Every once in a while, out of the uninterrupted flow of music around us, a voice comes around that stops you in your tracks. It rises above the noise, regardless of its volume, and resonates with you long after the end of a song. One such voice belongs to Annie Lipetz of Annie Girl & The Flight. Heavy in its lightness, and often calm in all its jagged malcontent, her vocals power the band’s mesmeric folk rock, not at the forefront but from its core, breathing fire into each track without dominating the group’s sonic aesthetic. Before you read about the woman behind the voice, you need to hear it to truly understand its weight.
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Annie Lipetz came to San Francisco at the age of 17, when she joined a collection of artists at a co-op known as the Ark. “I was brought there by Christian Lopez, who runs Calar Music, a label that started in Argentina. He found me in the park when I was 17, screaming before I even had a voice,” she explains. “He believed in me and brought me to the Ark. I loved the Ark and I just kept coming back there and coming back there, and eventually I found my voice and started playing with the Family Folk Explosion and then they let me move in.”
This story, one so distinctive of San Francisco, began only ten days after her arrival in the city. She describes, “I met Christian on the 10th day I was here. I had this crazy three days where I got the drunkest I’ve ever been in my life, and then on the third day, I ended up at the park and some of my friends knew Christian. He had a guitar and they asked me to play. That’s how it happened. Ten days.”
It’s been three years since Annie moved into the now defunct co-op–“It was shut down. We were in a commercial space and they finally caught everybody so it was shut down”–and of all the places she’s seen and experienced, she’s never found a home that suits her better than San Francisco.
“I lived in Southern California for a little while when I was 15 or 16 and I came up here for six months when I was 16, and then retreated to Denver but came back pretty quickly. I love San Francisco. I know people are really feeling a bit down about it right now. But I absolutely love it up here,” she proclaims, “I’ve never felt so at home anywhere in my life.”
Even after a stint in France, where she found a collective of artists to collaborate with, she found herself unaffected by the romantic notions of living in a European city. “When I went to Europe, I thought I was going to want to move there because I did when I was younger, but I missed it here,” she explains. “I was heavily involved with this whole community of musicians in France and I ended up in this town Grenoble for weeks, and I went to London and ended up there for a month. I was supposed to be there for two days. Then, I went back to Grenoble and hung out with all of these musicians and recorded some stuff with them and saw their community and how it works out there. They’re not trapped, but there are more barriers than there are here I think.”
After cutting her teeth as a teenager in Denver’s punk rock scene, she turned to folk music to challenge herself as a songwriter. Mapping the evolution of her sound, she explains, “I played drums and guitar in punk bands growing up. Then I started wanting to play folk, but I still wanted to play fast so it became more folk-punk.”
She continues, “Then I wanted to sing pretty, so I figured that out. And then I got really depressed, and that’s where the first record came from. It’s so slow and different.”
Sounding somewhat dissatisfied with the patient, sedated and serrated energy of her first record, she turns confident in the direction her music has taken.
“I’m excited about this EP,” she says, “Because it shows the contrast and that’s just going to continue with our next full-length record. It’s funny because I was playing fast folk, and then I started playing this really slow music, and now I’m speeding up again.”
Annie & The Flight’s upcoming EP, Pilot Electric, marks Annie’s latest sonic shift. “I’m constantly writing tons of songs. So, the EP is basically the newest songs that I had written. We’re going to eventually record everything that we want to record, but we wanted to go in with something really fresh. My songwriting is constantly evolving and these were the song that made us go, ‘Yeah, this is making us want to move and feel!'”
So far, the band has dropped one track from the record (the sonic bomb “Betray the Sea” that soundtracked the first half of this feature), and we are proud to premiere the second cut off Pilot Electric, “The Forge”.
Thematically, she sticks to the basics of what she knows and what she has always known: “The overarching theme of all my music is just my emotions, whatever I’m feeling at the time. I know that’s something that everybody says, but basically what I do is write about extremely personal things and then I take out words until its vague enough to not let everyone into my heart.”
Through the channel of her voice, her lyrics, as vague as she makes them, carry the power and weight of every emotion that catalyzed them, those universal feelings of longing and frustration, those pulls of mischief, that listeners can then latch onto and find their own story in.
“I feel like when you speak in simple terms its easier for people to relate to,” she asserts. “That’s really what I feel that I’m here to do, to make music that evokes feelings for others, because I think that’s a problem: the dulling emotions of the human race. Music is definitely something that can bring out emotions so I try to play music that makes me feel something, I and hope, in turn, that it makes other people feel something.”
While she provides the initial structure and lyrics of a song, she respects the sonic contributions of her band – guitarist Josh Pollock, bassist Joe Lewis and drummer Nick Ott. “I write most of my songs on acoustic guitar and then I bring them to the band,” Annie describes, “Usually the whole song is finished, but I don’t write their parts for them.”
She explains, “With some of the faster stuff that’s not even on the EP that people will hear at the Chapel, I do write some of the other guitar parts. When I’m playing more punk music, I hear the exact parts that go together and they’re more simple. Josh is into writing less simple parts, so sometimes I bring in more simplicity.”
One example of her role as chief songwriter is the track “Fire Escape,” which was a last minute addition to Pilot Electric. “The reason that (track) is on the EP is the night before we went into the studio, we got bored playing the same two songs over and over again. I said I wrote this new song, ‘Fire Escape,’ its kind of weird. I played it for them and they’re like ‘Oh, we’re recording that tomorrow.'”
The band is hosting a record release show on Friday, May 2, at the Chapel, along with Southern California-based outfit Kera and the Lesbians and the Bay Area’s Ash Reiter, a close-friend of Annie’s who has, through her own music and Hickey Fest, solidified herself as prominent force in San Francisco’s music community.
“I feel like I’m part of the most amazing, talented community of musicians and artists that I’ve ever been a part of anywhere,” Annie affirms, “And I feel like there’s so much room to create here. There are so many outlets and so many allies.”
With her own “top-secret” project in the works, she plans on showing the world exactly what is happening in San Francisco, beyond the headlines and despite all the people talking down on the city.
After their record release show, Annie and her band kick off a national tour that will, for now, end at a homecoming gig at the first annual Not Dead Yet Fest in June. Check out their itinerary below to see if they’re stopping in your city, and keep an eye on the band’s official website to stay current on the full schedule. More dates to be announced soon! For now, dig this video for a taste of what you’re in for.
Annie Girl & the Flight Tour Dates:
05/02 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
05/05 – Reno, NV – St. James Infirmary
05/06 – SLC, UT – Bar Deluxe
05/07 – Denver, CO – Walnut Room
05/08 – Wichita, KS – Rock Island
05/09 – Fayetteville, AK – JR’s Lightbulb Club
05/13 – Rock Island, IL – Rozz Tox
05/15 – Bloomington, IN – Max’s Place
05/16 – Akron, OH – Annabell’s
05/22 – Manhattan, NY – Rockwood Music Hall
05/29 – Baton Rouge, LA – Mud & Water
05/30 – Austin, TX – The Blackheart
05/31 – Lubbock, TX – Bar PM
06/04 – Los Angeles, CA – Los Globos
06/05 – Santa Barbra, CA – Whiskey Richards
06/07 – San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside (Not Dead Yet Fest)