Swamp Records’ newest flagship artist and Showcase headliner, Retrolux, is the brainchild of Anna James, 21, a public relations major at UF, and Maynard Shaye, 26, a UF finance undergrad and MIB grad. They released their first EP, Real Life, earlier this year.
When did music first become part of your life, and how did you get started?
James: My dad introduced the world of music to me when I was in fifth grade. I got my first guitar, which was shaped like a flower, and I took guitar lessons. My dad was always really supportive and introduced me to all of the cool bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, etc. My first band was organized by him when I was in sixth grade and it was made up of me, my best friend, my sixth grade boyfriend, and my dad was on drums.
Who inspires you to create music?
James: I'm pretty easily inspired by any badass female songwriter/performer out there. Annie Clark, Angel Olsen, Charli XCX. Girl power all the way. On a more personal level, though, my lyrics come from my inspiration from my boyfriend as lame and cheesy as it is.
Shaye: Every musician who writes every song I like. If I hear I song I like, I think "Damn, that's awesome... I wanna make something as cool as that.."
Tell me about the history of Retrolux. Who spurred its formation?
James: I met Shaye through a Craigslist ad that he posted five years ago when I was 16. It was an ad searching for members of an indie rock band. I replied and he came to my parents’ house. We realized our age difference was huge and it didn't work out. Three years later, I was at a Halloween party and he asked me if my name was "Annie James" (I went by Annie in high school). He then proceeded to tell me that he came to my parents’ house when I was 16 and we met on Craigslist. I had no recollection, but the scenario sounded wildly inappropriate. Then it came back to me and we exchanged Soundclouds and started writing some songs.
I didn't take the band seriously and was kind of flaky when we made plans but then he submitted three of our songs to a Swamp Records contest without telling me. Next thing I know, I'm at a meeting at Volta with the co-president of Swamp Records and they want to take us on as a flagship artist so we pulled our shit together and here we are today.
How would you describe your style?
Shaye: I call it indie-electronica, but (like all bands say) I think it's hard to nail down our style. I think we just try to make whatever sounds good at the time and just from our own styles some consistency emerges.
What’s your process? My favorite song of yours is “Silhouettes,” I’d love to know how that came together.
James: Our writing process varies. For Silhouettes, I wrote that on an acoustic guitar and played it for Shaye. He wrote down what the chords were and worked his magic to turn it into the craziness it is today. Sometimes he will have a track for me and I'll just write lyrics and a melody for it. Sometimes, I'll have a hook and bring it to him and we will build a song up from scratch together.
Shaye: “Silhouettes” was a really hard song... it took us way too long and it went through 100 different forms until we got something that we were happy with.
What do you consider to be your biggest success up to this point? How does it feel to release your first EP?
James: Releasing the EP was great because we worked on it for so long. It took forever to perfect each song, find someone to master it and figure out how we wanted to introduce ourselves to the Internet.
Shaye: I think getting signed with Swamp was our biggest success so far. It was really the impetus we needed to take ourselves more seriously and really get on our grind.
What is the most rewarding part of being in Retrolux?
James: The best part about being in Retrolux is having a constant partner that I click with so well. We're helping each other reach goals that we've always wanted and it doesn't feel like work when you're always with your pal.
Shaye: The best thing is when you're first starting to work on a song, when it's still fresh, and you made that part that's making you dance along - It's a weird feeling because on one hand, it's a song you really like that's still brand new to you, and on the other hand it's something that you helped create.
What are your plans for the future of the band?
James: We're currently working on another EP and we are also working on making our live sets more of an experience by including a projector, new costumes, more songs. We would love to go on tour and maybe play a few festivals.
Shaye: We are in the process of writing right now. We're really starting get in the groove of making these songs. They come together pretty fast now which feels amazing. I really just want to keep making more music, that's all I really care about.
And the most important question of all, pineapple pizza: yay or nay?
James: Yay since I was 12 years old.