Anna Wise on Her New EP, 'The Feminine Act: II', And Her SXSW Showcase
Anna Wise, purveyor of damn good music with damn good lyrics and some damn good beats, has recently released her second EP, The Feminine Act: II, a follow-up to her last body of hits, Act: I. The artist, now touring the country, is currently performing at SXSW in Austin, Texas, playing some of our favorites from her new EP, like “Some Mistakes”, “Coconuts”, and “Self On Fire”. In case our word isn’t enough to sell you on her exceptional musical talent, let it be known that Wise is also a Grammy award-winning artist (crowned for her collaboration on Kendrick Lamar’s “These Walls”). Otherwise, you can see for yourself by giving her songs a listen and should you be so lucky, watching her perform at SXSW, or any of her other upcoming tour performances.
While her music is undeniably groovy, there’s a lot more to what she’s selling. In fact, labeling her as just a musician almost feels unjust, as the young artist has also proven herself a pledged feminist, an advocate for general equality, and a very passionate authority on environmentally conscious fashion. We chatted with the very charming, very spirited Wise on all of the above, including an enlightening period in her life, the importance of self love, and her new EP; peep her music video for ‘Coconuts’ and the full interview below.
Congrats on your new EP and tour. I was just jamming out to “Some Mistakes”. Do you have a favorite track on the EP?
“Some Mistakes” is so groovy! And the spell I’m trying to cast is about accepting and loving yourself. Have you ever just laid in bed and maybe you’re high, maybe you’re not, but you’re thinking about some awkward moment wishing ‘Why did I do that!? Why did I say that!?’ “Some Mistakes” is the moment where you’re like, “Ah, fuck it!”
Picking a favorite track is hard, I love them all so much, but I would say I’m really, really proud of “Self on Fire”, because I produced that entirely myself. Every song I co-produced, some more than others—and I’m an obsessive bitch—but I’ve been getting a lot of good feedback on that one. Meanwhile, I was thinking it’s too out there and it wouldn’t be anyone’s favorite. So hearing that kind of feedback is amazing!
And I wanted to touch upon this new EP, it has the same name as your first, but it’s Act:II. So could you speak about the relationship between the two, whether you consider them sequels or sister EPs?
So the first EP, I like to think of, say we’re stuck outside this room and it’s pretty harsh outside, but I have this sledgehammer. So it’s about taking this sledgehammer and smashing through the fucking walls of the room with no door or windows, because I’m going to get in it. EP I is about breaking the walls, and EP II is me entering the room. Inside this room is beautiful colors, kind of like in my “Coconuts” music video, with beautiful colors and saturated lights. There’s this rose in the center, and it has a bunch of thorns, you’re going to get pricked if you touch it, but it’s still so beautiful. So with the first EP I wanted it to be smashing you in the brain, overstimulation. And EP II is more of a peaceful place, where women, or anybody marginalized, can feel safe and understood. That is my message to you, to everyone listening to the song, what everyone thinks of you is just their opinion, fuck that and love yourself! And what’s crazy to me is that it’s so relevant right now, look at what’s happening! But I really think that this administration is the last cry of the patriarchy, it’s ending, we just have to keep fighting, keep loving each other and that’s what EP II is about.
Would you say there’s a difference in style of the two EPs as well? You spoke a lot about the messages, but regarding the style of music, is it a metamorphosis or an evolution?
Absolutely, I’d call The Feminine Act: I the bangers and The Feminine Act: II more ethereal.
So you really incorporate a lot of potent, charged, meaningful lyrics into your music, but there’s also a very identifiable and strong production and sound to each song. How do you start the conversation between the two?
I don’t even think about it. I just make what I like and write what I’m thinking. I think it’s funny, especially now, I went home to my parents’ house and found all these old diaries of mine, and I actually found the first poem I wrote when I was seven years old and the first lines were like, ‘The curvature of spacetime, a pretty little daisy.’ It’s the weirdest thing, but I was like ‘Holy fuck, Anna! You’re an artist and you’ve been an artist all of your life.’ It’s just in me and it always has been, and I’m so grateful for that.
With that said, was there a point in your life when you decided that music was what you were going to pursue or have you always been writing and singing? Did you ever take lessons?
I’ve been kicked out of every training I was ever put into. I knew from the time I was like one and a half, I have pictures of my mom holding me up to the piano so that I could play a song. I knew every single lyric to the Sound of Music, I knew every song in the movie Selena—one of the best movies of all time.
