Alison Wonderland is on a roll. Her single I Want U from 2014’s Calm Down EP was voted #37 in triple j’s Hottest 100. Not that the Sydney DJ/producer is necessarily aware of how the song has transcended the dance scene.
“I still don’t really have an opinion about it ’cause it’s so close to me – I actually don’t really know how it’s gone,” Wonderland says from her Los Angeles base. “I made it from an honest place. Every time I play it during my shows and people are dancing and they know the words, it just blows me away.”
Now Wonderland is plugging U Don’t Know, featuring The Flaming Lips’ eccentrically macho, and hyper rock ‘n’ roll, Wayne Coyne – Miley Cyrus’ pal. Alas, Wonderland only ever exchanged emails with him. “I’d already finished the song before he came on, and he had heard it after I’d finished writing it,” she says.
“It was just amazing that he was so open-minded and happy to sing on a track with an artist who wasn’t that established in America. I just thought that was really cool of him.”
U Don’t Know – it’ll go down well when Wonderland premieres at Coachella – serves as the lead single from the DJ’s debut album, Run, out in March. Again, Run is “personal”.
“I wrote this record while spending a lot of time in LA. When I do write songs, I take inspiration from what’s going on around me and how I’m feeling at that exact time. So obviously a lot of it was inspired by my time here, just observing people and relationships and friendships and the industry… But it was definitely a little time capsule of my year last year.”
Watch: Alison Wonderland – U Don’t Know (ft. Christopher Mintz-Plasse)
That intimacy extends to Wonderland’s choice of collaborators – which include Team Supreme member (and Mad Decent affiliate) Djemba Djemba, Norway’s Lido and Perth’s Slumberjack. All are her friends, and she felt at ease with them in the studio. “I’m not a fan of just hitting up a random big name and saying, Oh, let’s make a song.” A big name such as Diplo, her sometime champion, for instance…
Wonderland has classified her music amorphously as “party”. If anything, she’s pioneering her own mode of Flume’s ‘Australian sound’, only with a harder urban edge. Her very first single, 2013’s Get Ready (featuring Fishing), was alt-trap. “I definitely like to play a lot of music in my sets and listen to a lot of music with that future beats trap influence,” she says.
Wonderland is classically-trained — she was a cellist in the Sydney Youth Orchestra — and played bass in an indie band. Yet, despite the success of I Want U, Wonderland didn’t always intend to be a ‘singer’.
“I don’t like to push the fact that I’m a vocalist on this record [Run] – like, it’s not the focal point for me. I mean, all those lyrics and all those toplines I wrote from a very real place – maybe that’s why I don’t want everyone to focus on it, ’cause it is a little bit candid and you do feel a bit vulnerable. But I don’t consider myself a singer.”
Indeed, Wonderland started singing as the vocalists she approached snubbed her. (“Back in the day no one wanted to fuck with me!” she laughs.)
Wonderland landed her big break by competing in the EMI-sponsored She Can DJ in 2011 (Minx won) and this culminated in her signing to the label (and now, Stateside, Astralwerks). But today she’s sick of being asked about the rise of the She-J – or that traditional gender imbalance in the DJ ranks.
“I don’t consider myself a ‘female’ DJ – I never have,” she insists. “It should never really be about if they [DJs] have a vagina or not – ever. It should just be like, ‘Wow, this is a rad song,’ or, ‘Wow, this is a rad DJ.'”
Alison Wonderland plays the Central Coast’s Mountain Sounds Festival on Saturday, 21st February. ‘Run’ is out Friday 20th March via EMI.
Watch: Alison Wonderland – Cold