[Interview] With... Alexandra Savior

It’s All Indie travelled to Oslo in Hackney last Wednesday to meet the enigmatic and enthralling Alexandra Savior before her first official Headline gig in the UK.  After an initial introduction and off the record chat about how the Portland native is finding the UK so far and whether she has visited the holy shrine that is JD Wetherspoons yet, we asked The Belladonna of Sadness a few questions…

It’s your first official UK gig tonight – how are you feeling about it?

Alexandra: I’m excited. It’s my first time headlining… ever. So it’s pretty cool.

After finishing recording the album quite a while ago, you must have been overjoyed to release the album this month?

Alexandra: Yeah! It’s very nice, it feels like… you know, it’s been unleashed and I can let go of my postnatal depression haha.

Did you find the release therapeutic in a way? You’ve been signed to Columbia since you were 18. It’s been an incredible journey for you so far… How did you feel when it actually came out?

Alexandra: I felt… really drunk haha. Yeah, I didn’t really feel very much about it at all until I came here and we played our first show since the record was released. We played at a record shop… Rough Trade.

That’s right, you played Rough Trade Monday, did you enjoy that?

Alexandra: Uh-huh! The sound was so nice in there! I don’t know what it is about that place but it just had the best stage sound. Everybody was so sweet and it was kind of the first time, I’ve been faced with that. So that was interesting.

I think the album reflects your ideology of ‘spilling your soul with personal lyricism’ quite perfectly. It is easily translated with your live sets, you can straight away tell – that you’re just giving an honest powerful performance, nothing gimmicky at all. What was your first gig like? What was the experience like?

Alexandra: Thank you. That was like such a good compliment. It was nerve-racking yeah. I think I pretty much just stood still and tried to remember the words…

I can imagine! It seems like getting up on stage in front of a crowd is a very frightening thing. I guess it also depends on what sort of mood you’re in as well...

Alexandra: Ha yeah!

I was sad to see PAPA aren’t with you today, I enjoyed the hug Darren gave me when they last supported you.

Alexandra: Yeah. I’m sad they’re not with us. No longer with us… (Alexandra jokingly implying that they're dead)

So does that mean you have different session musicians for most gigs?

Alexandra: Well I have some friends, I moved back to Portland which is kind of why, as Papa are based in Los Angeles I think. I moved back to Portland and there are some bands around town. There is a band called ‘Merō’ which my keyboardist and guitarist play in together. And a band called ‘The Máscaras’ that my bassist plays in. Yeah, I wouldn’t say they’re session musicians…

Yeah, they’re people you know and feel comfortable playing with.

Alexandra: Yeah. I’d say they are friends and hopefully, they’re going to stick around.

On Belladonna Of sadness, there are so many standout tracks like Bones, Mirage, and Mystery Girl. But as you’ve been playing this material for a while, even before the release of the album, do you ever get moments like ‘oh… I have to perform this song live again’?

Alexandra: Yeah haha! Pretty much.

Are there any certain tracks?

Alexandra: Yeah, like ‘Shades’ makes me feel like I’m going to puke. ‘Music To My Ears’ (M.T.M.E.) makes me want to like fall off the stage haha.

Sure haha. It must be the same way for most musicians. I think most people don’t realise, when a band finally releases a debut album, the band has been performing those tracks for years already… before getting their big break.

Alexandra: Yeah that’s true. Imagine Mick Jagger…

Mick Jagger, what a lad!

Alexandra: He never gets sick of it haha.

 I guess that's good in a sense. I think as a musician; you sort of must have that mentality sometimes.

It seems like the music industry is always trying to push female musicians into becoming ‘pop stars’, I don’t think anyone should give up their artistic integrity just to please a label.  In the start of your career, was it a hard journey discovering your unique sound or did it just occur naturally over time?

Alexandra: Yeah I guess it was hard in the beginning because it wasn’t a natural environment. So it was more difficult for it to grow. But once I started writing with Alex (Turner), that’s when it became more natural because it felt safe.

Alexandra: Before, I had been writing on my own but also writing with so many different people. It wasn’t worth it. I don’t think it’s possible to do that and make a cohesive record.

Sure, that’s understandable.

So I hear you like to draw? I wish I could draw, I mean I can draw a pretty terrible stickman.You actually painted the artwork for Belladonna Of Sadness, didn’t you?

Alexandra: Yeah, the cover is not very good haha.

No! I think it’s nice. Do you do a lot of art then or is it only when you get the chance to?

Alexandra: I always have a notepad wherever I travel. But it’s rare I get to paint. I had a month off actually and was able to do two portraits of my friends on actual canvases which was lovely… and expensive!

Oh yeah, buying all the materials you need must be expensive.

Alexandra: Yeah, oil paints are the cheapest ones I could find and they were seventy dollars.

What would you do if music didn’t work out?

Alexandra: I always wanted to see if I could try to do something acting. I used to really love it as a kid. I’ve been thinking that when music doesn’t kind of work out or I don’t enjoy it or it fizzles out as most careers do, I would try to write a children’s picture book.

That’s interesting. If there is something you want to do, it’s always worth a go.

How have you been dealing with fame? I think people forget that popular musicians are just humans as well sometimes…   Have people been approaching you or recognising you at all?

Alexandra: Well I haven’t really had any situations until two days ago and that was sort of the first situation where it’s happened to me.

At Rough Trade?

Alexandra: Yeah. It’s not like I walk down the streets and there’s…

Paparazzi everywhere?

Alexandra: Yeah haha, It’s definitely not an issue. I’ve actually not had anyone say anything.

Are there any current bands you’re into at the minute?

Alexandra: Yes, I really love ‘Timber Timbre’, I have no idea how you pronounce their name but they just put out a new record called ‘Sincerely, Future Pollution’. And I just think they’re brilliant lyricists and have a really great sound.

That’s cool. I’ll have to check them out!

After headlining Scala next month and touring, what’s next? Is there anything you’re going to work on?

Alexandra: I have a lot of ideas and I just need to get the funding and the people to help out. So many ideas, I have a lot of songs written that I really wanna fucking get them out and get them out the way haha.

It’s a shame sometimes, there are so many talented artists who have great ideas, but can’t always get backing or funding from a label.

Alexandra: I’ve been very fortunate I think to even have the chance to attempt to get as much as I can. It’s very rare that I don’t get at least a little bit of funding, more than most artists can even imagine. So I’m grateful you know? It’s not like I’m Katy Perry and people are like ‘yes you can have anything you want’. They get it, so it’s nice.

Thanks, Alexandra. Enjoy tonight.

Alexandra: Thank you!

'Belladonna Of Sadness' is out now.

Alexandra Savior is headlining Scala London on the 30th of May.