Allie X — the Los Angeles-based pop artist by way of Toronto — has released her latest album Cape God. A distinct departure from her previous work, Super Sunset, Cape God is an intimate meditation on themes including belonging and identity. The lyrics acknowledge subtle moments of emotional pain that are fleeting and quiet which ultimately further sensations of isolation and despair. Told through the perspective of characters rooted in Allie’s own reflections of her teenage alienation, Cape God functions as an invitation to recontextualize the banality of our collective coming-of-age angst via wry romanticization and darkly-dreamlike production. Through Cape God, Allie encourages us to rethink ostracization and ennui as a vehicle to unite, rather than isolate, all of the anxiety-ridden outsiders.
With to the help of Swedish producer Oscar Görres and co-writer James Alan Ghaleb, the album’s lead single “Fresh Laundry” developed into a gaudily melancholic, whimsical encapsulation of the surreal world Allie always dreamed of belonging to. Meanwhile, tracks like “Regulars” explore the struggle of a misfit-maverick forced to conform to the conventional, while the Troye Sivan duet, “Love Me Wrong,” builds on these feelings — pivoting toward often-fraught familial relationships that become internalized.
Her work is cinematic in quality with a fluid style that imbues her sound, lyrics, music videos etc. And when speaking with Allie, it’s apparent that between creating art and running a business everything is conducted with intention.
What sorts of artists, of any kind of medium, have impacted your work?
I just loved singers. Like, you know, Whitney Houston and shit like that. Or, this sounds hilarious, but Liza Minnelli — the idea of being able to be an incredible singer who could express themselves with just really, really strong voice. But as I got older, I started getting into way more abstract music. And when I when I started writing my own music, I started making friends with a bunch of graduates from the jazz program at University of Toronto. And I started listening to noise and experimental and electronica. And then I started to understand, I guess, the artistic side a little more, and that there was so much further that art could be pushed. I also went to art school in high school. So on the visual side, I had friends that were painters and creative writers and all that. And so I think that started to open up my brain as well.
Nowadays, I see my my biggest influences are filmmakers like Kubrick and Polanski. And what’s his name? Wes Anderson, and so many others. Visually, that’s where I draw a lot of inspiration. The director who did the Suspiria and Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino! That work I find really incredible and really really inspiring the most. So I I feel really visually inspired by film. Also, I felt like the imagery I started to see on Tumblr — it really guided me in what my aesthetic choices were, because I wasn’t really reading cool magazines or watching art house films as a youngster. So seeing Tumblr imagery was actually really influential for me, because all of a sudden, I was seeing images that really resonated with how I felt, as opposed to when I was growing up, I was reading like, you know, Seventeen or whatever. And it was just all all these girls that I couldn’t relate to at all and all this glamour that I didn’t see in myself and stuff.
And then musically, I always love Tori Amos and PJ Harvey. Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins. Nowadays, I love Angel Olsen. I love Mitski. My influences are so vast. Then there’s one more that that I would love to mention, which is the author, Haruki Murakami. His books were my friends. While I was sort of incubating this whole Allie X project in my last years in Toronto, I would be working on my shitty computer that kept shutting down trying to make demos all day. And I would take breaks and read 1Q84 and other books of his. The characters really resonated with me and his description of this sort of surreal yet very real world were all very influential in my next concept.
There’s this really beautiful trance-like element to your sound, which reminds me of flashback scenes, like an ’80s movie. And then the whole album feels like this flashback scene to youth. There’s a slow-burning melancholiness to it that’s bittersweet.
It’s very bittersweet. And it’s definitely me writing about my younger self from the perspective of my adult self. I don’t think I could have written at the time I was going through the experience — I needed a long time of reflection to be able to write it.
And there are sentiments of making peace with your past while simultaneously longing for the best parts of it. kind of like the whole concept of high school goggles. Like you’re kind of longing for something that wasn’t really there. But there are moments that did have a positive impact and shaped who you are, and moments later on where you realize that you have to take the good with the bad.
Yeah. It’s funny because I think most of high school and a bit of elementary school and a bit of out of high school, like into my early 20s, it was all very challenging, but there are definitely moments of longing in the record as well. You know, “Fresh Laundry” is about missing having clean white towels and having my mom take care of stuff like that in an environment where I could be taken care of.
Those little details that seem mundane and fleeting in the moment, but can actually very have a lasting impact.
