Whilst reading the Chuck Palahniuk novel Diary, Ricky Castanedo, bassist of local post-hardcore punks Anchoress, came across a passage in which Palahniuk describes the lead character as “the anchoress of the city.” Castanedo thought this was an interesting word and pitched it as a band name to the rest of the four-piece, which includes Rob Hoover on vocals, Keenan Federico on guitars and Chris Lennox-Aasen on drums.
“Chris was the first one to really jump onboard, and we decided to go with it,”Castanedo recalls, over breakfast at a well-known greasy spoon diner. Not everyone was a fan of the name, and after they had established themselves, a woman contacted the band on their facebook page to explain the religious connotations of the name, advising them to be more respectful.
“An Anchoress is someone that gets put in a church to bring blessings to the town. She’s not allowed to leave the church during her lifetime, and is basically a self-made martyr,” Castanedo explains.
“She posted on an event page for a show we were playing, on comments wrote about our band, on our band page, and she wrote a personal message to us,” Hoover says. It seemed that she either wanted the band to change their name or start playing Christian music. “I just wrote to her and said it’s ridiculous to assume that the name of a band will define their output, and she didn’t respond. She disappeared after that,” says Hoover. “Thank god,” adds Castanedo.
Anchoress has only been at it for two years, but they’ve done a lot in a short time, catching the attention of many and making fast friends where it counts. Originally, frontman Hoover and Castanedo met at a party and bonded over the bassist’s Ruiner T-shirt. That’s when they realized that they were both looking to start a band.
“It just so happened that I was a bassist who knew a drummer and he was a singer that knew a guitarist,” Castanedo says. Things were off to a good start, even though the first practices didn’t quite go as planned. “Our first guitarist wanted to write twelve-minute sweeping metal songs,” Hoover says sullenly. “We replaced him with Keenan early on, but we still consider Keenan an original member of Anchoress,” Lennox-Aasen adds in.
Lyrically, it would seem that Anchoress is having a lot of fun. Song titles from their first record, Set Sail, range from “Zombies on a Plane” to “Murder in the Sky Over Burnaby” to “Coral Bones”. \
Hoover writes all the lyrics for the band. “I write a lot of stuff that isn’t very serious and I’ll sprinkle it with darkness and maturity,” Hoover says, claiming that the first record was a lot of silliness, but no one else in the band seems to agree.
“Cadillacs is some of the best lyrics. Rob says the name of the band in the song and he introduces the guitar solo by saying ‘bring that shit in!’ That’s when I knew I was in the right band,” Federico comments while the rest of the band chuckles. “A lot of people seem to read into our lyrics a lot more too, thinking ‘Coral Bones’ is something really personal, but Rob wrote it as a mystical pirate adventure. Everyone thinks it’s a story of heartbreak and revenge,” Castanedo remarks, and Lennox-Aasen quickly pipes up, “well it is a story about heartbreak and revenge, but with pirates. Most people miss the pirate part.” It was easy to see that the rest of the band were big fans of what Hoover was doing lyrically.
Before even testing out their band on a stage, Anchoress hit the studio. They had written and released a full-length album before even playing a show. Now, close to two years later, their first release Set Sail has become their main focus once again. “We’ve remastered it and brought it up to 11 tracks, whereas it used to be 9,” said Castanedo. It was also noted that their latest and second full-length release Crime and Compass has disappeared off of the band’s Bandcamp page.
“There’s a couple things we want to alter with Crime and Compass, so we’re going to go back into the studio and re-approach it. Just remixing and redoing some vocal stuff,” Federico explains.
“Yeah, I wasn’t happy with some of the songs because I had been singing for 18 hours straight and my voice wasn’t where it should have been,” Hoover adds.
It’s an interesting approach to things and one that the band thinks will definitely turn out in the long run. “We pushed Set Sail as far as we could, but no one was really listening to it. Now that we’re a little bit bigger, and it is getting remastered, it’s a good time to push it more. We wrote Set Sail and then we were kind of done with it and wanted to write a new album, but we shouldn’t have been done with it that quickly. This is our way of going back to do Set Sail justice,” Castanedo explains.
“We’re not gonna deny that Crime and Compass exists,” Hoover says. “It’s still there, we play all the songs live, and if you come to a show we’ll still sell you a copy, because we printed a bunch of CDs.”
In May of this year, Anchoress ventured out on the road and crossed the country going as far as Montreal.
“The most ironic thing is that we booked the tour around this one show and it was the worst one we played,” Castanedo said of the Montreal gig.
“Not only was it the least attended show, but we played the worst. The place was vacant because it was during the riots with the student protest and no one was allowed to leave or come into the venue. There were riot cops filling the streets and it was a bit nuts. We had one drunk dude that watched our set and loved us and that was pretty much it. Then we just said alright let’s get the fuck out of here,” Federico said.
“But then we couldn’t leave,” Hoover added on with a smirk.
“Other than that, the tour went as good as it could have ever gone. It was 14 days and we went to Montreal and back. We never needed places to stay because we always had to start driving to the next venue right away,” Federico claimed, adding that their average drives were eight to nine hours a day. When asked how they killed time on these long drives Lennox-Aasen spoke of flapping his shorts out the window to dry them off.
“Being a drummer you get super sweaty and gross playing shows, especially me, I’m an extraordinarily sweaty drummer. On tour, you don’t have the luxury of a washing machine, so I played every show in my swimming trunks, and after we’d play I’d find a washroom, strip down, and wash myself off using my swimming trunks. Then I’d wash my swimming trunks in the sink, wring them out and then flop them out a window while we were blasting down the highway.” Not everybody was enthused about the shorts trick. “It was a bit annoying because our van only has two windows, and his bright pink shorts would be blocking one of them,” Federico remarked. “But the plus side was that they [the rest of the band] didn’t have a super smelly drummer hanging out in the van,” Lennox-Aasen replied, all band members agreeing it was for the greater good.
The future is looking bright for this tightly knit crew of dudes. The band recently shot a video, they’ve got an opening slot for a Devil Driver/Cancer Bats show in Kelowna coming up in November, along with some great upcoming Vancouver shows. And though they seem like four fun loving guys who truly care about one another, there is also an indelible drive pushing the band forward.
“We do all enjoy doing it, we’re having fun, but we’re also very committed,” Castanedo assures BeatRoute, but Federcio is quick to turn the tables before things get too serious. “Just gotta keep hustlin’ man,” he says.
Anchoress performs at The Rickshaw Theatre on October 31.
By Denis Maile
Cover photo: Shimon Karmel