A fan of lists, I’m always mentally making them. One I’ve been working on for some time is the best vocals – ever – because while you can autotune anyone, only a true singer can deliver when everything is stripped away. With that, I was more than thrilled to talk to ALA.NI about her a capella album, ‘ACCA,’ that drops January 24th. Proving the voice is a powerful force, we talked about how she kept her prime instrument studio ready, standing at the helm working with a true icon, and more in this exchange of words.
Kendra: When it came time to sit down and create a new record, were you at all intimidated by the acclaim your debut got or did that early success push you to want to outdo your first with ‘ACCA’?
ALA.NI: I don’t write music to serve anything but the idea itself. I am committed to that. I don’t really care about if it’s a “hit,” writing another “popular” song. No fun in that at all! Too much pressure. I didn’t plan to make an a cappella album, it kind of just happened to be so, so I followed the inspiration and process. Music makes you, you don’t make music.
Kendra: ‘ACCA’ puts vocals front and center, which I love because I believe a great vocal performance is what separates a true singer from a celebrity with a microphone. Because of that, did you have any vocal exercises you did during recording, special teas, or vocal rest to assure your main instrument was on point throughout the entire process?
ALA.NI: Yes herbs are essential…Ha! A big fat spliff and some thyme and sage tea would normally start the studio day. I had to wear many different hats, as producer and vocalist, so on the days when recording lead vocals, there was no smoking. Only neti nasal cleansing, vocal cord steaming. The additional/ backing vocals, I always like to do high. I hear more detail. I love layering harmonies. It’s like a mathematical equation in my head.
Kendra: Speaking of the recording process, how was it working with the legendary Iggy Pop and the dynamic force that is Lakeith Stanfield?
ALA.NI: Iggy is the fucking dude and Lakeith is my boy. Both sessions were done in the US; Miami and LA. I brought my suitcase of microphones to both sessions and did what I had to do. As the producer, I had to direct these amazing artists to get the results that I needed. That wasn’t scary at all, ha!
Kendra: We can hear Iggy on your single, “Bitch,” which is such an interesting track because you never meant for the world to hear but rather was an apology for an ex. Do you think he regrets not acknowledging the apology in private now that it’s out and being heard around the world?
ALA.NI: To be honest I don’t really give a fuck. I converted his shit into art. Win! Life is transient. It was a moment missed and a moment gained…We move on.
Kendra: Let’s rewind a bit and talk about your love of Julie Andrews and ballet and how you were sort of pushed away from those based solely on the color of your skin. I can 100% relate because I grew up being one of two or three Black kids at punk shows. Do you feel there is still some pushback in regards to race and what we can and cannot hold close to our hearts?
ALA.NI: I try not to live my life with those constraints. I love Italian wine. I like to go to Tuscany at least once a year and fully enjoy this culture of wine. Does that make me less black? Fuck that! We have all subscribed to white supremacy as the only way upward, in a really twisted way.
I have every right to be where I want to be and do as I wish to do on this planet and I try not to let the views of others, from both sides of the colour spectrum, prohibit that.
Our people have spent enough time being bounded. Time to be fully free. The most famous ballerina in the world is currently black…Do you know how happy that makes me?! On the flip side, the biggest ballet company in the world, just two and a half years ago, started to produce brown tone coloured ballet tights. As I said, twisted.
Kendra: Sticking with Julie Andrews for a minute, if you could put any song from ‘ACCA’ in one of her films, which would it be and why?
ALA.NI: From the ‘ACCA’ album, I think I’d like to have her sing something over the instrumental, “In the Land.” There is a song on the ‘You & I’ album, “To the River”, which was a kind of reggae mash-up of the elephant march from the jungle book and “I Have Confidence” from the sound of music, so I think I’d like to hear her sing this song.
Kendra: ‘ACCA’ is out at the end of January, and I’m sure people want to know if you’ll have tour dates that follow. So will you be heading out on the road with the new material soon after?
ALA.NI: I hope to be hitting the States later this year. I’ve already started to gig with the new album. Warming up and settling into it. The line up is cello, accordion, and beatboxer for the moment. An interesting mix to play with.