new zealand’s miss june explore the real life anxiety of being in a band

In their new single 'Anxiety on Repeat' the Aotearoan favourites shine light on hidden fears.

by Wendy Syfret
21 July 2016, 5:00am

Photography Imogen Wilson.

Last year Miss June released Matriarchy, the blistering track was an immediate anthem for women in punk. In the months after its release lead singer Annabel Liddell found herself cast as a voice of young New Zealand feminism — a title the medical student denies she deserves but eloquently fulfils. But soon Annabel began to feel the weight of the attention, expectations and relentless tour schedule. In an emotional and creative rut she didn't pick up her guitar for six months.

Then one day she said to herself, "just sit down and write something you piece of shit." The result was Anxiety on Repeat. If Matriarchy was a product of the frustrations and complexities of being a woman in music, Anxiety was a response to the fear and isolation of feeling totally overwhelmed and learning to reach out for support.

Like the track, the Morgan Albrecht directed video is an exploration of "teenage angst, isolation and mind-fuckery". It follows Lucy a high school aged fan of the band and her ubiquitous pursuer Sockie to a gig. The band describe Sockie as "an incarnation of all of our fears, implicit exclusion, paranoia and clinging unknowingly to our own faults."

We called up Annabel to talk about the real life pressures of having a dream job.

Anxiety on Repeat came after a pretty extended period of self exile right?
Yeah, after Matriarchy I essentially didn't write music for six months. I couldn't touch a guitar, my mental health was just shot-to-shit and I was having a really hard time. Every time I tried to write I felt really hyper-critical of myself so I just stopped doing it. I didn't event talk to the boys in the band for that whole time.

How did you break through that?
Funnily enough I wrote Anxiety in one sitting. I was at my boyfriend's house and I just forced myself to sit down and write something. I was like, "just sit down and write something you piece of shit." It wasn't intended to be the new single, it was more just needing to actually get over this anxiety, over it all. I wrote the guitar line on the top strings of the guitars in about five minutes, then brought it to the boys and told them we should practice because I hadn't seen them in a long time. I just played that guitar line repetitively and they hooked into it and the vocals just came the first time I opened my mouth.

It's interesting to give a narrative to that feeling of being stuck creatively, and how oppressive something you love can suddenly be when it feels like an obligation. Especially when others are involved.
Yes hugely, my band-members are all very supportive but the pressure was from myself. Even though I had started to write again I wasn't ready to do an album, then we put together this tour in a rush and I just wasn't ready to rush it all. I'm all for taking my time with things so I decided I needed a bit of support. I hit up my friend Millie Lovelock from Astro Children and got them on board for this split seven inch. Doing it with a friend felt like a positive way to get back into touring and playing; it took the pressure off because it was on our own terms and it had a good energy and a good vibe.

After going through all this, being forced to slow down, refocusing on friends and community, do you feel it will have a long-term impact on the way you make music?
I think it definitely will, this is part of growing up. It has also changed my approach to touring. I've been playing in a band since I was fourteen and I never thought twice about it. But now it feels so different. When we were touring alone, during one of our first shows in Christchurch, I couldn't even get through it. I walked off stage after about twenty minutes because I felt so self-conscious: everyone is looking at you, everyone has paid to see you, everyone wants you to play that song, everyone wants you to be a certain way. I found it really really difficult and it has totally shaken me up. I have so much respect for people that do this, travel non-stop and keep playing when they don't feel like they can.

After Matriarchy a lot of the press was really focused on you being a "feminist band" and being expected to be a mouthpiece for women in music. Now you've opened yourself up in this way and spoken about mental health, do you feel similar expectations to be a voice for this experience?
A little bit, I really just write what I'm feeling. It's the only thing I can do to be genuine and put across what I'm thinking. Maybe people come to the shows to boogie to Drool because it makes them feel free. Maybe they come because they relate to Matriarchy and those frustrations. Personally I hope anyone who listens to us gets a bit of both.

'Anxiety on Repeat' is off the split 7 inch Miss June have put out with Astro Children. The two bands are currently touring New Zealand.


Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Imogen Wilson

mental health
Miss June
annabel liddell
anxiety on repeat