It’s notable when music released in 2022 evokes the 1970s piano pop of Harry Nilsson, Emitt Rhodes, and Leon Russell. It’s particularly noteworthy when that music comes out of Santa Barbara, a landscape better known for surf rock, psychedelia, and reggae. And it’s even more remarkable yet when that music constitutes the debut from a band helmed by a 23-year-old virtuoso.
Glenn Annie (yes, with two N’s) have arrived with their EP Nite Tan, a bouncy collection of six exceptionally catchy tracks featuring front man Evan Blix and bassist Justin Huntsman. With its piano-driven chord melodies and mellifluous vocal tones, Nite Tan nods to an era well before the advent of digital sampling and electronic beats.
“I’ve always been attracted to older music,” explains Blix, “which can sometimes be weird because I don’t know a lot of new bands.”
“There’s good music coming out these days, but we’re not totally in with what’s current,” Huntsman adds, “I think we all just have a deep passion for good music in general.”
After meeting through Santa Barbara’s surf scene, Blix and Huntsman turned their mutually anachronistic musical tastes into a fruitful partnership. “At some point, Evan started showing me some music he was writing, and I was really, really into it,” Huntsman recalls. “We just kinda hit it off, and things started flowing really well.”
Glenn Annie (the name an homage to the Goleta golf course) began recording their first demos until a bicycle accident in which Huntsman broke his jaw derailed the nascent band’s early momentum. But after a year’s worth of recovery and continued collaboration, Blix and Huntsman laid down their first EP.
Recorded over four days at producer Kyle Mullarky’s County Line studio, Nite Tan captures the band’s natural musicianship and fast-formed chemistry. “Everything was organic,” explains Mullarky, “not many effects or studio tricks, no auto-tune or loops or samples. Just the band playing how they play.”
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The EP was mastered to Tascam reel-to-reel tape, lending Blix’s vocals an analog warmth, from the soaring chorus of country-tinged opener “Mystic Woman” to the record’s bittersweet finishing ballad “Wandering Angel.”
As the track titles may indicate, Glenn Annie’s lyrical content tends toward the time-tested topics of love, loss, and women both in and out of reach.
“We’re just really influenced by women,” Huntsman says with a winking laugh. “They’re very inspiring. We’d like to write more songs about women and other things, and guys, too.”
Future inspiration may be easy to come by. Music fans of all genders have flocked to Glenn Annie’s live shows, which Blix and Huntsman, accompanied by guitarist Luke Holroyd and drummer Luke Mensink, have honed into a tight, eminently danceable set. At a recent show outside Rascal’s restaurant, the dance party spilled onto Cota Street while Blix’s parents looked on with beaming pride.
“We’re trying to play as much as possible to get it out there,” Blix says, “It’s crazy that people are already singing along.”
Their sound may be rooted in the past, but Glenn Annie sidesteps affected nostalgia, approaching their songwriting with all the sincerity and sophistication of musicians interested in longevity rather than novelty. The result is a polished live act and an exceedingly impressive first release.
If Nite Tan indicates Glenn Annie’s future output, one would be wise to catch the band at a small local venue while the opportunity presents itself.
Nite Tan is available on Spotify. Glenn Annie plays at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Thursday, May 5, 8:30 p.m.