Alexandra Savior first popped up on musical tastemakers’ radars last year with 'Risk’ - a track the 21-year-old Portland native co-wrote with Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner (that soundtracked 'True Detective' Season 2) - and continued to pique the interest of critics and fans alike, with the reveal that not only had Savior and Turner written an entire album together, but also that Savior contributed to The Last Shadow Puppets' new album cut, 'Miracle Aligner' (which was originally intended for herself).
We’re counting down the days until the release of Savior’s debut album, 'Belladonna of Sadness', slated for April 7th...
MUST-LISTEN: 'Mystery Girl', 'M.T.M.E.', 'Shades'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: The Last Shadow Puppets, Zella Day, The Pierces, Cam Avery, Meg Myers, Lana Del Rey, Nancy Sinatra, Leighton Meester, Mini Mansions, Feist.
CDM: At what age did you decide to leave Portland? Was it consciously in search of a career in music?
ALEXANDRA: Yeah it was, I got really swept up into it when I was really young, when I was 16. I had been writing already, co-writing with people and stuff when I was 17, 16 and 17. So the minute that I graduated high school I just kind of decided that was what I was going to do and my Mom said that she would give me six months where she would help me out, and if it didn’t work out in six months then I would have to move back home or try to get into college. I was planning on going to art-school, I didn’t really think it was going to work out, so I was sort of thinking that I would end up as an artist or art-teacher somehow.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
ALEXANDRA: It’s different when I’m writing on my own, usually it starts in the car. Sometimes if I’m working on a melody, I’m in the car and I have my tape-recorder or my phone, and I just sing melodies, make up lyrics, or when I’m cooking - just all the time, I’m recording things. Or sometimes I’ll properly sit down with a guitar. With the record that’s coming out, I would take those ideas to Alex [Turner] and then we would work them into what they are now, all together.
CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written thus far?
ALEXANDRA: Lyrically, I would say 'Audeline' is my favourite song overall, because I wrote most of it by myself and it was the first one that I felt I had full ownership over, so I enjoy that one lyrically because I feel more emotionally attached to it.
CDM: Having co-written your lyrics with Alex, do you feel like you’re slipping into the persona of 'Alexandra Savior’ when singing these songs? Or do all the words feel extremely personal to you?
ALEXANDRA: Sometimes when I’m playing shows, it’s like I have to slip into-- yeah, the persona, but it’s almost like living in a shadow of somebody else’s talent because you don’t really get to take full credit, so I feel like it makes me less proud of the music. But I think I enjoy it more. I mean, parts of it belong to me and parts of it belong to him, and that’s kinda just how it is. Sometimes I’ll sing a lyric and I’ll kinda roll my eyes like, 'Oh, Al wrote that one,' or 'I hate that part!' or whatever, but it kind of makes it fun that way because it builds this sort of vengeful character when I’m performing.
CDM: Was it quite collaborative, that songwriting process between you both?
ALEXANDRA: Yeah it was. It was pretty collaborative, I think that he’s got-- going into it, we both were like, 'Well, what are we going to do?' He’s much more organised and he keeps everything very tight and controlled in his writing and life, and I’m much more fluid, and sort of all over the place, so it was definitely a co-process. The production process, I’d say I was pretty clueless with, because I was like, ‘Whoah!’ Once James [Ford] came in, it wasn’t songwriting anymore, it was building a musical aesthetic of nuance.
CDM: Zach Dawes from Mini Mansions played on your album, right?
ALEXANDRA: Yeah! He actually wrote the bass-line for 'Girlie'. Zach would come by because we wrote the whole record at Alex’s house, and Zach and Alex are really good friends, and now Zach plays in The Last Shadow Puppets - we actually recorded my record before they recorded the record they’re touring now, so it was a couple of years ago, must be like two or three years now. He’d just came by and kind of dilly-dally when Alex wanted something with a little more flare.
CDM: The idea of dissatisfaction comes through strongly in the lyrics of your songs - do you think we, as humans, are conditioned to be dissatisfied by everything?
ALEXANDRA: Yeah! You always wanna be where you’re not - you could be in Heaven and you’d wanna be back on Earth. I think that we just live in a constant state of limbo, like purgatory, where we just wanna get to the next place. I think that comes out a lot in my writing, it’s sort of just a big eye-roll to everything that is actually a blessing in my life.
CDM: What does true happiness look like for you?
ALEXANDRA: In my mind, it would be being able to just paint, and have a garden and have a couple babies or something, but I think if I was there I’d probably wish that I was a popstar! So... <laughs>
CDM: How do your other creative processes like painting, your involvement in music videos, how does that all compare to songwriting for you?
ALEXANDRA: I find it a lot less pressure, because it’s not as of an organised kind of process. You don’t have to think about the structure of a painting as much as you do have to think about the structure of a song. It usually just starts out in my notebook, every morning I try to write in there and usually the pen goes into some sort of idea, and then if I have some time I’ll turn it into a painting. For music videos, just if somebody gives me a video camera, I figure something out I guess and then go a little bit nuts on the computer trying to make it look trippy!
CDM: You’ve said that the ‘Shades’ music video is "a statement showing how you shouldn’t do everything the way everyone else does it." How do you think “everyone else does it,” and why did you consider it important to take a stand against that?
ALEXANDRA: I think that there is a structure in the music industry that has been followed for years, since the 80s or so. Usually when it’s a female artist, it’s all about lip-syncing in front of the camera, which is fine, but it was sort of just a parody on how silly it is to take things like that so seriously. I think that the idea of lip-syncing is a pretty goofy thing.
CDM: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about the music industry?
ALEXANDRA: The most important thing about the music industry I’ve learnt is that it’s total bullshit, and that the thing you should focus on the most is just the art. It’s nice to be in a position where you have people who will take care of the things that you don’t want to worry about, because then you can kind of just hone in on your own brain. The most important thing is to nurture your own art.
Read our full interview with Alexandra Savior here.
Click here to check out more of Coup De Main’s 2017 Must-Know Artists.
Watch Alexandra Savior perform 'Girlie' live with Alex Turner below...