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ANA’s Journey Through the Creation of ‘The Art of Letting Go'” Interview by Jorge Pozo

ANA Members Band

Dive into the heart of symphonic metal with ANA, a band that deftly weaves emotional depth with technical prowess in their debut EP, “The Art of Letting Go.” In this revealing interview, each member of ANAAnna Khristenko, Josh Mak, Cleveland Beckford, Tory Giamba, and Matthew Williamson—shares insights into their creative process, from the initial acoustic melodies to the final, expansive symphonic metal sound.

They discuss the challenges of production on a shoestring budget, the unique addition of a comic book to their music, and how personal experiences and diverse backgrounds shape their sound. This interview is not just a peek behind the curtain of ANA‘s debut project; it’s an intimate look at the passion and perseverance of artists dedicated to their craft.

Join us as we explore the synergy of storytelling and symphony with ANA, a band that refuses to fit into any single genre box, championing authenticity and innovation in every note.

Hello guys, and first of all, what is your name and what do you do in the band?

    I’m Anna Khristenko and I’m the vocalist.

    I’m Josh Mak and I play guitars.

    I’m Cleveland Beckford and I play drums.

    I’m Tory Giamba and I play Bass.

    I’m Matthew Williamson and I play Keys in.

    OK, so, my first question is this, “The Art of Letting Go” presents a rich tapestry of symphonic metal infused with various emotions and themes. Can you describe the conceptual genesis of this EP and how it evolved from initial ideas to the final product?

      Anna: The majority of the songs began with me singing melodies along to an acoustic guitar. I would then tell Josh the story and theme of what I wanted the song to be about and he would help to write them into lyrics. Once we had this base we would present the songs to the band and we would jam out different ideas and experiment. Whenever we came across a riff or a beat that resonated with us we would take note of it and continue to write and arrange in this fashion.

      Anna, your vocal performance on the EP has been highlighted for its power and versatility. How do you prepare for recording such emotionally demanding and technically diverse parts?

        Anna: The lyrics to each of these songs are very personal to me so even though time has passed I am still able to draw upon my experiences to convey the emotions into how I sing the songs. My background in opera definitely has helped me with using proper technique but what I love about metal is that it has shown me how to push the boundaries of what I am comfortable with vocally.

        Josh and Anna, as producers of the album, what were some of the most challenging aspects of bringing “The Art of Letting Go” to life, and how did you overcome them?

          Josh: We were very lucky to work with our good friend Chris Themelco as mix engineer. (Tracking Vocals and final mix) Being able to communicate effectively with your engineer and them being open minded to your vision definitely makes the process run smoothly. Due to us not having much of a budget to record I found tracking the guitars, bass and keys to be a little bit of a challenge. These instruments were tracked at home and as I don’t have much expensive equipment or software it was a little bit of a learning curve. We used a Neural DSP Quad Cortex, Spitfire Plugins, onboard synth sounds and recorded it all to GarageBand. I overcame the challenge by doing the best I could with the tools I had. Thankfully it turned out well.

          The EP features a comic book. Can you delve into how this unique addition complements the music, and what inspired you to merge visual art with your sonic landscape?

            Josh: In the beginning we knew we needed merch for our live shows but we couldn’t afford to do t-shirts. At the time I was working on a comic of my own and my brother Aaron who was directing our Moth MV made a passing comment on how we looked like comic characters. This sparked the idea of creating a comic as merch. The comic allowed us to tell another tale in a fantastical world and expands on the reasons behind the iconic image of the band. The lyrics of the song Ouroborus actually delve deeper into the comic’s lore.

            “Ouroboros” stands out not just musically but also for its music video. What was the creative process behind the video, and how does it visually represent the song’s themes?

              Anna: With the music video for Ouroboros we wanted the viewer to get a sense of what it is like being front row at a live ANA show. It was shot at Musicland which was the same stage and venue that we played our first show so it holds a special place in our hearts.

              Which track from the EP resonates most personally with you, and why?

                Anna: For me the song that resonates the most with me is SCARS. This Song’s lyrics were from a very difficult time in my life. So many things were in turmoil and it was hard to see how anything would improve. Yet I persevered and am where I am today and can look back proudly on how far I’ve come.

