Photo: Marcus Cooper

Allie X

For the past decade, the name Allie X has been a multidimensional force behind not only her own music but for our favorite artists. Born Alexandra Ashley Hughes, the Canadian creative has had pop fans gripped by her eccentric visuals, insightful lyrics, explosive hooks, and uncompromising artistry. And luckily for us all, there is a whole lot more still to come.

Turning heads with the 2014 synth-pop classic “Catch,” Allie soon became pop’s latest obsession after dropping her fascinating first two projects CollXtion I and CollXtion II. Continuing to capture the attention of a growing, loyal fanbase who have watched her evolve over the years, Allie arrived in 2018 with the heavenly concept EP, Super Sunset, before dropping her avant-garde sophomore album, Cape God, in 2020. While busy embarking on world tours, Allie has been known to lend a helping hand to many established musicians, writing songs for the likes of Troye Sivan, The Vamps, Leland, and BTS.

Four years on from her last album and Allie is back with her most exciting body of work to date: Girl with No Face. Due February 23rd, fans are days away from witnessing Allie in what might be considered her magnum opus. With heavy involvement in the production of all 11 songs, this is the first project since CollXtion I in which she has a producer credit on every song. “I needed to make something that came completely from me. If only once, and if only to prove to myself that I could do it,” she previously said in a press release. “I would describe these songs as angry, stubborn, honest, dry, melodramatic, fast, and indulgent… the same way some people describe me. I hope everyone likes it but if not, try turning it up a bit.” 

Ahead of the album’s release, EUPHORIA. sat down with Allie to discuss Girl with No Face’s creative process, the inspiration behind particular tracks, the song with Tove Lo that never made the cut, and her fears associated with touring.

Photo: Marcus Cooper

Congratulations on your third studio album, Girl With No Face. You’re really close to unleashing it into the world. How are you feeling? 

Good! Especially with this one, I do feel quite good about it. It’s such a long time coming. I just wanna get it off my chest and get that crucial part of the equation, which is the audience. It becomes something else once there’s an audience and I’m ready for it to make that transition.

It’s your first self-produced album. For that reason, does it feel like your most rewarding too?

I just feel so proud that I managed to get it done [laughs]. I did have a little bit of help at the end there with a fella named Justin Meldal-Johnsen. I definitely couldn’t have gotten it completed without him, but largely the process was me alone in a room for years and I really didn’t think I was gonna make it during a lot of points. It will be very gratifying to have it out in the world. I can’t say that response doesn’t matter. If this was like my most hated album for some reason, it probably would change how I feel about it. I just can’t help that. Or if it was my most celebrated and successful, that would probably have a bearing as well.

You’re very interactive with your fans and always have been. Media-wise, are you someone who likes to read your own press?

Yeah. I’ve never had an experience where I’ve been completely brutalized in the press. So maybe if I had I wouldn’t. Generally, I’m reading my reviews and the articles that come out about it. One thing I’m avoiding is fan forums, like, that is too much for me. That is a bit too intense. I made a mistake of looking once, years ago, and I was like, never again [laughs]. But other than that I generally do read and I’ll even search myself on Twitter just to see what the honest opinion is. I feel like that’s a good place to sort of see if fans truly like it or if they’re just saying that they are when they’re tagging you.

You previously explained this album has no clear theme or concept. Was that a cautious decision or did it just work out that way? 

You probably read that in the Rolling Stone article that came out in October. And at that point, I hadn’t really wrapped my head around it enough. That interview came a bit early for me. At this point, I would say that it is more sort of thematically and conceptually together in my head. For me, this one is about this whole process of making it and sort of where I’m at now. I feel that this was a transition in my life that kind of liberated me. The act of taking on all creative responsibility as well as most business responsibility in the last few years, for better or for worse, has completely taken the reigns on my own life and my own career. It’s kind of giving myself a blank slate and a fresh start in terms of absolutely everything coming from me. I guess conceptually in the music, there’s a lot of identity exploration as usual because I always kind of have an aspect of that in my records. There’s definitely an element of fantasy and layers of anger being released. I would say Girl with No Face, as a concept, has something to do with this seed inside of me that I uncovered over the course of a few years. She almost became another presence in the room that guided me through writing it.

