Just ahead of this weekend’s Frendly Gathering music festival I caught up with Michael Lashomb (guitar/vocals), a founding member of Annie in the Water, who will be performing at Frendly Gathering for the first time. Ever since he and Brad Hester (vocals, guitar) created AITW, the band has been traveling the countryside gaining new followers with their unique fusion of reggae, jam, funk, rock and blues. Annie’s positive uplifting message fits perfectly with the vibe Frendly Gathering regulars have come to love. What started out as two musically-talented frends jamming out with a multitude of different instruments has since exploded into a 5-piece jam band that is quickly gaining traction thanks to its musically-diverse repertoire, uplifting message and positive energy. In our discussion, Mike discusses the road that’s led them here, future plans, and the tangible excitement of performing at Frendly for their first time. Tickets for the festival can still be purchases here.
“Crispy” was recorded at the Frendly Friday Pre-party for Frendly Gathering in May 2017 with the current band line-up, and also features singers Hayley Jane and Meadow Eliz
Sound Fix: Hey Michael, thanks for taking some time to chat with us ahead of the weekend’s festivities! You guys have been making music for quite awhile. How did it all start for Annie in the Water?
Michael Lashomb: It’s been a wild ride for sure and we are very grateful. Time flies when you live on the road. Brad and I started playing as a duo acoustic act back in the late summer of 2007 at a cottage on the St. Lawrence River. It was just our frends, a couple of acoustics, and a fun party week. We also took time that week to record some raw tracks and put them online. After we put the songs on the internet, we haven’t looked back. That’s when Annie fell in the Water but was totally unharmed. It was just an extremely hilarious story – a ‘you had to be there’ kind of thing.
SF: Well it’s good to hear that nobody was harmed in the making of your band! Annie in the Water was originally a duo, but you’ve added a few members along the way. How did all that happen?
ML: Adding players throughout our career has been very interesting. We always knew we wanted something bigger since our earliest days when it was just me and Brad. Originally we were just vocals and acoustic guitar, then we invested our time in a looping jam show. From day one, we always wanted that full band sound. We’ve had quite a few players come in and out throughout the years, and there are so many beautiful experiences, stories, and lessons we share with each member. At the end of the day, what brings us all together now is timing, life goals, music similarities, vibe, and commitment.
“Sativa” was recorded in 2014 with Dillon Goodfriend on keys when the trio spent consecutive days in the same cottage as the first ever recordings, which took place 7 years prior
ML: Well last Spring we added Joshua West on drums. As a trio of Brad, Joshua and myself, we knew the future would be special. Currently we also have William Comstock with us on bass and JD Tolstoi on keys. At this point, we have all mentally, physically and spiritually anticipated this musical group, and now is the time for us to move forward. Just three months ago the five of us had our first rehearsal and now we are prepping for the biggest shows of our career. That being said, we would like to thank all of the incredible musicians who have played with us in the past and put in the time, effort, road miles and sleep deprivation required to make it possible. Annie in the Water is a result of all the people who have played a role in it and we are forever Grateful.
SF: How has the addition of Joshua, Billy and JD shaped the music fans hear today?
ML: The new additions of Billy on bass and JD on keys has brought a very unique element both on and off the stage. As Vermont natives, Billy and JD have helped us gain traction in Vermont with venues and music lovers alike. Billy brings a professionalism, musical knowledge and childlike wonder to the stage. He also has a technical knowledge that helps with composition and transitional writing for jams. JD has an element of pure creativity, live performance presence and expression. He’s brought great songs to the table which we’ll be implementing very soon. Joshua is the powerful force to pulse the band forward and build excitement all while singing throughout the show. He also brings fantastic song writing skills with deep reggae roots that really helps us explore dub style play – and then there’s Brad on lead vocals. He portrays our message soulfully and passionately, and I’m just sitting there in the middle thoroughly enjoying the ride! We are a compilation of such interesting personalities and stories and it all has made our music shift in a positive and professional way. There are numerous songs Brad and myself wrote throughout the years and we are now able to perform them. We also now have the ability to write songs that highlight each musician’s individual strengths. One song in particular that I wrote with the current lineup in mind is called “Change My Mind.” We finally have all the right people to perform it and it sounds great!