                Josh: Ouroborus is my personal favourite as it’s the song I spent the most time developing and arranging. (Especially the guitar solo) I wrote it in a very organic way and it’s long run time was not intentional but a result of letting the music flow naturally from me.

                The press release mentions that the band’s sound is “suspenseful, mysterious, and soulful.” How do each of you contribute to creating this distinctive atmosphere in your music?

                  Anna: Our band is very diverse not only in musical tastes but also culturally. Each person brings something a little different to the table. The thing that unites us is our love for playing music.

                  Our review* of the album praises the EP’s production for not sounding overly produced. Was this an intentional aesthetic choice, and how did it shape the recording process?

                    Josh: Yes, not sounding over produced was a very important aspect to our approach. We write and record parts for our music with the intention that it has to be possible for us to perform it live. This makes us conscious about the lines we choose to play and not to rely on things like having multiple guitar tracks to achieve a “big” sound. Each member also has to consider what each other is doing and not to play something non complimentary.

                    Tory and Cleveland, rhythm sections often serve as the backbone of a band’s sound, especially in genres as dynamic as symphonic metal. How do you approach creating parts that support the melody and theme of each song while ensuring they stand out?

                      Tory: I’m incredibly fortunate to be in a band that encourages creative freedom with the bass and doesn’t expect my instrument to be just another layer or frequency to the guitar parts. I’ll usually listen to a song a few times to work out the key and chord progression, follow the kick drum on the downbeat and brainstorm some melodic ideas without getting in the way of the vocals.

                      Cleveland: There’s not really too many sections in which I’m doing “a lot”, more so a few drum fills here and there which I do for fun and to create/release tension between sections, pretty common drumming. Some sections strings and guitars don’t move much so I dictate the rhythm myself, and I keep it basic in section where they move more, other than that I follow the patterns they do with the kick and snare and then do things as I feel they fit. I just try to start basic and add up things until I’m satisfied or feel it’s too much for real.

                      ANA

                      Matt, your keyboard work adds significant depth to Ana’s sound. How do you decide when to take the lead with a melody versus providing atmospheric support?

                        Matt: I always follow the vocals in my playing. When there’s a lot happening lyrically, particularly in verses, I like to lay low and let the song’s story take the spotlight. The repetition of choruses provides opportunities for a bigger, richer sound, and more complex lines, without drowning the story out. And of course, being a jazz player at heart, solo sections get me slamming keys to no end.

                        The band has been described as “female-fronted symphonic metal,” a label that comes with its own set of expectations and stereotypes. How do you navigate these perceptions while carving out your unique identity?

                          Anna: Compared to the other members in the band I am less familiar with the Metal genre. Therefore, I am also unfamiliar with any stereotypes that may exist. I sing, dance and express myself how the music makes me feel. What you hear and see is the most authentic version of me and I believe that’s what makes me unique.

                          Given the varied backgrounds of the band members, including metalcore and other genres, how do you blend these influences into a cohesive symphonic metal sound?

                            Josh: This might sound clichéd but when we play together we don’t ponder genres or what may or may not be acceptable. All of us are big believers in the importance of improvising and being able to feel the music rather than think it. As the great drummer Vinnie Colaiuta said: “Thought is the enemy of flow.”

                            The EP’s track listing seems to take the listener on an emotional journey. Can you talk about the flow of the album and how you decided on the order of the tracks?

                              Anna: The first three songs were chosen as they were more upbeat and concluded with the Anthemic Ouroboros. The last two songs were intended to bring the the pace down on a more somber note. Leaving the listener guessing as to where we will go next.

                              “Ouroboros” is as a clear highlight and a showcase of dynamic songwriting. Can you share the inspiration behind this song and the process of crafting its memorable melody and epic refrain?

                                Josh: The lick that introduces and concludes the track was something that I came up with while jamming with our keyboardist Matthew one day. I knew from the moment I played it that this would make a great intro to the song and it was Matthew who suggested revisiting it in the outro but with the keys instead of the guitar.

                                Ana’s music has been praised for its detailed arrangements and sonic approach. How do you approach the arrangement process to ensure each instrument’s voice is heard and contributes to the overall sound?

