Interview: Alexandria Maillot

This week, Jess spent some time with Alexandria Maillot chatting, listening to records, and playing with her adorable turtle, Porridge. Tomorrow, Maillot's first full-length album, Time comes out. If you haven't heard the singles 'Sunday Sara' or 'Time (on your Own)' yet - definitely stream them up! You'll find some music that's deeply recharging, refreshing, and pleasantly complex. If you like it, don't miss her on June 18th at the Biltmore Cabaret! Here's how our conversation went.

Jess: What makes this album be considered ‘the first’ since you have other music available?

Alex: I released my EP in 2012 which was an amalgamation of songs that I’d written and recorded over several years. I started writing it when I was 12 or 13 and I released it when I was 19 and it was mainly so I had something that I could start with. There was the Peak Performance Project that I wanted to apply for so I released the album so I’d have something to have. It’s the first album with one consistent theme and that was sort of written and recorded in a timeframe under one mindset. It was an album that was conceptualized before the studio and so we were in the studio, and we recorded it sort of with more continuity with something like my last EP.

Jess: What's the theme?

Alex: It’s kind of aptly named Time to represent Time – the healing process. I named it Time and the song 'Time (on your Own)' was the first song I wrote for the album. It was essentially kind of like my last, the two years leading up to the album. It was something I Had to keep practicing and keep focusing on. With anything if you go through something traumatic or life changing, it takes a while to sink in. Time was about a healing process and letting something that was once really important go. The story arc. The hurt, the anger, the acceptance.

Jess: What was the team that helped put it together?

Alex: Ryan Worsely did the bulk of the recording, at Echo Plant in Coquitlam. He was the main producer and also mixed the album. I also worked on a few songs with a good friend Jordan Klassen and Jon Andersen out in his studio in Maple Ridge.

Jess: How did you express to them what you wanted the album to sound like before it was recorded?

Alex: I didn’t know how it was going to turn out so I went in giving everyone a precursor like ‘I’ve never done this before’ and I didn’t know what it was going to be. A lot of the songs are in there hadn’t really been hashed out with a band, the ideas weren’t fully formed, so for me I wanted them to understand that being in this was also a learning process or discovery process for me. I had an idea but I just didn’t know quite how it was going to turn out. I gave them the general theme and the bulk of what I could show them with me and what I had demoed beforehand and they gave a lot of feedback during the process and let me figure out what I wanted by a lot of trial and error and trying different things and going several different avenues until we found something that actually worked and I was happy with.

Jess: When you finished it and listened to it, was there anything that surprised you?

Alex: There’s one song on the album that was considered a studio baby. It’s the song called "Sans". That song really surprised me in the fact that I actually hadn’t finished writing it when I was demoing it, so I finished it on the spot and we kind of kept it and built around it. I actually was really pleasantly surprised with how that turned out because it was a huge risk on my end to record that song versus other songs that I could have put on that album. I wrote that when I was on tour but basically was on tour then came back the next day and was right in the studio so it happened all in such a raw state.

Jess: What song was the most difficult to write and the most proud of?

Alex: I’d say the most difficult song to write, or at least put into recorded form was "Never Stop" because I had always played acoustically and it seemed simple enough, but trying to find the dynamics that resonated genuinely with the intent of the song was extraordinarily tricky. We demoed that one several times and then just completely canned nearly 75% of the initial recordings and started from scratch, and then did that again, started from scratch. Whatever reason, that was the trickiest. Mainly because it kept trying to be something it wasn’t. It was kind of unique because during the whole recording process it was interesting to see how fast everyone recognized when something went off course. It was nice to be surrounded by people who got what I was trying to do even when I didn’t articulate what it was I was trying to get. That definitely was the hardest one. I’d say for me, the most pleasing in regards the way it turned out was, yeah, "Sans."

Jess: How do you pick a topic to form your songs around? How do you pick which moments?

Alex: I think it’s hard to look back on things and write about them. I find I can only be completely happy with a song if I write in real time, as its happening. It’s sort of like the raw emotions that are all inside of it, and also with that create a story about how I’m feeling to make it less specific to me and an actual storyline or story arc. One thing I really like to do is create this insane story in my head with the backstory of a song. Like if I was to ever write a short film with the song, it would have an entire cast and theme already. That’s something I like to do.

Jess: Are the stories fiction or fact?

Alex: From a real life event. So, for instance, the song Lonely Soul, I wrote that when I was out with a friend who was engaged at the time and the song is basically, the lyrics are like ‘I’m feeling so good inside and it’s healing my lonely mind’ and it’s very generic wording, but the story is about the friend and he had a ring on his finger, he was engaged. We were in a small town and this girl who I knew in this small town was extremely drunk and she came up to him and then just kept hitting on him relentlessly. The whole time I was just watching and he was pleasant enough, trying not to be rude about it, but the whole time she had her hand on his leg. He didn’t seem to mind, she’s drunk but she sees his ring right on his hand and he either chooses to ignore it or that excites her, that makes it even more of a challenge. I built the story about when people, at some points in their life, don’t have a moral compass they push their boundaries and they know where boundaries are but they don’t care. It’s this reckless sate of abandon where you have nothing to lose. I built a story around an event that happened but made it not real and made a song that doesn’t even talk about it. Essentially that’s what I like to do when I’m writing a song.

Jess: Do you think it makes it easier to write for the characters?

Alex: Yes, it makes it more interesting to keep writing it and to see how far I can get the story to go. Otherwise, if I’m trying to write a fictional story with no context, just for the sake of writing, for me there’s no point. It’s really hard to write just for writing.

Jess: What do you think is an activity to do while you listen to this album?

Alex: One thing I think is really nice is just sitting in candlelight and drinking tea and reading a book.

Jess: Isn’t that what you do every day? *laughs*

Alex: Well it’s a nice setting to me! It’s not pump up music so realistically you’d be at home in a comfortable setting, maybe pre- or post-sad movie. Maybe chocolate. Maybe wine. Maybe… who knows. You could be making some cookies… and then you could also be making some latke potato pancakes. The big thing is you need to be at home to listen to this and actually listen versus put it on for noise in the background.

Jess: What’s the thing that you hope people take away from the album, or just as you as an artist and a person?

Alex: I think the biggest thing is realizing this is just a form of expression, and for me this was just my therapy sessions. In the sense that it helped me get to this day and it helped form who I am and helped me get through thoughts that I could process and take a step back and listen to after the fact. These all represent very specific moments in my life and I’m thankful that I had an outlet for it because if I didn’t I can’t imagine what kind of wreck I would be. This is just how this was meant as my own personal art form, and an expression of my art versus making an album with any preconceived idea of its place in the world. It’s found its place, it doesn’t need anything else.

You can download Time starting tomorrow, June 10th. Album Release Show is Saturday, June 18th at the Biltmore Cabaret with Scenic Route to Alaska and Jenny Banai, tickets available here.