2012 ARCHIVE: Artist Spotlight 1: Singer/Songwriter Jessica Allyn

This is an older piece that I did in September of 2012, which is part one of two excellent indie music collaborations that I did around this time. The first was with an NYC musician named Jessica Allyn and her latest “trip-hop” oriented EP that was due to be coming out then. But I’ll leave the rest to this article, which I think not only shows my creative skills but some pretty cool interview stuff for someone who was new to doing such a thing!

So if you’ve been roaming around my music blog here recently, you may have come across the last cluster of videos that I uploaded to my Youtube page(http://www.youtube.com/user/ThisDogAteMyVlogs?feature=mhee). Whether or not you caught up on those or were hopefully introduced to what I do, the highlight of the whole bunch in my opinion was doing my first ever artist promo video.

In this case I featured a lovely New York City area artist by the name of Jessica Allyn, whom I’ve had the pleasure to follow off and on since somewhere in the period of 2009/2010. Since early 2009 she’s released a stellar debut EP called “I Am A Camera”, a highly underrated full length entitled “Delusions of Grandeur”, a series of demo songs called “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable”, and is currently working on more material for future release. Allyn is certainly well traveled within the local NYC music scene, having played alongside a variety of bands as well as providing backing vocals with several others, and she only seems poised to go upwards from here.

At the moment she has a single from her latest effort that was released back in February of 2012 called “2046”(available to buy or listen to here:http://jessicaallyn.bandcamp.com/album/2046), and it’s a promising one indeed. Described over on her Bandcamp as “a culmination of Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, Party Drugs, and the obsessive watching of John Hughes movies” and “an experimentation of equilibrium and sound”, “2046” is a tightly woven bit of trip-hop that seamlessly blends into the murky dreamscape of ominously lurking thought and mind. A little snatch of Allyn’s own personal Twilight Zone if you will.

Lucky for me when I passed on my promo video to Ms Allyn she was quite pleased and was also interested in having me do another video for “2046”(which you can see here:  http://youtu.be/bzcIW8fpEmA, or in the links below). On top of all that she also threw out the idea of doing an interview, so I eagerly assembled some questions to talk more about “2046”, her musical process and where she sees her sound going further down the road. It was a lot of fun and very gracious of her to take the time!

1. With both “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable” and “2046” you mention experimenting with poetry in your music as opposed to traditional lyrics. What was the driving factor that truly brought on this phase of experimentation, and given your success with it do you see it continuing to have a major impact in your work?

I’ve been a huge fan of poetry my whole life, and I had been reading a hefty amount of Sylvia Plath, Michelle Tea, and Eileen Myles at the time. I was profoundly affected by their honesty. It’s something I always felt I bestowed upon my own music. So there was that connection. But mostly it came from just jotting down little blurbs or thoughts I had at any time of day, and seeing what worked together. I definitely want to continue this approach.

2. Also as a followup, as your forthcoming album takes shape will we see the demos from “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable” fleshed out to accompany “2046” in this new direction you’re taking? Given that they seem to come from a similar lyrical mindset it feels as though they’re connected on the same sort of path. 

I haven’t fully decided if I’m going to revisit EPI (The Exploding Plastic Inevitable), because of what it was. An experiment. I enjoy it’s rawness, and it’s a very sacred project to me. With all that being said, the original goal with this new EP was to finish EPI and really go in the direction of sound that I wanted. If I do revisit it at all, it will likely be a last minute add on/bonus track. I have a tendency (and it’s happened on every album) to write a new song, or add a song to the track list down to the wire. So, you never know what I might pop on there. And who doesn’t love the element of a good surprise?!

3. And again in regard to your writing do you often find that your words usually originate from your own personal experiences? I know that songwriting and preparation comes from a different place depending on the musician, and what you had said about “2046” being about “growing up, letting go of the past, and nostalgia at the same time” made me curious about your process.

Yes, I absolutely write from personal experience. I have been given the gift of being a wallflower. So I observe. Then I write. I have moments where I cannot verbally express myself, maybe I want to say “Fuck you!” But, I just can’t because of circumstance. (We’ve all been there.) Instead I jot down a line or two in an more allegoric, intellectual way, and go back to it later to finalize. Every song I’ve ever written has been based off of real life experiences, philosophies, ideas, etc. The only truth I know or see left in this world is through honesty in music. If that dies, so does music. And I see people slipping away from the main idea and it’s happening more and more often. That worries me to the core.

