Meet Ann Yu: Lead Singer of LoveLikeFire
Photo: Yuan Zhou
Ann Yu wins Weirdest Teenage Rebel Award hands down. When she was sixteen her parents banned her from the high school orchestra in Las Vegas because she was too dedicated to the violin. She would practice long into the night, making sure she always won first chair, and her parents had to fight with her to go to bed. By the time she was thirteen, Yu had acquired scabs on her chin due to her diligent playing. It got to be too much for them and they forbade her from playing the high school orchestra. Yu was devastated. "I wanted to tell them, "You guys don't even understand how lucky you have it! All I want to do is play the violin. Sure it's annoying, but I could have been running around on drugs. I'm a totally awesome daughter." I felt so misunderstood."
Having acquired a driver's license, Yu joined a local rock band. "That's where the idea to be in a band sprung from. I realized you didn't need a whole orchestra to make music." All these years later, Yu is still just as passionate to her art. (Her parents have finally come around to the idea.) Her latest band, LoveLikeFire' s debut album will be out in August, but is already garnered some heavily positive praise from critics. Yu was kind enough to speak with us about her upcoming debut yesterday evening. Here is some of what was said.
When did you first start singing?
I started playing guitar before I started singing. I always thought I would be the guitar player in the band, but you know one day I wrote my own song and began singing. It was just very natural, very organic, you know? The guy I was in a band with heard the song at practice and said that he really liked my voice. Next thing you know I'm fronting a band. Singing has really become part of my identity. I'm not trained by any means. I mean I took some vocal lessons at the beginning, but nothing for years.
How did you form LoveLikeFire?
I met Dave first. He plays the drums. When I first moved to San Francisco in 2004, we were in different bands, but we liked each other's style, so we decided to form a side project. We didn't have a name for it or anything, we just started writing songs together. But soon we realized, "Hey, we have something really cool here. Things could really go far." and we made LoveLikeFire official in 2006.
What did you tell your old band?
Well I had been moonlighting, doing both for awhile, so they may have seen it coming. I love my old band mates. They're awesome people, but I felt like we were not going to be able to do much more with our music. I wanted to make music my career, and I felt this new band was really going to go somewhere. I think I told them, "I'm going to move on." It was hard. Break ups are always hard.
Where did you get the name the LoveLikeFire?
It's actually a really boring story. We were flipping through records,and it just popped out at us. I like name. It sounds nice. It's got a certain amount passion and dark beauty to it that really reflects in our music. We squished the words together because we were worried that it would be too much of a poetic statement. (laughs) I dunno.
Photo: Amplify This!
Why is your album called Tear Ourselves Away? What are you tearing yourselves away from?
It's based on this theme that's running through the album of nothing has been very balanced. You know when you're not feeling completely content with your existence? You get this feeling that you're always hungry for something or wanting something. When we wrote this I think we were full of unsettled feelings, and when you're feeling like that you find yourself clinging to things. At the time I really wished some person could come up to me and say, "Okay Ann, this is how your life is going to be and explain my future." But that's impossible, so this title really speaks to that uncertainty. What inspired "William"? Is that song about one specific person or a bunch of people combined?
That song is based on a very childhood, bittersweet nostalgia feeling. It's based on a best friend I had in kindergarten. Some of those lines in that song are verbatim. That line "Fifty cents to share a popsicle," is part of a true story. When we were little you could buy a popsicle for fifty cents, and my parents couldn't afford to give me fifty cents every day. My friend always had enough money and sometimes she would buy twin pops, so we could share, and sometimes she just bought one big pop. It was a power thing. I was her right hand man, you know, but she always made me feel like I wasn't cool as her. That sort of feeling carries through to other things in life and other relationships. Sometimes you get trapped in a situation that isn't healthy. Sometimes your attracted to people who need your help or people who make you feel bad. That song is very honest.
Whose shoes are you standing in in "Stand in Your Shoes?"
That comes from a feeling of insecurity. You know being in a band is really difficult. It's hard to be honest about your feelings and thoughts when people can tear you apart left and right or glorify you. That song is just saying "Hey, try and be in my shoes!" Being a musician is really odd because you use own feelings and emotions in your line of work. It's a very different thing from being a plumber or something. (No offense to plumbers.) But you have to be very in tune with yourself all the time. I get so frustrated with myself a lot of the time because I don't want to worry about what people think. (laughs) Our songs are about all uplifting subjects.
