GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND
Photography KEVIN SINCLAIR | vestalmag.com
Canadian-born singer and songwriter Allie X began her career as an indie pop artist in Toronto in the mid-2000s, playing with local bands and writing and recording a handful of self-released albums. Success as a solo artist did not come to Allie X overnight. Song writing for others was a diversion—and a necessary source of income. Despite this, she didn’t stop working on her solo material. She has always been striving to become the best artist she can be and is ever experimenting and evolving her sound. After relocating to Los Angeles she adopted the stage name Allie X and began working with producers Cirkut and Billboard. In early 2014, Allie X released her debut single titled “Catch", which received critical acclaim. Her careering vocals, strange lyrics and personal style have attracted a devoted international following. She describes her melodies as being “soaring pop, borderline theatrical Disney”, while her lyrics, “always seem to be darker.” She compares song writing to a science experiment in which you put two people’s brains together for a few hours and see what they can come up with.
This month in support of her new music Allie is set to play a string of shows across Europe and North America. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Allie X in Soho at the Mercer Hotel to get to know the songstress a little better.
MAGO: So I’m sure everyone questions you all the time about the symbolism behind the “X” in your name, can you give us some insight into that? How did the name Allie X and the ideas behind the evolutions of your name develop? For instance, you at one point went by the name “Allie X Andra.”
ALLIE X: The “X” in and of itself has a huge significance throughout history; whether it be in religious texts, or mathematical equations, or as a sign of identity or lack thereof. It’s always just kind of fascinated me that everyone thinks of the porn industry when they hear “X.” And ... (laughs) I don’t really talk about Allie X Andra, but since you asked, I think of that as a transitional name. My full name is Alexandra and I knew I wanted X to be a part of my projects name. I think my Tumblr is still alliexandra.com actually. But when I moved to LA and started introducing myself “Allie X Andra” didn’t roll off the tongue, and actually distracted from the importance of “X” which is the conceptual driving force behind the whole project.
Do you think that the “X” symbolizing the porn industry has an impact on the reception of you and or your work? Is there a way that you think sex and sexuality have an influence on your work?
Let’s see... hmmm I’m not a very sexual person, but I’ve always been and remain very embedded in queer culture, which you could argue is all about sexuality - how one identifies sexually, who they are attracted to. I think more than anything I use my displacement from sexuality in my work. I’ve never been very motivated sexually, and have never experienced loneliness... In this way it has inspired a lot of my music where I explore themes of being an outsider. This is something I’ve always written about, but especially lately.
I read that you really care for and respect your LGBTQ fans, can you please tell us more about that?
Yes, so I like to be careful how I answer this, because it’s such a trendy topic these days, and I don’t want to be yet another straight white pop girl that’s like “I love my gay fans!” but I really do!!!! For all of my life, my closest friends and supporters have always been gay men. They have always lifted me up, listened to my darkest feelings and made me feel better, complimented my fashion choices, that other kids in high school made fun of and I don’t know how I would have gotten through life without them. The LGBTQ community has always been my safe haven and I will do everything I can to protect and honor my community.
It’s decent and human to love your fans regardless of who they are, because they obviously and hopefully appreciate you for who you are. And it’s more of a good thing to see affluent people, obviously not in a self-righteous way, reaching out and showing that they care for all of their fans. So a little subject change, can you tell us about a day in the life of Allie X? What do you usually do from the start of the day to the end?
I let my dog out, water the plants, and take the dishes out of the dishwasher. I don’t know why, but I really like chores and routine; I like to keep my apartment really clean. Then, I shoot off a million e-mails and start taking phone calls. I’ll go to meetings or if not, go to a yoga class, or on a hike or something. Then, I take my dog on a walk and then I eat my first meal of the day. I’ve been figuring out a lot of content, like planning video and photo shoots and also a lot of financial stuff. I kind of have a hand in every aspect of my projects. At times like this I don’t write very much. I feel like I’ve just been kind of directing everyone to connect the dots and make things happen. Then usually around eight o’clock p.m., I stop. Like maybe get stoned watch TV, make a nice dinner, and then I try to be in bed by, like, midnight.
Wow! It seems you have a lot going on in your life, and like you said you haven’t been writing as much, and that you have been focusing on all of your projects. Do you find that you spend your days thinking about your music, and work or do you try to separate yourself and have time for Alexandra and time for Allie X?
I used to spend my days thinking about music, till I started running a business (laughs). I have 15-20 people on my team at any given time, and I don’t think most of my fans would guess the amount of time I spend in my in-box and on my phone rallying the troops! I find that I am either in a creative head-space or a drill sergeant business head-space and I can’t really toggle between the two. This is the reason why flying to Stockholm to write was so amazing for me. I was able to completely focus and ignore everything that was going on in LA and NYC. Was so nice to be writing while everyone was asleep!
