UofT Student Musician Profile: Anna Mernieks Of Beams

By Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

Name: Anna Mernieks (of Beams)

Year of study: Fifth

Program: Specialist in Forest Conservation Science, Minor in Geographical Information Systems

Instruments: Banjo, vocals, some guitar

Musical Background: Anna started off playing the recorder when she was in third grade, and moved on to the guitar in sixth. The recorder led her to pursue the saxophone at an arts high school, where she met a girl who also played guitar with whom she started a band. This got Anna into the music scene and got her into songwriting. Since then, Anna has fallen in love with writing songs and has not stopped. She sometimes sings and plays on other people’s projects, but is mostly focusing on her own material for the time being.

A bit about Beams: Beams consists of Keith Hamilton on saw, his brother Dave Hamilton on mandolin, Craig Moffatt on bass, Martin Crawford on lap steel guitar, Heather Mazhar on vocals, Mike Duffield on drums, and Anna on vocals and banjo. Beams plays in the folk tradition but with a sort of hybrid of bluegrass and rock instrumentation. The band calls it “art-country indie folk rock” for the time being. Beams’ debut album, Just Rivers, was released on May 14, 2013 on CD and digitally.

Inspirations/Influences: Anna listens to a diverse array of music, and when something moves her, it makes her want to create something that sounds like it. Most recently she has been moved by songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival and War on Drugs. Once she has an idea in her head, it becomes a challenge to make it work, and that makes her see it through. The same idea works when she is learning other people’s music as well – Anna likes the challenge of learning it and making it sound tasteful.

Proudest Moment/Biggest Accomplishment as a Musician: Anna’s biggest accomplishment as a musician has been writing songs that engage musicians and non-musicians alike. She is constantly amazed at how loyal the band is and how her fellow bandmates are still interested in working with her ideas. The songs would not be what they are without them. She was extremely proud when the album came out and the band got international reviews and four N’s in NOW. Anna was also very proud of the album itself and how the band managed to create the sound (with Peter J. Moore’s help) that she had always dreamed of for the songs. Additionally, she is proud that the band managed to remain a group of seven for this long. Every day she is amazed by the commitment that everyone brings forth, especially for a project that is really a labour of love where the reward is sometimes intangible or elusive.

Future Plans: Beams has just received a FACTOR demo grant, so the band is going to write and record over the winter and release an EP in the spring. Find Beams on Facebook (/beamstheband), Twitter (@BEAMStheband), and check out the band’s website (banjobeams.com) for blog posts, photos, music, and show information.

This article appeared in Demo‘s January 2014 issue.

Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky is a fourth year student majoring in Linguistics and minoring in German Studies and Music History & Culture. A native Torontonian, she likes to go on exploratory bike rides through the greener outskirts of the city and frequents concert venues and dive bars in its heart. When not daydreaming, reveling in nostalgia, and listening to music (experimental and art rock are among her preferred genres), Maria devours French New Wave films and enjoys photographing the sights in her native West End.

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