First, a confession. I did this interview a while ago and the answers slipped somehow unnoticed into the nether regions of my email account. Despair! I’m telling you this in case some of the information is slightly out of date, but take what you will from the answers. The main message is no different: Alessi is a remarkable young woman whose songs capably, almost effortlessly, transport you to a simpler, more wonderful plane of existence. Just 18 years old, she’s been writing and performing her own compositions for over four years – mostly in her West London bedroom – and is about to take them on the road for her highest profile shows to date.
Together with Peggy Sue and Derek Meins, Alessi and her band (collectively known as Alessi’s Ark) embark on a 16-date UK tour that starts with a very special Hallowe’en show at the Brixton Windmill, complete with horror movie marathon (fancy dress essential). A bite-sized follow-up to this year’s magical Bedroom Bound EP is due in December, then the debut full-length in March 2009. Given Alessi’s past form and the sneak preview of album track ‘The Dog’ on her Myspace, it promises to be overflowing with imagination, captivating melodies and the distant clunk-roar-whoosh of a formidable new talent lifting off the ground. Fans of Gregory & The Hawk and Peggy Sue take note. Better late than never then, here’s Alessi’s answers to our blessed questionnaire…
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What’s your middle name?
My middle name is Linda, after my aunt.
Who was your childhood idol?
I liked and still do like Alice in Wonderland.
What are your pet hates?
Men with long nails, dishonesty, when people spit.
What’s your favourite quote?
I have a few but I do like this one: “there’s nothing more something than one” by e.e. cummings.
What did you want to be until you decided to become a musician…if you ever did ‘decide’ that is!
I liked the idea of being Thumbelina when I was little.
What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
I’d be writing and drawing storybooks. Or learning about music therapy for children. These are things I’d still like to do at some point.
Which female musicians have most inspired you?
Françoise Hardy, Jenny Lewis, Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush, Régine Chassagne [Arcade Fire], Carla Azar [Autolux]. And the gentlemen: Mark Bolan (early Tyrannosaurus Rex), Graham Nash, Magic Magic, Win Butler [Arcade Fire], Elliott Smith, Big Star, David Bowie, Kevin Barnes [Of Montreal].
Who was the first person/band you saw in concert?
Tell us about your favourite instrument…
I like all my little instruments, especially my jar of shells and autoharp. I think Graham is my favourite. He is the guitar I taught myself to play on. It was my sister’s first guitar. He’s been living in the house for a long time.
Do you have an instrument you’d still like to learn? What’s stopping you?
Ukulele, accordion, lap steel, kora. I’d like to have a go at all instruments. Right now, time permits me from playing with too many things; I want to concentrate on the gigs and next release. I imagine the kora must be a rather difficult instrument to get your paws on in London. I’ll have a rummage.
What’s the biggest guilty pleasure in your record collection?
I don’t really think we should feel guilty about liking particular types of music – it just shows the music is doing its job well and reaching out to you. I’ve heard ELO being played on the ‘Guilty Pleasures’ show – I have some ELO in my record collection, I don’t feel bad about it.
What’s your favourite song to cover and why?
I’d like to cover ‘J’aurais Voulou’ by Françoise Hardy. It’s one of my favourites. It might be tricky by myself but I’d also like to cover ‘I Used To Be A King’ by Graham Nash and ‘Moonage Daydream’ by David Bowie. They’d have to be very simple versions in comparison because I love the words in those three songs. I’d want all the listeners’ attention drawn to the words.
Which artist would you most like to work with – your dream collaboration?
Michel Gondry, Tim Burton, Miranda July, Mike Mogis, Van Dyke Parks and if he was still here, I’d like to have had a cup of tea with Edward Gorey.
Are you multi-lingual?
My mum was born in Paris and she speaks to me in French. I once wrote a song in French called ‘La Forêt’ – I didn’t find it too difficult, I had the story ready in my mind and the melody was easy to find. I asked mum to check the grammar afterwards.
What was the last good book you read and how did it affect you?
‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’ by Miranda July. It’s a beautiful collection of her short stories. I would wake up and read it, went to bed reading it and often dreamt about it when I slept. She is a wonderful writer. And director.
What is your most loved item of clothing and why is it so treasured?
If necklaces count, it’s Lou Owl. It’s a very special owl necklace, which used to have a magnifying glass inside. I wear it every day but always take it off just before I perform. It rattles on my guitar otherwise. I treasure it because it’s beautifully detailed and I’ve lent it to some of my closest friends – I think it collects some of their magic. Some of their spirits.
What’s your tipple?
I don’t drink alcohol. I like tea. Chocolate milk. Mango lassis.
Do you have a tattoo? If not, would you ever get one? In either case, what of and whereabouts?
I don’t have a tattoo but if I did have one, I think I’d like a constellation. I haven’t chosen which one but I’d like it on my inner wrist.
Would you rather see a ghost or simply have a piece of toast and watch the evening news?
I’d like both! If I saw a ghost, I’d like to see the penguin creature from ‘The Doubtful Guest’ by Edward Gorey – it seems very mischievous and friendly. I like raspberry jam or honey on my toast.
Tick tock, tick tock. What you waiting, what you waiting for?
The next full moon.
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The Triptych Tour featuring Peggy Sue, Alessi’s Ark and Derek Meins calls at the following venues:
31.10.08 Brixton Windmill, London
03.11.08 Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
04.11.08 School Of Art, Winchester
05.11.08 Regal, Oxford
06.11.08 229, London
07.11.08 Cinema De Lux, Leicester
09.11.08 The Loft, Castleford
11.11.08 Pivo Pivo, Glasgow
12.11.08 Fibbers, York
13.11.08 Plug, Sheffield
15.11.08 Swn Festival, Cardiff
16.11.08 Cavern, Exeter
17.11.08 Cooler, Bristol
19.11.08 Hanbury, Brighton
20.11.08 Soapbox, London
21.11.08 Hamptons, Southampton
[as an aside, Peggy Sue support Laura Marling at a sold out show in Manchester on November 9th]
‘For One Year’
live performance of ‘My Bedroom’