Songstress ALLIE X (Alexandra Ashley Hughes) has managed to stay mostly under the radar thus far, but her music has not. The Los Angeles by-way-of-Toronto singer-songwriter has created her own language for music and art—reinventing the way the music industry operates. ALLIE X has only released three singles so far, but her passion for unique synth-pop music has not gone unnoticed.
We're excited to premiere "Bitch: Xhibit I," ALLIE X's first music video. This piece of visual artwork features a gorgeous, blurry vision of ALLIE X roaming throughout a 99-cent store, looking like she emerged from a vintage kaleidoscope. The video is interactive, presenting an open call for user-generated content—a level of interaction with fans that privileges their own artistic reactions to ALLIE X's music.
We spoke with ALLIE X about creating her own language, remaining an enigma, and doing something totally unique in the music industry.
ILANA KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit about the song "Bitch?"
ALLIE X: It's a song that I sort of just vomited out in one day. I had just moved to Los Angeles and was having not a great day. I was in a position where I wanted to make music, but no one wanted to collaborate with me because no one knew who I was or cared. I ended up in the studio by myself with a single synthesizer and a drum machine. I just built it up. I did the beat first. These words started coming out that were domestic and weird. [laughs] By the end of the day, I had the whole thing done. I never really analyzed it: I just added it to my catalog of songs. Then later on I started listening to it again, and I started trying to figure out what it was about. The lyrics are strange, and it sounds like it's about some marriage or something like that. When I actually analyzed it, I came to the conclusion that it was about the relationship that I have with myself and the sort of concessions or compromises I make with that dark part of myself so that we can both get along and function. There's definitely some dry humor in there, but that feeling of a domestic relationship with myself is one that I actually feel every day. Does that make sense?
KAPLAN: It does. It's very different from Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" from the '90s. [laughs]
ALLIE X: Yeah. [laughs] That's a pretty good song.
KAPLAN: So how did the video happen? It looked like you had a ball at the supermarket.
ALLIE X: Yeah, I've always wanted to make a video in a grocery store. One of my collaborators—Jungle George—is a photographer, musician, and director. We were hanging out and we were like, "Let's go make a video right now." The night before, he found this tiny Japanese camera that he bought in Brooklyn 10 years ago and forgot about it. He was just feeling inspired, and he was like, "We should totally go to the 99-cent store and make a video right now." And we did.
KAPLAN: It looked like so much fun, and I love the aesthetic. You've been pretty elusive about who you are and your public persona. Why have you wanted to keep yourself so mysterious?
ALLIE X: I think that I would really like at first for the art to speak for itself. I don't see the need for a lot of personal information about my past or who I am. I would rather the personal side of it just be in the concepts and the genuine feelings that I filter through my work. I know that it's inevitable that people can find whatever they want about me. Once I've had a chance to create a language and a world with my art, then I'm more comfortable sharing that information.
KAPLAN: I get that. So, you've been releasing one track per month for the past few months. What's the strategy behind it?
ALLIE X: With this project, I've been experimenting and trying to do things in a way that really push the envelope and haven't been done before. I think that everyone knows that the music industry is changing so rapidly. There's so much more empowerment for artists right now in non-traditional ways of becoming famous. In terms of how I'm releasing my work, it's partly experimental, and it also just goes with the themes and concepts of the project as well.
KAPLAN: Cool. On that note, can you tell me a little bit about the themes that have been resonating in your music?
ALLIE X: None of this is conscious. I sort of figured out that everything I make comes from an unconscious place, and that's largely what I hope to pass onto people that take part in this project; it's giving them a language and a chance where they can express parts of themselves that are stuck in their unconscious. That said, there's a large psychology aspect to it. The "shadow self"—a concept by Carl Jung—is kind of what I'm talking about when I'm saying my relationship with myself in "Bitch." It's that dark side of myself that embodies all of the shame and pain. I also love the psychology versus math and logic. In algebra, "X" means any possible variable. I sort of think about "X" in terms of the equation of my own life. Adding "X" to my own life has given me a freedom that I didn't have before in the equation of my own existence.
KAPLAN: That's deep. Can you tell me a little bit about the user-generated aspect of the "Bitch" music video I've heard about?
ALLIE X: It needs to be known that this is called "Xhibit 1." In the glossary of "X" that I have created, "Xhibit" means "Xart"—any media that's created in "X"—is inspired by one central piece. "Bitch" is that one central piece. Partakers—Xhibitionists—will post their "Xart" on whatever "Bitch" means to them. So, it doesn't have to be anything I've said. It's how they react to it. If they take the free download for "Bitch" and they make their own videos, then I put them up on my tumblr and YouTube as an "Xhibit." It's a collective effort, and any time I put an "Xhibit" out, I want that to be the reaction. That's what this whole project is about: giving people a language and a means to express those things that are stuck in their unconscious. It goes beyond wanting people to just buy my records. I'd really like for it to be a world that we can all express ourselves in—in a new way.
TO PARTICIPATE IN ALLIE X'S "XHIBIT," CREATE A VIDEO, IMAGE, GIF OR REMIX INSPIRED BY "BITCH" AND TAG IT #BITCHXART ON TWITTER, YOUTUBE, TUMBLR, OR FACEBOOK. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, PLEASE VISIT HER FACEBOOK PAGE.