Whose shoes did you wish you could stand in?
I have a lot of shoes I want to stand in. sometimes i wish i could stand in my closest friends' shoes. I don't really want to say what bands I admire because then people will say we're trying to be those bands. Oh! Morrissey is one. Dang it. Well, there goes that resolution. I just love how he just goes up there and there's this passion and vulnerability and confidence. Although there is a lot of people I could say that about, but I think he's great.
What was the worst show you ever played?
The worst show we played, is one that we never played at all. We drove down from San Francisco to Los Angeles to play this gig, and it was at a sports bar. Inside there were only bikini babes and sports. Which would have been fine except nobody showed up, so we didn't even play. We drove six hours to not play a show. It was terrible.
What is the weirdest thing you've ever seen in the audience?
It's always funny when you see people dancing to our music. We have some songs that you clearly cannot dance to. I mean, it's awesome, but also pretty interesting. Some people dance to our songs like they were listening to a house record. I've seen that a couple times. It's really strange. Oh, and if there is any catcalling from the audience, that's really distracting and weird.
Where were you catcalled?
In San Deigo. It was at this collegey kind of thing. I'm not sure what it was for, but we were playing for people who clearly didn't get our music. There was catcalling and after the show there was booty dancing. I'm really not sure why we were booked there.
Photo: Julie Zielinski
Do you have any strange promoter stories?
We were booked at this really weird place in Austin for SXSW. Usually our booker is great, bless his heart, but for some reason for SXSW he booked us at a moose lodge. It was so bizarre. The night we played it was a party for this huge Christian motorcycle gang. There were rows and rows of motorcycles outside and it was so smokey my eyes hurt. We had never played anything like this before. We were playing with Army Navy, so we assumed it was cool, but apparently they thought it was cool because we were playing. That show was totally random and bizarre.
If you could change anything about the music industry what would it be?
I wish that people would just be honest about stuff. There are a lot of false promises made in the music industry. I think it's the whole ego thing. People telling me what I want, so that they can get what they want. It's really unfair. These people pour their lives into their art and their music, and then they just get lied to. It ruins people's livelihoods. If something's not happening just be honest. Honesty is such a good policy.
If you could sing with anyone in the world who would it be?
Morrissey or Thom Yorke. Do I have to choose?
No, what song would you sing?
Oh good. I've loved Radiohead since i was in high school. Oh man, I would be really nervous to sing with Thom Yorke. I think would have to sing the chorus, and he'd sing the main parts. I would love to sing an old Elvis tune with Thom. Maybe "Blue Moon of Kentucky"? Something completely out of character for him. And Morrissey...something similar. Maybe a Tom Jones song? Oh! I would love to sing "Delilah" with Morrissey. I would be so thrilled to sing that with him. It would be totally awesome.
I heard you used to live with Ronnie Vannucci the drummer for the Killers in Los Vegas. Was it strange watching them blow up?
Oh yeah, it was very strange. It doesn't happen very often to people I know. The band was really taking off when I moved to San Francisco. It's almost like, "How can it be so easy?" They went from unheard of band to mega rock stars in like a week, you know? They were very fortunate and they're talented, great guys. Regardless of all the stuff you hear you hear about them.
Do you have a favorite local band at the moment?
There's a couple that I like. I like the Papercuts a lot. They're good. I would put them on the top of the list.
If you were throwing a party in Heaven and a party in Hell who would headline?
Well for Heaven I would book Camera Obscura. I love that band. There songs are so beautiful and bittersweet. They're very pure and honest. I would put them in heaven. For Hell, probably the Kills. They've got this gritty thing going on. I think it would work great with the Hell aesthetic. Or perhaps Ladytron or the Raveonettes. They would look really cool in hell.
Finish this sentence: If you're in Vegas, you have to...
Go to Blueberry Hill! You have to go to Blueberry Hill after a night of partying. We would go there ar four or five in the morning, right after sunrise for some pancakes and sausages. It's open anytime, 24 hours a day, which is totally a Vegas thing.
Well, thank you so much for talking with us.