‘Witch Pop’ Singer ANIIML on Her (Accidentally) Jewish Music

Her new album "OH AWE" tackles both grief and bliss.

It’s a very particular feeling when you hear a song for the first time that you immediately know will be a forever favorite. Most recently, that happened when I heard “IT’S OVER” by ANIIML. From the moment singer Lila Rose’s delicate, wavering voice chimes in over a simple droning note, I was hooked. When the chorus came in, with the pleading lines, “Baby this is it, go! For the last fucking time!” I knew it had the makings of a break-up anthem. And when the drums kicked in, I actually just kind of lost it. ANIIML is the real deal.

Rose, who tells me she’s somewhere between 20 and 60 years old, grew up in Toronto, Canada and now lives and makes music in L.A. Her third album, “OH AWE,” comes out on September 27, and the Jewish songwriter has opened up about the immense loss and grief that led to the making of this album. “I was literally knocked out of my shit,” she explains. “I was in a very deep depression for several months — questioning everything. From my career, to my dating life, my upbringing, to my every day routines: everything was in question.” The result is a dreamy, ethereal compilation of music that’s been defined as “witch pop,” which feels about right.

Over email, I chatted with Rose about the connection between grief and joy, how her animal rights activism fits into her music, and the (accidental) Jewish connections found within the her album.

From the very first song on your new album, I was completely entranced with your sound — both your voice and the music sounds like nothing I’ve heard before. How do you describe it to people who are new to your music?

Thanks so much, I hear this often and I like it! I describe it as a mix between Bjork and Imagine Dragons, which I think something more of a common listener might be able to piece together in their head. Grandiose, intense, passionate, a bit dark, with unique vocals.

Did you always want to be a musician? When did you first start creating music?

Nope! Theatre and acting were my first loves. Music came to me as a second love, which I’ve been focused on now for about 10 years.

Tell me about your Jewish identity. Were you raised with many Jewish traditions? Do you still identify with the religion or culture?

I was not raised with many Jewish traditions. I would say it was somewhat the bare minimum. Hanukkah, Passover, the usual. I will say, though, despite my family not being very “religious,” we have discussed amongst us that feeling of “belonging” within the culture. Especially considering our history, and the struggles our family underwent as Jews, there will forever be a deep undertone connecting us to our roots and ancestry which somehow feels very comforting.

Your live shows have been described as a multimedia experience which incorporates elements of performance art, dance, and theatre — I saw on your Instagram that in a recent show, you made your entrance by being dropped down from the ceiling in a cage… are you part of the decision-making that goes into these elements?

Oh yes! I am 100% a part of every single tiny little decision. In fact, I sometimes wish I wasn’t driving the ship all the time. But yeah, all those ideas and visions are normally mine, and then a team of wonderful badasses help make it happen.

Your new album is called OH AWE and comes out right before Rosh Hashanah. The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are referred to as the Days of Awe. Coincidence??

I’m literally starting to tear up right now. This is pure coincidence. My mind is being blown.

You’ve said that the album was in response to the death of one of the closest people in your life. “It shook me free into a new level of joy, bliss, and essentially, a level of awakening.” Can you talk more about that connection between grief/depression and joy/bliss?

This level of grief for me is still new, and I’m still deep in it, as this particular death happened only a few months ago. My experience of it thus far has been that it has blown my mind open even wider to the great mysteries of life.

Feelings like:

“This person was here, and now they’re not… where did they go?”

“What is beyond this tangible reality? What exists beyond?”

“What is the transition like between worlds, if there is one?”

“Can she feel me? Can she hear me? Does she know how much I will forever love her?”

These are the questions that fill my heart on the daily. I am simply AWED by the experience of being alive. It’s weird, complex, filled with feelings and unknown.

Your video for “Handle Me” features 16 single people — including yourself — that you are encouraging people to contact if they’re interested in dating them. How did you come up with this idea? Were you inspired by the age-old tradition of Jewish matchmaking?

To be honest I had to look this up. You are currently continuing to blow my mind. It seems like my Jewishness is having its way with me subconsciously on my recent releases. I love it!

This was just another one of my “wild ideas” that came to me. I get about 500 interesting ideas a day, and I generally pursue about 15% of them. Since the massive grief I experienced recently (hence, OH AWE), I have been even more interested in pursuing some of the stranger/less “well branded” ideas I’ve been having. It’s sort of life a, “Well, life is short, lets just do it” kind of a thing. So I had the idea to use the song to try and hook some people up via a video. I contacted one of my best friends Misty Fair to codirect and she was in (she is ALL about having fun). I have certainly been known to be a matchmaker but this took it to the next level and it’s working — we’ve got some potential matches brewing!

Thank you so much for drawing my attention to all my unintentional Jewish actions. I am elated and also amazed at the coincidences!

What is the thinking behind your stage name, ANIIML? I know you are a big animal rights advocate.

Yes. The name is literally just a reminder that we are all animals. If we can remember that one scientific fact that binds us all together, perhaps we would stop treating other species as ours to dominate and do as we wish. We are all in this together as equals, and should all be treated as such.

Who are the artists, musical or otherwise, you most admire these days?

It’s always changing, but it’s generally anyone who is willing to step out on the edge and be outrageously themselves. Billie Eilish is doing that, FKA Twigs is doing that, Die Antword, Death Grips, Perfume Genius… they’re all doing that. That’s what keeps me inspired.

What do you hope people get out of your music?

I guess my ultimate hope would be some inspiration to make change on this planet. To be kinder to one another (all species included), to make better choices about the food we eat, the way we navigate our relationships. Of course this won’t all happen from listening to the music — someone would need to dig in, and see a show to get the full shebang — but it’s there. I’d like to create a soundtrack for a revolution of change… if that’s not too much to ask?

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