An angle may be sharp or low, odd or wide. But it's all good as far as Kris Anaya is concerned. Anaya, 21, has no use for custom or convention. Maybe that's why he calls his band An Angle. As his 2002 CD "... and take it with a grain of salt" showed, the Sacramento based singer/songwriter makes music that sneaks up on listeners from around corners. Now, drive-thru records has re-released the album, giving An Angle a wider national and international stage.
"I started playing music I thought should be played," says Kris of his motivation for creating the album. "When I was kid, everyone followed the rules of this band or that band. But there are no rules. Say what you want, play what you want."
Recorded in the band's home base of Sacramento, Anaya called upon an array of local musicians to lend their talents. Many were among the Central Valley's finest, including members of esteemed bands like Quitter, Mister Metaphor, the Evening Episode and Dusty Brown. All are friends, part of what Kris calls "the circle," a loose-knit confederation of 40 to 50 players he calls on at will.
They're an eclectic bunch, and Kris knows it. Most of his songs defy musical gravity, evoking images not often explored. "I hate writing about love and relationships," he says. "Most of these songs are about fake drunk love and a sad teenage heart."
Anaya has a remarkably eclectic sense of orchestration. On any given song, he may layer in a mandolin or solo trumpet, a flute, cello or full string section, whatever his vivid musical imagination calls for. His vocals have been compared to Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), but Kris is truly an original. Some tracks on "... and take it with a grain of salt" run about two minutes long, others, such as "Like a Locket, Like a Bracelet," run over eight minutes, and one, "An Eagle Circles the Forest," is 13 minutes in length. "I like writing stories," says Kris. "I want truth. Nothing candy-coated. I want songs that are straight up."
That honesty streak runs deep. Kris freely admits he likes to drink, and many of his lyrics, such as "Self Medicine," draw on that. "I snuck into bars with my friends all the time," recalls Kris of the period when the album was written. "I was your average bebop 18-year-old looking to find something. My friends had to deal with my bullshit, and when I was younger I freaked out a lot."
His story begins in Monterey, CA, where he was born. Anaya's first big musical influence was actually his cousin Mark, a guitar player who lived in nearby Roseville. "I'd watch him play and I got into it," he recalls. "I realized I wanted to play too." Kris taught himself bass and guitar, and as early as age 14, he began writing and recording songs.
By age 17, Kris knew for certain that music was his destiny. He moved to Seattle to explore the scene there. But surprisingly, just as he was getting deeply into bands like Violent Femmes and Bad Religion, Kris also discovered the music of his parents' generation: artists like James Taylor, Bob Dylan and other folk-influenced 60's acts. And those weren't the only artists to inspire him.
"I got into Charles Bukowski, Jackson Pollack and Michael Stipe," he says. "All these drunks. And my brothers drank. So maybe it's a mentor thing with me. They drink, I get inspired." This led to a shift in Kris's musical direction and a return to the Sacramento area. There, Kris wrote and recorded his first solo album and also joined a local band called Double Think.
But his life changed when he met Robert Cheek, a producer/recording engineer who called Sacramento's Hangar Studios home. There, he and Kris began to collaborate regularly, producing a large body of work in a short time. Together with his friend Brando, Kris started Under a Cloud Records, a small indie imprint which made its debut with "... and take it with a grain of salt." All this before he could legally drink.
Eventually, he caught the attention of drive-thru records. "They're totally supportive of what I do," says Kris. "They started a label from ground up too. I was concerned at first that my music was not punk enough, but Richard and Stefanie Reines are the sweetest people I ever met, and I felt this would work."
Though he's glad his 2002 CD is getting a new lease on life, Kris is the first to admit he is today a different person, musically and otherwise, from who he was when the record first came out. "I think I've grown considerably," he says. "I was once a selfish kid. Now it's all about everyone else."
After a U.S. tour with fellow drive-thru bands Steel Train, HelloGoodbye, and Socratic, Kris will focus on the next An Angle CD. Though it may be miles away from the sparseness of "... and take it with a grain of salt," the next album will share one thing in common with its predecessor. "For me," says Kris, "it's all about playing music with my friends. Hopefully, we can spread the sense of community. I can't do this without my friends."
And though he knows he is young to be an emerging entrepreneur, Kris Anaya has enough maturity to see himself for the artist he is. "I'm still learning," he says. "I may be a writer of sad songs, but that doesn't mean I can't have fun."