Allie X began with a vision: of a blank slate. The multimedia electronic pop artist chose the letter “X” to signify infinite possibility – an attempt to strip herself of any pre-existing identity. Yet she feels the presence of multiple versions of herself: good ones, bad ones, and everything in between.
“I think I’ve always had this self-awareness of the bad parts of myself,” she reflects. “I remember feeling as a kid like I hadn’t suffered enough, which is kind of a strange feeling. And then I remember in middle school feeling like I wasn’t being nice enough to people.” Her self-awareness has only expanded with age: “As I’ve gotten older, sometimes I just feel like I’m watching myself from somewhere else and think, ‘Who is this person?… Who am I, and is it good or bad?’” Unsure of who she is, anything does seem possible.
The cover of Allie X’s latest album and full-length debut, CollXtion II, features her literally reassembling herself, slotting cubed pieces of her shin back into her leg. The visual perfectly captures what The Story of X, the name she has given the narrative that arches across all of her creative output as Allie X, is about: her journey to figure out her identity and discover her whole self again, piece by piece, song by song.
Sometimes, the pieces fit together in ways that surprise her. “For me, words are very uncalculated. I can write jibber-jabber and find cool words, then find an idea out of that.” She made one particularly surprising personal discovery while writing lyrics for CollXtion II: “So often, my lyrics turn out to be about relationships and heartbreak, which day-to-day isn’t something I think about a lot.” After pausing momentarily to ponder this observation, she self-diagnoses: “I must have been very impacted by these memories. I still don’t fully understand what to make of that, like, ‘Where did that come from?’”
Pant Suit: Matthew Gallagher Glasses: Linda Farrow
Overall – confounding and revelatory instances aside – Allie X’s vision is so crystalized, she can bring on collaborators without compromise. She attributes this ability to co-writing in her day-to-day life in Los Angeles, where she works as a professional songwriter. “[Collaborating] doesn’t compromise my vision because usually I’m very clear about what I want, and I’ll just tell somebody if it isn’t working. A lot of the times, I start an idea by myself, and then all the basic things are there.”
The track, “Vintage”, which she co-wrote with Brett McLaughlin and Troye Sivan, is a good example of her collaborative style: “The melody was already there, and the lyrics were already there, and I’d already done most of the production. So when I went to work with Brett and Troy, they knew what direction to take it in.” Despite how clear her vision is, she enjoys working with other people, especially musicians like McLaughlin and Sivan who know her well enough that their input will not stray too far from her own ideas. “I really like collaboration,” she professes. “There’s all sorts of inspiration you can get from working with other people that wouldn’t be there if you were just doing everything by yourself.”
Writing for other people occasionally makes her recognize aspects of herself that she does not notice before and that she ends up exploring in her art. “It does make you think differently,” she admits. But does writing for other people exacerbate the feeling that there are multiple versions of herself out there? “Not so much, no. When writing for someone else, it’s actually more about going into parts of yourself that are relatable to that person, rather than actually embody[ing] the person.”
Perhaps it is because of this deep diving for something beneath the surface that Allie X has grown more discerning with her creative choices. “I’ll try ten different parts. But the difference is, in [my debut EP], CollXtion I, I kept all ten parts, and in CollXtion II, I really embraced finding the very best parts and bringing those out in the mix as opposed to that really lush, layered sound that I was really into for CollXtion I.”
The more Allie X refines her creative process, and the more she looks within herself, the further along she pushes The Story of X. She may not have found all her answers in CollXtion II, but she knows one thing for sure about her quest for completeness: “I’ll be Allie X until I can become just Allie.”
See Allie X live Monday, September 25 in Toronto at the Church of Holy Trinity.
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change