If you’re rubbing your head vigorously to the name Alison Sudol then perhaps A Fine Frenzy will sound more familiar. That is in fact the stage name for the California native singer and songwriter. It’s been nearly three years since the literature inspired and eccentric vocalist released an album, but with Pines I believe the anticipation has been eased. Described as an artist who’s always incorporated authenticity in regards to her musical concept and lyrics, A Fine Frenzy is one of those intriguing people with an interesting story to tell. Just listen to her Pines and immediately you’ll feel as if you’re joining her on a special journey.
Alison is currently busy promoting her third album but has taken the time to grant us an exclusive interview. It is quite a pleasure having such a talent on EY, so by all means check out her latest music video for Avalanches, and continue below to learn more about A Fine Frenzy and the woman behind the name:
I read that you have a passion for literature. So, when did music become your main focus and do you incorporate your love for literature in your songs?
I’ve loved stories since I was little girl. I loved being transported by words to another time, another place, another life. Literature made the world a magical place, made the past something I could touch and taste and feel and the future something to look forward to. I started singing when I was 11 and grew more and more serious about it over the years, until it was my sole focus. At that point, when I was about 15 or 16, I started to lose touch with my love of literature, and all I could think about was music. It wasn’t until I wrote almost lover (when I was 19) that I realized I could bring my two loves together, and tell stories with music… Every book I’ve read has given me a little gift to carry into my songwriting- whether it’s a new use of language, and exploration of an unfamiliar emotion, an interesting way to approach a phrase, or just some beautiful mood that I want to try to capture in my own way.
Your stage name is actually taken from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What’s the story behind that decision?
It was a small decision at the time that turned into a long-lasting one. I just wanted a name for the music, something that would distinguish it from me as a person, and went looking for one high and low. And then a sonnet from A Midsummer’s Night Dream peeked out of a page of a book amongst many books spread out over my parents’ kitchen table. It read, “The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven; and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name…”
And that was that.
Describe your style and what you stand for?
A little bit forest, a little bit sea, a little clouds… a few shipwrecks, some shooting stars, a hot cup of coffee in cold hands… love, loneliness, the facing of both fears and joy, and the ceaseless pursuit of magic.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Nick Drake, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Karen Dalton, Simon and Garfunkel, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Bob Dylan, Fats Waller, Sigur Ros, Satie…
How does Pines differ in terms of concept and depicts how you’ve evolved as an artist since your previous two releases ?
Well, the whole record was consciously written as a story, which was uncharted territory for me. It was a challenge in every way- creatively, emotionally, personally, trying to learn how to be an objective storyteller, tying one piece into the next in the shape of a larger narrative, while somehow trying to be more present and raw and immediate within each song. I think there’s also a lot more space in Pines. It’s the first time I’ve felt truly comfortable with silence, and breath, and allowing a song to stretch a little, even sprawl… It was an exercise in letting go, and something that I’ve incorporated into my life as well. I think there’s a lot of power in taking a moment to be where you are, when you are, and maybe even wander a little.
The new album’s accompanied by the release of a book and a short animated film, The Story of Pines. Could you tell us why you took such an approach and how both relate to the album?
I found a world when I wrote the record and I wanted to explore it more. The book explores the fable side of the story in depth, and the illustrations help you get to know the lay of the land in more visual detail. The Story of Pines film is like a little hug, a distillation of the heart of the story, with living breathing characters that you can see and hear and almost touch… And frankly, I just wanted to see Bird fly, and hear him talk…
You were involved in the creation of this album, as well as your previous, greatly. Writing as well as production. Do you ever feel pressured when recording a new album?
Of course, there’s always pressure. No one can put more pressure on me than I can on myself. What I’ve learned is that it’s all in how you deal with it. There’s never going to be no pressure. Just standing in front of a microphone is pressure in and of itself. But you can use that pressure as a challenge, something to push off and rise above- in which case, it’s healthy. It’s good to have a little friction. Anything that’s too easy gets boring quickly. The pressure I stay clear of is that which tries to push me towards being something other than who I am, or doing something that I don’t believe in. That kind generally comes down to fear- fear that I’m not good enough, or able enough… just not enough in general. Fear-based pressure is a silent killer of all things good, healthy, bright, magical and spontaneous. It doesn’t lead to growth, it makes you smaller. It erodes your trust in yourself. I’ve had that kind put on me plenty of times in my life, enough to know it doesn’t work. I just brush that stuff aside now and try not to let it bother me. I’m rubber, it’s glue… that kind of thing.
How do you balance music and having a separate life outside of being an artist?
I try to set aside time in the day for non-musical things, like nature and health, and the people that I care about. I think the thing that’s easy to forget is that all parts of life need cultivation in order to continue to bear fruit. I find that when I give all my attention and focus to music, the rest of my life tends to fall apart, and once that happens, music falls apart too. Then I’m just a great big mess and no fun at all to be around. It’s a disastrous spiral. I’m incredibly lucky to have extraordinary people in my life that I love very much, and loving them makes living a wonderful thing to be doing. I love making music, but it wasn’t until I allowed myself to love the world that I was actually happy, and fulfilled. At the end of my life, I’ll judge my success not by the amount of records I sold or how much money I did or didn’t make, but who I spent it with, and how.
Aside from going on tour and promoting Pines, any other projects in the works?
Oh yes. Definitely. Always 🙂
I guess you’re keeping that a secret. Thank you for taking the time, Alison. Please leave a message for your fans.
My pleasure! You inspire me every day, with your stories, support, love and loyalty. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for caring.
Check out my Pines review
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Credits: emimusicpublicity + angelaandithyle.com