Interview: Allie X on #Xpression and 'CollXtion II'.
Earlier this year in London, Coup De Main caught up with Allie X to discuss 'CollXtion II', #Xpression, and the importance of women supporting other women in the music industry...
"...I refuse to stop evolving no matter how painful it is..."
CDM: How long have you been here for?
ALLIE X: In London? I arrived last Thursday. It’s long enough that I should’ve adjusted to the time difference, but I still haven’t. <laughs>
CDM: Your music is really interesting in its use of human breath/gasping in ‘Catch’ and in ‘Old Habits Die Hard’. Was that a conscious choice for those songs?
ALLIE X: I do use a lot of breathing and sounds. I don’t like-- Just in production terms, there’s these certain modern production sounds, like impacts that people use when the chorus comes in, and it’s these very EDM sort of sounds, and so I always try and use different sounds and the breath is the one that I always go back to, like a <makes breathing noise>.
CDM: It makes it sound more human, like it’s alive!
ALLIE X: Yeah! Some are human, and it definitely speaks to the anxiety that inspired the music. <laughs>
I AM CURRENTLY MOST XCITED ABOUT…
CDM: How do you know when a song is complete? Is there a certain feeling that you get?
ALLIE X: I’ve been spending the last year trying to finish up ‘CollXtion II’, and I’ve gone through 20 versions - no exaggeration - of a few of the songs, and I suppose I just know when it’s complete because it starts to look a certain way in my head. It starts to feel ‘X’ to me and a lot of the final decisions have to do with production more than anything, just simply the sonics of the song. Often times, I’ll love a song but I don’t know if it can be for me unless I really get it into a certain sonic world, so I suppose when it starts to look a certain way to me, just listening to it the way it looks in my head, then I know that it’s done.
CDM: ‘Prime’ is one of my favourite songs of yours. You sing, “Forget what I need / Give me what I want / And it should be fine.” Do you think that as humans, we know what is right for us in life? I.e. knowing the difference between wants and needs?
ALLIE X: That’s a good question. All I have is my own experience to answer on. I feel like for a long time in my life, no, I wasn’t completely aware of what I needed. I think it comes with age, the sort of wisdom about what is and what isn’t good for you. It’s hard to know as a child, right? Now I feel like I do know and I try to listen to that voice as much as I can, but often it’s easy to fall into patterns and to be self-destructive, and to give into that voice in your head whether it’s telling you to take the easy way out or whether it’s telling you lies about who you are.
THE MEANING OF XISTENCE IS…
CDM: I guess also it’s hard to listen to that inner voice, when you’ve got everyone around you offering up their opinions too.
ALLIE X: Absolutely yeah, so that’s just the human experience I guess, and ‘Prime’ isn’t so much telling you what you should do, I was just commenting on-- ‘Prime’ is kind of a humorous take on that dark sel- destructive voice in your head and sort of how when you’re younger, it’s almost kind of fun.
CDM: In 'Tumor' you say, "When this is over / I’ll need a surgery / 'Cause you are a tumor / You’ll leave a hole inside of me." Do you think it’s dangerous that sometimes relationships are flawed and you can be aware of this, yet also not do anything about it at the same time?
ALLIE X: Yeah absolutely, it’s dangerous, and I think it doesn’t stop many of us though from going into relationships, knowing that they will take a piece of you away. But, often when they do take a piece of you away, I feel like if you’re talking anatomically, like the song does, if it takes a piece of you away, your tissue sort of has to repair itself and often the way it does that and the scars that it leaves, leave you a bit wiser and a bit stronger.
I XCEL THE BEST AT…
CDM: You’ve said, “I’m a girl on a journey to becoming her whole self…” How do you define a whole self? How do you think people become their full selves?
ALLIE X: I wish I knew the answer to that. One clue that I have is being at peace, being content. I’m yet to experience that, so I don’t know exactly what it’s like, but there have been minutes or hours in my life when I’ve felt peaceful. <laughs> I think the most important thing is that, it’s not necessarily that you reach your whole self, I don’t know if anyone-- if I ever will, but I will always try. I will always try to evolve and I will always try to stay open. One thing I’ve seen happen with people as they grow older, is that they-- I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I’ve noticed that people as they grow older they sort of settle into a version of themselves, and they’re happy to settle. I hate the saying, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ - I think you should be able to teach an old dog new tricks. <laughs> It’s very sad that somebody just says, ‘Well I know that is gonna give me a heart attack eventually but I’m gonna keep eating it everyday for breakfast,’ or whatever, there’s so many different instances, but I refuse to stop evolving no matter how painful it is.
CDM: You’ve got to! Otherwise, life is just so boring
ALLIE X: Yeah, there’s so much beauty in that pain of living as well.
CDM: When we last spoke, you weren’t sure of the length of ‘CollXtion II’ - do you know what it’s gonna be now or when we can expect to hear it?
ALLIE X: Well, I haven’t started doing my official ‘CollXtion II’ interviews yet, so I don’t wanna get in trouble, but it’s gonna be longer than ‘CollXtion I’ by at least a few tracks.
CDM: #Xpression seems really important to you. Do you think that all arts (music, painting, etc.) are similar in the way they are constructed? Or do you get something different out of each outlet?
ALLIE X: Good question. I don’t think I’ve been asked that before in that way. I think that there’s something about music that, for me, sort of trumps all other art-forms because it’s so primal, it will affect any human on the Earth. I think that music is sort of the winner of all of them. But, the other art-forms, they all have their own things. For me, I love to do visual art because I’m not particularly good at it, I’m good at curating it, but I’m not good at visual art per se - and this is kind of going off on a tangent, but I think that artists who do it for a living, it’s always kind of freeing for them to experiment with other forms that they’re not trained in or particularly proficient in.
