Jaxon Silva: So how are you doing? First of all?
Alicia Clara: I’m alright. You know, being in the pandemic, like all things considered, I’m fine.
JS: That’s fair. That’s fair. Hopefully you’re coping well. I guess I will begin with – that I heard you moved to Canada from Europe, if I get that correctly?
AC: Yeah. My mom is from Quebec, but I was born and raised in Switzerland. Then I studied in London in the UK, I spent a year in New York doing internships and then I moved here.
JS: What did you study?
AC: Journalism, actually.
JS: Cool, cool. So all right, you’re kind of doing this journalism thing. You’re realizing like, [this] isn’t necessarily kind of what [you] want to [do]. What kind of gives you that push to just be like, “Alright, I’m gonna send it. I’m gonna just go for music. Let’s get it?”
AC: I was in New York, doing internships and I did two internships. One was with a startup. I was not paid, I was putting in a lot of work, and it was really exhausting. I really freaked out. I was like – this is what my life is going to look [like] forever.
Then I interned at the MoMA [Museum of Modern Art], with the video production team, because they make little YouTube stories about life behind the scenes at the museum. That was actually really fun and I was paid this time. But when I was done, I had a fun time, but I didn’t really feel passionate about it.
My visa was running out, so I had to make a decision of what to do next. My first idea was to look for a full time job in New York – because I really love New York – but no one wants to sponsor a visa, because they’re really expensive. Then I just figured, I was 25, didn’t have a partner or anything. It was just me. So I was like, “Well, I have nothing to lose. I might as well try now because I didn’t really see anything else that I wanted to do.”
So, I figured I’m just going to get a day-job to pay the rent, and do that aside and see where it goes. It felt like the right time being in my mid 20s and not having any strings attached to anything.
I picked Montreal because I’m a Canadian citizen, so I didn’t have visa problems. Also my maternal family is an hour and a half away, which is super close, and I’m close with them. I felt comfortable to be close to family, and I also really loved the music scene in Montreal. So it made sense for me.
JS: That’s really cool. So, I guess I kind of want to start off with – I was listening to your EP “Outsider/Unusual” a few times, definitely trying to really get to know it, and I noticed it felt very dreamy, sort of mellow, but chill in a good way. I was just wondering what are some of your influences that helped you make this EP?
AC: So I have a few, and I don’t know how well they reflect in the EP, actually. It’s important to note that a lot of these songs were arranged with my backing band. There are inspirations that they have brought on that I have not. I know that they’ve mentioned like My Bloody Valentine a couple of times, and they’re into deeper cuts than I am. There’s definitely some of that.
As for me, last year, the bands or artists that I listened to the most w[ere] Helena Deland, Westerman, Widowspeak, [and] Weyes Blood. While making the EP, I was also listening to a lot of Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star.
Then I listened to a bunch of 80s music that my dad used to be into when I was a kid, like The Talking Heads or Prefab Sprout. I would [also] say kind of sophisti-pop of the 80s – I don’t know how much that reflects in the EP though. I feel like I probably didn’t use that as much, but it’s definitely stuff that has influenced me over the past year.
JS: That’s really cool. I guess, to kind of go along the theme of making the EP, what was the process like? I know obviously it’s a little rough for COVID and stuff, but what was it like working with the band and really getting all together?
AC: It was all – nothing was really well planned in advance, partly because I’m super new to this and inexperienced. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way for sure. I was not very well organized and we ended up having to record and produce that EP over the course of seven weeks, which wasn’t a lot. We actually did the song “Five” together last April.
Then, early in the summer, I was telling Michael [of Sorry Girls, who helped produce the EP too] that I had a few live streams planned for the summer. He was like, “Oh well, you know, if you need a band, I have two friends who would be down to play for you.” So, I was just like, “We’ll give it a go. We’ll see how it goes.” It actually went really well. All my live streams that I was meant to play got cancelled, but we kept playing like once a week.
So, I was [actually] meant to work with Michael and Dylan of Sorry Girls on production, but then Dylan was actually busy with Sorry Girls himself, so he kind of stepped out of the project. Michael and I figured that since things were going so well with the band, we’d want to record all together. Then, while we were recording, we figured that he could also attend production sessions. Everyone pitched in for ideas, arrangements, etc. I write the songs, lyrics, melodies, chord progressions, and everything, but then, baselines, my bassist makes, etc. It’s like a collaborative thing.
JS: Could you break down the songwriting process and what really inspired you through these songs. What did you draw from?
AC: The way that I write songs is usually on my own in my apartment, at a time that I’m not expecting to write a song. Like if I sit down, take my guitar, and I’m like, “Alright, I’m gonna write a song,” you can be sure I won’t write a song.
But, I noticed, sometimes, I start with a few chords, and then try to find lyrics that I find appropriate. Most of the time, I actually think things and put them into notes, and then try to make them into lyrics. So they sound nice and they read nice.
Then, a lot of the time, I actually have lyrics first. Then I will pick up my guitar and try to put those lyrics over chords and try to come up with melody. In terms of themes, most of the album is just me talking to myself. I went through this time where I was questioning myself, my goals in life and everything. I think that that EP is pretty much that in a nutshell. It’s my quarter life crisis.
I thought that after writing these songs, I probably would have found an answer as to what I want from life. The answer is that I don’t have an answer and I probably never will. It’s me trying to understand myself and what I want from life and realizing that, maybe I won’t know.
JS: Definitely. I can absolutely relate to that sort of feeling of like, what the hell do I do here? What do I do now? Music is a way to cope with that feeling. I know that there’s a lot of people [as] we’re a college radio station, and so a lot of people are kind of entering this sort of phase. [What] helped you get through it, that’s sort of like, “what do I do now?”
AC: Good luck to anyone who’s starting to have those questions. I don’t know. So I finished college about two and a half years ago. A part of me kind of thought that, you know, after college, I’d be, I know what to do. But I just feel like we’re always gonna be questioning ourselves.
I think a good way of going through this is to let go of some of the pressure that we might be putting on ourselves. For me, I think I go through highs and lows. Like sometimes I’ll be really, really happy with where I am and what I’m doing. I have nothing to complain about. Also on paper, I have a great life to someone that doesn’t know me and only sees like my Instagram. We would probably have a hard time thinking that I’m having a hard time, which I think is a case for a lot of people.
But I think that what’s important is letting go of some of the pressure and also really realizing that the things that we’re feeling are valid. It’s not because someone is having it harder than you, [or] that it means that you shouldn’t be feeling a certain way. Which is something that I constantly do. The thing is thinking this makes it even harder and then it’s just a vicious circle.
I would say for someone going through the struggles, of like, “where the f*ck am I going?” just like take a break and realize that you’re allowed to feel that way. It’s totally valid. Just try and take a bit of pressure off your shoulders.
JS: Yeah that sounds really interesting. Cool. Here’s a little bit of a fun question. What was your favorite release of 2020? A little bit of a softball.
AC: Helena Deland for sure. Her album killed me. I’m on my dad’s Spotify Premium account from Switzerland. So I actually get all my releases at midnight Switzerland time, which is 6 pm here in Montreal. So actually when her record came out I actually listened to it the day before at 6pm. I went into like some sort of meltdown for sure days after this, but like, in a good way Definitely my favorite.
It just made me feel so many things. I also read a bunch of interviews about that album. She was trying to celebrate feminism and she was trying to step out of that super masculine industry, and she still worked with men and that’s fine, but just stuff that she went through, [and] I also started going through around the time that her record came out that I wasn’t even aware of. It just helped. I tend to associate an album with a feeling.
To hear even more of what Clara has to say, listen to the full interview below!