The Joyously Sad World of Anna Burch’s Bummer Pop

The Detroit-based singer/songwriter juxtaposes buoyant instrumentation with heavy subject matter on her solo debut, “Quit the Curse.”

BACKSTORY: Musician-turned-grad-student-turned-musician-again
FROM: St. Joseph, Michigan, before going to grad school in Chicago, and ending up in Detroit
YOU MIGHT KNOW HER FROM: Playing in the bands Frontier Ruckus and Failed Flowers
NOW: Releasing her debut solo album, Quit the Curse, via Polyvinyl

Anna Burch is an anxious person. When we speak on the phone, the former Frontier Ruckus and Failed Flowers member sounds overwhelmed by everything that goes into releasing a solo album. Aside from writing every song on Quit the Curse, the singer/songwriter also handles the business side of the project.

“Every time I open my socials I’m so overwhelmed by how many notifications there are,” she says with a nervous laugh. “It’s been a little source of anxiety, for sure.” When it comes to the record itself, though, Burch was not by herself. With the help of producer Paul Cherry and engineer Collin Dupuis, along with numerous studio musicians, she was backed by a strong team. But the album is still hers, and for a woman who’s used to putting out records with bands, it’s a little intimidating.

“I’m feeling more vulnerable,” she admits. “[Quit the Curse is] under my name and my words and choices are being scrutinized—even though, of course, it was a collaborative effort. Other people helped make the record and played on the record, but it’s still under my name and any criticism is going to be completely directed at me.”

Fortunately, the album’s initial responses have been nothing but positive, and for that Burch is thankful. “I’m really overwhelmed by all the positive responses,” she says humbly. “It’s more than I expected—it feels great.”

“I wanted to make music that made me happy and that I would want to listen to.”

That feeling is more than deserved; Burch’s musical journey has been a long one. From becoming a touring musician at the age of eighteen to getting burnt out and quitting music altogether to focus on grad school, her adult life has been a whirlwind. She’s dealt with toxic relationships, family drama, and substance abuse, and moved forward from it all. And despite being relatively new to the world of writing her own music, the Detroiter is pretty damn good at creating what she likes to call “bummer pop”—music that juxtaposes buoyant instrumentation with heavy subject matter.

“Thinking about writing those songs in a very melancholic, singer/songwriter way doesn’t seem cathartic or helpful to me,” she explains. “I wanted to make music that made me happy and that I would want to listen to.”

Seeing Alvvays for the first time, without knowing anything about the band, also helped Burch realize the direction she wanted to take her music. “I was pretty blown away,” she gushes. “And I think seeing that kind of band—electric guitars, drums, vocals—it struck me very deeply. So I was kind of like, ‘Yeah, I think I want a pop rock band backing up [my] songs.’ It was so elating, but also very emotional.”

Writing about hard times is also a therapeutic exercise for Burch. “I try to dig back into what I was feeling, and it kind of feels like there’s this weird split mentally,” she recalls. “It’s hard to tap back into that stuff in some ways, and critically think about the emotions and writing process.” And when she hits the stage, she feels that release even more. “It’s still fun performing [the songs],” she says. “I feel like I’m able to emote properly onstage without getting lost in this reverie of being overwhelmed by emotions. I think writing the songs really did the work of helping step back and be able to look in from almost an outsider’s perspective.”

Since the move to Detroit, Burch has put the past behind her. After a “messy” adjustment period, her life has slowed down a bit. “I stay in a lot—I have a steady partner that I’ve been with for three years,” she says, with a sense of peace. “Things are very different.”

So what will the future bring for Anna Burch? “I’m hoping to tour this record really hard and then get to a point where I can make the best record I can the next time around,”she says—and it’s easy to cheer her on. Curse begone. FL


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