Former member of Gowns, Erika M. Anderson (AKA EMA) is currently in the middle of her Australian tour for Laneway Festival, which comes to Sydney this weekend. According to her website, Erika 'grew up in the dive bars and rotten graveyards of South Dakota', which sums the artist up perfectly. She's down to earth and loves herself a Hot Toddy (whiskey and hot water) while on tour, but at the same time, she's completely unpredictable. Despite being dubbed one of the most blogged-about artists of 2011, the Internet weirds her out sometimes and to watch her on-stage, you'd never guess that she used to teach Kindergarten.
Rosie Dalton: Hi Erika, how are you?
Erika M. Anderson: I'm doing good, how are you?
I'm good. Are you working or relaxing right now?
I wish I was relaxing, my house is really messy so I'm supposed to be cleaning it. I'd much rather be relaxing.
Have you ever been to Australia before?
No, I haven't.
What's your impression of us?
Well I think there are aspects that kind of run the gamut between extremely sophisticated in terms of arts, festivals and food, but then the people also seem very down to earth and like they love to party.
What about your influences, do you have any main musical influences?
You know, I'm really excited by all different sorts of music. When something is done well, it doesn't really matter what genre it is.
Your sound has been compared to everyone from Siouxsie and the Banshees to Cat Power and Sonic Youth, how do you feel about comparisons like these?
Well, one thing I love about that is the fact that it's so varied; I would feel much worse if I was compared to just one person over and over.
Yeah, it's a huge compliment. So what is it like to play in the band with your little sister?
Oh man! [Laughs] You know, it's pretty good. Except that we fight a little bit, but overall it's cool. When I started this band I really wanted to have people I knew and trusted around me. Not all those people want to be in a rock band that tours six months of the year though, you know. So it's good.
You've been described as one of the most blogged-about artists of recent times, how do you feel about that title?
Well it's great to receive all this awesome critical praise but the only thing that I don't want is for people to be intimated by that, or by me. I'd hate for anyone to think I'm too cool for them or anything.
Do you like to browse the net or are you more about the old school?
The Internet weirds me out a bit. I mean, it's cool but you can feel so overwhelmed and drained if you're on it for too long. It's kind of like the universe and you're reminded that you're a speck in the universe [laughs]. It's just that there's so much shit out there and if you plug in too much it can be a bit of a mind-fuck.
Plug in like the Matrix?
Yeah! Well actually, not even like the Matrix because the Matrix is orderly, this is like a chaotic wormhole or something; there's no system, it's just crazy. I mean, it can be good and bad. On one hand, it's awesome but if I do too much of it, I get a hangover.
You mentioned that you're into reading, do you think books will stick around much longer or eventually die out?
Well actually my bandmate gave his grandma an iPad and then she gave it back to him, so we had this iPad on tour and he was downloading heaps of books while I was hauling around the real thing. I'm not a very material person, though, I don't like to have a lot of things, so maybe I'd be fine with just an iPad or something. Then again, I like to read the newspaper rather than stare at a screen forever so I like both I guess.
If you're not a material person, what would you ask for in your ultimate festival rider?
Well I usually have hot water and whiskey to make Hot Toddys, but I've been drinking so much whiskey! [Laughs]…I'm shuddering a little bit. I don't know, I think I'd like to have something that someone cared about in there. Maybe food that someone has put a lot of care into or something. That's exciting, I think.
Is whiskey your favourite drink?
[Laughs] Well I don't really drink whiskey when I'm at home, I'm not the type to knock off and go 'Alright, It's time to hit the whiskey' or anything. But I like to chill out with some white wine — which Australians and New Zealanders do pretty well — and I also really like sparkling water, 'adult' water.
What do you think you would have been if you weren't a musician?
Well I was a teacher for a while.
Yeah I was a substitute teacher.
Oh everything, Kindergarten through High School. But I have actually been waiting for someone to ask me this question, because one day I'd really like to be a mum!
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