Meet part-time Prada muse, ex-model and eccentric singer-songwriter Alison Sudol, aka A Fine Frenzy.
Her latest album, Pines, marks a distinct departure from her previous records, with the fable-like concept record written and recorded in 7 days – and it’s being released an an iBook alongside an illustrated short film. Wonderland caught her to talk about the concept behind the weird and wonderful album.
How did you manage to fit recording Pines into one week?
I still can’t quite wrap my head around it, to be perfectly honest! It seemed impossible at the time and still kind of does, especially since no one knew the songs before we went into the studio except Keefus (my producer) and I. Some of the songs are incredibly complex structurally, even I had trouble remembering all the changes, and I wrote them! But for that very reason, Keefus wanted to keep the actual recording process simple to get the freshest, most spontaneous performances without over-thinking too much.
It’s a concept record that operates like a folk tale. Why did you go with this kind of idea?
I’ve always used stories as ways of figuring out things in my life that I couldn’t otherwise understand. At the time of writing this record, I was in the midst of a major life transition. I thought perhaps if I could create a record with one consistent narrative, that it would be a stabilising element in what was otherwise a very confusing time. It gave me something to hold onto, and helped me see my way through the emptiness, into the woods.
There’s also an accompanying short film. How did the collaboration with stop motion animator Musa Brooker happen?
A few months before, a friend had introduced me to a Russian short film from 1975 called ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’. It’s basically 10 and a half minutes of magic, simple and almost childlike but heartbreakingly beautiful and profound. It was made in beautiful style of animation called multiplane, which involves placing objects on multiple layers of glass and then shooting in stop-motion from above. The moment I saw Musa’s work, I had a feeling he was the director. When we met, he said he loved Hedgehog and knew how to do multiplane animation. From then on, it was a breeze.
The album is being released as an iBook too. Do you think its important that as many people as possible can access music?
Of course. I think there is so much room for exploration in this day and age, technology is evolving at lightning speed and with it, so many new opportunities to be creative. The iBook is fantastic because it lets you experience the book as an interactive world – there are pieces of the record in it, bits of magic and animation and I can read out loud to you if you want me to at the touch of a button.
You were also a successful model. Was music your first passion?
I love photography and fashion, and modelling can be incredibly fun and creative. I will be returning to it more this year, which I’m quite excited about. But music is my heart.
There’s a huge range of instruments on the record. Was it important for you that the album was atmospheric?
Absolutely. Since the environment that each song takes place in is such a huge part of the record, I wanted to create sonic landscapes that would take the listener away.
How would you describe what the album’s about?
The wonderful, weird, messy roller coaster ride that is life, I suppose. Loneliness, vulnerability, fear, hope… There’s inspiration everywhere, if you’re open to it.
Words: Shane Hawkins