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Local Singer, Anya Kvitka, Signs To Plug Research

In Music
Getting Up: Anya Kvitka plays The Ritz this Friday with her band, the Get Down.

Getting Up: Anya Kvitka plays The Ritz this Friday with her band, the Get Down.

Anya Kvitka has been quiet for a while.

Professionally that is. In person, she doesn’t stay quiet long. She’s got a lot to say—about the arts in San Jose, about ABBA and about her recent decision to sign with the tastemaking independent label that dug Flying Lotus out of obscurity.

“I’ve purposely been dormant,” she says, nestled on a sagging couch at Philz Coffee in downtown San Jose. “As an artist, you have to really be able to glue yourself to something before committing to releasing that content. I was just very steadily looking for something to be worthy of the fans’ attention. I think this is the first time in that time I’ve reached something that’s tangible—and I’m really excited to see where it goes.”

The “it” she’s talking about is her recent signing to Plug Research, an established and respected indie label based in Los Angeles. “They have an amazing track record,” she says. Plug released Flying Lotus’ debut LP, 1983, and currently boast a roster of boundary pushing artists, like the future-jazz/electronic producer, Milosh, and neo-soul crooner, Bilal. “A lot of these people I’ve looked up to my whole life that I feel are, like, kind of musical pioneers. I just feel like, ‘Holy crap, I’m a part of that now.’”

Anya isn’t the only one excited about what’s ahead. Allen Avanessian, owner and CEO of Plug Research is just as stoked.

Avanessian first became intrigued with Anya after hearing her feature vocal on the track “Penny Nickel Dime,” by alternative hip-hop producer and Plug Research artist Amp Live. Avanessian asked Kvitka to meet with him and play him some of her music.

“It kind of blew me away,” he says. “It was ahead of its time.”

What he heard was a singer with an incredible range—technically and stylistically. Not only could she belt out powerful melodies, but she could assume the soulful timbre of Amy Winehouse, or go an entirely different direction, which Avanessian describes as “future-soul-electronic-pop.”

Plug Research is not the first label to find Anya’s style and sound appealing. She’s flirted with labels in the past, including the majors.

From the moment she began performing, Anya’s powerful vocals cut through the din of the myriad guitar, bass and drums bands in the South Bay. Fans flocked to her, and within months, industry interest began to trickle in. “It was insane,” she recalls. “Within two months I had Atlantic Records calling me. It was weird. Because realistically that doesn’t happen to people.”

Born in Moscow, Kvitka came from a home that valued not only the structure of classical training, but the drama and bombast of pop.

“My mom and my dad kind of brought ABBA, Queen and Modern Talk (into the home),” she says. “Pink Floyd—a lot of that was a great foundation, too, because I’m not sure how many people at that crucial age, where you’re developing your tastes, are exposed to that type of music.”

Kvitka emigrated to the U.S. in 1992, where she continued to develop as a musician. She majored art history and minored in piano performance at UC Santa Cruz—graduating in 2009. While there, she garnered serious recognition as a standout member of the a capella group, Acquire A Capella, and even starred in a viral video—an a capella version of “I’m on a Boat,” by The Lonely Island—which six years ago became a YouTube phenomenon and has clocked almost 3 million views at last count.

It wasn’t even a question of what to do with herself when she came back to San Jose. She started making music, both as a solo artist and with a backing band, the Get Down—blending her omnivorous musical tastes by incorporating elements of her classical music education with her love of pop and R&B.

Eventually, Kvitka become Anya—just Anya—a sultry, silken-voiced soul singer with a little bit of sass and grit.

She has “the look” Avanessian says. “She’s forward thinking about how she wants to do things. It’s unique, but it also has a familiarity to it. That was extremely appealing to me.”

Kvitka says she is happy to be at Plug Research for a number of reasons.

“I did talk to a lot of major labels,” she says. “But whenever you sign to a major—especially when you’re an up-and-coming artist—there are a lot of artistic sacrifices you have to make.”

She has never felt that Plug Research would try to box her in. “Allen (Avanessian) was open to my creative direction,” Kvitka says. “in fact, he was encouraging to it. It just made sense. It was kind of a no-brainer.”

She will celebrate her signing to Plug Research this Friday when she headlines The Ritz in downtown San Jose. “Now that I’m on Plug Research, I really feel like this is the beginning. So, like, this show for me is really just the announcement that I feel like now is the start.”

Kvitka will be joined by longtime collaborator and lead guitarist Matt Gonzales, who has been keeping a busy touring schedule with the nuevo norteño sextet SuenaTron. “We can’t wait to rock the Ritz,” Gonzales says. “There are going to be a lot of surprises.”

Drummer Mitchell Wilcox, also of Cathedrals, and producer Marcus Daniels round out the lineup.

Going forward, Avanessian says the plan will be to release a four- or five-song EP, which he hopes to release by the end of the year. After the EP and a few singles, Avanessian says Anya should be ready to put out a full-length record.

It’s all quite exciting, Kvitka says—though it can also be nerve-wracking.

“Honestly you know, it’s not easy to decide to do this,” she says “Of course I think every day, ‘You know, maybe I should commit to a full-time job.’… I think the hardest thing is when you realize that this really is about convincing yourself.” If all else fails, Kvitka could go and work at a startup—heavy emphasis on could. “My parents are very heavily in the tech world, and I live in the middle of it. I mean, tech is so successful and so tangible. (But that’s) not who I am.”

Music and Arts Editor, Nick Veronin, contributed to this storyAnya and the Get Down play The Ritz on July 3.

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