What is the dao of Anna Friedberg? Just start walking.
“I don’t even know where I’m walking, and then things happen,” she says via phone from her home in London. Her voice is full of laughter and excitement; her sentences punctuated by laughter.
“In my past, sometimes I’ve thought about it too much, but it’s better to just start, and then everything is a bit easier as well. It doesn’t seem like a big, scary rock in front of you.”
The Austrian-born singer-songwriter started her latest musical journey with a road trip through the spiritual desert of Joshua Tree and now finds herself opening for synthpop heroes Hot Chip. Her gritty yet expansive brand of sing-along pop-rock is fuzzy around the edges and instantly likable with all the vintage cool of mid-aught indie dance-rock classics, taking its cues from scene luminaries LCD Soundsystem.
Her debut EP Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah is playfully irreverent and full of raw creative energy. It’s the kind of music that just sounds like it would be even more explosive live, but there are tender moments, too, like Friedberg’s 2019 cover of “Forever Young.”
The music game is nothing new for Friedberg. She’d already secured a record deal and even opened on tour for Lenny Kravitz as Anna F., but she quickly tired of the polished and well-produced sound.
“I’m very restless, and I’m always getting bored easily of stuff and of places,” she says. “It’s why I’ve moved a lot as well in my life. I never plan things in my head. I try things, and on the way, I find the things that I like. So I went to California actually, and I did a road trip and started to write music with two friends.”
Friedgberg followed the road-trip path made famous by beat poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg from Cherry Valley farm in New York City to the spiritual desert of Joshua Tree. She stayed in the same seedy motels as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, digging for a bit of rock’n’roll inspiration. She found it one night, checked into the very same room where The Byrds singer Gram Parsons died.
“I was super scared in the night, because I felt like his ghost was somewhere in the air,” she laughs. “That was the moment I first started to write for Friedberg. In the middle of the night, I got up and started to write songs.” Maybe that was the music he always wanted to do. Who knows? I believe in ghosts. I believe in spiritual things.”
Armed with only a cowbell and a guitar, she sketched out the first drafts of what would become her debut EP. Another few nights spent writing on the PCH solidified the sound.
“It was so rough and raw compared to what I’ve done before,” she says. “I think you can feel the wideness, when you have a road trip and you have your windows rolled down and that wide feeling. It’s definitely music to drive to and do a road trip to.”
The band’s latest single “Never Gonna Pay the Rent” is a coy drag on our modern world’s obsession with appearance and opportunism. Its lofi guitar, stacked vocals and quirky synth line make for a twisted psychedelic take on the ‘60s Phil Spector wall of sound. It’s the first of many new things to come, as Friedberg plans an EP to follow the Hot Chip tour and then hopes to switch into album mode.
After so many months spent in quarantine, Friedberg is ready to bring her riotous show to stages across the pond.
“We just want to play live and play as many shows as possible,” she says. “I made a wish to go on tour with a cool band, and I actually mentioned Hot Chip. I paid the whole amount for the visa and didn’t even know if we were gonna get it back on time. It was completely crazy, because it’s so expensive, but it worked out.”