It’s those feelings that make me feel the most. Those almost indescribable feelings and I feel like I’ve never succeeded in putting them into my past work, putting it into song. And for whatever reason, I believe it was a number of reasons with this record. But I do feel like I was able to put those complex and unexplainable feelings into lyrics, and I’m really proud of that.
I’m always curious about artists’ creative processes. What state of mind do you need to be in for ideas to come to you?
I have two kinds of brains. One is my business brain: you know when you ride a bike every day and your side muscles get really overdeveloped? That’s what’s happened in my business brain. I never had really been flexing it that much in Toronto. And since I moved to Los Angeles and had so many things go wrong and so many people do me dirty and so many rejections — you know, just like the classic Hollywood story — I’ve really had to take my business into my own hands.
And I still have a lot of people working for me, but now I’m at the point where I need to oversee everything, just for my own assurance that it won’t go wrong and that it’s done right. I’ve become such a businessperson. Most days I I find myself in my inbox, on the phone, and making sure all the the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. You know, that’s sort of like what I do a lot of the time now and when I’m in that state of mind, it’s very hard for me to be creative. It’s just a different part of my consciousness.
And so, for me to write music in the best way possible, it’s good for me to not be thinking about any of that other stuff. And when I was writing this record, I wrote it in Stockholm. And it was enormously helpful because of the time difference. I was nine hours ahead. So everyone who is normally hitting me up for a ton of things during the day was asleep while I was writing. And as trivial as that sounds, it was really, really helpful. And just being in a city where I didn’t know anyone and where I didn’t have any sort of feelings. I have such a feeling about Los Angeles and what [the city] means that I feel such pressure here, and being in Stockholm, I was able to fully focus on creative. And I think that’s one of the reasons why this was such an easy record to write and why I was able to get those those lyrics out that I hadn’t really been able to before.
This brings me to my next point, with regards to the business aspects of making art. I think people can forget that the business side is also part of creative discipline.
I’ve become very competent, confident, and assured as a woman running her own business, and I’m really proud about that. I think I also I wish that I could be a bit more of an artist. And I wish that I could bring my stress levels down a bit. So I feel like I definitely have room to grow there. My hope is always that I get to a point where I can take a step back and just enjoy things a bit more and and really just focus on the creative more. But I almost feel like I don’t know. It’s almost like I’m running a startup or something. And I need it to become a machine that works without me turning every little wheel. And at this point, it doesn’t feel like I can step away.
How did you get to that point of achieving the confidence to run your business?
Well, I think it’s have confidence and attack fear. Because so many things went wrong and because nobody has ever understood what I really have to offer. I always have to show it. I always have to prove it. I’m not an obvious choice. I never have been. I’ve never had someone see me at a show and go, “Oh, I want to sign you. You’re gonna be a big star!” I’ve always had to write all the music and make all the visuals and show them the complete package. And even at that point, it needs to go on the Internet for fans to respond to it and for the streaming numbers to come in and then people understand it within the industry. So I think definitely it’s that.
Also, I’m so deep into it now that I’m not willing to fail. Like, I’m not willing to let someone else mess this up for me, you know? And I don’t mean I need to be a big star. I just mean I want to be a working artist who does something notable. And I know that what I have to offer deserves to be seen and it deserves to be heard. And I see a young artists who just defer to their older experienced manager all the time or their lawyer or whatever, and they just end up heartbroken and and drop dead — I’m just not willing to let it happen. I want things to be done the way that they should be done. And I sound crazy now but that’s how I feel. (laughs)
You sound like someone in control of her career, which is inspiring because [success] is not overnight.
Admittedly, I am a late bloomer as well. And the record is a lot about that. I was kind of just… I wouldn’t say a shell of a person in high school, but really, I was so scared and so embarrassed, I guess, is the word that comes to mind. I really wasn’t showing more than 15 percent of who I was. Luckily, I was singing, so I always had that as like a shield and an outlet. But yeah, it’s just taken me a long time to become my full self and own it and be confident as an artist and as a person.
Is the fearlessness you use to approach your creativity and business something you want your listeners to learn?
This is a record for outsiders and particularly teenagers or young adults that are going through something similar to what I went through, which is a real detachment from my identity and my body and my mind and not really knowing what the future had in store for me. Having a lot of fear about what was going to happen and not being able to really use my voice. It’s for anyone who relates to all that and knowing that it’s not like life is perfect now, but I can say with confidence that I found my voice and that is a really nice feeling.
Photos by Michael Lavine
Makeup by Dana Rae // Hair by Koji Ichikawa
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