Anya Marina

Anya Marina Biography

Someone wise--and probably now dead--once said that part of being creative was merely "making yourself available" to the muse (whatever mysterious thing that is). For me, that means going for a walk. I walk a lot. While walking, I tend to get hit with ideas which I'll sing into my phone recorder so I won't forget them. This is how I conceive, write, and edit a lot of my songs.

Originally the idea for "Spirit School" came about while on one of my walks in my then-neighborhood of Hollywood. I think I was dragging my feet a little that day--I was blue for some reason. On the walk I came upon a school I'd never seen before. The sun was shining in such a way that the name of the school was obscured, but as I approached it, I read the sign and couldn't believe my eyes: THE SPIRIT SCHOOL. I wondered if this was some actors' conservatory or weird New Age Hollywood ashram, but as I quickened my pace to get a better look at it, I noticed I had misread the sign completely. It was some elementary school with a different name altogether. I sort of chuckled a bit at my mistake and started to come out of the doldrums.

The phrase and the notion stuck with me. What a cool idea: a place you go to get in touch with and develop your spirit. Wouldn't it be nice if there were such a place?

I thought and thought about this concept of a "spirit school." Then, after months on the road opening for a variety of colorful characters, it occurred to me that I was living it. Being on the road playing music--whether it was solo or in a band--was the closest thing I could think of to a living, breathing "spirit school." It's where all the misfits are welcome, where dreams are born and pursued, and where nefarious things are known to happen behind the bleachers.

SPIRIT SCHOOL is a collection of similarly misfit songs that are very dear to me, but may not be quite right for the album I was--and am still--working on. These songs are special to me because they document a time when I got out of my own way as a writer. At the time, I wasn't very prolific--I had only written one song all year ("Satellite Heart") and that was par for the course. I wanted to write more frequently and increase my output. Upon the urging of a friend, I joined his songwriting group. The only rule each week was to include an assigned phrase in a song. I was worried I wouldn't live up to the challenge.

"Stop trying to write the perfect song, Anya," he said, "just write."

That helped me find playfulness in songwriting again. I started to have fun, which you can hear on "Busrider" (which was misspelled in the assignment email, but I liked how it looked as one word, so I kept it) and especially in the bridge of "Whatsit."

The title track, "Spirit School," was re-recorded--nearly verbatim to my home demo--in an easy afternoon with one of my favorite people of all time, Michael Lerner from Telekinesis (who engineered and played drums and additional electric guitar). "Busrider" and "You Are Invisible" are home demos which were mixed and spruced up by Ken Andrews, and "Whatsit" is a home demo that I wrote and had my friend Courtney Taylor-Taylor (Dandy Warhols) play and sing on one afternoon in Portland. On a different afternoon we had Gregg Williams mix it. Sam Fogarino (Interpol) had submitted this gem of a remix of "Satellite Heart" right after the release of Twilight: New Moon, so I'm excited that people can finally hear his masterpiece. It's everything I like a remix to be: surprising and original. It puts a nice moody twist on the song and I couldn't be happier with it.

What I love about these songs is that none of them have been too fussed or labored over, production-wise. Everything about SPIRIT SCHOOL was so effortless and low-maintenance, and that's how I wanted it to be.

I hope you like it.

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