Every Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m., head over to JAX Food and Games to check out Annie in the Water. Don’t be surprised when you don’t see Annie but you’re welcome to all the water you want, free of charge. I had heard some good reviews of the group and I, too, expected to see a female vocalist, but there is not one in the group. Don’t let that stop you because this duo is really good and plays a wide variety of cool tunes.
Annie in the Water is a five piece group that hails from Albany, N.Y. but does a rocking duo for the JAX gig. The duo and original members of the band are Brad Hester (lead vocals, guitar, looping and percussion) and Michael Lashomb (lead guitar and vocals). Both are 30 years old. For band gigs, like the one they just played at Higher Ground in Burlington, they are joined by Dillon Goodfriend (keys, backing vocals), Anthony Leombruno (bass, vocals) and Joshua West (percussion, drumset, vocals). When they first started the duo,they only used two acoustic guitars and now have added percussion, looping and more.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Hester and he described the band as “Funky, reggae jam rock with a conscious dose of positive vibes. It’s a little bit of funk, a little bit of reggae, a little bit of jam and a little bit of rock. A big part of our intention is to share some conscious feelings we have about life and our opinion of it. We’re here to be happy and here to help … everyone around us. We try to put as much positive energy into the air as possible. Every show is that important to us in every way, pretty much a sacred ceremony. We practice to get better or perform and create a memory for people.”
Hester and Lashomb started playing together in the summer of 2007, but the band has only been performing for the past year. Hester said, “This has been our goal—to start a band—ever since we started the duo. We’ve carefully selected the other members, that’s why it has taken so long to move forward with it.”
I’ve always been fascinated by how a band comes up with its unique name and this is a good one. Shortly after the duo formed, they were hanging out at a friend’s lake house. Another friend named Annie was joking about how she was going to untie the boat, and then proceeded to trip and fall in the water. Hester and Lashomb did their first ever recording the next day but didn’t know what to call the band. A couple months later, someone said “How about Annie in the Water?” and Hester said “Cool.” He really liked the name because of its originality and it’s easy to remember. Plus it’s thought provoking because people, like me, wonder ,“Where is Annie?”
Hester and Lashomb met at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. Hester’s college roommate grew up with Lashomb and they all went to Hobart to play lacrosse. They met in the fall of 2006 when Lashomb was visiting Hobart. They jammed together that night and were excited to make something of it. They both have original tunes to their credit but they mostly play covers. What sets them apart from other groups is that they put their own spin on it. Hester said, “It’s a little bit like the Grateful Dead. Some of the songs that they’re famous for were covers. To this day, some people don’t know that because they’re in the Grateful Dead-style. We have enough original music that we can play for four hours but we like to play some covers because if people have never heard us before, they really like how we do the Talking Heads or a well known dance song.” I heard Hester sing “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” which is a Mike Posner tune that I play a remix of frequently when I deejay. Hester did that remix and blew me away because I have not heard anyone else cover that. Hester lost his voice last year and that song was the first one he was able to sing when he got it back.
Hester’s first musical influences were Garth Brooks and the Backstreet Boys. He said, “That’s really all I knew when I was super young. I’m not even embarrassed about it, just one of those funny things in life.” In high school he got into 311 and Pepper and in college he discovered Phish and the Grateful Dead. He also likes Our Lady Peace, Fuel and Vertical Horizon. Someone that has always inspired him is a buddy in Albany that goes by FdX. He’s a Jamaican hip hop producer that introduced him to a musician named Dreggae. Hester is a big fan of him and his lyrics. Dreggae is very conscious like Hester and is trying to make change. Those two collaborated on a remix of Dreggae’s “It’s Not Over” and gave it an acoustic feel with Hester. “I’ve always been into rap as well as musical jamming. My tastes are really wandering. A lot of different inspirations and avenues to open my mind to music that is successful.”
Hester and Lashomb released an album in 2011, “Destination.” Hester red-shirted his senior year due to an injury so he did his last year at Jacksonville University (J.U.) in Florida. His Hobart coach went there to start a lacrosse program. Hester helped him out as an assistant coach. J.U. has an amazing music program so Lashomb moved down there and they were able to produce this record together. It was lacrosse all day and the studio all night. Hester says it’s an album that’s not really what they’re doing today. “It’s us, but it’s not really us. We didn’t have a full band at the time—just the songs. We met the drummer, Matt Davis, the day before we recorded. He turned out to be a very good drummer so that was awesome. We play two or three songs from that album with the band now. We’ve released about 12 songs since then.” They have a lot of live recordings and after they get off the road and have time to craft it, they will release a new album. They have about 25 songs that are ready, they just need the time and money to record them. Hester has four songs that are different styles but are his favorite original tunes that best describe what they do now—”Crispy,” “Queen of Queens,” “Passion,” and “Sativa.” You can find them on their website or iTunes. Hester says “Sativa hits you in the face, the whole song.”
If you go to JAX to see them play, make sure you head to the stage and see all the holistic gemstones and crystals that Hester has on the stage. It fascinated me and it’s something Hester is really into. He and Lashomb were on the road for three and a half years without really taking a break and Hester lost his voice. It was through holistic healing that he cured it. He discovered these crystals at a Dead and Company show in Ohio. “I was holding this crystal in my hand and it started throbbing. I could feel the entire electromagnetic energy running through it from all the energy of the people dancing. It was the most mind blowing experience I’ve ever had. After that I took Reiki certification and got into all the energy healing. You have everything you need in your body to heal yourself if you can tap into that energy your body provides. A lot of this medicine stuff, we really don’t need at all. It’s all diet, consciousness and awareness of the energy you have within you and all around you. This was definitely a big part of me getting my voice back and keeping it healthy. It’s hard to describe the feeling of it. I would advise anyone to research Reiki and any holistic healing they can possibly look into. I’m a firm believer that we’re connected with this earth and the fact that there are a lot of ways to get healthy that don’t have anything to do with medical. Reiki contributes to the body and helps it to heal itself.”
What Hester likes the most about playing live is pushing himself to try something new. He said, “The exciting part is something different is going to happen every time. The biggest intention of our music is to spread unconditional love and create memorable experiences where you get to be happy in the moment and not think about anything that bothers you and weighs you down. There’s a book called ‘The Music Lesson’ by Victor Wooten and I encourage anybody to read that. It touches on a lot of things in life that are not necessarily music, but music is life, so it’s very mind opening and being aware of purpose. When you have a purpose to do something, that vibration goes directly into the universe and directly into the people in front of you. That is something we all focus on. Nothing will disrupt that while we’re doing it. We just want people to come out, have a good time and dance.”
Photo courtesy of Dave Hoffenberg
ANNIE IN THE WATER