Mar 26 2011

Interview with Alana Stewart

Alana Stewart live @ The Old Queen's Head, London

Following her stop over promo tour Cougar Microbes and Alana Stewart discussed UK venues, Rod Stewart covers and “resurrectingLauryn Hill. I’m pretty sure this is how it went down:

Cougar Microbes: Who is Alana Stewart? Describe yourself and your music to the uninitiated.

Alana Stewart: I’m a vocalist & lyricist who tries her best to play different instruments. I geek out about things like endocrine disruptors and gender/family politics to the point of being annoying to my friends. You might like my music if you dig strong female vocals. You might like my lyrics if you dig portraits of peoples and cities, the art of seduction, religion and moral didacticism. Or you could just generally like fly chicks from California.

CM: What time did you wake up today? Was it out of choice or necessity?

AS: 10:30 am. I rarely wake up to an alarm if I don’t have to. I do my best work at night anyways.

CM: How have you been killing time on this UK stopover, hobbies?

AS: I have been constantly working and promoting my music while in the UK. I did an interview for Steve Lamacq on BBC 2 and he played my song, ‘Perfervid‘. I did an interview with Ollie on Shoreditch Radio‘s “My band is better than your band“. I had 4 shows, lots of meetings with labels and publishers, but I also drank a ton of tea (because nobody makes tea better than the English). Fashion week was fun- that was the most indulgent thing I did I think. I got most of my kicks and giggles sliding down tube station stairwell bars. If I knew how to skateboard I would go nuts grinding on them.

Good job London.

CM: What have been your favourite venues on this tour? Any venues you absolutely hated?

AS: Rule #1 never be ungrateful for a show that someone else booked for you. All the venues were great. The sound at The Bull & Gate was especially great. I really love Martin the door guy. And I love the impoverished elegance of The Old Queen’s Head. I haven’t bought new clothes in a very long time, so any time a venue has a natural decay I really appreciate it because my wardrobe fits right in.

CM: How has it been different to play to audiences in the UK compared to back home?

AS: Audiences in the UK are great listeners. You’re a very polite bunch. Normally in The States I try to include as many songs into the bill as possible where people can sing-a-long to the refrain or at least clap because I find that Americans really love the sound of their own voices and bodies. I try and submit to that urge and include them on songs. Americans love to participate in sound. Brits I find are a bit happier to observe and listen. Or maybe I’m wrong, maybe you’re all dying to sing and clap you’re just unsure of the social consequences.

CM: Is there a song you are simply sick of playing?

AS: I’m sick of playing songs I wrote 4 years ago, but as my songwriting has gotten better, I’ve noticed I don’t get sick of songs as quickly.

CM: Are you able to write on the road or do you do this in your off time?

AS: I can write while not being “at home“, but it definitely requires free time and personal space. I need to be alone or with other musicians.

CM: Favourite track of yours and why?

AS: A track called ‘So Be Glad‘. I’ve had a couple people ask me if they could use the song as a backing track for videos they’ve done celebrating Gay Pride. And I also had a woman who had given up a child for adoption cry when she heard it. She was a complete stranger and she cried in front of me- it was surprising and very sobering. The beginning lyrics are “I’m not allowed to fall in love. I’m not allowed to be caressed and kissed and hugged… So Be Glad for your partner who supports what you do, and Just know that there are those who don’t have love like you do.

At the end of the song you realize that the narrator has given up the rights to her child. She felt it was necessary because she didn’t have enough money or a stable relationship. I’m really interested in why parents abandon/give up their children. My sister is adopted and intentional separation from biological family seems tragic to me.

I also love the song because it has bowed bass and kalimba, two of my favorite instruments.

CM: If you could record any cover what would it be?

AS: I’m trying to find a Rod Stewart song that I love right now that isn’t too difficult to pull off. Rod Stewart was married to an Alana, whom I compete with for google seniority. But he was also married to a woman named Rachel (my legal first name is Rachel, my middle name is Alana, which I go by). So it seems that Rod Stewart and I have some type of cosmic connection and I think if I found the right song of his to cover, The Universe might bless me in some way.

CM: Do your songs go through many revisions via demo recordings?

AS: Rarely. But now I am becoming more ambitious with my song structures. I desire more motion and scope lately. Motion and scope require consideration and deliberation, aka revisions. So I expect there will be a greater number of revisions from here forth.

CM: What is more important: the lyrics or the melody?

AS: That’s like asking what is more important, your mother or your father. They’re both necessary for different reasons. Melody is important for its physical properties, how it makes your body sway or react, how it feels… Lyrics are important for your mind. Imagine you see a really attractive person walking down the street- that is the melody. Then, when you meet them, you’re delighted to discover that they’re interesting and intelligent on top of having a stunning body- that is the lyrics. Together, it makes for the ultimate attractive song.

CM: What are your views on auto tune in music in 2011?

AS: I’m a big fan of auto-tune-the-news. “Hide ya kids, Hide ya wife.” No rules. This industry shouldn’t forget it’s about having fun and being playful.

CM: Any other artists from your local scene we really should know about?

AS: YES. New Orleans & San Francisco has some majorly under-shared music that is very deserving.
New Orleans: Hurray for The Riff Raff.
San Francisco: Honeycomb.

Hurray for the Riff Raff‘s- ‘Bricks‘ is probably one of my most favorite songs of all time.

CM: Most flattering thing you’ve read about yourselves?

AS: I’m most flattered by the thank you letters I get for writing the album. Especially the ones from strangers. I appreciate the opportunity to brag, but I’m gonna go ahead and move on to the next question. haha.

CM: What was the first record/tape/cd you ever bought?

Janet Jackson duh.

CM: What was the last song that got stuck in your head?

AS: I had a major thing for La Roux‘s ‘Going in for the Kill‘. I wish I had written that song. Glad someone did at least.

CM: What was the last show you paid and queued up for?

AS: I don’t pay for shows. I am living in a state of poverty. But… probably Kermit Ruffins in New Orleans.

CM: If you had to bring on artist back from the dead in exchange for sending a living artist down ,which artists would it be and why??

AS: Well, she’s not physically dead, but metaphorically I would bring back Lauryn Hill. She’s probably the one artist that impresses me the most- with everything she does. But I know she is doing a good job raising up the next generation of Marley‘s so I can’t get mad at her. Who would I kill? Justin Bieber.

Alana Stewart releases ‘The Misuse of Chemistry‘ EP this spring on ChessClub Records


Alana Stewart