                                  Josh: I believe the answer to this is compromise. Each instrument has its own frequency and sonic spectrum where it shines. Each of us takes pride in playing our individual role well and are mindful not to stray too far into each other’s space. The other aspect is that there are no egos between us. There are various times throughout the music that each instrument gets to shine. During these moments the rest of the band pull back and play a supportive role.

                                  With such a strong debut, expectations for future projects will be high. How are you approaching the challenge of evolving your sound and meeting or exceeding these expectations?

                                    Anna: We have already begun writing on our full length album. Some songs are already complete and we recently surprised our fans by performing one of them at a live show. We don’t feel external pressure when we write. Probably because we demand so much of ourselves haha. With the full length album you will hear us delve deeper into our unique style in an even more unapologetic way.

                                    Great news about the follow up record! Now, the EP was mastered by Thomas ‘Plec’ Johansson, known for his work with a diverse range of artists. How did his expertise influence the final sound of the album?

                                      Josh: I’ve been a fan of Plec Johansson’s work with Soilwork for years. So I had no doubt that he would do an amazing job. It is also crucial to mention that a great master can’t fix a bad mix so we have to also recognise the excellent work that Chris Themelco did.

                                      The recording and mixing process is crucial for capturing the essence of a band’s sound. Can you share any memorable moments or challenges you faced during these sessions at Monolith Studios?

                                        Anna: Chris is an absolute pleasure to work with. He made me feel very comfortable and relaxed and would often have interesting harmony suggestions for me to try vocally. Overall it made the recording process feel fun and enjoyable.

                                        Music often serves as a reflection of personal and collective experiences. Can each of you share how your own life experiences have influenced your contribution to the band’s music?

                                          Anna: From the time I was a little girl I’ve always wanted to sing and perform. As I grew older this was the one constant that has always been in my life. For me I feel music has shaped my life experiences more than life has shaped my music.

                                          Josh: I’ve had a less than orthodox series of experiences that have made up my life and I often see myself as a writer first and foremost before a guitarist. To me the story or the intentionality is the most important thing that comes first before melody or technique.

                                          Cleveland: I mostly listen to djent/metalcore rather than other styles and I’ve always been a fan of articulation within what could be considered simple. This greatly influences my personal style and rather than being something I do intentionally, I naturally go into that direction regardless of what I’m playing, both a blessing and a curse.

                                          Matt: Music to me is a means of expression. I’m pretty quiet and reserved in person, but behind a keyboard all boundaries are lost. I love adding my own twists to the music, through chord choice and sound. But simply messing about with the band in rehearsal, and seeing what sticks, is probably the biggest influence for me.

                                          Tory: I feel like the bass is an extension of my soul. I play my dads bass which he gave to me before he passed away so when I play it on stage I feel a deep connection to him through music. I also feel like I’m ‘performing’ every single day when I go to work and try to act like a regular person, so when I’m on stage I feel like I can totally be myself, completely unbound by the standards of society.

                                          Finally, as a band that’s just released their debut EP, what advice would you give to other emerging artists in the symphonic metal scene, or any genre, who are looking to make their mark?

                                            Anna: Dare to be you and don’t worry about fitting in. Because nobody can do you better than you.

                                            Thank you guys for taking the time for the interview, we really appreciate it.

                                            You’re more than welcome! Bye.

                                            * You can read our review of the album HERE. And if you haven’t heard the EP yet, make yourself a favor and go get a copy NOW: https://ffm.to/anaart

                                            ANA Album Covers

                                            The Art of Letting Go track listing
                                            01. I’m Not the One
                                            02. Scars
                                            03. Ouroboros
                                            04. Sirens (Remastered)
                                            05. Moth

                                            Ana lineup
                                            Anna Khristenko (Vocals), Josh Mak (Guitar), Tory Giamba (Bass), Cleveland Beckford Gonzalez (Drums), Matt Williamson (Keys)

                                            Ana discography
                                            The Art of Letting Go (EP) – 2024
                                            Sirens (Single) – 2023

                                            For more information about Ana and their “Ouroboros” music video, please visit them on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and TikTok, and follow them on SpotifyApple Music, , Amazon Music, , or.

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