It seems 2009 was largely a regrouping one for Raleigh six-piece Annuals: Such Fun, the band’s second album and first for major-label imprint Canvasback Music, was released in 2008 to mixed reviews and comparatively low sales. According to Nielsen Soundscan, Such Fun sold only 7,341 copies, compared to their debut’s 17,999. And Canvasback was cooling on Annuals’ former blog-buzz property, even as the band was working on new material back in Raleigh.
“We found out that our deal with Canvasback was getting messed up over the summer,” says Annuals bassist Mike Robinson. “So, we decided, ‘Let’s do an EP and have it out in November.’”
And they mostly hit their mark: The upcoming five-track EP, Sweet Sister, due now on March 23, has been mostly finished since October. That same month, though, Canvasback announced that it would be inking a deal with Atlantic Records at the end of its three-year contract with Columbia. So the EP, like the band, didn’t have a home. Ace Fu, who issued Annuals’ 2006 debut, Be He Me, to much acclaim and strong indie sales, contemplated releasing the EP, though the label hadn’t released anything new since 2007. That didn’t happen, and Robinson didn’t want to issue Sweet Sister on his own Terpsikhore imprint because he didn’t think the label—essentially staffed by himself—had the proper resources to devote to it when Annuals were touring.
So Banter Media, a new label run by Matt Halverson, formerly an Ace Fu intern, offered help. Annuals are the fifth band on the startup’s roster.
Robinson says, “It’ll be really different, for sure, but it seems everything we do is on a different record label, so why not? It’s exciting to have a fresh start on a modest-sized label that can still do good work.”
Robinson feels good about the work the band did on this EP, too, something that wasn’t always the case with the second album, the sarcastically titled Such Fun. It often took frontman Adam Baker out of his comfort zone—which is to say, late nights with pedals and gear, and long hours of fussing over mixes and adding quirks and textures to songs. The band recorded much of Such Fun in Asheville’s grand Echo Mountain studio, with high-dollar producer Jacquire King.
“Adam never seemed satisfied about it because he never got to put on his finishing touches, the weird stuff that a lot of people like,” says Robinson. “This is Adam, though. He’s back into being in full control of things. He reassumed his role on how everything goes, and I think these songs are much more of a return to the weirdness and quirkiness on the first album.”
Sweet Sister was recorded at Terpsikhore’s studios in Raleigh and at Flying Tiger Sound with B.J. Burton. Ian Schreier, who also worked on Such Fun, mixed the music at Osceola Recording Studios. The EP ends with “Flesh and Blood,” a Johnny Cash cover that Annuals originally cut for Hear Here: The Triangle, the great Terpsikhore compilation of local tunes released last year. It was first scrapped from the collection because the band hadn’t gained the proper permissions.
Meanwhile, whispers have been floating through Raleigh that Anna Spence, the band’s keyboardist, was leaving the band. After all, she sat out a tour late last year, originally booked to promote the ultimately delayed Sweet Sister. Robinson says there’s nothing to those rumors aside from a tour that simply conflicted with Spence’s college schedule.
“Anna’s still in the band. She had to finish up college, and she’s now done,” Robinson says. “We’re hoping to get back on the horse this year pretty quickly.”