My father was a pastor and also the worship leader of a non-denominational Christian church, so I did my first solo alone when I was five. That was my first performance, and I still have those feelings… I’ve had a funny journey, because I’ve always loved to sing, but I wasn’t really a performer. When I would get up on stage to sing, I’d just close my eyes and stand still the whole time, I was so nervous. And now I’ve developed into being whatever it is I am now, and I’m sure I’m developing further.
I’m curious about the religion aspect, is your music at all influenced by that?
Well, I’m not religious right now. I’d call myself a witch before anything else. I have issues with the patriarchy surrounding religion and just with the close-mindedness of it all, like people’s refusal to accept gay or trans people—that to me is a huge red flag. How could you be preaching love and then not be accepting of other people? Their choice is the choice of love–to love themselves or someone else and we should all be accepting of that. I made a huge shift from religion about seven years ago and I just haven’t really looked back.
Speaking on the patriarchy, did you have a moment in which you decided, “I’m going to stand up to this and make it a part of my art,” since its so prevalent in your music?
Yes, definitely. It’s what I think about all the time. But it’s not just about the patriarchy, it’s all the things—equal rights for every single person on this planet—whether thats standing up to racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, xenophobia, etc. Whatever the fuck it is, I support equal rights. So seven years ago, I had what I refer to it as an epiphany. I came to this realization that I had been programmed my whole life, and not just to be feminine or look a certain way, but inclusive of certain moments where I hesitated to stand up for myself for the fear of being disliked. And I had a realization about all these things that were poisoning me and everyone—fast food and corporate soda. I just had a realization about everything and turned my life around.
A general enlightenment?
That’s exactly what it was, and I also became illuminated to not just the patriarchy, but to all those things I mentioned, also acknowledging, “Hey, I grew up white and privileged, what does that mean?” All of these things, it was just a huge epiphany and it wasn’t necessarily everything to do with the patriarchy, but it was the lens I chose for my music, and it’s the experience that I’m closest to because it’s the form of oppression that I’m most familiar with.
Is style and fashion something that you’re very conscious of when putting together your work? Way of dress has historically been used as a vehicle of activism, so is this something that you keep in mind or play with, even regarding the gender binary?
Yeah, I think so. I have styled all of my music videos, and for “Coconuts”, the video I just put out, I reached out to this small business in Portland called “ALTAR” to make the costume. I also just went to the fabric store with my friend Milly and made some things. So my interest in fashion comes more from a sustainability standpoint, which was a part of my epiphany seven years ago, especially in regard to mass-produced fashion and to who owns what company. There are tons of fashion companies whose owners have very questionable political associations, and I don’t shop at those places. So I’m more mindful of fashion as an activist than as fashionable, and if I can still come off as fashionable despite that, I am very happy. I’m just obsessed with social justice in general, protecting the Earth and the living things on this Earth.
Do you have a particular message for people listening to your music?
If it was one message it’d be, “Love yourself exactly how you are.” I love myself exactly how I am, and it took me so long, but once I get there it’s like, “Why did I spend so much time hating myself?” And it manifests in your body! It has to do with self-love. I just want people to understand that if the world isn’t loving you, create that world inside yourself and it will emanate out and people will be drawn to you simply because you love yourself so much. I think that’s what people are so drawn to about me. People come to my shows and people call it a therapy session. If that’s what I can be… This is why I don’t sign a record deal, I don’t care about being famous. That’s not what this is about. I’m glad I have a platform, I love the idea of growth and having enough money to accomplish my goals, but it’s not about being so famous that I can be the queen or king in the castle, on the high hill separating myself from everyone. No. I want to connect with people and feel ourselves together.
Peep Wise’s upcoming tour dates below:
3/13-19 Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase:
Empress: #BossBabesATX x Girlfriend Showcase @ Cheer Up Charlies – 3:30PM
SXSW Official Showcase @ Swan Dive – 8:00PM
Exploded Drawing/Juiceland showcase @ at Mazda Studio at Empire Control Room – 10:00PM
3/25 Atlanta, GA – Aisle 5
4/8 Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMoca
4/13 Boston, MA – The Middle East
4/26 Brooklyn, NY – Union Pool
Image courtesy of Anna Wise
Stay tuned to Milk for more on emerging artists and performers at SXSW.