A divine slice of Electro-Pop has arrived in the form of Loving Game.
It is a stunning song from Alice Mary and one I was curious to learn more about. The author is a classically-trained artist who is a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix. Her debut E.P., I Am Here, is the results of years of training and a devoted and passionate love of music. One hears elements of Jazz, Psychedelia and Classical in her record collection: diversity and contrasts that show up in her own work. I talk to Alice Mary about recording in her bedroom studio and whether that is preferable to the studio. She talks about drummer Alex Walker and bassist Alex Bloxham and how influential they were to I Am Here’s sound.
I ask about tour dates and what the future plans are for Alice Mary. She tells me about her favourite albums and whether her vulnerable and self-assessing lyrics are quite tough to project; how important her eclectic musical background is and a few key artists we should keep our eyes on right now.
Hi Alice, how are you? How has your week been?
Glad the sun is finally out after weeks of rain!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a singer-songwriter, Electronic producer and guitarist. I’ve been recording in my bedroom since I was fourteen and am finally releasing my first solo E.P.
Loving Game is your new single. What can you tell us about it?
It started out as an instrumental I made when I was messing around with samples of an old autoharp; chopping them up and adding filters and things.
The day after I got dumped I wanted to distract myself; so I started writing lyrics and pulling together fragments of lyrics I’d written over the preceding months.
I started singing them over this instrumental and I finished the song that afternoon, I think.
The cutting lyrics are balanced by quite lifting and positive composition sounds. Was it important getting that balance and contrast working together?
Yes. I’m really glad you noticed that: I’ve always liked songs with depressing or dark lyrics that contrast with the overall sound of the song. I think too much of one emotion can be boring and also is not really representative of what life is like.
I’m a big fan of Soul and Disco which always sounds so uplifting but when you think about what the actual words mean it’s often pretty depressing!
I Am Here is out on 7th July. What kind of songs and subjects will be on the E.P.?
The next song to come out is called Failing in Love; surprise, it’s quite depressing! The other two are more upbeat but still dealing with themes of introspection and self-examination – and something that comes up a lot for me is bouncing between extremes and trying to find steady ground between passion and apathy; love and hate; caring too much and not caring enough.
Drummer Alex Walker and bassist Alex Bloxham have helped flesh out your music and add their voice to it. How important was it having them work on I Am Here?
Really important. I had worked and worked on the tracks for ages on my own and had no perspective on them anymore.
Having two talented musicians with fresh ears look at them really helped to lift them from flat home recordings to these bigger, more accessible songs.
A lot of your music was recorded in that bedroom studio. Is it quite hard taking those songs from that intimate space and putting them on the stage?
Technically, it was quite hard as there are a lot of samples in the songs that can’t really be replicated live; so we have some sounds played on a backing track and getting all that synced up with a click-track for Alex (the drummer) to play to was quite a chore at times. I do one song with an iPad and my guitar goes into a pedal board so with all the technology there’s quite a big potential for technical issues.
Emotionally-speaking, while I do get nervous before playing it’s not harder to play these songs than any others. I enjoy singing my own songs as there’s a perverse sense of fun in singing really personal things to a room full of people – particularly as I’m fairly private in everyday life.
Can we expect to see you perform anywhere this year?
Ah. I am finalising some dates at the moment! I’ll post on my website and Facebook when they’re confirmed. Will probably be one full-band show and one acoustic in June and July.
Your music has gained praise from some big D.J.s and influential places. Is it quite humbling getting that kind of reaction?
Compliments are lovely but I’m always thinking about what I’m making right now. It would be nice to go back in a time machine and tell the ‘me’ that was working so hard on these songs all the nice things that have been said about them (if that makes sense….?).
You are a classically-trained, Hendrix fan who became a Pop artist. How did that happen?! What was the moment that compelled you to go into that sphere?
When I was studying Music at university, and simultaneously getting into Electronic and Experimental music, Pop was always presented as frivolous or superficial in comparison to ‘serious’ music – so I always liked it but only as a guilty pleasure. When I was in my third year at university, I got more interested in the concept of guilty pleasures and actually wrote my dissertation about it!
Once I started examining it I began to dislike it as an idea: why should you feel guilty about liking something?! So, as I grew up and began to embrace other parts of myself, I was uncomfortable with it – it seemed natural to also embrace Pop music.
There are so many reasons I love Pop. I don’t know where to start. It is so broad; it can take from any and all genres; it talks about everything and anything; it’s big and dramatic and it’s not ashamed!
I know you love a bit of Techno. Is that genre something you’ll be bringing more into your music.
Actually, the E.P. has quite a few 808s in there – sampled, not real, I’m afraid. I would love to do something more minimal and with fewer lyrics in future. I’ve gotten my hands on modular synthesisers a couple of times in the past and I’d love my own modular system and some analog gear – just need some more cash…
Your lyrics are quite bare and, when needed, self-examining. Is it quite emotional and difficult being that vulnerable and exposed or is it quite liberating?
Also, it’s basically like keeping a musical diary so I can look back at songs I wrote a few years ago and remember how I felt – and also see patterns where something I wrote when I was younger has resonance in my life again now.
It’s also really great to be able to take difficult experiences and make something beautiful out of them.
Who were the artists you grew up listening to and idolised?
I started out as a guitar player and I idolised John Frusciante (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Jimi Hendrix, of course. Then, Miles Davis when I studied Jazz at school; then Radiohead and Joni Mitchell as I got more into songwriting and lyrics.
There are so many!
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
This one isn’t necessarily new, and she’s not making music at the moment, but my friend’s project Amygdala is just so (so) good and never got the attention it deserved.
If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why?
Joni Mitchell – Blue
The first time I felt like someone had gone inside my head; found thoughts I’d never expressed and expressed them better than I ever could.
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
It’s a start-to-finish-album: I rarely listen to one song without listening to the whole thing
Radiohead – Amnesiac
This one first got me into Electronic music and (also) I love the mean lyrics sang in a sweet voice – such as “If you were a dog they would have drowned you at birth”.
Holly Herndon – Platform
Portishead – Dummy
The Roches – The Roches
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Work out actual goals that you want to achieve in your career and ask yourself why you want to achieve them. Seek out work that will feel good while you’re doing it – not something that just looks good to other people. You will have to do a lot of boring admin. work and put yourself out there over and over. Make sure to keep making music as much as you can to remind yourself of who you are.
Be proud of everything you make and learn how to present yourself confidently to other people – it’s boring holding yourself back because you’re embarrassed.
Don’t worry if it feels like you’re showing off: people really do want to hear about you and your music. I still count myself as a new artist so I should probably print this out and stick it on my wall.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
I’m listening to Emotions and Math by Margaret Glaspy right now; so how about that?
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