Her tour kicks off on March 22nd, and she arrives in Portland on March 26th
UPDATE: Allie X’s tour has been postponed.
Ephemeral, but down-to-earth; gothic, but danceable; sad, but simultaneously happy. Allie X’s album Cape God, released earlier this year through Twin Music, is an album that revels in these liminal spaces. The album has also been the impetus for Allie X’s largest-ever headlining tour, which will be coming to Holocene in Southeast Portland on March 26th, the Thursday of Spring Break. The Quest had a chance to speak with her about her new album, her upcoming show, and her songwriting process.
Paul Molamphy: So if I’m not mistaken, this is going to be your first headlining tour in the United States?
Allie X: It’s not my first, but it kind of is because I’ve never done a proper headlining tour. I’ve done a couple shows here, a couple of shows there, usually not connected to an album release. So in a lot of ways this does feel like my first proper tour. I don’t think I’ve ever done more than like five dates at once.
Do you anticipate any new challenges, or things that will be different, compared to other kinds of tours you’ve done?
Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’ll be longer. I’m used to doing a half-an-hour set, and this is going to be double, if not more, of that — probably 65 minutes or something like that. So, more songs. It’ll be nice to have only my fans in the audience, because usually I’m playing to someone else’s fans and then there happens to be some of my fans in the audience. So I’m really excited.
Moving to more of a discussion of the album, Cape God: You’ve talked about having a lot of different influences, musical and non-musical. I was wondering which of those influences come through in this album?
I do have a lot of influences, from musicians, to filmmakers, to directors, to animators, to random fashion blogs. It just depends on what my vision for an album is. For this one, I was really inspired by some of the old goth music in the 80s and 90s. And this photographer, Gregory Crewdson. He does these melancholic East Coast looks. In terms of fashion I was really drawn to Comme des Garçons, Iris van Herpen, Simone Rocha… More than anything, I was inspired by my own personal experience. And this documentary that I saw called Heroin: Cape Cod, USA.
Yeah, I did hear about that. Could you speak a little bit more about how that documentary influenced this album?
It was kind of abstract. I saw the film and I just felt really taken by it, to the point where I decided to write from one of the characters’ perspective, just as an exercise. It sort of launched me into my own feelings that I had in high school, strangely. Then I just started writing from that perspective, to the point where it sort of moves further and further away from the documentary. But the documentary was really a launchpad into feelings from my past.
It seems to me that Cape God, as an album, has really been an audiovisual experience so far. How are you planning to bring that visual aspect of it to your stage performance?
Well, that’s always tricky… I’m playing mid-sized, some larger venues. Certainly nothing close to an arena or anything. So it’s always important to consider the size of the venue and what you can do within that space. For me, it’s a recreation of this sort of… I think of a full moon, and night, and wind, and a lighthouse shining across a lake. So it’s just simple ways that I can recreate that. On the support tour I did in the fall, we had an orb — it was actually just an Ikea lantern. So we’ll probably use that again, and lots of haze and fast lighting. Fans are really effective, like an industrial fan just blowing and my hair going everywhere. Good pre-show music. Just simple ways to create that vibe.
And I’m sure a big part of that will be your outfits as well. Is that something you’ve been spending a lot of time on?
Yeah, we’re working on that right now, trying to find the designers that will loan for the tour. We have some really good looks confirmed, but we still have a lot to figure out. I’m working with my stylist, Kieley Kimmel, on finding all the right looks. That’s a big part of what I present at a show.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the songs on this album seem to really be crafted around their basslines — I’m thinking of songs like “Regulars” and “Life of the Party.” Is that a reflection of your songwriting process?
I’m so inspired by a bass rift — that’s a very astute observation. I love baselines. They really get my creative juices flowing.
I think that contributes to one of the big things I noticed from Cape God: It deals with these really heavy topics, but it often does it over these really danceable beats and these really danceable songs. Is that the specific effect you were going for?
I think it’s just my style. I’m really into happy sad songs. I love irony and juxtaposition in art. And so I think, if you look back through my past work, you’ll see that’s kind of a common thread.
You’ve described Cape God as a liminal space for you. Do you feel like this is a transitional moment for you as an artist?
Yeah, I do. I don’t know if it’s a transitional moment in the sense that… there is a larger audience, it does seem like I’m getting more attention than I’ve had before. But it’s actually more on a personal level that I feel it is transitional. I feel like it took me a long-ass time to get to the point where I could sing and talk about the things that I do on this record. And I feel like I’ve taken the veil off my face, taken the sunglasses off my eyes, and now that I’ve done this, I’m just going to dig even deeper and be even more vulnerable. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. But I feel different. I feel like it’s a new chapter in my life. Having said these things publicly, having created this representation of my past and put it out into the world, it sort of has taken a weight off and liberated me in some ways. So we’ll see where it all goes. But it definitely does feel like a transitional time in my life.
It seems also to be a transitional moment for you musically, in terms of having a different sound than a lot of what you’ve explored before. You were mentioning the goth influences. Is this a thread that you’re going to continue to pull on?
I’m definitely interested in exploring it further. It’s funny, I actually got more into the goth records after I made this. So I feel like that’s probably going to inspire me quite a bit on whatever I write next. I’m really sick of a lot of pop music, and I’m kind of sick of being a writer in Los Angeles in a lot of ways as well. So, I don’t know — I think listening to goth music is my way of differentiating myself and rebelling a bit against what I’m surrounded by. To answer your question, the sound on the record is totally different [from what I’ve explored before], and it happened really naturally actually. Usually when you start a writing session you’ll play a song. And you’ll try to emulate something in the song — at least in a pop writing session. We didn’t do that. The first song we did was “Fresh Laundry” and I just had that lyric and that melody and I just sang it a capella for Oscar [Görres] and James [Ghaleb], who I made a lot of the record with. This sound just sort of emerged, this palette of sounds… it just felt really right and really fresh. And so we just followed it and tried to keep it consistent and explored it and basically forgot about anything that I’d done up to that point. It wasn’t about trying to match something that I’d already done.
And with this new direction that you’re exploring sonically, do you anticipate that there’s gonna be a little bit of a different vibe at your shows, compared to previous shows?
I think I’ll probably attract a slightly different demographic, maybe? That’s a guess. Like, I’m starting to be covered by Pitchfork… I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw some more hipsters in the crowd.
I mean, it is Portland.
It is Portland, yeah
What else should people know about the tour and the album?
The album’s really good. I’m really proud of it. My show is kind of a completely different experience than listening to my record. I’m pretty wild on stage. I “go off,” as the kids say [laughs]. I put on a good show, so you should come. It’s almost sold out though, so if you’re reading this, grab those last few tickets before they’re gone.