And when you want to get back into your creativity how do you get into that mode? Do you go to the studio? Do you talk with your band mates?
When I want to get back into my writing I literally have to make time and schedule it. When I block off time to write, I’m able to focus. Then once I get into a rhythm and I’m back in writing, it becomes easier and I find myself constantly thinking of songs whether I’m in the studio or not. All this said, I’m pretty creative all the time as marketing requires creativity! So does producing a photo shoot and a lot of the other tasks I take on myself. Writing specifically takes so much out of me though that I usually need to stop everything else to do my best work.
Can you tell us a bit about what it was like writing your latest work?
Where should we start? It was an interesting process, different than anything that I’ve ever done previously. I was flown out to Sweden to work with a producer named Oscar Görres, who I met through co-writing with Troye Sivan and the first day I got in the studio with Oscar and James Alan Ghaleb, they’re like, “we’d love to write for your project”. I had this really weird idea about a lyric I had written in my notes, “I want to be near fresh laundry. It’s been too many years of not folding.” And so I sort of put that to a melody and sang it for them. They’re like “cool” and we just sort of went into it without any sort of preconception of the sound or anything that I had previously done. And what resulted was a really special song after the first day that was called “Fresh Laundry,” it felt very “me” and happened so seamlessly.. I remember feeling this amazing release.
Where do your lyrics originate from? Do they come from an idea, a feeling, a topic? Do you have a lyrical muse?
My lyrics come from feelings. Sometimes it takes a long time to verbalize a feeling. With the writing I’ve been doing for the past year, I feel like I’m starting to be able to put lyrics to what I’ve always described as #feelingX. Since I started releasing music as Allie X, I have used this hashtag with images that give me feelings that I can’t even describe.
From what I’ve seen on your website and Instagram, you’re not only a performing artist but a visual artist as well. How has your background in visual art helped you evolve as Allie X, the musical artist? I’d like to hear about your fashion as self expression, and how you tie your outward presentation to your overall artistic expression.
I put a great deal of care into the visual side of what I do. I feel like it’s the best way for people to understand my taste and who I am. Especially when you’re a pop singer, it’s very easy to get lumped into one group. And pop music isn’t that serious (laughs). I guess I’ve always felt the need to show that I am the one behind the curtain, and I am kind of a weirdo. I don’t wear crop tops and I don’t have a big label telling me what to do and I want people to know that.
It sounds like you live all your dreams and you worked very hard to achieve them. You speak about having a hand in every project you’re working on, do you find that hard work is something fulfilling?
Hard work makes me a good person is a concept that was drilled into me by my parents. I took it maybe a bit too seriously. I find a lot of my self worth in how hard I work. I now see this as a problem. When you are sensitive with a fragile body and mind like me, pushing yourself to the absolute edge in everything you do is not the best move and I’ve made myself sick so many times. All this said it’s really hard for me to change but I’m trying. I still take pride in the hard work I do, which maybe just perpetuates the problem.
What was it like growing up? Are you the only musician or “creative mind” in your family?
I am the only person in my family who chose to do this as a career. I think all people are creative. Creativity is a healthy way to tap into the dark feelings you have and release them. In my family, my dad is pretty darn creative! He told me and my sisters so many stories as kids that totally got my wheels turning. I think he could have been an artist if that had been an option for him. My family is pretty even keel compared to me. I have always been a bit of a moody, sensitive, black sheep. That said, all of us did our best and I’ve always been supported and appreciated despite our difficulties relating at certain times.
That’s wonderful that you felt supported and appreciated. Do you think that you would’ve followed the same path had they not been as supportive? What about support in terms of love, is there anyone you’re able to open up with and show your vulnerabilities to?
Actually, I’m in a long-term relationship. Okay. Um, I don’t talk about it too much, but it’s been very educational for me. I had never been in any long-term relationship and truly did not see myself in one at all. I thought, I’m a loner. I’m comfortable being alone. So I’m going to have my art and I’m going to have my music and my secrets, and my world, and my way of doing things. And that’s going to be my life. Then five years ago, someone came into my life who said “you should be with me,” and “I’m going to love you and we’re going to do this.” And I never had that before, where someone was so insistent or cared about me so much. So I went with it and I think that’s probably one of the reasons I’ve become more sensitive. You know when someone really cares about you in a non-judgmental way it brings out other sides in a person. It’s something that I never in a million years expected to happen in Los Angeles, where it’s hard to make friends, let alone date. But that happened, and that’s kind of what I think about when I think about love.
Styling GUVANCH AGAJUMAYEV Hair KOJI ICHIKAWA Make up NIKO LOPEZ Talent ALLIE X @ THE JEFFRIES Retouch NYC RETOUCHES Production K&D PRODUCTIONS