atj interview :: alina simone

ATJ presents ALINA SIMONE, Wednesday October 22, 2008, for After the Jump’s CMJ Showcase at the Knitting Factory NYC, performing at 11:15pm inside the Old Office (Best of NYC), the Beets, the Lisps, Inlets, Motel Motel, and the Muggabears.

Listen :: Half of My Kingdom

MIA: Musically, how did you form, what past experiences do you carry with you?

My band is pretty much just me, so forming it was the easy part! I had wanted to be a singer my whole life. Other people’s expectations of me, and overpowering stage fright, held me back. That’s something I never quite forget and that definitely informs my music.

MIA: Describe the feeling of living and making music in your city, feel free to share a memory or a certain place that makes you feel like home.

I love Brooklyn. It’s the only place on Earth that I have ever truly felt at home. For the past couple of years, I’ve been writing the lyrics to my songs while walking the streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Hoboken. If I think of something I like, I call my cell phone and sing it into my voicemail.

MIA: How do you like to get ready to perform for a live show?

I actually don’t enjoy performing live at all. I wish I did, but I don’t. I’m a really private person and have never liked being the center of attention. Getting ready for a show usually consists of drinking a vodka tonic and bracing myself. I like performing my straight-up rock songs. Then I can just close my eyes and holler.

MIA: What has been the most impacting compliment, or criticism, you have ever received?

Wow, good question! I think I’ve lost count of both. After so many people have told you that your music is terrible and you will fail or told you that you’re the best or whatever, it all starts to feel like it’s coming from somewhere very far away. The key to being able to keep going, for me at least, is not to give a fuck about what other people say. I was so paralyzed by stage-fright and other people’s opinions that I couldn’t even sing in public for the first 25 years of my life.

MIA: Within your songwriting, is there some type of element that has brought about a certain mood in yr writing, making you feel more/less different than when you started? How long has the recording process taken to complete your album and to finally believe that it’s ready?

I think the feeling I start with, when writing a song, is the same feeling that I end with. I generally record my albums pretty fast. I’m not a tinkerer. With my songs, capturing the intensity is the most important thing. I wish I was one of those studio people that had the patience to spend hundreds of hours making minute adjustments, but that’s just not me. I would be happy recording my songs live and solo on a handheld cassette recorder in one take.

MIA: What qualities do you hope listeners may take from listening to your music?

Rawness, honesty, immediacy. The feeling that this is something handmade and even somewhat primal.

MIA: Any recommended records so far of ‘08?

I am really, really bad at answering this kind of question because I rarely listen to new music. And I’m not much good at explaining why I like anything. I can say that I really love the new Gnarls Barkley record. I listened to it constantly on tour. Some songs off of Santogold’s record have really stuck with me. And I’ve been liking N.E.R.D.’s ‘Seeing Sounds’ too – it’s good and it’s fun.

MIA: Name a visual artist or piece of work that inspires you.

I love the large-scale color photographs of Katy Grannan and Jenny Gage. Their hyper real photographs portray what look like ‘documentary’ scenes that are actually staged and I am obsessed with.

MIA: Please share a mixtape with a theme of your choice.

(instead of listing specific songs with titles that are all in Russian, I will just list musicians and groups that folks interested in Russian rock/folk music should check out)

Amazing Russian and Soviet-era music:

1. Yanka Dyagileva (A perestroika-era cult icon. The most important woman in the history of Russian rock. Her music is a beautiful mix of rock and traditional Russian folk influences.)

2. Auktyon (Russia’s greatest living rock band. Their sound incorporates everything from Klezmer to jazz to Brazilian music)

3. Kino (Now defunct, due to the death of lead singer Victor Tsoi, this legendary lo-fi indie band is Russia’s answer to Nirvana)

4. Dina Vierny (Recorded one amazing record of her versions of songs written in the Soviet gulags during the 50’s. AMAZING!)

5. Alioha Dmitrievich (Russian gypsy whose versions of Soviet prison songs are so boisterous and intimate you feel that you are transported to a café table at some seaside club in 1920’s Odessa)

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