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Exploding Skulls in Basement Sets: Annabel Lee's Indiana Legacy
Posted May 22, 2015 by Rob Peoni

 

 

Impact proves an impossible equation to quantify. Who can place a value on a singular skull imploding in the midst of a basement set in rural Indiana? Those seemingly trivial moments have the potential to radically alter the trajectory of an entire lifespan. This faith in the potential of such moments serves as the foundation for Musical Family Tree’s entire existence. It’s a belief that something magical and impossible to duplicate lurks around every corner. These moments are worth saving, documenting, preserving, and sharing, because the chosen ears and intellect who may redesign the Internet after hearing Kenny Childers sing “Downtown in the Dark” may not arrive for another two decades.

 

Fortunately, MFT is not alone in the quest to identify and preserve these indispensable Hoosier artifacts. There are others who share in this misguided affliction--others who have been permanently altered by the homegrown earworm. They come in the form of record labels, venues, concert promoters, writers, and fans of all stripes. Those who drank the proverbial Kool-Aid recognize a song or band has the ability to crystallize and add context to a time, place, group of people--a community. For Mike Adams and other listeners in the vicinity of Winona Lake and Warsaw, IN around the turn of the century, a band named Annabel Lee served as a high water mark for a vibrant Indiana music community, one worthy of preservation.

 

 

“Everything I do, there’s always a tinge of looking back on [Annabel Lee] and what made me excited about what those guys were doing,” Adams says. “How cavalier it seemed. How they just seemed to do what they wanted to do. That’s always on the back of my mind. Maybe not explicitly them, you know what I mean, but that time. They signify that time for me, without a doubt.”

 

Wawasee High School serves as a feeder school for the towns of Syracuse, Warsaw, Winona Lake and their surrounding farming communities. “The music scene was pretty lively at the time,” says Annabel Lee guitarist JJ Evans. “The circle that I was part of was mostly hardcore and punk bands, a lot of them Christian.  There were a lot of people coming out to the shows.  In retrospect it was a pretty solid little community."

 

Annabel Lee formed out of the ashes of the hardcore Christian band At Peace While Burning (APWB). Its members included Evans on guitar and vocals, Jason Torrence on drums, Aaron Eikenberry on bass, and Jesse Swaim on guitar and vocals. Bassist Jeremy Miller joined the fold a year later, when Eikenberry moved to Alabama. Over the course of its three-year existence, Annabel Lee laid down a 5-track EP and a 12-track LP, which circulated on CDrs amongst its dedicated hometown fan base.

 

“I had been playing in APWB for a while and was interested in branching out to do something other than hardcore,” Evans says, “which I loved playing, but I felt a pull to do something a little less boxed-in, something a little more experimental and a little more melodic.”

 

“They were more melodic than the other [bands in that scene] and that’s just what I was used to and what I knew how to listen to,” Adams says. “Those guys came out of some of that metal scene, and to see them step into a direction that I could relate to a little bit more – it was this thing that was foreign to me, but I loved it and it was fascinating.”

 

When Adams first launched Crossroads of America (XRA) Records in 2006, Annabel Lee was one of the first things on his radar. “Something I wanted to do at some point was properly release this stuff,” he says. “It was never a priority, but it was always something that was always on the back of my mind.”

 

Adams found a fellow Annabel Lee fan and kindred spirit in Auris Apothecary label curator, Bruce Woodward. The pair decided to partner on a reissue of Annabel Lee’s entire discography. “The thing that’s beautiful about what Bruce does is that he’s willingly releasing music that is hard, challenging, and inaccessible,” Adams says. “Then he packages it in these beautiful things that you can’t deny. You see his work, and it’s like this is a gorgeous piece of art and a piece of work. I love that contrast between knowingly packaging something that is challenging in something that is so immediately beautiful. So, it was a real treat working with him on this.”

 

 

The result of this collaboration is a comprehensive package that includes a full-length 12" LP and 7" EP on black with white splatter, heavyweight vinyl, a DVDr featuring video footage, concert photos, and additional demos, and a 20-page zine featuring a biography of Annabel Lee. "The reissue of all the Annabel Lee recordings is something I think we are all proud of," Miller says. "Mike Adams and XRA records have done a fantastic job with the art and the packaging and remastering.  I can't thank them enough for caring so much about the music that they would want to put it out."

 

 

Miller will play in Indianapolis at General Public Collective on Saturday, May 23 as part of a duo with his wife, simply titled The Millers. The pair live in Chicago, where Jeremy continues to collaborate with his high school friend and Annabel Lee band mate, JJ Evans. They perform in a five-piece band called Rambos. Miller describes the music as loud and in the vein of The Misfits. While he remains excited about his future musical endeavors, he continues to look back on his time in Annabel Lee fondly.

 

"Annabel Lee was my first favorite band," Miller says. "I only hope that more people can say that about their high school bands."

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