EXCLUSIVE: THE UNKNOWN VARIABLE THAT IS ALLIE X
Allie X is the mad scientist of pop music. Each sonic concoction that she creates and releases is more volatile than the last, bubbling out of its digital beaker like a chemical reaction. She hypothesizes with psychosocial lyrics, experiments with sound, and engineers contagious multimedia in her aural-visual laboratory, all the while inventing a brand of cognitive electro-pop that is all her own, patent-pending.
She is a digital media explorer as well, releasing engaging visuals and cryptic content across her social media: proclamations of mysterious unknown variable X on Twitter; lush, dizzying GIF videos on YouTube; aesthetic hints of a girl-gone-digital on Instagram. And while mystery permeates every atom of Allie X – a distance between artist and media consumer is always so palpable – a magnetic force draws us ever closer.
So who is this Toronto-bred, Los Angeles-based, synth-pop singer-songwriter-producer? And why is she so damn captivating? Ahead of her debut album, CollXtion I, we spoke with the artist on ideas of identity, misconceptions about pop music, and the future of media consumption.
Can you talk a little bit about your philosophy as an artist and what X stands for?
X is an unknown quantity. With that in mind, it’s the identity that I take while trying to figure out the whole truth of myself.
Identity seems to play a big theme in your music. Do you believe that we, as human individuals, only have one identity?
I believe that we go through many identities. I’m almost unrecognizable to myself compared to versions of me in the past. But I think that’s natural. I never tend to have friends who last longer than five years because I always find myself in a different place where I can no longer relate to people that I used to relate to.
Who are the artists you grew up listening to that really made an impact on you?
I don’t really go into my past, but I will say that I’m influenced by Celine Dion and Cyndi Lauper and Tom Petty… Is that good enough?
How does fashion help you express who you are, or how does it interact with your music in terms of creative expression?
Fashion is very important to the project. I’m not any kind of fashion expert, though. I don’t know the ins and outs of that world, but I do know what I like. And the anonymity that certain pieces make me feel is very powerful conceptually. You know, how one dresses affects one’s mood and one’s perception of their self in the world, and in that way fashion is very important. I’ve been fortunate to have many designers and stylists reach out to me since I’ve put my music in to the world, and I do love dressing up and collaborating.
Your debut album, ‘CollXtion I,’ is due out very soon. What are you most excited about in terms of releasing this into the universe?
I’m not feeling any real extreme emotions, but I am excited to put it out and so people can experience it. I’ve had these songs for a while so I think it’ll be a real transitional process to actually let go of them and put them out. I’ve also started moving onto the next thing. ‘CollXtion II’ is already in the works!
People have been calling you “pop’s next phenomenon” and “music’s next big thing.” Obviously that’s meant to be a compliment, but do proclamations of that sort put any sort of pressure on you?
I don’t consider myself someone who deserves to be idealized or worshiped. I can’t speak to other pop figures and of course I’m not very famous compared to a lot of my contemporaries. I just find that… Well okay, so say you’re a big fan of mine and you go, “What should I call myself? Should I call myself an Allie Xinator?” You know, something like those fan names like the Little Monsters and Katy Kats? I don’t want that. What I would want you as a fan of mine to take away from my project is the ability to adopt X into your own life and to become X. So [you would add X to your name] and find your own expression of that too, just like me. Of course if anyone wants to choose those things, it doesn’t offend me! I just feel like I have so much to learn and I’m so flawed in so many way that I don’t want to be worshiped. I want that to be clear to people.
Do you think pop music these days is too exhibitionist?
I think pop music in general is kind of like candy and you sort of want that instant satisfaction when you’re listening to a pop song. And I respect that, I do, but what I’m trying to do is something that is a little more of an acquired taste and something that hopefully has a sustained effect. You know when you get a sugar high and then you crash afterwards? I don’t want the sugar high and then the crash. I want a gradual and real relationship with the people who experience my project. On an unrelated note that might be interesting to you, I eat a completely sugar free diet! [Laughs]
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about pop music?
That it’s easy to write and it lacks any depth or artistry. I think it takes a lot of writers to write a great pop song and it’s a challenge. In fact, it is the challenge of my life that I know will never go away. It will always be, “Can I write a truly great pop song?” No matter what happens to me as an artist, that will always be something that I’m trying to do.
What is the greatest challenge of navigating the music industry in the digital age?
It’s a scary time because there’s no longer a great structure for people to make money in the music business. However, there is an incredible culture of artist empowerment occurring and a youth takeover that quite radical and exciting to me. For instance, you can look at YouTube, which didn’t exist however many years ago, and now today there are these kids who are making videos in their bedrooms from literally nothing and turning them into million dollar empires! It’s incredible and inspiring.
Obviously the music industry, and perhaps the art industry as an entity, is at a crossroads. Where do you hope to see the future of music consumption head?
I want to see artist empowerment, an intelligent, discerning audience, and new infrastructures to make money. [Laughs] And also, interactivity is very important. I have my own ideas about how each of those things could look, but I don’t know if I’ll be the genius who figures out how to make any of those things take place… I’ll be trying though!
Allie X photographed for Milk Made by Bec Lorrimer
Creative Direction: Paul Bui
Hair: Ian Scott Dorey for R+Co
Make-Up: Dana Rae Ashburn
Be sure to check out Allie X’s website here