20 Questions: L’Anarchiste

To say that L'Anarchiste is one of the best bands to emerge out of Salt Lake City makes for an awfully reductive statement, as their Sufjan-inspired brand of soulful folk-rock needs to be heard to be believed.

One of the largest misconceptions about Salt Lake City, UT is that it is entirely run by Mormons (trust me: once I moved out of state, the only question I was asked more than “Are you a Mormon?” was “What’s your name?”). Believe it or not, it’s about a 50/50 split in Utah’s capitol city, and most of the Mormons there are pretty well-adjusted and approachable. The further South you get in Utah, the more dominant Mormon culture becomes, but even back in Salt Lake City, one of the most interesting counter-culture music scenes has emerged, with alternative publications like Salt Lake Underground (a place I used to intern for) showing the fascinating and sometimes downright strange pieces of art that SLC’ers like the great Trent Call make on a daily basis, while hard rock groups like The Animals Know blast their own sun-burnt brand of heavy metal just as the stable of artists signed to local label Pseudo Recordings take conventional pop and rock structures and stretch them out to their very breaking points. Venues like the backwoods-alley Kilby Court and the ever-welcoming Urban Lounge bring like-minded folks together to celebrate the weird and wild that Utah has to offer.

It’s for this very reason that a group like L’Anarchiste is able to not only exist, but positively thrive. What started as a simple songwriting vehicle for Rob LeCheminant has turned into a full-fledged musical wonder, the band eventually rounded out by Bryan Hull, Alex Gilvarry, Richard Gailey, and Devon Wooley to create a sort of mournful midtempo pop music, its orchestral inspirations clearly derived from peak-era Sufjan Stevens but featuring a muscle and boldness all their own. The group has been bashing out their memorable folk-rock songs for some time now (and, even with that descriptor, never undersell the “rock” part of that equation), but after years of EPs and smaller tours, the guys seem to be ready to hit the big time with their first-ever full-length, simply titled Giant.

To help celebrate the occasion, Alex, Rob, and Bryan all took turns trading off our 20 Questions, here revealing the Daoist undertones of Star Wars, the beauty of both Rick Moranis and Batman pajama pants, and how one member narrowly avoided having to explain the Berenstain Bears to Slipknot …

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Alex: I teared up at Inside Out a few weeks ago. I never thought I’d get that emotionally attached to a character named “Bing Bong.”

2. The fictional character most like you?

Alex: Piper Chapman, because I listen to NPR, I have a thriving etsy business, and I also gave myself an infinity symbol tattoo on my ribs.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Rob: If I’m going to talk about what I really think is the greatest album ever, I have to go with Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz. It’s the album that has affected me the most in my writing and my how I understand how to approach composition.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Bryan: Star Trek is great because of the philosophies that are present within the universe. Money-less and classless economies, and a society that seeks to better itself and continue to explore and improve upon itself. However, for me, Star Wars has had a deeper impact on me. We spent a whole week as a band discussing the symbolism and the story arc of the prequels and original trilogy and how the story of Anakin is a quest for balance between “light” and “dark” and how the story is a self-contained ring which you can read about if you search for “Star Wars ring theory.” You could say we’re all Star Wars nerds as well as super Daoist about life.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Rob: I read a myriad of publications on politics, science, environment, etc. I probably know way too many random facts, but I just find anything that helps me understand the world around me is what I crave.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Alex: Run the Jewels played a big outdoor concert in SLC this summer and I got off stage when I threw this Berenstain Bears book that some random dude next to me had brought at the band. Backstage this dude came up to me and was like, “Hi, my name is Sid. I’m in Slipknot!” So, basically I’m proud of my ability to co-opt something somebody else did to better my life, how American of me …

7. You want to be remembered for …?

Bryan: I’ve been tangentially working on a history project about some notable individuals within the University that I work at. If I’ve come to any conclusion its that the more you are remembered,and the more notoriety you had, the more broken and imperfect person you probably were. I don’t think that necessarily means that to be remembered you have to be a notorious person with a closet full of skeletons and misdeeds, but it has been something that I have found fascinating.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Bryan: Rick Moranis.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Alex: I wish I was in the movie Troll Hunter.

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

Rob: I make a really great trumpet and trombone sound with my lips, to the point that when I’m too lazy to break out my instruments while making demos, my mouth trumpet legitimately passed for the real thing until I told the band.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Rob: My dad told me to “run the v, cut the c, and watch your downstream oar” and I’ve been safe ever since.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Bryan: I hadn’t been on a bicycle for years until I borrowed an old mountain bike from my uncle when I first started college. Ever since then cycling has been a huge passion of mine.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

Alex: I feel best in my Batman pajama pants, and I come to practice in them more often than not. I’m not rich enough to own anything Armani makes, and Levi’s are really uncomfortable..

Bryan: I have some Levi shorts made specifically for being able to ride a bike (and still look fly) that are my favorite articles of clothing ever! And because if I’m wearing shorts, it means it’s lovely and warm outside.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Bryan: Any member of the U.S. Women’s National Team because I have a crush on every single one of them.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Bryan: In terms of human history I would want to go into the future because I’m more excited by the possibilities of what the future will hold then what has already happened. For natural history, going back far enough in time before homo-sapiens were around would be fascinating.

Rob: I’d go back and chill with John Wesley Powell for a while. Maybe shoot the breeze with John Muir. They were very good, and incredibly underappreciated people.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Bryan: I don’t know if Prozac as a stress management mechanism is terribly healthy, and I like to not inflict harm upon others even if they are causing me stress. So, I’ll go with the pedicure and massage on the spa vacation.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Bryan: Coffee and chocolate are wonderful. I have a coffee roaster so I’m kind of a snob when it comes to coffee. Vodka is fun in moderation for those of us inclined to imbibe. Cigarettes are terrible for individual and public health and I would encourage users of cigarettes to switch to an alternative for your health and the health of those around you. I’m not a physician so talk to your doctor before beginning any vaping regimen.

Rob: Sour Patch Kids. They are the staff of life.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Bryan: I’m pretty happy with Utah. We have everything from Alpine mountains to red rock deserts and everything in between! That being said I have an overly romanticized idea of what Boulder, Colorado is like and would probably dig living there because of all the road and mountain biking that is there.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Bryan: I’d probably say “sorry” for being an overly critical curmudgeon of President Obama’s administration. Really though, Marc Maron said anything I ever needed to say on his podcast with Obama.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Rob: I’m learning to get in touch with my inner-wild man, I’m immersing myself in a brand new culture, and I’m writing and producing a lot of neat songs.