The collapse of the record industry is neither good nor bad, but there are certainly good and bad consequences of it. This being a pop music site, and pop music generally being uplifting, let’s talk about the good!
First, with labels (and radio programmers) less powerful, musicians have less of a reason to make concessions with their art. Plus, these desperate times reward novel rollouts and reappraisals of the album as an art form. When those two forces collide, we’re getting some of the most daring innovations in the music industry, from Beyoncé‘s visual album at the top to limited run DIY cassettes at the bottom.
Allie X is right in the middle of this changing tide with her debut release, CollXtion I (out April 14). Billed as a “a full multimedia Xperience” comprising seven songs, visuals, and a comic, the project is centered around the character “X.” Throw in a digital gallery where users submit their own art and remixes, and Allie X has created an entire multiverse for fans.
As far as debuts go, it doesn’t get much more ambitious than that. So we called up Allie to find out how this came together in the year since “Catch,” and to figure out what X really is.
Step into Dimension X below.
We spoke last year, and you said you went through some 20 versions of “Catch” before releasing it. And now the video drops almost exactly a year after that. So you seem to move on your own timeline. I’d like to say it was fully intentional, but it was only partially. I put the song out without any real label backing or anything and wanted to just see what happened. It went really well, so then a few options opened themselves up to me. I didn’t want to rush anything. I thought it was important to make a body of work, which is CollXtion I, and make sure I knew exactly what I was trying to say and do. And when I felt really good about all the songs and was aligned with the right people, it took a while, but now I’m ready and that’s why the video came out when it did.
I’m assuming part of the release gap also had to do with the multimedia aspects of CollXtion I coming together. Yes.
You don’t describe this as an EP or an LP. Is that an acknowledgement that the release cycle has changed and the concept of an album has changed? Yes, I’d like to steal what you just said. That’s exactly it. It’s an experimental project so I don’t think I need to label this body of work as an album or EP, especially because its concept and visuals are just as important to me.
Let’s talk about those other elements. There’s a comic, what else? The most important one to note will be the — well, I’m telling a story and the first chapter is CollXtion I, the second chapter is CollXtion II, etc. The story will be told through the comic, and it’s going to be the beginning of the story of X. It’s sort of autobiographical, but abstractified. So that’s important.
The visuals, like the spinning GIFs, there’s one for each song. And there’s going to be raw elements of the media, like song stems, so fans can use that as the beginning of their own creations.
Can you elaborate on the concept and origin story of X? The nature of X is that it’s unanswerable. That said, I believe X is…”wild card” isn’t the perfect answer, but it hints at it. It’s something that you can become where you begin to look deeper into yourself and understand yourself in a way you couldn’t before. A certain anonymity you have by becoming, say, Carl X, you’re giving yourself a freedom to explore things that you couldn’t otherwise.
It feels like the album demonstrates that freedom with the different styles of songs. I’m definitely conscious of the variety of songs I was pulling for. I tried to make sure there was a flow and evolution with the tracks that I selected.
With more eyes on you since “Catch” broke, do you feel like you have more or less artistic freedom? More freedom. I have a great team of people around me now, and I guess when you prove yourself in a certain sense, people start to have more faith in what you’re doing. So all those things happened once I started putting this music into the world. I was holding onto songs for quite a while, so to actually be putting them out changed something in me, and my belief in myself.
One motif seems to be visceral body-horror such as the “Catch” video or “Tumor.” What’s the meaning behind that? It’s a theme I’m still trying to understand, why I’m drawn to somewhat disturbing images. Certainly in my lyrics there are a lot of medical terms, and that has something to do with my past, as well as my unconscious and where my brain goes. It definitely goes beyond just provoking. And I’m interested to see what happens if I’m working in a pop sphere and not censoring my thoughts and images.
You mentioned a second collection, how many are you plotting? There are going to be at least five CollXtions. As for when, I’m not exactly sure yet. But there will be more noise in the near future.
Going forward, do you think the only way to get people to sit and engage with music on a deeper level will be to release it in conjunction with other art forms and pieces of media? Not fully, but the simple answer is yes. The way people consume music is different now and I’m very conscious and scared of that. And in general, I overcompensate to make sure I can 100 percent stand behind what I’m doing. So yeah, I believe for me to accomplish what I want to accomplish, I have to do it this way.
As a debut release, that’s bold, to ask new fans or people who haven’t heard your stuff to commit to such a multidimensional experience. Was there any trepidation about that? I’m a nervous person in everything that I do, but I really don’t see myself doing this any other way. This is how I want to execute it. If it has a chance at being big, I think it will happen because of the way I did it. I think compromise is important sometimes, but I can sense when it’s necessary and I don’t feel that things I’m doing artistically are a time when I need to compromise.
So what would you like an Allie X virgin to take away from CollXtion I? I’d like them to feel liberated in some way, and hopefully inspired to make some sort of creation of their own. And to look at themselves in a new way. The thing that I most want people to take away is that they can become X. All that said, if someone just wants to listen to a song or look at a video without anything attached, I’m OK with that as well [laughs]. That’s fine.
Photo by Eddie Chacon