Annie’s Takeout (Preston Treece and Collin McCormick) is a duo from Dekalb, IL that have been making music together for years prior to their 2019 acoustic release Passing Time (Analog Acoustics). Anticipating the release of their debut EP, I got to chat with them about their background, their sound, and everything that went into the making of this project.
Brigid: So, Preston and Collin, how long have you two been making music together? I know you put out an acoustic EP in 2019, was that the first project you did together or have you been playing together for a while?
Preston: Well, we’ve known each other for almost 10 years now! We’ve done a lot of different projects together, like in high school and stuff like that, but as Annie’s Takeout we’ve been doing it since 2016.. Or 2015? I think end of 2015! We did shows and stuff like that, and had an album out, but we were looking to go in a bit of a different direction with the band. We did a couple of different side projects in college, one of them is called The Darcy Problems, which is kind of like a bedroom pop thing, and then we just wanted to go in a different direction with Annie’s Takeout. So we started fresh with that acoustic EP, and then we recorded at Rax Trax last summer to get this new EP. So we’ve been on and off just doing everything for a while, but this new iteration of Annie’s Takeout is somewhat recent.
B: Cool, was the recording process different? How was going from recording acoustic to recording fully produced tracks, I know you guys have been making music for a while but what was the process like for this project specifically?
P: The recording process at Rax Trax was so fun actually! It was really different from a normal recording process. We kind of just jam our songs, we don’t really sit down with click tracks or metronomes, it’s always more organic. So we just jammed through the songs a couple of times, and got a set drum take we liked. So then he [Collin] used that as a metronome and played along to my drum tracks. There’s no set tempos or anything like that, and Rick from Rax Trax was so flexible and really helped us get an idea of the best way we could record, and so we could fit that sort of improvised sound into our recordings. It was miles different than anything we’ve ever done recording wise.
Collin: We’ve always sort of done different recordings, it’s sometimes been DIY at home, but then when we were in college we sometimes had other students record us. It’s kind of hard to find the right match, because I’m sure as you heard on the EP we’re sort of a different type of band. So when we hit Rax Trax, that was the perfect match for us. They knew what we wanted sonically, and they were able to help us get it. It was kind of a weird process because like he [Preston] said, we did different drum takes and then he actually went to South Dakota for the rest of the summer. So for the rest of the record, the guitar and vocals, it was just me and the engineer, and the drum tracks that we had done earlier in the summer. So a lot of it was just fitting the puzzle pieces together, and finding the right tone and quality that we wanted.
B: Yeah, that’s cool because you get that sort of genuine, raw sound but you keep it cleanly produced. It’s like a good blend of both elements.
C: That’s what I think we aspire to do in our music. I have always been a fan of pop music, and that sort of really produced quality. But, at the same time, I think the essence of our band is kind of rawness and improvisation, like that’s how we write a lot of our music. So, Rax Trax was perfect for finding the balance between this crisp, clean production that sounds radio friendly, but also maintaining the raw, punk element.
B: Yeah, you don’t lose that ‘genuine’ aspect of it, even if it’s fully produced, which is awesome. On your writing process, I know you said improv is a huge part of it, but do you guys start with drums, or lyrics, or does it differ for every song?
C: I write songs all the time, I usually write one a day. For me, it’s typically finding the guitar part first, and then I’ll find the vocal melody. Then, I kind of meld the lyrics to that. So if I write 10 songs in a week, I take maybe the best 2 to him. Or maybe the two I feel are the most true to the Annie’s Takeout sound. What’s sort of interesting about it is that sometimes I’ll really want a song to work, so I’ll bring it to him, but it just doesn’t fit the energy. We’ll try to make it work, but it reaches a certain point where it’s just like ‘this doesn’t fit the vibe’. But then there’s stuff like track 2 on the EP, October in the Midwest Earth, that song we kind of wrote on accident. We were having a practice session and I was tuning up my guitar, I just hit those chords and he hit a drum fill, and I just hit ‘record’ on my phone, freestyling the lyrics and all that. That song has never changed since the first time we played it. That one was very spontaneous, but for the most part I’ll usually come up with them and tweak them until they’re good enough. Our writing process is a little weird because we don’t sit down and talk about it. We play the songs over and over again until we find our own parts that we like. We’re not one of those bands that sits down and goes ‘oh for the chorus you should do this’, because like I said earlier, I really like the raw, improv element of music.
B: That totally makes sense, and I feel like that’s cool because a lot of bands do have a more structured writing process, so it’s refreshing that yours is more like ‘go with the flow’.
