Aside from a breathy duet with Tame Impala’s Cam Avery, Australian music fans may not have heard too much of Alexandra Savior yet, but with debut album Belladonna of Sadness, the 21-year-old LA artist is determined to make that change. Working in close collaboration with Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and producer James Ford, Savior has pulled together a mesmeric musical statement.
At times Belladonna is smouldering, while at others sweepingly heart-laid-bare. Yet all 11 tracks are tied together by a common cinematic flair. Lead single ‘Vanishing Point’ fuses pure pop brilliance with a solid edge of vintage rock, while the jangly expanse of ‘Shades’ envelopes the listener in hypnotic curtains of guitar noise.
Hot on the heels of the release of this new LP, we caught up with Savior to talk about songwriting, sharing a studio with Turner and her favourite Aussie band.
Music Feeds: You dabble in film, writing and visual art, but what is it that makes you focus your energy on music?
Alexandra Savior: I don’t know. Music is really the… music sort of gravitates towards me. I actually feel that music is my least favourite medium, but it just kind of happens!
MF: You recently collaborated with Cam Avery on ‘We’re Just Making It Worse,’ which is phenomenal. What was it like working with Cam?
AS: Well Cam is sort of like an old friend. I met him when I first moved to LA. He was making his record [Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams] and I had just finished mine. It was just summertime and y’know? He lived down the street from me when so we hung out all the time. He just asked me to sing on it and it was just really fun. It was a really fun day with friends.
MF: For your debut LP Belladonna of Sadness you worked with both Alex Turner and recordist James Ford. They both co-produced, but you also had them working as this sort of studio band. Insane! How did it all come together?
AS: Well it started out with me writing. I had just been signed to Columbia for about five months and I had been writing and I think that they wanted me to have some co-writers. Alex, I had sent him some of my stuff, and I met up for coffee. It wasn’t really planned that we would do the whole record together; I don’t think anything was really expected. I didn’t really think anything of it, but it ended up that after writing one song we just sort of decided to make the whole record and that’s how James came in, he does all of Alex’s records. James was really the genius behind this whole thing, getting that really lovely sound he’s able to bring out.
MF: Alex Turner always seems to push this really great sense of melody and energy into his music. What have you taken away from co-writing songs with him?
AS: I think I’ve probably taken away more than I realise. I think we both probably took a lot away from writing together. But when you’re growing artistically I don’t think you’re really aware of what you’re doing. You don’t really know what you’re doing!
MF: So when you’re writing is it work or do you feel you’re channelling it from somewhere else?
AS: My experience is that sometimes I’m blessed with something that is funnelled through this strange energy. If I’m lucky enough to be in a place where I’m able to turn it into something it always comes out as a song or a painting or whatever it is. But it’s not constant. I don’t consider it work. I think Alex has a really good work ethic, which I’m lacking in all points of my life (laughs).
MF: For many musicians, songwriting can be a mysterious and personal process, but a lot of your work so far has been collaborative. Is it easier for you to work with others?
AS: Yeah it is. It’s easier to have sort of an observational perspective, an outside perspective of what you’re making when you’re making it with someone else. It’s hard for me if I have ideas and write a song if I don’t share it with someone. It’s difficult for me to understand it.
MF: There are tracks on the album like ‘Vanishing Point’ which tap into this really alluring retro sound. Were you drawing from any particular inspirations?
AS: It was sort of a slow start where I knew what I wanted but it took a while to take small aspects of what I was writing and being inspired by and turn it into a more coherent body of work. The first four or five songs that we wrote, they were a lot more jumbled and not so thought out. There wasn’t immediate understanding of what I wanted in any great detail. All I had was a broad idea.
MF: Were these ideas you’d been sitting on for a while before making the album?
AS: There are some aspects that have always been with me, but mostly I would say, it took about 2 years to make the record. I would say most of it, lyrically, came from my experiences during that time.
MF: So these lyrics are a reflection of your state of mind? It’s a big jump signing to a major label…
AS: It’s been very intense and I think it’s caused me to mature emotionally, but maybe not so much strategically. It’s been an interesting ride. It’s difficult but I think I’m starting to get a grasp on it.
MF: It sounds like it’s been a really busy period for you and a hectic start to the year to the year so far. Where do you feel you’ll go from here?
AS: I don’t know! I think it’s going to be interesting know, well you know now the record is actually out. It’s out now in Australia! You’re like 24 hours ahead.
MF: We get everything the day before.
AS: You’re in the future!
MF: Do you feel now that you have the album under your belt you know where you want to take things next creatively or are you just taking a breath?
AS: I’ve got to tour it, but I’ve actually had a lot more time off than you would expect (laughs). I definitely have a visual and this pretty strict idea of what the next record’s going to be, which is pretty comforting.
MF: Any plans on coming to Australia?
AS: Yeah! We’re thinking about playing an Australian festival soon. It’s gonna be fun!
MF: Have you been to Australia before?
AS: I actually just went there for the first time in February. I’ve got a lot of Australian friends.
MF: Do you have a favourite Australian band or artist?
AS: Oh, The Babe Rainbow!