Cold Specks is Canadian singer/songwriter Al Spx, who’s been blessed with vocals tinged with old South vibes, melting into music infused with the influence of Tom Waits and Bill Callahan. Wonderland caught up with Al to chat about the music she once called doom soul.
Your voice is so distinctive. Did you train yourself or have lessons?
No, I’ve never had any vocal lessons. I’ve had a couple of guitar lessons. I might start taking vocal lessons; I’m not against it. I’ve just never really had the chance to do it.
What kicked off your singing career?
When my manager Jimmy phoned me up, who also produced the album. He was really into the songs and said, “Come over here and let’s make an album, and let’s try and do something with it”.
What did you do before that?
I was working in a call centre and I was pretending to go to university. I dropped out but hadn’t informed my parents.
You’re on the same label as Broken Social Scene, you mentioned you liked their first album.
It’s a really great collection of songs made by a large collective of musicians, and it just stayed really well for the electronic music scene. Nobody really knew about what was happening in our little city until they kind of blew up and brought a lot of attention to musicians from Toronto.
You used a James Joyce phrase for your name. Do you read him a lot?
I studied an en
tire course on Ulysses in university. I had to write a paper on it and came across that line, and thought it was great. I really liked the pairing. I had the album title years before I had the band name, and I really liked the pairing of the words ‘graceful’ and ‘expulsion’, because those are two very contrasting things. The Joyce line than I found was ‘cold specks of fire, evil lights shining in the darkness’. There are lots of contrasting things in that line, I just thought it made a lot of sense, and it stuck with me.
Why did you call the music you made “doom soul”?
For Facebook you had to come up with a genre name. Folk and soul weren’t really accurate descriptions, so we jokingly wrote ‘doom soul’.
When you were making the album and writing it what did you listen to?
I was probably listening to Rain on Lens by Smog, and The Microphones’ The Globe Pt 2, Harvest –lots of stuff.
Graceful Expulsion seems Biblically inspired, is it about a fall from grace?
No, it’s more to do with just getting rid of things in your life, and one of those things happened to be just faith in general. So, the graceful expulsion has to do with ridding yourself of bullshit.
By faith are you talking about Christian faith?
No – spirituality in general I think, whether it’s a higher power or belief in something else.
It seems like the album has been made by someone who has a really old soul. Has anybody told you that before?
Yeah, I get that sometimes, but it’s not true. I’m really immature and all I ever watch is trashy reality TV.
What trashy TV do you watch?
Mob Wives. It’s good isn’t it?
It’s also complete trash.
Cold Specks is playing Union Chapel on 10 October, London. coldspecks.com
Words: Zing Tsjeng and Julia Lichnova