I could sense the urgency in Ann Yu’s voice as she talked about her new album, Dust. The lead singer of San Francisco-based LoveLikeFire has struggled for years to support her dream of being a professional musician. The group’s buzz might have peaked with their debut, Tear Ourselves Away, which garnered her comparisons to Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Weighing down on her is the pressure to grow as an artist, and have her fan base follow. Almost self-reassuringly she tells me, “You need one song that strikes a chord with people and gets the ball rolling,” but the question is: Does she have it? LoveLikeFire performs at Rickshaw Stop on November 18th. SF Station interviewed Ann Yu in a phone interview.
SF Station (SFS): Is your band your only source of income?
Ann Yu (AY): No, I’ve been working this other job for seven months, but before that I have had tons of odd jobs.
SFS: Didn’t you have a job putting on socks for someone?
AY: That was my worst job. I had a job helping this guy recuperate from hip replacement surgery, running errands for him. One of my job requirements was that I had to put on these crazy medical socks. He was like a six foot tall, and I’m five-three. His legs were completely swollen, so trying to put on these medical socks, I was literally pressed against the side of his couch trying to use all my energy to put them on. On top of that his skin was super flakey.
SFS: Did you hear your parents saying “this is why you shouldn’t be in a band,” in the back of your mind?
AY: That’s exactly what I thought. If my dad even knew that I was doing this right now, he would flip out!
SFS: What did your parents want you to be? I know they weren’t exactly enthusiastic about you being a musician.
AY: I think that all parents want to make sure that you’re happy, that you’re never hungry, and that you live well in life. For my parents that meant I needed a government job, having a retirement, and all the creature comforts of having a stable job. You must have the same thing?
“He was like a six foot tall, and I’m five-three. His legs were completely swollen, so trying to put on these medical socks, I was literally pressed against the side of his couch trying to use all my energy to put them on.”
SFS: Yeah. For me I have an expiration date that enough will be enough.
AY: Well, I haven’t thought about it yet. I don’t know what the future of the band is, but I think I’ll always be playing music. I feel like the way it is now, the way that bands break out has nothing to do with how much time, or what sacrifices they make, it’s just about a song.
SFS: Even if you have one great song you can fade in the public’s mind. Was there any concern with this second album that maybe it wouldn’t live up to all the hype of your debut and EPs?
AY: It’s definitely nothing like anything else we’ve done, and that alone will alienate some of the people who’ve enjoyed our previous albums. It’s not a pop-oriented album.
SFS: Wouldn’t it make more sense to go in a pop direction if you were trying to reach a larger audience?
AY: Well, yeah if that’s what I identified with. It’s sort of ongoing joke that I make: The closer I get to the music I want to make, the less people get me. With Tear Ourselves Away the lyrical content and storytelling was coming from an “I” perspective. The way I approached this new album is more observational.
SFS: Is that true for the lyrics on Dust?
AY: They’re coming less from a place of my own personal stories, and more of what I see around me. I’ve been trying to tap into finding beauty in everyday things. One of the songs, we were on tour in the UK, and we were at this amazing castle. In the castle, there was this cemetery where all the kings were buried, and I just imagined how long the whole existence, the idea of what everyone had gone through.
SFS: What’s the conscious reason for making this change? Was there a writer’s block that made you feel like you couldn’t express your own feelings anymore?
AY: It’s not writer’s block so much as wanting to express myself in a different way. Artists in general have to be so self-indulgent because you have to constantly tap into yourself. Not to sound egotistical, but it’s an egotistical art. You have to glamorize, enhance, bring to light things that are within you all the time. With this last album, I wanted to tap into more the people around me more, instead of just me.
SFS: What’s the significance of the album’s title?
AY: The song “Dust” on the album is about growing up in Vegas, and the beauty of the desert. The dust is the counterpart of the fog in San Francisco for me, because when it’s windy there you have this haze from all the dust twirling. People think of all the flashing lights and stuff; when I go back I appreciate the quiet stillness and the desert aspect.
SFS: Has the dust settled or is still a cloud?
AY: I think it’s lingering. I’m learning to be happy with things as they are, as opposed to putting things in black and white. There is dust in all our lives, we’re just suspended in every experience we have.
LoveLikeFire performs at Rickshaw on November 18th. Tickets are $12 in advance, and $15 at the door. The show starts at 8:30pm.