Exclusive Interview with Alison Wonderland
A panoramic view of North Hollywood sets the scene. The iconic white letters stand perched in the distance framed by rooftops and blue sky. Alison Wonderland — a slim, petite blonde figure dressed in black lace shorts, an Adidas White-T, and a colorful windbreaker as she stands close to the glass. She snaps a picture.
There is an upright piano in the Capitol Records Listening Room stationed between two large, futuristic-looking speakers. “We’ll play some dope beats for you later,” says Wonderland as she gravitates toward the instrument. The piano is slightly out of tune, but that doesn’t bother Alison much as she whimsically begins to play a song she wrote during her classical training as a kid. “My teacher gave me an F on this because it wasn’t historically accurate. Then I discovered Pentatonic scales.” She switches over to a pentatonic scale comprised mainly of black keys. “The Knife writes all their music in pentatonic.”
Wonderland is in Los Angeles for a few days prepping for the release of her debut album, “Run,” a culmination of her musical endeavors and adventures over the past few years. After that, she’s off to New York for a weekend, then back to L.A. to hang out for a bit. Despite being an Australian native, Wonderland has frequently found herself down L.A.’s rabbit hole as of late. “I’m from Sydney. Everyone there lives on the coast. Australia is beautiful, and clearly everyone from Australia is very cool.” She smirks. “And we write a lot of music in aeolian mode.”
Wonderland’s debut album, set for release on April 7 on Astralwerks, is a serendipitous combination of timing, preparation and the friendships she’s made on her musical journey. “Pretty much the whole record was made here [LA] by accident. I spent about a month writing the skeletons of the demos and then spent a couple months in Australia making them sound like songs rather than just ideas. I was lucky to have an amazing group of people around me to collaborate with.” The amazing group of people Wonderland refers to is a potent list of heavy-hitters including the likes of Djemba Djemba, Lido, Ganz, Safia, and AWE to name a few.
“I made some songs on my EP with Lido and Djemba Djemba. We actually got on really well as people and organically led to collaborating. I love and respect everyone that I collaborated with on the record. I really feel like I’ve made this album with my friends and everything I’ve written for is coming from an honest place.”
For Wonderland and many of her compatriots, the past few years have been instrumental in the emergence of Australian electronic musicians. “A lot of them are really good friends of mine and I’ve noticed that we’ve all been working on this for a while now. All of a sudden a couple people took off a couple years ago — Flume is one of them. He kind of gave other artists trying to make music the confidence to put stuff out. Because Flume was so congratulated and celebrated by the Aussie public, now a lot of Aussie artists are getting the same support for Australians rather than looking toward internationals. This really gave us the confidence and camaraderie to put out our own music, whether it is similar to that [Flume]. Wave Racer is great. Chet Faker is another one, he’s amazing. Future Classic is killing it. They’re all amazing.”
“The cool thing about Australian electronic music is it doesn’t have to be huge, big room edm to be a headline set. I’m noticing that it’s mainly future beats that are being played in a headline set and that gets an even bigger reaction at shows around here.”
Though she considers herself a part of the recent Australian electronic music renaissance, Wonderland has been perfecting her craft from an early age. She began priming her musical talent as a young cellist in the Sydney Youth Orchestra and then as a bassist in an indie rock band. Subsequently, through trial, error and a handful of inspirational musicians, Wonderland found herself making raw, emotional electronic music.
“It’s so surreal. A few years ago I was just a nerd in my room making music. I couldn’t afford to buy a microphone or synths. I got a job at a call center selling security cameras so I could afford a laptop. The reason I wanted to buy a laptop was because I heard ‘Silent Shout’ by The Knife a long time ago and I wanted to make music like that. They’re not necessarily why I’m where I am now, but they’re the reason why I bought my laptop and Ableton.”
Wonderland is both excited and anxious about her album’s release. In addition to being her first LP, Run, is also the first project that she has sang on.
“I’ve never considered myself a singer,” says Wonderland. “I’ve always written songs and lyrics, but I never saw myself singing on the tracks. When I started making music as Alison Wonderland I approached singers and no one really wanted to f--- with me. So I thought, well, I wrote the top lines and I wrote the lyrics so I might as well sing it. Someone that I look up to and knows how to write in his range and with lyrics that are direct is James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem. He’s one of my heroes. Listening to him gave me the guts to do it.”
Midway through our conversation it was time to put the futuristic-looking speakers to good use. Wonderland carefully looks me in the eyes and asks, “What are you in the mood for? The album has everything.” And indeed, it does. Her bevy of musical influences and collaborations has produced a body of work that spans the full spectrum of electronic sounds, moods and rhythms. Signature tracks like “Cold,” “Lies” and “I Want You” weave together elements of Trap, Dubstep, Future Beats and Pop to create a soundscape suitable for both festival raving and easy listening.
“It’s funny,” she laughs. “You make all these songs and then you listen to them as a whole and then you realized what it is. It’s crazy. I was worried that it would sound disjointed because I love so many different types of music, but it just sat together so well. When you’re making a record while going through a certain thing, or in a certain environment, there’s always going to be some sort of consistency.”
Wonderland will make her American debut this year at Coachella, followed by a two month North American tour. “When I found out about Coachella, I was like ‘well… that’s kind of a dream!’ That was the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I always would joke about one day playing coachella. I never thought about it coming true, really.”
As our time comes to a close I notice a Alice in Wonderland pin she’s wearing on her windbreaker. The pin depicts a surprised Alice and the White Rabbit pointing to a clock. The bottom of the pin reads “I’m Late.” I ask her about it. “I’m not pregnant!” she exclaims. “I didn’t even know I was wearing it. Last year my friend in LA gave me this pin. They said it’s me in a nutshell.”
Alison Wonderland North American Tour Dates
April 3: Vancouver, BC — Seasons Festival
April 4: Edmonton, AB — Northern Lights Festival
April 11: Indio, CA — Coachella Music & Arts Festival
April 15: Seattle, WA — Q Nightclub
April 18: Indio, CA — Coachella Music & Arts Festival
April 24: Chicago, IL — The Mid
May 1: New York, NY — Webster Hall
May 2: Miami, FL — Grand Central
May 8: Toronto, ON — The Hoxton
May 9: Montreal, QC — NewsSpeak
May 14: Denver, CO — Bluebird Theater
May 15: San Francisco, CA — 1015 Folsom
May 16: Los Angeles, CA — El Rey Theatre
Head to Alison Wonderland's official website for tickets & information.