4. Do you see this new sonic direction you’re headed in(incorporating your old influences and a new “Portishead meets Cat Power” style as you dubbed it) as being a turning point in your musical career to this point? Is this the consistent next wave of what your sound is evolving into going forward?

Oh it’s a turn, alright… In the direction I always wanted to go but never could. I got lucky enough to have amazing boyfriend and producer (John Cruess, of The Involvement & The Conformed) who has introduced me to a world I never thought was attainable. I am riding this wave for a while, I want to grow with it, and see where it takes me. 

5. You mention learning a lot about what goes into a studio album as you created “2046” and what will be the rest of your forthcoming work. What have you taken away from that experience going forward as opposed to prior efforts, and how does it compare(if at all) to the craftsmanship that’s involved being live on stage? 

Studio and stage are two very different things. As for prior efforts (ie; past studio recordings,) we had no budget, and it was what it was. But, getting to see how everything works down to a science, the knobs turning, pushing of the buttons plus getting to use all the other amazing toys that come along with it, has been a fucking dream. I like being hands on, I believe it’s the best way to learn. Just dive right in head first and do it. 

The stage was easy for me. It was like doing a cabaret show every night to a punk crowd. I come from a theatre background so it was just fun to be up there every night. It felt like home. 

6. Also speaking of being on stage, with what you’re doing right now in this new genre and with the new territory you’re exploring would this be the kind of material you could see playing live at some point? I know you’re well acquainted with the standard backing of stringed instruments and percussion, but would you put that aside or try to incorporate it and push the envelope live with this new sound? Or are you content to work just within the studio at this point?

I want to bring this album to life, in the stage sense. But it’s not an easy process to do alone. So I’d have to bring in some more people on the project before I take it to the stage. I’ve seen a lot of shows this summer that incorporate the style I’ve been heading toward and definitely picked up on tips. But I want to get this album right, and stay in the studio until I get everything where it should be. But, man, I miss the stage! 

7. Lastly(to touch on a more broad topic here), what are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry? I know that you along with a lot of other artists use Bandcamp now, and Amanda Palmer recently had a major breakthrough with her smash hit Kickstarter campaign. With iTunes and the digital age being in full swing right now, what do you feel the positive and negatives of this have been? And as a sidetone do you listen to a lot of digital or are you a fan of physical media like CD’s and such? And have any other artists really been sticking out to you lately or played an influence on what you’ve done in your work? 

I believe in the grassroots approach. And I’m not afraid to ask for a dollar. However, I have always given away my music at the fan’s choice. Money or not. The goal is to be heard. As for recent controversies on Kickstarter projects, playing for free, etc. I have played for free, and I have also played shows where I made money at the door and took the loss to pay the other musicians and bands I played with. And I don’t bite the hand that feeds. I’m 100% disappointed with the industry right now, and I fear the death of music is around the corner. Creativity and revolutionaries are rare and we are surrounded by the lazy. It’s why I praise nostalgia so much. I want to go back to a place where music meant something, and wasn’t just a ploy or way to make a buck. Where people had something to say and people stopped to listen. I want impact. But I don’t like glorifying artists and I don’t like the way egos are fed.  It’s killed the spirit of what it’s all about. 

I read blogs to find new music, I listen to Spotify, and I go to a lot of shows. But my main influences will always be on vinyl and tape. I’ve seen some great bands lately that have definitely helped in inspiring me like Lemonade, Craftspells, Chairlift and Grouplove. Also St. Vincent, Fiona Apple, and Cat Power’s new albums are huge! And Portishead is my backbone reference on this album. Their brilliance exceeds anything I could ever think up, but the way they make music is so scientific and inspiring that I have to try.

Again if you want to check out Jessica and her music go over to her Bandcamp(which you can find in the links below), along with her Facebook and Twitter pages as well as the video I did for “2046”. It was an honor to work with her on this project as well doing some excellent video analysis, and I look forward to collaborating again in the future!

Bandcamp: http://jessicaallyn.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jessicaallynmusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_JessicaAllyn

“2046” Video: http://youtu.be/bzcIW8fpEmA


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