P: Sometimes we joke that we’re like’ jazz punk’. It’s different every time, especially for me as a drummer. I’ve never found a way to remember a drum part exactly, so I just play and it always ends up sounding a little bit different. Especially with our live performances, listening back on them, the vibe sort of brings a different performance, even down to the notes we hit sometimes. It’s really fun, I’ve never been in a band like this.
B: That’s awesome especially for live performances, it’s different every time. Each show is unique! With the pandemic, did you guys find that you were creating music more? I know the pandemic was tough for musicians because of the lack of live shows, but do you feel like it was beneficial in terms of having time to write?
C: To be honest, for us it really helped. We made, even outside of Annie’s Takeout, way more music than we ever had before. But for Annie’s Takeout, we were actually going to go on an east coast tour over the summer. That got shut down, and I was really upset about that because it was going to be our first tour and I was really excited for it. But, it ended up kind of being a blessing. We were able to go record our EP during that time, and I don’t know if we would’ve been able to set aside the time to dedicate those hours to recording if it hadn’t happened.
P: I think we were lucky to have that EP as a project to work on during the pandemic, because otherwise we were just sort of messing around with our home studio set up. It was really nice to have that [the EP] because it felt like we were really working on something.
B: It’s like an end goal.
P: Yeah! End goal for sure.
C: I think it really helped us get our ducks in a row, so to speak. Like we’ve got merch now, and stuff that we didn’t have before. We weren’t set to go into the studio yet, we didn’t have any merchandise… We sort of run through life like we’re winging it, so I think this was a good pause for us to sit down and be like ‘alright, we can’t just keep running and playing shows as fast as we can. Now we have time to sit and collect ourselves, and get ready for when the world starts again’. Now that the world is starting up again, we do have merchandise and we do have an EP coming out. So, we’re not just a band who plays live anymore. We have stuff coming out and stuff to look forward to, and people can support us. Which they have, and it’s been great.
B: It’s almost like a blessing in disguise, you know? Tour got cancelled, which sucks, but then you had time to get everything sorted.
P: Yeah, we’re way more prepared now for sure.
B: Both of you, what is your favorite song off the EP? I know it’s kind of like picking a favorite child…
P: Maybe even worse! (laughs)
C: It’s hard for me to pick, but I know in the back of my mind it has to be Oh, Wow. I wrote that in the summer of 2019. I was really proud of myself because there’s something I always look for in music, like a sonic quality, and it’s sort of indescribable, but that song is exactly a song I’ve always wanted to write. I feel like it just gives me the vibes that I look for in music, and that I set out to create, so something about what that song invokes is exactly what I’ve always wanted. Lyrically too it means a lot to me. Like I said, I like them all in different ways, but that one is just… From the minute I wrote it to the minute I got the recordings back, it’s always been the one. If I’m going to show someone our band, that’s the song I put on.
P: It’s hard for me not to say Oh, Wow because live, it’s always the one that kicks my ass the most. It’s always the one that goes the hardest. We always play it super fast, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m actually going to say Bunny Traps, I think it’s a really unique sound and goes a lot of different directions. It goes back and forth, and on top of that I think a lot of people latch onto Bunny Traps when they see us live. They would say ‘that song needs to be recorded’. I also want to say Long Live, though. I know I just answered that with half of the EP, but I think Long Live is really relatable, and a great snapshot of a feeling. The lyrics invoke something inside me, too.
B: Totally. Now, obviously after basking in the glow of an EP release, what’s next for you two? Both as Annie’s Takeout, and in other projects?
P: We used to run a venue when we were living out in Dekalb, called Night at Joey’s. It was doing really well, but our time in Dekalb just kind of came to an end. Our house was full of squirrels inside the walls, it was time to move. We’re trying to find a place closer to the city that’s easier for bands to get to. A lot of bands didn’t want to drive out to the cornfields. We’re trying to get shows going again, we’re friends with a lot of amazing bands. It’s really cool to be like ‘let’s do this every weekend!’ and it’s cool to see bands get bigger. That’s step one, and I think step two is probably finding a way to continue our tour plans of some sorts. Those are the two next steps.
C: To put it in a timeline, it’d be like: the EP, new venue set up, hitting the road. We like doing a lot of our other projects, but we do those for fun, Annie’s Takeout is always the number one thing. The next goal to achieve is touring for sure. We have tons of music in the bank, so once we’re done with this EP’s lifespan, we’ll go record another one because we already have the material for it.
B: That’s a lot to look forward to!
P: We’re right about to get on the treadmill. We’re putting the finishing touches on collecting ourselves musically and mentally, and then we’re ready to go.
To keep up with Annie’s Takeout and their EP release, check out their Instagram which is linked here.