Indie Rocker Anna Burch Puts Sleepless Nights to Good Use on ‘If You’re Dreaming’

The Detroit indie rocker leans into sleeplessness and anxiety on her new album
Anna Burch
Anna Burch photograph by Alexa Viscius

Anna Burch opens her second album, If You’re Dreaming, with a somnambulant song, “Can’t Sleep,” followed by the jangly “Party’s Over,” in which she repeats the chorus, “I’m so tired,” over and over.

Sleeplessness and anxiety color a chunk of the album, partly as a result of Burch’s extensive touring behind 2018’s fuzzy, alt-rock-influenced Quit the Curse, but mainly because, on New Year’s Eve in 2017, Burch and her boyfriend were robbed at gunpoint in front of their house in southwest Detroit.

“Life was a bit chaotic,” says Burch, who studied English at Michigan State University and used to play in the Detroit folk-rock band Frontier Ruckus. “I feel like there’s a bit of paranoia and anxiety that comes through some of the writing. I definitely was not sleeping very well.”

While recording with co-producer Sam Evian and Detroit-based drummer Matthew Rickle, the 32-year-old realized that another song — the hazy “Ask Me To” — was indirectly about the robbery and the anxiety she felt afterward. “It won’t be long before it hits,” she sings. “Like too much wine on empty stomachs.”

“I wasn’t really sure what exactly it was about,” says Burch, who will play a record release show at Detroit’s UFO Factory on Aug. 1. “While we were arranging it for recording, it opened up my brain to click with what it was about, and I realized it was referring to the robbery. It was interesting to make the connection much later.”

After bouncing around a number of houses with friends while she was on and off the road, Burch and her boyfriend found an apartment they loved in Hamtramck about a year and a half ago. If You’re Dreaming is split almost neatly into two halves, with the instrumental “Keep It Warm” serving as a dividing line. The songs from the first half were written before Burch went on tour in 2018; most of the second half came last winter, after she’d settled into her new home.

By the time you get to the poppy “Not So Bad,” she’s changed her tune from sleepless nights to somewhat upbeat love songs laced with dry humor. “What is this instinct to hate on everything,” Burch sings over shimmering guitars. “Seems it’s in me badly I’m afraid/ I’m so much better when you’re around.”

“I wrote that song super last-minute,” she says. “I kind of knew that there was something missing from the record. Because my environment was stabilizing, I was starting to be able to get out of survival mode and really take into account the good things I have in my life.”

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