SF: I saw your set at Disc Jam, and absolutely loved seeing JD jam out on keyboards with Ryan Dempsey of Twiddle and Scott Hannay of Mister F. What are some of your sit-in highlights this year
ML: Yeah, Scott is always down for a sit-in. He’s like the frend that is always down to play video games with you and brings his own controller to your house. Having Ryan Dempsey on stage with us for the first time was really fun too. We don’t like to judge one experience as better than another, but Disc Jam’s keys circus was definitely one of the more enjoyable sit-ins. Everyone was just having so much fun and goofing around. I was slightly curious as to how we would pull off so many high frequencies with having Ryan, Scott and JD up there at the same time but it all came together perfectly and the transitions were on point, which is always incredibly surreal. Everyone was stoked afterwards. It was beautiful. As far as sitting in with other bands, one of our favorite moments was when our entire band jumped on stage with Gang of Thieves at Higher Ground in Burlington. They gave us percussion instruments and had us play during their Red Hot Chili Peppers set. Some of us had never even seen some of those instruments before but we all ran up on stage and went ape shit. The vibes were through the roof and the crowd really enjoyed it.
SF: One thing I love about Annie in the Water is your positive message. I’ve seen you a couple of times now and can always feel the positive energy! Can you explain that message a bit?
ML: Whatever you felt at our shows, if it makes you feel good and it inspires you to better understand the beauty and strength you have inside, then the work we are doing is totally worth it. Even if only a couple of people are inspired, the seed is planted and they can go out and inspire two more people. That being said, there are a lot of different ways the message can be perceived and each individual reacts uniquely to the experience of our show. Each of our songs have been written through our own life challenges, experiences, relationships, lessons and victories. However, we want to be happy and we especially want our listeners to be happy. When we play music, we are using the gifts we have been blessed with to the best of our ability. Before each show we always express gratitude that we are able to play on stage for people. The best part of a performance is seeing people smile and dance and come together to celebrate that experience. Sometimes the message is in the form of a wonderful feeling. Music is such a powerful tool that can help heal this world and it reminds us that we are all connected. We invite as many people to come together to co-create a unique and powerful experience.
SF: This is your first year playing Frendly Gathering. How excited are you to be on the lineup? When can we catch you guys?
ML: Frendly Gathering for us is a huge life goal. Brad and I put that festival on our vision board over four years ago and we’ve been working hard to get on the lineup ever since. We are all very much involved in the winter sports atmosphere, being avid skiers and snowboarders. Playing a festival founded by professional snowboarders is truly the ideal for us. There are simply no words to communicate just how very stoked we are to be on the lineup this year. We will play early Friday afternoon, and there is another huge announcement for that weekend coming out as well. As for the show, we always strive to have as much fun as possible on stage. What fans will experience is the manifestation of our dreams while we play. Personally, I know I will be pouring my heart out in total appreciation of being able to play and I assure you that each person in the AITW crew will be doing the same in their own way. The more people that can share in the Frendly Gathering experience, the more magic we can all create together.
SF: I personally can’t wait four your set. The fact that you guys are so into winter sports must make this a truly special experience! Have you ever ridden at Sugarbush, the new venue?
ML: Unfortunately neither Brad nor I have ridden Sugarbush yet, however Joshua has skied pretty much every Vermont mountain resort there is. We will definitely be making a “band day” this season and will ride Sugarbush together. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the mountain, so we are super stoked to play there – and eventually ride it as well!
SF: I watched your ‘Sativa’ live release video over the holiday season. What other live releases will we be seeing?
ML: Yes, we just recently dropped a live video performance of our original song ‘Crispy’ featuring Hayley Jane and Meadow Eliz on vocals. We’ve also been working with Trez Productions and will be making more video productions for everyone. As for now, we are very much on the road so we plan on making a compilation EP of live shows that we intend to release this fall.
SF: How about new music? Do you have any new releases planned?
ML: As for new music, Autumn is when we’re getting into the studio to give people the clean and proper sound they deserve. Our time spent together prior to that will also help us feel out personalities and styles, and that will certainly contribute to the studio album we’ll produce. We’ll slowly implement new material at each show, so just come out to shows and you are guaranteed to hear a new song!
SF: In closing, you tend break out some covers from time to time. What are some of your favorites to play?”
ML: Cover songs are always fun. We just recently started playing “Boogie on Reggae Woman” and it’s very fun to perform. Personally, I love playing anything by the Talking Heads. Most of the covers we play at shows depend on the vibe, timing, location, as well as the people in the crowd. For example, we began playing “Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals years ago. Back then, it didn’t get the response we wanted but now people go crazy for it. Life is interesting like that.
SF: Thanks Michael, see you this weekend!