PREMIERE: Outsider/Unusual by Montreal singer-songwriter Alicia Clara
When we start the interview, Alicia Clara states that she has been in quarantine in her apartment for the last 12 days. Coming back from Europe, where her parents live, she has mostly been spending time inside and is trying to focus her energy on her EP launch. Clara is one of Montreal’s newest promising young artists, and this Friday, she’s releasing her first EP Outsider/Unusual with the local label Hot Tramp Records.
“I decided that I was going to make an EP about a year and a half ago. At first, I wasn’t working with Sarah (Armiento, founder of Hot Tramp). I thought I was going to put it out independently. I didn’t really have any set idea but then I started working with Sarah and then she turned Hot Tramp (management) into a label. I realized that this meant that this was going to be a bit of a bigger deal. I’d already had ‘Five,’ the first single, that I released in November. For the single, I worked remotely during the first confinement with Dylan Konrad Obront from Sorry Girls and then for the rest of the EP I worked with my producer, Michael Kalman.”
Clara’s soft voice cuts through this record and allows us to explore her dreamy universe. She takes us on a tour of her life and emotions. Sensitive, vulnerable and very endearing, her EP is about who she is and how she is trying to understand herself through different tools. The title of her EP, Outsider/Unusual, comes from The Pattern, an astrology app that draws a portrait of your personality.
“It described my instincts and my general character as being an outsider or unusual, meaning I am unconventional and have a hard time relating to others. I thought that if I wanted to survive this jungle, I had to act the way that I thought people wanted normal kids to act. I feel like I’ve always done things that I knew people around me would find acceptable. I studied something I wasn’t that passionate about. I worked in internships that I wasn’t that passionate about either, just because it felt like it was the normal thing, the acceptable thing to do. I felt like I was just watching my life go by. I felt like a bystander in my own life.”
Clara states that she decided to take her future in hand and to pursue music, her passion, as a career. Outsider/Unusual is her coming-of-age record, a collection of songs in which she realizes that her greatest strength is being who she is, completely, freely, andopenly.
Alicia Clara sat with us and walked us through every one of the songs of her new EP in an exclusive listening session. Cult MTL is premiering Outsider/Unusual in exclusivity ahead of its release on Feb. 19.
“When I wrote this song, I was in month two of the first confinement, I think, and I had been staying with my uncles, and it felt like I was back to being 15 and stuck in a room. I was bored more than usual and it kind of brought back all these feelings. Once something excited me a little bit, it would fade away quite quickly because I was just never really that passionate about something. That’s what one of the first verses is about and it explains how I look at astrology sometimes to understand myself better, or just, like, find reasons for whatever happens to me. Whatever I do, I’ll go like, ‘Oh, the stars..’ and it can provide some sort of comfort and knowing that there might be a reason for the things that have been happening to me.
“For a long time, I was kind of waiting for that Eureka moment, where I’d find what I want to do with my life, but it never came. This song is kind of acknowledging that I cannot keep on waiting for that moment. I just need to save myself. I’m talking to myself when I say I need you to save me. It’s like, I just need to get up, and seize my life.”
“I wrote this while I was walking home from work last June. There was no lockdown and we were kind of back to having a sort of normal life. I reminisced about times with friends when we would drink in parks in the summer. I thought about how I missed this. I missed having drinks, drinks with a crush and kind of making myself elusive to show them that maybe they can’t have me or just to try and make them want me, which is kind of stupid in a way.
“It’s like when you really want someone but they’re too busy, trying to get other fishes, trying to make excuses and thinking that they’ll see that I’m better than them. It’s not the case. You end up fooling yourself. The whole song is about how you shouldn’t try to change people because you can’t change people.”
“Flowers Were Better”
“Before I wrote this song, I never was able to put it back into context because I woke up with a line in my head and I was always trying to find it. I was trying to find why I chose this line and I actually came to the conclusion that it was kind of like sometimes what might seem nice on the outside doesn’t mean everything’s fine underneath.
“What is sad about this song is that the demo I made of it the day I released ‘Closing Time at the Gates,’ my laptop died. It just died. I took it to the Apple Store and then they told me that they lost all data. I had done a backup, but only like two months earlier. So the demo of ‘Flowers Were Better’ is lost forever.”
“Stones Like Eyes”
“‘Stones Like Eyes’ is actually the oldest song on the record. I wrote it a year and a half ago and honestly, I still don’t know why I wrote it! I was thinking I know what it’s about, but it’s abstract in my mind. There is a subconscious part of me that believes that things will eventually naturally unfold into a happy ending. As I grew older, I realized that this is not gonna happen.
“I used to think that one day we’ll go back in time and we’ll make things fine. But no, it’s not going to happen. The verses are sort of more realistic, me saying that we were supposed to stay forever, but we’re not, we’re already gone. It’s nobody’s fault. We’re being blinded by the cool things in life. When you think about it, we’re just like a piece of dust in the universe. So we were not almighty, powerful or anything like this. We’re trying to convince ourselves that, at least, everything’s gonna be fine one day, but I don’t know. It’s actually a pretty pessimistic song.”
“‘Five’ is the first song I wrote two weeks after I started confining at my uncle’s place. I had just learned this little guitar trick because I’m not a great guitarist. I just learned to do that. It was like ‘Hell yes! Trying to write a little riff!’ The story behind this song is that I woke up one morning, remembering this dream I had in which one of my exes was dying. It’s someone I’ve not talked to in a while, and probably never will again. I had been angry at this person for a while. But in this dream, I wasn’t angry anymore. I was at his deathbed, holding his hand and telling him that he was going to be fine. I woke up and thought to myself that I had forgiven him.”
“There’s one little thing about this song that I’ve decided and it is that I wasn’t going to tell anyone what exactly it means for me. It’s super personal. However I do feel that this song could be understood on a lot of different levels. So depending on where you are and what your situation is, you could adapt it to whatever it means for you. Take whatever you want from it.
“I did realize, though, after writing it, that it sounds a bit like I’m talking about like a string of insignificant lovers, but that’s not what it is. But if that’s what it is for someone out there, that’s cool! I guess the song embodies for me that you have not learned everything, and you probably never will and it’s fine. I thought it made sense to close on this one.”
Outsider/Unusual by Alicia Clara
Outsider/Unusual will be released on Friday, Feb. 19 on all platforms. For more about Alicia Clara, please visit her Bandcamp page.
For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.
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