Alternative rock band Observing With Annie is Jonny Van Til, left, Leah Lagestee, Josh Triezenberg and PJ Lukens. Courtesy of Matty Jiles

5 minutes with … Observing With Annie

Observing With Annie’s recent release ‘Holiday’ sees an alternative band ready for the scene

Sometimes the most interesting journeys are the ones you aren’t expecting. Alternative rock band Observing With Annie’s recent release “Holiday” evokes that. The album launches with a solid Midwest rock vibe but weaves through a love song or two, an ode to Chicago, introspections on death, memories and a little bit of post-teen angst because, hey, what 20-something doesn’t have some of that?

The band’s ability to conjure such a varied menu of flavors is not at all surprising considering this young and hungry quartet started with cousins Leah Lagestee and Josh Triezenberg writing surf rock songs in his kitchen back in 2016.

“It’s really just a growing process,” Triezenberg said. “As I listen to new music and continue to get into different things, the style changes. It’s all boiled down to moments and connections. ‘Holiday’ was us in this moment.”

I had a chance to chat with the members of Observing With Annie at a recent performance and over email in advance of their show Friday, June 8, at Debonair Social Club with Chaos in Creation, Paul Coady and the Edsel Bros.

Band members: Leah Lagestee (bass guitar), PJ Lukens (lead guitar), Josh Triezenberg (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jonny Van Til (drums)

It’s clear all four of you come from different musical backgrounds with varied influences. How do you blend those together to form a cohesive song?

Triezenberg: It seems to be an assembly line right now. Leah or I will come up with a skeleton of an idea, and then I take it and arrange it and pass it off for the rest of the band to interpret in their own way, and build off. I’d like to take steps to different styles of songwriting, because it will always push us to get different and better results.

Alternative rock band Observing With Annie plays Debonair Social Club Friday, June 8.
Alternative rock band Observing With Annie plays Debonair Social Club Friday, June 8. – Courtesy of Matty Jiles

Almost every song on “Holiday” taps into a different genre’s songbook. Is there one particular song that really speaks to you?

Triezenberg: I’ve really loved “Somewhere In My Head” and “Okinawa, 1944.” My two favorite things in the world are a good love song and a good story. Nothing will ever beat those things.

Van Til: “Sunshowers,” with “Okinawa” being the runner up.

Lukens: Favorite song off the EP is easily “Champfleury.” It brings me back to a lot of the music my father showed me as a kid that inspired me to pursue music.

Do you think there was one particular moment that made you realize that music is your path?

Lagestee: I knew I needed to pursue music because it was something that just came so naturally to me. My dad was the musical influence in my life. I grew up writing songs and teaching myself how to play them. It’s something that truly satisfies me as an individual. It was my escape. I always walked around with my headphones blaring. It was so important to who I was growing up. Music has always given me the platform to flex my creativity and express myself to the fullest. When you have something like that in your life that fills your soul up, you simply can’t ignore it.

Lukens: My defining moment in music was probably around 10th grade when I really started putting more time into and learning about music and feeling pieces fall into place. I went on a sort of creative binge and wrote around seven hours of material throughout the year. A lot of it has been scrapped and will most likely never be heard or played, but the boom of productivity was a sign for me that I’d finally found something I had an aptitude for. A lot of the techniques I developed over that time are the same ones I utilize now, both in my independent writing and for reflecting my style in my contributions to Annie.

Triezenberg: I had moved back home from living in Memphis, Tennessee, for about a year. I went as a guitar major but quickly realized I don’t want to be a “guitarist.” I found that I loved the craft of the song, but I also didn’t think that you had to major in it to learn it, so I switched my major to Music Business and just surrounded myself with all the songwriting majors to soak up what they were learning. … Leah started sending me rough snippets of melodies, and I learned I had a good ear for building off of “potential,” I guess.

Van Til: I’ve been playing since I was 11, and have always played, whether it be in concert band, jazz band or pep band. I’ve always enjoyed playing, so I don’t think there was ever a single moment. Just a culmination of enjoying playing for so long, and wanting to continue it as a career now. Enjoying every bit of it, too.

On its recent release, "Holiday," Observing With Annie comfortably combines all four members' varied tastes and influences.
On its recent release, “Holiday,” Observing With Annie comfortably combines all four members’ varied tastes and influences. – Courtesy of Matty Jiles

So who is Annie? Or rather, where did the name come from?

Lagestee: I was in an astronomy class and we were getting our telescopes to use for the class. All of the telescopes were named after famous female astronomers, and my professor gave me mine to use and said “You’ll be observing with Annie.” I told him I was going to name a band after that and so I did.

What’s coming up in the next few months?

Triezenberg: We have a few more shows scheduled for the summer and are working on getting more. We will also be releasing some more music around the end of summer … but stay tuned. Like us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, bandsintown, SpotifyiTunes, really any social media, to stay updated.

More about the band: Observing With Annie

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2018 Chicago Sound Check vol. 11 – Surprises from 2018

• • •

Observing With Annie with Chaos in Creation, Paul Coady and the Edsel Bros

When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 8

Where: Debonair Social Club, 1575 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago; (773) 227-7990 or

Tickets: $10; 21 and older show

• Observing With Annie is the featured band on this month’s local music playlist, “2018 Chicago Sound Check vol. 5,” now streaming on Spotify. Give it a listen and check out some of the other Chicago and suburban musicians we’ve included recently in the Daily Herald.

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