Interview: Into The Super Sunset with Allie X
Allie X’s Super Sunset is out Fall 2018, listen to “Not So Bad In LA” below
The city of Los Angeles can be rather unforgiving, often known for chewing up and swiftly spitting out a revolving door of big-eyed hopefuls. It’s a story many of us have heard and one few have survived. That, however, could not stop Toronto-bred Allie X from leaving it all behind to turn her electropop dreams into an unforgettable reality. In the five years since landing in LA, the singer/songwriter has diligently explored the boundaries and truths of her existence — developing an otherworldly sound and aesthetic perfectly encapsulated in Allie X’s 2015 debut EP, Collxtion I and subsequent debut album, Collxtion II, released in June 2017.
Now, Allie X is following up her debut efforts with an exciting concept album called Super Sunset — inspired by the “Paper Love” singer’s time in Los Angeles and featuring the previously-released tracks “Focus” and “Not So Bad In LA.” The mini-album is due in the fall, with Allie X currently on a four-date promotional tour called “The Super Sunset Xperience.” The tour will make stops in LA, London, and Toronto. We recently caught up with Allie X following the first stop of the “Super Sunset Xperience” at Rough Trade NYC, read our conversation below.
You’ve had an insane year since the release of Collxtion II. Have you had any standout or impressionable moments that you feel really defined that era for you?
I have, yeah. Doing the tour is always – I always get scared to go – and then I go and it’s so much fun. It really sort of connects the dots for me, ’cause it’s like when you kind of live in the internet space there’s a human connection that you miss. When you actually get out there and perform the songs and people are singing along and everything, it’s just such a good feeling. So, definitely, when I did the tour and I don’t know, this isn’t the Collxtion II era… but I had a lot of fun doing the Hayley Kiyoko tour this year as well. Which, again, was a bit of a surprise because as an opener you don’t always have the best time on tour — but I had such a good time there, too! I feel like my happiest and most carefree moments are those. Then, I feel like when I’m in LA and just in my inbox, that’s when I’m the most stressed. I like it better when I just have one job and that’s to perform. (laughs)
On the Hayley Kiyoko tour, I know you were playing tracks from Super Sunset as part of your set. How was that initial response for you and did it all change what we’ll eventually hear on the album?
It was actually a really cool place to be while putting those songs on their feet because there were fans of mine in the audience but largely it was Hayley Kiyoko’s fans. So, it was kind of their first time hearing a lot of things by me and they wouldn’t have even known necessarily that those songs hadn’t been released, so it was less pressure for me. That was really cool though, just to get them on their feet and then for tonight’s show, there were just two other songs I’ve been working on and played.
So, you’ve just announced your next body of work Super Sunset — can you tell us a bit about the concept behind the album?
Super Sunset — the simple, direct answer is it’s a record about my last four years in Los Angeles. When I started writing it, it was 4 years and now it’s coming up on 5 years. So, I keep going back and forth between the two, but it’s a concept album about my time there.
So, you’ve previously mentioned playing with three personas while creating the new album. During tonight’s Super Sunset Xperience at Rough Trade NYC, we caught a glimpse of the Hollywood starlet donning a Monroe look if I’m not mistaken. What can you tell us about the personas?
The Hollywood starlet is usually blonde, she likes to feel very glamorous. She likes to be cinched with her tits up and she likes to wear a lot of makeup. Sometimes, I think she’s kind of unaware of how desperate she comes across and how delusional she is. Sometimes, even her look can almost become a bit grotesque and she just sort of reflects everything about the fake side of Hollywood and the desperation that you see there. I relate to that because all of these alter egos are taken from feelings that I have within myself sometimes.
The nun represents the purity, spirituality, and I think almost like the naivety of being an artist. She’s very pure and she just wants to express herself and connect. Which, when you try to make a business out of that, you know, you turn into the Hollywood starlet. (laughs) Then there’s the third one — sci-fi girl. She is, I think, so far the one we’ve seen the least of, but she’s kind of like Allie X! All the quirks, and the weirdness, and the alien-like qualities, and the witch-like qualities that people kind of relate to me… those are all traits that I have that I think I enjoy and I’m the most comfortable sort of showing the world.
Did the concept of the personas inspire the music and lyrics, or did the songs manifest into these personas?
The personas came later, it was music first and then as I was figuring out the album art shoot with Vijat Mohindra, the photographer, we sort of came up with those. Even then, we were sort of just planting the seed and then I started putting the looks together with Lisa Katnic. Even now, I’m still kind of exploring the whole thing, I don’t have it completely mapped out. It’s a really interesting exploration for me. It’s been fun getting to be these different characters and I feel different in my body when I’m the Hollywood starlet, for instance.
Did you feel at all that you needed these personas in order to portray a message that you haven’t before? Or did you feel more comfortable sharing this aspect of your life with these personas?
Nobody’s asked me that yet, but I think so… I think it’s one thing to talk about Hollywood being fake, but I think I wanted to show what Los Angeles has done to me – like actually show you.
You mentioned the grotesque aspect of the Hollywood starlet — how has that juxtaposition played into the album?
