When New Jersey-raised singer Lindsey Mackin was in college, she performed under the alter-ego Annabelle Chairlegs in a Santa Fe-based band called Treemotel. The band moved to Austin, but their stint didn’t last, and band members eventually moved back to New Mexico. Mackin stayed in Austin, however, and resurrected her old alter-ego as the name of her new solo endeavor. Since 2014, she’s been the frontwoman and guitarist of her own project, Annabelle Chairlegs.
By Rachel Rascoe
Mackin says the name is perfect for the project because Annabelle Chairlegs “sort of just feels like an extension from the old band, because if it weren’t for doing that, I wouldn’t be doing this.” It’s fitting, then, that Mackin also got the invitation to play this year’s Levitation Festival while getting drinks with an old bandmate.
At the time, Mackin was worried about the band’s transitions and lack of a drummer. They soon filled that spot with Nolan Potter to perform alongside guitarist Matt Schweinberg and bassist Derek Vaughan Nunez Strahan. The local psych-pop group will take the stage at Levitation on Saturday and are working on recording their second album this year. Mackin, who also plays in new band The Sister Rays with members of Sailor Poon, spoke with ORANGE about life changes, learning guitar and the band’s new sound.
WAS IT A CHALLENGE FOR YOU TO STEP UP FROM SINGING BACKUP VOCALS IN YOUR OLD BAND TO SINGING LEAD VOCALS AND WRITING YOUR OWN SONGS?
Definitely. It was very intimidating because I was new to the guitar. Half of the time I didn’t know what I was playing or what key the song was in, but I think it was good because it pushed me to better communicate whatever I was trying to do.
At some point, I kind of had a switch to stop being intimidated by these people and overwhelmed, because I just wanted to do it so badly. I figured, why not just ask them questions and ask for their help? It was cool because I learned so much on guitar that way, just from the guys that were in my band before and from friends.
WHAT DID YOU STUDY IN SCHOOL?
I studied musical theater. I did a lot of singing and acting. Then, as soon as I started playing in a band and touring, I was like, well, this performance is like theater but way more personalized and I could actually write the things I’m singing about. It was really cool. It felt like theater on steroids or something.
DO YOU THINK THE TIME SINGING BACKUP VOCALS HELPED YOU DEVELOP YOUR OWN MUSICAL STYLE?
For sure. I used to be really afraid to sing in front of people. I was just really bad at it, and I would get super nervous. But being in [Treemotel], they were always so supportive and really pushed me to not give a fuck and just do music because it’s what I love, and not really think about how it sounds or any of that stuff.
YOU'RE WEARING A PANDA MASK IN A FEW OF YOUR MUSIC VIDEOS. IS THERE ANY MEANING OR BACKSTORY TO THAT?
I moved out of New Jersey, where I grew up, when I was 18. I guess being away from the city and the really industrial area, I felt sort of homesick. In a lot of the stuff I would write about, I always sort of pictured myself there.
I was in New Jersey with my best friend and we were just sort of goofy, hanging out, and she put the panda hat over her face and started dancing. Then we decided to just go out into Manhattan and New Jersey that day and just film a bunch of weird stuff with the panda mask on.
HOW DO YOU THINK BEING IN AUSTIN HAS INFLUENCED ANNABELLE CHAIRLEGS' SOUND?
So much, I think. Really just from friends of mine that are playing in bands and hearing what they’re writing. It feels closer because I know them and what they’re doing or going through, so it’s really cool to hear how they express that.
Moving here, I remember going out to Hotel Vegas and seeing the Lochness Mobsters. I was just like, shit, I want to have a rock and roll band. I want to play at this place.
HOW WILL THE NEXT ALBUM BE DIFFERENT THAN YOUR PREVIOUS ONE?
It’s a lot more grungy and a little bit more intense. I guess the album art for the other one is sort of like pink and flowery and summer, and this is a lot more like dark and red and royal. Just a little bit more heavy in subject and the music too.
DO YOU HAVE ANY INFLUENCES THAT LED YOU IN THIS GRUNGIER DIRECTION?
Just like my life situation and going through a breakup. I was in a relationship for four or so years with someone I played music with, so I think a lot of it has to do with just changes. Also, the pressure of really dying to do something and what comes along with that, and human relationships and all that stuff.