AJNA Shines With Their Performance on the Main Stage At Outside Lands Berkelee College Of Music Band Chats With Blurred Culture After Impressive Performance
SAN FRANCISCO, CA- The first act that I got to see on Day 3 was the Berklee College of Music band ANJA. Every year, the university selects a handful of acts to perform at various music festival throughout the country. ANJA was the band that was selected to represent the university at Outside Lands.
The band, comprising of wholly of students, was founded by their lead vocalist Felipe Maldonado, and consists of members from around the world. The ethnic and cultural diversity of the bandmates clearly informed the overall sonics of the band, which is an eclectic amalgam of indie rock, psychedelia and new wave synth. The six piece band’s sound was polished, crisp and dreamy, and for an early afternoon performance was absolutely delightful.
We got to chat with the band after their performance and they were delightful to chat with as well.
So whose brainchild was this band?
Felipe Maldonado (guitar and lead vocals): It was mine and I met Aaron through it. I had a couple of songs when I was still in school and I wanted to look for the right person of course, to work with. Me and Aaron met in a class and we sort of connected and since then we worked on the songs together and …
Aaron (OP-1 Sampler): Somehow ended up here!
Felipe: Somehow we ended up here, yeah.
Are you the producer for the band? Cause I saw you were behind the synths…
Aaron: I mean, we all kind of produce. I wouldn’t say any one person is the producer, but Felipe and I we studied music production and engineering at school, so that’s kind of our forte. So we headed up most of the recording and finding sounds and like honing things in. So yeah, I would say that we did it together.
And Felipe, you sort of wrote the music to begin with?
And then does everybody else have input in the songwriting also?
Felipe: Yeah, of course. For me, it’s been amazing because at the beginning, I had a clear idea of how I wanted the songs to be. But it was amazing with time to just see how everyone can contribute. And now when I write, it’s real easy for me to write a part and say like, I know what Saguiv, the guitar player, what he can do here or I know what like Zak in his part is going to sounds like, so it’s kind of like, I get the skeleton of it –
Aaron: And I organically fill it up.
Felipe: And it’s super free! Everyone comes up with their parts, so I kind of already see what he can do, what he can do, what he can do, and they of course, do the rest.
In your music I heard a variety of styles and influences. Is the kind of music you guys perform the kind of music that you normally listen to?
Aaron: We all listen to all different kinds.
Carlo (bass): We’re all from different backgrounds. I play bass, and I’m from Italy. So we basically come from different backgrounds and different countries as well, so I guess diversity is one the aspects of our songs.
And what are you listening to?
Carlo: I listen to a lot of stuff from classical music to metal sometimes.
Metal can be played classically. Metallica did it.
Carlo: Yea, yeah, that is true! A lot of electronic music and jazz…
Did you guys all know each other before Berklee?
Zak Icaza (drums): Yeah, actually. We met each other, but really in a small situation. I was playing and I met [Carlo], and we got to talk and we knew we were coming to Boston from Ecuador, because we go to Berklee College of Music. It was really nice because from that moment I knew I was going to end up playing with him, from the first time meeting him, the first time talking… and it did happen.
Felipe: Actually, I’ve been a fan of Zak for a while because I knew him from when I was younger in school. He used to play in this really cool band called “Swing Original Monks” from Ecuador. So I always kind of knew who he was and he came to play a couple of shows that I saw and for me, he actually asked me to play together and do stuff and for me I was like “wow” because I knew who he was. So we knew who we were but at the end we just, this ended up happening.
How about you Saguiv? How did you get connected to the band?
Saguiv Rosenstock (Guitar): Well I went to a party at Felipe’s house once, and we were chilling – I was there way too early – and we were just chilling. He asked me what am I doing the next day, and I’m like, “oh, I’m going to a show but I’m kind of free, depending what’s the offer here.” He’s like, “Oh the other guitar player can’t make it, would you come down to sub? ” And I was like, oh man…oooh man… ooooh man!
Now you’re pretty happy that you subbed!
Saguiv: In the end, I didn’t go to the show. I went to the rehearsal and we played and we talked after the rehearsal, until it was like, “Yo, I think you should keep playing with us.” And I’m like, “Fuck yeah! I’m in.”
And now you’re here at Outside Lands.
Saguiv: And now I’m here.
How about you Sidney?
Sidney: Well, we actually played a gig together, at this club called Sonia in Boston, and I was playing with a different band, and we didn’t know each other. I remember seeing them on stage and being like, “Damn! That’s a really killin’ band!” And a couple of weeks later, they were like, “Oh, we need a keyboard player and we saw you playing with another group and we really liked you.”
Did you guys actually think you were going to be selected out of all the bands at Berklee for this opportuity?
Felipe: I mean, we didn’t like, specifically didn’t know we were going to get chosen. We really, really wanted to. Anyway, we have an amazing team behind us that brought us here and I mean, that credit is also in them because they believed in us and brought us all the way here. So it was great.
Aaron: We just did the best that we could in terms of playing and trying to perform music that would fit, and the rest was our amazing team. They kind of met us halfway, you know we could only do so much as a band. So, statistically, the odds were very much against us in terms of there was like hundreds of bands that were going to be auditioning and they were only choose 5 or 6. But, I mean, I felt like we were a good fit for the program and it just ended up working.
Felipe: It never seemed like a super long shot. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re going to get it.” But it was always in our field of vision, like this is possible. And that was part of the reason why we were so motivated to do it and we’re like, we can do it. Let’s do it and give everything we have.
Well it must be an awesome experience for everybody. Who’s graduating this year?
Felipe: We’re all graduated.
Sidney: Not me, I have like two more years.
Are you going to try to record another album or EP together?
Aaron: We’re still going at it. We’re still doing Ajna. I mean, each one of us are close to each other. I’m in New York already; Carlo is in New York too. Felipe and Zach are moving to New York soon. Hopefully, Sidney –
And you’re left at school?
Sidney: I do plan on moving to New York when I graduate, but […] I’ll be left behind for a little bit.
Aaron: We’ll figure it out.
Well it’s a fantastic sound, and a lot of potential for growth. I’d love to hear more from you guys.
The Band: Thank you!!