a way to connect the name and an EP name as well for the record. And To be or Not for me means, my whole life I’ve lived in this weird crossroads. I went to college, I got a degree in marketing and I started being a web developer and started doing social media management. But at the same time I was also doing music. Doing my solo stuff and touring and I felt like I was living my life in this crossroads of like not choosing a path and living with both. And for me, the reason I call it To Be or Nothing At All because it’s finally time to stop struggling with my inner self, trying to self identify who I am as a person and what I want to pursue and really just follow my dream of doing music and just going for it this time. So it’s an all or nothing kind of thing, To Be Or Nothing At All.
Let’s talk about “Hailey.”
Anson: Oh man, Hailey is about a really interesting relationship I was in for a handful of years of my life. I was dating this girl back in New York City. At the time, I was completely in love with her. She was the best thing in the world. I’d always wanted to be with her and everything like that, and then we broke up for stupid reasons and then I tried getting her back. I spent maybe two years of my life trying to get this girl back. But the whole time I was blind to the fact that, what all my friends were saying, that she mistreated me and was a terrible person for me to be around. A very toxic relationship, and I wrote this song talking about that crazy era of myself. Me thinking that I was in the wrong and how much I loved this girl and how I’d do anything to be back with her. It’s just about those moments of where, sometimes you get a little love drunk and a little crazy about somebody. And sometimes, maybe not even in a good way. A little too obsessive and how I dealt with that whole entire situation.
Is Hailey her real name?
Anson: No. I couldn’t find something to rhyme her name with. Her name, I want to kind of leave anonymous. That’s not her name. It’s funny though.
Has “anonymous” heard the song?
Anson: I don’t talk to her anymore. I’m sure she’ll figure it out sometime or another. I don’t know what’s new with her. I probably haven’t talked to her in a year, even then, I probably shouldn’t have talked to her. I’m trying to ex-communicate bad relationships out of my life. The people who you surround yourself with does make you who you are to an extent. I try and surround myself with good positive energy people like George, who constantly inspire me and we just get along real well.
And It’s Alarming…
Anson: It’s Alarming. That whole song is about being so self-conscious about writing music. There was a time in my life where I was really, really lost and I was transitioning from this whole pop rock sound to this alternative rock, I guess still pop rock but definitely more darker of a sound and I was really self-conscious about it. I didn’t know how people were going to take it. How people were going to accept it. The song is about just letting that stuff go and just be who you are. But that’s the real deep inner meaning about it, that’s why the whole thing is, should I let it go? It’s just about a deep down inside know who I am as a person and just – own it.
Real personal stuff.
Anson: Every single song I write is very very personal to myself. I kind of use music as this thing to vent my inner emotions to, it’s like this non judgmental place where I can write about what’s going on in my life and really share that in an interesting and creative way.
Anson: That’s a deep one. I was living, at the time, at this real sketchy shack in West Hollywood. I had just moved to central Los Angeles and I couldn’t find a place, I was like OK, I finally found this real cheap ($750) per month, shack no windows in this guest house of this West Hollywood house. It was very interesting, solitude time, but at the time I was also working doing web development. The song, for me, is about living this 9-5 life and working and doing music after, but at the same time, I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. So the song isn’t about drugs or anything, but sober for me is living that regular life of doing the 9-5 job and doing that stuff. It was about just letting myself down, self-consciousness about music. A lot of this stuff has a lot of similar trailing themes just said in multiple different ways. This one is about just being proud of who I am as a person and really just – going for it.
What can one expect from a live Anson show, has that happened yet?
Anson: It hasn’t. That’s why we’re practicing right now. We want to make sure that whatever we do for this first show is exactly what we want it to be. I know a lot of bands, they’ll do some test run shows and we are going to be doing that and people will probably never know about them. We want to make sure those shows, we kick ass and it makes people feel something.
George: It’ll be like the most high energy show you’ve ever been to just you can’t sit still, you’re rocking around, you’re running around, you’re singing along clapping your hands. We’re gonna do that but on steroids. We’re going to bring a whole new level of live performances to blow everyone’s minds. You’re going to see stuff you’ve never seen before.
Anson: Our goal is to, once you leave the show, that not only you feel like you got your money’s worth. We just want to make sure that we make people feel something. That’s what I want people to take out of it – connect with the music and not only that but have a great time. I feel like a lot of bands these days, it’s all about people with their phones, recording on snapchat. We want people to put down those phones and start moshing and crowd surfing, jumping up like the good old days. I want to feel the floor shake. That’s my goal.
George: It’s more about the interaction than the social media interactions, you know? We want people to be like – hey, we’re coming to the show to rock out, not just take videos to text my friends with. Watch the show, not your phone.
If Anson could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Anson: For me it would definitely be Taking Back Sunday. I grew up in New York City and, I was in the Long Island scene for a long time and I saw that band grow and some of my earlier childhood memories were going to their shows and just rocking out. I don’t know, it’s just something about that band that always connected with me so I’d be really honored to do a show with them and just tear it up. I do have this dream every now and then of being on stage with Taking Back Sunday and singing “Make Damn Sure,” or some other really awesome track that they have. So that’s a goal of mine, that or Billy Joel. I don’t think that’s going to happen.
George: I guess right now, Pierce The Veil would be really rad because we’re somewhat in the same boat as them. We’re not going as hard, but were still in the same category of them. Their music just relates to me. I grew up listening to PTV, Sleeping With Sirens and All Time Low just had me hooked from the start. I feel like, I can relate to their music and it would just be an honor to be able to share a stage with them.
If the music of Anson was a donut, what kind would it be and why?
Anson: There’s that place in LA called Donut Friend and they have all those – have you heard of it? I don’t know where it is but they do like, rock donuts. They have a Bacon 182, Polar Berry Club and random donuts named after bands.
George: Let’s go cream filled. You take the first bite and you just taste the top layer and you’re like, alright I dig it. Then you get the sweet inside and it hits home.
Anson: Chocolate Raspberry cream filled donut.
George: That’s very specific.
Anson: I like raspberry, I don’t know. It has that natural flavor to it. And then the chocolate brings out that richness that you like but deep, and surprisingly inside you have this cream filled of savory. Wow I’m getting way too into this!
George: Maybe culinary school if this doesn’t work out for you.
Anson: I can’t cook for shit. I live on ramen.
George: That’s what we’re living on to try and make this shit happen right now. Ramen and water.
Anson: Ramen and faith.
Any messages for people who are reading this now who should check out your music?
Anson: Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading and just being here and having the attention – just listening to us. It means the world to us, and we hope to see you guys at a show, hope you guys keep listening and believe in yourself. Watch a Morgan Freeman movie, because he’s awesome.
George: Thanks for all the support you’ve given us so far, we’re still so early in this journey but the mountain of support – everyone who is reading this, everyone who’s supporting us is ridiculous.
Anson: It means the world to us.
Anson Li – Vocals/Guitar
Zack Mueller – Guitar
George Tello – Bass
(Interview and Candid Photos by Ken Morton)
Anson on Facebook