Ones To Watch: Annahstasia
Hailing from Los Angeles, Annahstasia Enuke is a Nigerian-American visual artist, model, and musician that is just as authentic as she is unapologetic about simply being herself. Enuke has had a pretty eventful year with no signs of slowing down; including the release of her first EP, Sacred Bull, and a European tour with Lenny Kravitz in the summer.
Her latest EP, Sacred Bull, gives a glimpse into her own spiritual journey, navigated by her soulful voice paired with a Western tinged production; Enuke takes us into her own process of reclaiming self-worth and similarly, becoming one’s own guiding light.
Milk caught up with the rising artist to discuss the meaning behind her EP, her dream collaborations, and her upcoming project out early 2020.
What was it like growing up LA? Do you prefer LA to NYC?
LA is a trip. For me, it always felt like I was a misstep away from falling into the rabbit hole. Fame is ever-present and you become desensitized but also hyper-aware. It’s a lonely city so it made me very comfortable with myself and my own company. I have a good relationship with the rumors in my head as a result. It was such a blessing to grow up around nature alongside being in a city that offered the context and spark that lead me to become a creative
I get asked this a lot these days and I don’t have a preference, besides that, for now, LA seems to be better for my Mood and NYC is better for my growth. But I definitely can only take either place in small doses now.
When did you start making music, did you go to school for it or are you self taught? Tell me about your background.
I started writing songs when I was 16 and no I didn’t study music. I didn’t have lessons as a kid, but I remember my dad bought me a guitar from toys-r-us when I was 12 or 13, and when I was 15 I finally stopped glaring at it and drummed up the will to teach myself, but I was always more inclined towards singing and writing. I started teaching myself piano as well around then. But I’m a bit ashamed to say that progress has been slow, I’m still pretty novice at both. Singing came so naturally for me that learning something outside myself has always been so deeply frustrating, So I learn till I have enough to use when I create with that knowledge till I’m dissatisfied and then I go back for more.
Is there a meaning to your EP title, Sacred Bull?
Yes. It’s my first EP so it holds a lot of meaning. I guess the simplest seed of the idea came from the fact that I’m a Taurus. But from there I started to think of the sacred bull from the bible, the golden calf and the story of how the Israelites created a false idol to worship in the absence of Moses’ presence and teaching. It was a biblical story I remembered vividly for some reason at that point I think because at the time I was negotiating my worth, what I idolized, what I yearn for and look up to and was renegotiating my surroundings into the realization that I am what I should idolize in the absence of mentors. There was a stark absence of external truth and guidance for me at that point and it made sense to make myself a false idol. Like a placebo to get through it and define myself, by melting all my golden facets and shavings into the crucible to make a molten calf, to create something solid and beautiful, to uplift myself as worthy of my dreams and my grandiosities. In a complex and convoluted way, Sacred Bull for me came to mean, self-worship against what others believe you deserve. My way of breeding the mentality that what I want is mine to take.
You have mentioned that country music owes a lot of its sound to early Black country, blues, and folk musicians. Is this something you were conscious of while making your EP and its visuals?
I’m always conscious of that particular aspect of those genres, it’s really frustrating that the blackness of those genres is so consciously evaded and erased in mainstream country and folk music. While my EP definitely wasn’t country or folk this time around, it did rest heavily on ideas of the wild west and cowboy culture and most of those cues come through in the sacred Bull visual. I leaned into that ethos of exploration and self-sufficiency.
There is a clip of you shaving your head in the “Mutual Agreement” video, why did you choose to include that?
That whole video was a performance piece about my hair and its metaphorical weight. “Mutual Agreement” was a poem I wrote on the subject and me and the producer on Sacred Bull, Jay Cooper made it into a song. So it made sense to perform shaving that exact hair in the video. To take that weight off my shoulders per se.
How do you plan out your visuals and music videos, what is your process like?
I close my eyes and listen to the music on loop for hours, writing down what visions they conjure in my head. Then I string together a story if it’s necessary. It’s a very natural process, once the music is made I can just let my imagination run wild, and then after letting it run wild, I reign it back into what’s actually in budget.
What was it like touring with Lenny Kravitz? How was your European tour experience? Any favorite cities?
Touring with Lenny was a dream! I’ve always looked up to him so it was amazing to open his show and share that stage. It was my first tour ever so definitely gonna be hard to top. Europe is beautiful and driving through it was the best way to see all the amazing countries we visited. My favorite stop has to be either Skopje or Lyon, both were really beautiful cities and a great crowd.
Did he teach you anything / give you any advice?
He taught me a lot just by being present to observe. His live show is one of the best and most consistent I’ve ever seen, so I was taking a lot of mental notes on how to be a better performer and how to build a better show. When we were in Milan, he told me he respected that I do my thing and stick to my artistic truth, that it shines through my music and that I should be protective of that and trust in its future.
Do you have a pre-show routine? Do you like performing live?
I get really introverted before a performance, I just do my makeup and get dressed and then I like to hold my breath for as long as I can and then let it out slowly and repeat until it’s time to go on stage. It centers me and is also a great exercise for breath support, so it kind of a combo of a warm-up and a meditation.
I love performing. It’s the thing I love most about music, being on stage. It’s where I feel powerful and confident and in control. I don’t really get stage fright because I know whatever happens on that stage I can make it work, I can turn it into a show and roll with the punches. It’s like getting in the ring for me, the adrenaline is pumping and I’m there to just prove how undeniable I can be.
Who are some artists you would love to work with? (any medium)
I’d love to work with do a duet with Sevdaliza, make an instrument with Bjork, I’d love to sit down with Bill Withers and talk about songwriting. I’d love to make a visual with Alejandro Jodorowsky, talk about process or be mentored by Louis Bourgeois. Learn production hacks from Dev Hynes and Danger Mouse, I want to collaborate with Issey Miyake someday, maybe choreograph and dance piece or make a pleats print. I could go on forever haha I’m super inspired and excited about collaboration across mediums.
Any upcoming projects we should know about?
Yes. I’ll be putting out a 4 song EP at the top of 2020, no official name or title as of yet. I’ve been shuffling around what the final four should be for weeks and that will determine what I name it, but for now, I’m feeling the title should be “Digital Intimacy”.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND INTERVIEW: Harshvardhan Shah
CREATIVE DIRECTION: Alvina Bokhari
STYLING: Shereen Mohammad
BEAUTY: Luca Ponce for Mac Cosmetics
Stay tuned to Milk for more Ones to Watch.