Annemarie Duff has lived many lives as an artist. The one-time lead singer of Melbourne-based band Miniatures and current solo talent behind dream-pop delight Mmdelai, she now calls Christchurch home and has a plethora of projects on the go. As well as making music on both sides of the Tasman, she’s enjoyed international reach as far as France and the U.S. Kirsten Marsh caught up with Annemarie, aka T.G. Shand, aka Mmdelai, between releases under her various aliases, to chat about the joys of creative control, side projects and meditation.
A departure from the moody electronica tunes she is better known for, Annemarie Duff’s most recent single Girls features jangly guitar, hazy synths, and her characteristic ethereal vocals. The inaugural release from her solo project T.G. Shand, it’s the quintessential girl power anthem. A worldly take on what tends towards angsty subject matter, the song evolved over a matter of months alongside developments in Annemarie’s own life.
“Girls is about girlfriends I had who were being taken for granted by their boyfriends,” Annemarie confesses. “It changed quite a bit from when I first started writing it. At first, it was about me being pissed off at the guys lucking out on these amazing ladies… and then it turned into more about questioning how much you can put up with.”
Her approach with T.G. Shand has been deliberately divergent, allowing her to flex her creative vision and explore different directions, sounds, and instrumentation.
“I’m still learning the guitar, and all the musical thoughts in my head for T.G. Shand are quite guitar-based!”
She lights up when talking about different ways of expressing her style in each project she undertakes.
“Every time I start a new band or project it’s like starting a little business venture – I have control over the branding, the tone, the music… I love it!”
A quick glance at Bandcamp shows that Mmdelai has indeed been an outlet for Annemarie to pursue a multitude of design and aesthetic concepts through album artwork in pastel hues and dark tones. In contrast T.G. Shand represents more of a return to her roots.
“I think Mmdelai can be quite synthetic, but for T.G. Shand I want a neutral colour palette, and I want the photography to be done quite naturally. I think T.G. Shand is just gonna be me.”
Meanwhile, she’s been keeping busy with Mmdelai, with an EP on the way and a few songs featuring her dreamy vocals released by Paris-based hip hop producer Blake Smith. The pair have collaborated on a handful of songs, with another in the pipeline for his next album.
“He’s amazing and does such cool beats. I can’t remember how we found each other! A lot of the time these days you find people online and reach out to say what you think what they’re doing is cool… it was just one of those things.”
Some digging by diligent fans will also unearth a yet unreleased song on the Spotify playlist Soft Future, curated by French DJ and musician Eric Pajot.
“It’s a chill-wave, nu-jazz genre compilation, and has variety of established and new artists –- massive names like Ta-ku and Nude, right down to the little guys like me,” she laughs.
“I had sent the Mmdelai EP II vinyl to Pschent (French electronic music label), and Eric was working there at the time. We kept in touch and he later started the label Irradient Hologram, which is what he released the Soft Future compilation under.”
Endless Bloom, is luxuriously slow and stripped back, her vocals smooth and unfiltered. Asked if we will be seeing more of that on her upcoming EP, Annemarie laughs.
“Probably not! I just feel like, I produce sound, so…”, she trails off. “I used to be really good at writing lyrics down, but now I just like writing music. I’ll hum a melody and just sing gibberish over it until the rhythm comes out, and then I pick words based on that.”
She’s conscious of how her approach and creative process has changed with each different project she takes on.
“I used to meditate and write poetry a lot,” she muses. “When I think about it, I was going through quite a hard time and I was thinking about my place in the world a lot. There’s a technique where you imagine that you’re flying up through the room you’re in, and when you get to maybe 60 metres up, you imagine looking down and try to imagine the expanse of universe on either side of you… I feel like those techniques had a lot of influence on me.”
Being increasingly time poor also plays a role in her move away from focusing on such writing techniques.
“It obviously gets harder, and as you get older you realise you’re not where you wanted to be, financially and stability-wise. Music is definitely on the back burner, but I’ll always find time for it.”
“I think it’s also a good thing to do because it’s really scary. I used to be really brazen about it, I didn’t really care, but I think it’s a really character building thing to have to put so much of yourself into something and then be like, ‘Okay, this is me.’”
Looking ahead, Annemarie is working towards releasing an EP for Mmdelai but, as she’s not sure herself, only time will tell what we’ll be getting next from T.G. Shand.