A lot of bands dream of getting their big break; signing a recording contract, releasing an album, and touring the world. Brooklyn’s Anaka is not that band. Never content to be at rest, led by brothers Jimmy (vocals) and Peter Pallis (guitars), the band has won over their vast and worldwide following through simple hard work and doing things the right way; with no compromises, no prisoners, and no shortcuts.
Their latest full-length, The Glorified Crusade, the much anticipated follow-up to 2004’s Rust And Jade, effectively shocked the music establishment when it bulldozed it’s way to the Top 20 in rock radio spins on both the CMJ and FMQB charts. And they did it all without the support of a big-time record label or PR firm.
Now, on the heels of another successful appearance at California’s NAMM convention where they showed off signature gear in front of some their heroes, the brothers returned as inspired as ever. They are looking forward to new shows and new music; but also to continue to encourage the growth of an already promising New York/New Jersey metal scene.
What have you guys been up to? How was the NAMM convention?
Jimmy: Well, we’ve been from radio to video to live performances and working on brand new music. [At NAMM] we got to hang out with Alice In Chains, John Tempesta, the guys from Black Label Society, members of Megadeth, it was great.
So that was a serious networking thing you were doing.
Jimmy: Oh yeah. We were out there last year also. The cool thing is that you get to talk shop with all your heroes. You get to talk about writing, recording, and all that stuff.
Peter: It’s just another reward that comes with how hard we’ve worked as a band and how much people have gotten into what we’re doing. Anaka is really a bunch of guys who said, ‘We’re gonna do this music thing.’ We never looked at it as a hobby and we never let anybody else define how far it was supposed to go. You work hard and you do what you’re doing and you’ve got major record labels coming to see you perform. In a lot of extremes people start talking about how, ‘Oh, this is so great and we can turn it into this or we can turn it into that.’ Anaka has always been just what we are—and we’re going to do things our way.
People get into [Anaka] because it’s so real. Halo Guitars came to me and said, ‘Let’s make a guitar. You guys are doing some amazing stuff and we know you have the ‘Erase’ music video coming up soon, so what could we do?’
My signature guitar is called the Hellfire P1 — Peter Pallis Edition. You start a band, you work hard, you climb a mountain, you don’t listen to the naysayers, you step on their heads. You keep pushing and keep treading and one day you have your own signature guitar made. It’s a lesson, man. It’s a lot of work and a massive amount of sacrifice and you have to have people around you who believe in the cause and believe in you. Then, you’re on radio and your music videos get on television—there’s nothing like turning on the TV and seeing your own music video.
Jimmy: You grow up watching music videos, for God’s sake. You see Pantera, Megadeth, Metallica videos and all the sudden you see yourself! We got on MTV Latino, which is all South America. We got on Music Choice Video On Demand, which it did really, really well on.
Can you summarize how Anaka started?
Peter: Me and Karl [Andreassen], our bass player, were going to Brooklyn College and instead of studying we would play. Tony [Heredia, drums] was no longer in the band that he was in and in January of 2000 we had a practice and just jammed. By November we decided that it really needed to be a band cause those guys were really digging what I was writing. Then we started talking in January about who would be the singer and there was only one guy who was gonna sing my lyrics and that was my brother. For one, I knew nobody could touch his voice and the other part of it was that I understood that he knew where I was coming from and the he would kind of protect what I was writing. When you listen to Anaka lyrics it’s not just a guy struggling to find words to fit with a riff it’s just me writing. Later on it’s Jimmy who’s getting really [good] now so we collaborate on stuff.
That’s something that I always find really interesting, how bands write a song. There are certain situations where the singer really has no part in the music writing.
Jimmy: Yeah, some guys just don’t have a good understanding of musical structure. When they’re playing I will literally stop them and say, ‘What about this guys?’ or, ‘Why don’t you try that?’
You’re sort of an arranger?
Jimmy: Everybody gets involved. If you listen to ‘All I’ve Known’ from the Rust And Jade record, that’s a song that was literally written in the studio, played once. Karl started playing the intro bass riff and then I just kind of started ad-libbing and tossing on some melodies with my voice. We wrote that song in just one shot.
Peter: Then we went home and worked on the lyrics.
Jimmy: Sometimes we’ll come in and Pete will have an entire song and we’ll go in and jam on it but there are moments like that. Every song is its own entity and they are born in different ways.
What is your position on signing with a record label? Is that a goal of yours to get signed and tour the world?
Jimmy: We would love the opportunity to be given a major label contract where the music is being protected and it’s not going to be changed and we’ll be able to have a career out of creating music the way that a record label has the capital and the money to benefit a band. But for us, it’s a matter of keeping to what we’ve done musically. We’ve had record labels come to us and telling us that, ‘You will get signed to this label if you become more of a pop-metal band.’ If I told you how many times we heard that it would make your head spin.
Peter: A lot of it is not even about compromise it’s just, ‘Huh, you really want us to sound like those guys. What do you mean, it doesn’t even fit?’ Then the people who we’ve been told we need to sound like are gone after a year anyway. It’s a protecting thing and there [have] been a lot of situations where we’ve sat down with people and we’ve said that we have our own little independent record company that does great for us. A little indie record company [called Godsend Records] and we hit 18 on the FMQB charts rivaling a lot of these major record label bands.
A lot of bands are doing it on their own and it [can] be done. If you have a brand that works with people and people are digging the music it works. Anaka recorded The Glorified Crusade and it’s not like we sat there throwing money out of our pockets to do it, the record label does it on their own. The CDs are sold, the MP3s are sold, the t-shirts are sold and it just works.
Jimmy: We always welcome options. We’re not blind to the fact that we have options, it’s a matter of getting the right options.
Our music and videos have been all over the globe and we do it with our label. We welcome opportunities like that and options. If that arises [that’s great]. If it doesn’t we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and making people happy with the music that makes us happy.
There are some really, really awesome people in the music industry. You hear all these bad stories about them. Let me tell you, there are a lot of really great people out there because we have a lot of those people as our friends. They come to us and say, ‘You guys are doing great. We’re not going to touch your band because this company can’t touch the work that you guys have been doing.’
Tell me about the Don Hill’s showcase you have coming up.
Jimmy: We hook up metal bands and let them open and they play to a large Anaka crowd and they get to jam with us and we get to hang out with them like one big, happy family. Personally I’m extremely motivated by the need that I feel exists to assure that the metal scene is alive and well in the NY/NJ area.
Peter: You can even take it further the way we look at it. There have been times where we have kids open for us. One show we had this band that just got together, a bunch of 15-year-old kids. It’s important to give these kids a shot at opening up a show and getting them on a stage.
We look at things like this: people inspired us, we need to inspire the people and keep this thing rolling. There’s nothing worse than somebody who is out there doing something really cool who is afraid somebody else is gonna do it better. There’s no fear.
The Glorified Crusade is available now on iTunes or at myspace.com/anaka. “Anaka’s Blood, Sweat, N’ Beerz Metal Showcase” at Don Hill’s in NYC is Saturday, Feb. 13.