IF I COULD HAVE AN XCHANGE WITH ANYONE LIVING OR DEAD, IT WOULD BE…
CDM: What do you feel is the strongest human emotion?
ALLIE X: It’s sort of sad to say this, but I think it’s a tie between fear and loneliness. They’re overwhelming and I feel like they govern most of the choices that most humans make, ‘Get married before you’re 30,’ that’s a fear thing, ‘Do this as a career,’ that’s a fear thing.
CDM: You’re so vocal on Twitter about supporting other women in the music industry. Do you think it’s important in an age where female popstars are pitted against each other, to publicly support your fellow artists?
ALLIE X: Yeah, absolutely, and I mean it should be just something that is a given thing, like you don’t have to be vocal about it because it just exists, but unfortunately it doesn’t and we do need to be vocal about it just to establish it as a norm. All the feuds between whoever - Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift - I feel like we really need to take a little step back every time those happen because they’re just so petty and silly.
CDM: Most of them, they’re just media fabrications anyway.
ALLIE X: Yeah. They really just seem silly to me, even though I will click on the link and read about it or whatever, <laughs> but yeah I’m not into that.
IF I COULD GO ON AN XCURSION ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, SPACE OR TIME, I WOULD TRAVEL TO…
CDM: Taylor Swift is also vocal about supporting other woman, but some critics feel that her 'squad' promotes exclusivity instead of inclusivity. In an ideal world, how would you like to see support for females being championed?
ALLIE X: I guess like I said earlier, it would just be standard. There wouldn’t be so much of a need to be vocal about it or to even talk about it.
CDM: Yeah, it’s a tricky situation because you sort of toe the line between talking about it too much and then it becomes ‘the other’, but you’ve also got to give it attention.
ALLIE X: It’s similar to what is happening with the word and the issue of feminism right now, where it’s talked about all the time, and it’s necessary for it to be talked about all the time because we have to have progress and to move forward, but at the end of the day it’s like the word now has this negative connotation, because some random dude will hear it and be like, “Ugh" - and that’s sad, but unfortunately there’s no way around that until it becomes standard.
CDM: Who are your current favourite female artists?
ALLIE X: I definitely am a fan of Grimes, for blazing the trail for weirdness, female production, imperfection, and interesting visuals. Every woman I think in the music industry has something to-- I owe a lot to other female artists, for paving the way. There’s a word I can’t think of. It’s truly incredible what she did and Kate Bush as well, I would put in that same category. Another artist right now that I quite admire, and some of my fans will probably have not so nice things to say about this, but I think Halsey is a really good writer and really brave. I think it’s such bullshit how mean people are to her - it’s like, really? What did this 21-year-old girl do to deserve all of this hatred? Like, true hatred?
CDM: It also comes down to double standards, like if it was Troye Sivan in a similar situation, I think everyone would be a lot more kind and a lot more forgiving - there’s a lot of jealousy on the Internet.
ALLIE X: Absolutely. It’s really gross, and I don’t get into it on Twitter because, kind of going back to what we just said, I don’t want to establish that as a standard, but I think her record is really strong and I met her once and I thought she seemed cool. I think that as a female artist she is very vocal about things she cares about and I respect that.
CDM: As well as writing your own music, you’ve written with other artists such as Troye Sivan. Do you have plans to write with any others?
ALLIE X: I have songs that have been placed with other people. They aren’t all confirmed to be on their records so I can’t really say who they are in case it doesn’t work out.
CDM: So there’s stuff in the pipeline?
ALLIE X: Yeah, stuff in the pipeline!
CDM: This interview is for our upcoming issue with Troye Sivan on the cover - so what’s your favourite Troye song and why?
ALLIE X: It’s hard for me to choose. I really love ‘Bite’. I really love how strange it is and how it sets a tone for a young boy stepping into a grown-up world, really honestly. I really love ‘for him.’ as well, I just have such fond memories of that session and the whole record was really very naturally and authentically about Troye’s place that he was in life at that time and it was really special to be a part of that. Often times in L.A., when you step into a session it goes like this, "What should we write today? What about a song like this?” And you listen to some song that’s big at that time, it’s top of the charts and whatever, “Oh yeah yeah that’s a dope thing!” - and then they start a beat that sounds exactly the same, and you’re just trying to copy something else. Troye’s record wasn’t at all like that and he had no concern about making hits or singles, it was a real pleasure.
CDM: Songwriting sessions seem so bizarre, once, I was told about one where the artist went in and the writer was adamant, like, "Hey, today we’re gonna write lyrics about windows, we need to write lyrics about windows!” Like, what?!
ALLIE X: That sounds very L.A., <laughs> like, "Guys I got a great concept! No gravity! Your love gives me such a high that there’s no gravity anymore!” That sort of shit. <laughs> It’s fun though, I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong.
CDM: I’ve read that you cite Haruki Murakami as an influence in your writing. Do you have a favourite Murakami novel?
ALLIE X: It’s a tie between ‘1Q84’ and ‘Kafka On The Shore’, I’d say.
CDM: If A.L.L.I.E. X. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
ALLIE X: Anxiety, Long legs, Loopy, Into probiotic foods, Extreme personality, eXquisitely high standards. <laughs>
CDM: And lastly, when are you gonna come visit us in New Zealand?
ALLIE X: Oh, I would love to come, whenever I can afford it!
Allie X’s single ‘That's So Us’ is out now - click here to purchase.
Watch the ‘All The Rage’ music video below…