“Hindsights” and the Future with Synthpop Musician Anna Wang

Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter and producer Anna Wang is best known for her experimentation with music and tech, which can be heard through her electro-pop tracks. When she’s not on the road performing live or producing her own music, she can be found exploring new sounds using modular synthesis. Infusing her own personal experiences, her latest single “Hindsight” brings all of her passions and experimentation together.

We were able to get ahold of Anna, while traveling, to learn more about her approach to songwriting and producing out of her DIY studio.

Q: Congrats on your new single “Hindsight”! What inspired you to write that song?

A: Thank you! I feel like I have a tendency to see people for who I think they could be, instead of who they really are. Hindsight is about the moment you find the strength to end a toxic relationship with someone who has been taking you for granted.

Q: Looks like you wrapped up your last scheduled show of the year with Woodrow and The North Code. How was that like?

A: It was really fun! I have known Woodrow and The North Code for a while, and I love them so much. I am excited to take some time to hole up and work on new music for a while.

Q: Do you remember the first song you ever played? The first venue?

A: Hmm, well I have a memory of belting out “I Do” by 98 Degrees in my living room in elementary school, but I don’t think that really counts. The first time I ever performed an original song in front of an audience was at a high school talent show my freshman year. I’m pretty sure it was called “Troublemaker”.

Q: At what point did you get your first major gig?

A: I won a songwriting competition in 2017 with my friend, and one of the prizes was getting to play Summerfest, so that was a super cool experience. I have only been performing under my name with my current setup since the beginning of this year, so I am excited to see where things go from here.

Photo credit: Anna Wang

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: I like to say that I get inspiration from everything that has happened to me, and everything that hasn’t. Sometimes I’ll overhear someone talking at a bar and think, “Wow, that would make a great song!” The other day I was taking a walk, and a little melody just popped into my head to the rhythm of my footsteps. That’s one of the things I love most about music—it’s everywhere if you’re looking for it!

Q: What does the process look like from writing a song to recording?

A: I’m quite self-contained when it comes to the process. I do everything except the mastering, because I’m not good at it, and I think it’s nice to have another set of ears on the finished product. I usually either start with a little melodic hook, or a single lyric and build a song around that. Sometimes I know right away what kind of instrumentation I want, and other times it takes me a while to figure out the vibe that feels right. Once the song is written, I’ll lay down a basic piano/vocal and drop it into my DAW, and build the track from there.

Q: What are the main components of your DIY studio? What is your current setup like?

A: The core of my studio consists of my iMac, PreSonus monitors, MixPre-10M, Akai MPK249, Lauten Audio Clarion, and my instruments of course! I use Ableton as my primary DAW and Logic as needed.

Q: How have you integrated technology into your music?

A: My live performance is totally dependent on technology. I use Ableton Live and I run my Nord, Bass Station, and vocals through an audio interface into my laptop. I use the Ableton Push 2 and Korg NanoKontrol to control my clips, effects, looping, etc. It’s the best!

Q: What piece of gear do you think is most essential or underrated?

A: I have to say that I am fully obsessed with my Push 2 controller—it is amazing and totally streamlines my workflow. As far as underrated gear goes, I would say the MixPre-10M and my Bass Station II. The Bass Station sounds awesome, and is SO much power and portability and flexibility in a tiny little package that I can shove in a backpack. Plus, it has full size keys which is a bonus. I would say the MixPre is underrated because I am constantly discovering new ways to incorporate it into my workflow that I didn’t consider before.

Q: How have you been using the MixPre-10M?

A: Right now, it is attached to my modular synth. I love that it can be battery powered, and it allows me to instantly record anytime I stumble across a patch that I love. It’s the best improvisation tool and really allows me to capture my inspiration before the moment is gone. The multiple inputs allow me to connect multiple synths, guitars, and microphones all at the same time, and the reverb is awesome. Whenever I’ve recorded something I want to keep, I just pop the SD card into my laptop and drop it into Ableton.

Q: Favorite feature(s) / Most beneficial? Why?

A: I love the reverb, and the built-in air effect allows vocals to really cut through in a pinch. I love how well built it is (definitely safe to shove in a backpack), love that it can be battery powered, and the instant gratification of being able to record whatever it is I’m working on without pulling out my laptop and starting up my DAW.

Q: You have an affinity for the modular synth in your music setup. Have you seen any benefits when paired the MixPre’s multichannel recording and mixing in that process?

A: YES. I love to record my patches directly into the MixPre, and then layer other synths/vocals/keys/etc on top of it. There have been several times I’ve recorded patches with the intention of working on them further in my DAW, and in each instance I have ended up just keeping the recording as is, straight from the MixPre, because it sounds so good! The ability to mix live is clutch.

Q: Your music is often described as electro-pop. What artists have influenced you?

A: ABBA (I love Swedish Pop in general—so melodic), and anything created by Max Martin because he’s a freaking pop music mastermind. I also really love the 80’s synth pop sound, and I feel like that definitely shows in my music.

Q: What artist would you love to collaborate with?

A: OMG all of them. I would love to write songs for pop stars someday. Songwriting is my first love, so that would be a dream come true. I’d also love to collaborate with Rachel K Collier. I think she’s Welsh—we’re Instagram friends and our workflows and setups look super similar! I think it’d be so cool to collaborate with another technology-driven female artist/producer.

Q: What should we be expecting from you in the future?

A: I have a music video which just hit for Hindsight, and there will definitely be new songs coming! I’m about to retreat into my writing cave for the winter to work on some new music. I’m super excited because writing songs is my favorite part of the process. I am planning to go on tour for the first time next year as well, so that will be a new adventure.

Be sure to check out Anna’s new single “Hindsight” on Spotify and her new music video here!