The grotesque is in the underbelly of the entire album, with the exception of maybe “Focus.” It’s the one song that I feel like really rising above everything, literally in the lyric I pictured myself with this other person in a frozen bubble above the city and the pollution. There’s a purple apocalyptic sky and we’re just there, and it’s like “there’s the bullshit, this is us” and we’re going to be okay if we keep looking in each other’s eyes. (laughs) I feel like it’s the only song on the album without a cynicism.
Yes, it’s a very straightforward love song.
(Laughs) Yes, very straightforward love song.
You’ve mentioned the Sci-Fi girl and how she best represents Allie X and the Allie X you’ve shown the world so far. How is she different than what we’ve seen?
She’s an even more exaggerated version of myself. It’s almost like… I think Sci-Fi girl is… like I said, I’m still exploring it, but now that I’m thinking of it… I think she’s like if you take the surface things that you think that Allie X is and you make it into a doll – that’s sci-fi girl.
Is the next single coming from the perspective of the “Sci-Fi girl”?
No, it’s the other way around. The music really came from a very real place, but then I just felt like to present it, I wanted it to be more cinematic, more exaggerated, more fun, and aesthetically pleasing. (laughs)
That makes sense, and we recently got a glimpse of the aesthetically pleasing aspect of Super Sunset with the Analog video for Focus. Very obsessed with the video and the high note not heard on the original recording.
(singing) It all just falls away! – that one?
It’s beautiful and such a nice surprise and addition to the live rendition.
I almost feel like I should add that high octave to the recording for the album. It’s something that happened when I started doing the song live during the tour with Hayley. I just started singing that high octave. Sometimes that happens where you have a song and recording and you start to sing it live and you’re like “oh shit, I wish I had done that on the recording.”
Well, I think the great thing with you, is that throughout that process, you’ve always been very open about your creation process. I think, even if you did switch it two months later, everyone has been along that journey and exploration with you – so it would feel more like a welcomed change than a surprise.
I really like honesty. I feel like it’s… the more I sort of go on and the more open I become, I just feel more comfortable revealing and it’s very much… I’m a really kind of guarded and shy person, but it also feels so good to me to just be honest… if that makes sense. I just don’t want to have the pressure of people thinking that I’m something I’m not. I’d rather just be very upfront about everything.
I think also because the music industry can be so fake and superfluous, that when you are so honest – it’s refreshing and you can tell that it’s coming from a place of the heart and people are able to discern that. I think that’s what’s so nice about your music and the journey you’ve taken fans on. You’ve been very vocal about mental health, love, heartbreak, and your struggles… in a way that is true to you, but very translatable… feels almost like a pop godsend.
Wow, well thank you.
So, the Analog video for “Focus” is 80s/90s and vaporwave-inspired… but are there any specific Hollywood films that are inspiring this era?
Definitely old Hollywood has crept in… Sunset Boulevard, have you seen that? It’s very, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.” The Hollywood starlet is very inspired by old Hollywood and every time I’m her, I feel this need to smile really big as well and I think that totally comes from watching those old films and those beautiful actresses who probably didn’t get to really… I just picture them being kind of bossed around all the time and given diet pills, and they’re just kind of like smiling anyway and ready for the camera. To answer your question, Sunset Boulevard is just the epitome of a delusional actress.
Will the Super Sunset videos play out like a cohesive film?
I don’t think they will – it’s something I’ve toyed with. I feel like there have been one or two people that have done the cohesive thing well, but usually, I’m more into videos that live on their own. I’m more drawn to that.
Makes sense, given the GIFs made for the tracks on Collxtions I and II are all quite different and independent of each other.
Yes, totally. I like through lines and I like cohesiveness, but I don’t think in terms of music videos – I don’t think I would ever want to do a video that continues over three tracks and is exactly the same.
Great – so, I’m seeing your friend Troye Sivan in DC later this year. How’s it been collaborating with him on Blue Neighborhood and now his upcoming album, Bloom?
It’s always so fun. It’s one of the most natural, easy, and satisfying artistic endeavors that I’ve had in Los Angeles and it’s introduced me to new friends. It’s also given me, let’s be honest, a bit of financial success – which has been great to get by on. I’m now managed by his managers, it’s just been… it’s only brought me good things and Troye himself is just a really nice, genuinely kind, compassionate person.
It’s very different when you’re writing for someone else, but has that outlet provided you any further insight into yourself? Do you find yourself writing for someone else but then finding that it’s more autobiographical?
Not necessarily that, but your question does make me think of this: Troye is 23 now and I think a lot of my fans are like Troye. They’re young, queer kids finding themselves for the first time. So, working with him so closely has given me such an insight into what that journey is like, an understanding that has been valuable to me when I’m writing for my fans.
I know you’re somewhat working on your third album, will that be Collxtion III or have you thought through that?
Can’t tell ya! (laughs)
Fair – have you had to table that project at all while creating Super Sunset? Or are you an infinite fountain of creativity?
(Laughs) I’m an infinite fountain of feelings, I’m always feeling something. (Laughs) I can’t really say too much, except… I’m still Allie X, aren’t I?
Another ɄNSOLVED series would be amazing.
No! (laughs) Never again, that was so stressful.
I don’t know… I still listen to the unsolved version of Casanova regularly. It’s one of my favorites.
Oh, thanks! I actually listened to that recently and was like “oh, it’s pretty good!”
Not so bad…
Not so bad, kid. (smiles)