I remember you said in a 2020 interview that you were still on a journey to discovering yourself. Now that it’s four years, I was wondering how much has changed during the creative process of this album?

Yeah, I do think a lot changed. I think I just let certain things be about myself now that I wanted to hide before or wanted to change. I now just sort of let it be. I’m trying to be very honest with both my fans and with the press or with anyone in the industry that I speak to. That would probably be the thing I would identify as the biggest change in me.

Photo: Marcus Cooper

The latest release, “Off With Her Tits,” is having a moment with fans and even new listeners on TikTok. What’s it like witnessing that in real-time?

It’s good. I mean, these are really good numbers for me. They’re still not numbers that are like taking the world by storm or anything, but for my standards and, and what I hope for, I’m very happy with them. I felt really glad that the community just got it and that I didn’t have to explain anything, really. It was just sort of understood. And I feel like that song is very me. I feel like I found a tone there that found a balance between darkness and then just ridiculousness and camp. I was able to get some monkeys off my back by making fun of them basically, you know? That’s been a really gratifying process for me to release this song.

There are so many standouts on the first listen and I wanted to talk about a few of them. Let’s start with the opening track, “Weird World.” Tell me about this song.

That was the first song I wrote for the album because “Girl with No Face,” the seed of that started in 2014, so I guess technically that’s the oldest song, but “Weird World” was the first one that I sat down and wrote for this project in the summer of 2020 where I was like, “Oh, I think there’s something here. I think this is worth pursuing as a body of work.” The reference to 1984 and the lyrics, it’s got dystopian themes. I think without me knowing it, it really set the stage for what became sort of a theme of my writing over the next few years, which was coming to terms with reality and sort of seeing the world differently than I thought it was. And then dealing with all the emotions that came with that.

You previously mentioned when announcing the album that one of the songs had an “early Madonna” vibe. Were you referring to “Galina?”

Yes! I’m specifically referring to the synth baseline because if you listen to those early Madonna records, whoever was producing those baselines or play or the session player that was doing them, they were so all over the place and brilliant. I really was thinking about that type of synth face when I programmed that line. I don’t know if the melody or anything is very Madonna but I definitely took inspiration from the track.

“Hardware Software” is an obvious standout just for its production alone. It’s so wacky, I love it. 

I was watching, I forget what film it was, it was some French film and I was listening to the soundtrack and realizing that French contemporary music, not pop music, but contemporary classical, they have these really wacky chord progressions and modulations and voicings. The next morning I sat down and I was like, “I wanna try to write that kind of voicing.” That’s where that came from. I just rapped over it and then “Hardware Software” came out. It is a whole another level of wacky. It was kind of just an improvised half-day at my parents’ house. I wrote that and thought, “Yeah, I think this could be on the album” [laughs].

“Saddest Smile” is very dreamy and kind of reminds me of Goldfrapp. It’s the only slow number. Was it important for you to bring down the pace on an album that’s so energetic? 

Interesting. I was thinking of Giorgio Moroder and the Cocteau Twins with the production. Here’s a little bit of tea, actually. When I was finishing this, we had 10 tracks and we had two more to choose from and we only had time to do one. So it was either gonna be “Saddest Smile” or this other song that I wrote with Tove Lo, but that one is clubby and Dancey but I felt like I need to put on something that just gives it more of a tempo dynamic so I chose “Saddest Smile.”

Photo: Marcus Cooper

Will we ever get to hear this song with Tove Lo? Now that you’ve revealed that, people are going to be asking!

I know! I wanted to plant a little goss there. I hope so. We’ll see.

What was it like working with her? Was this the first time?

We’ve done a few sessions together. Nothing’s ever come out but I really like writing with Tove.

Was there any reason why you wanted to close the album with “Truly Dreams?”

Because it’s the only one that’s a bit of a more of an optimistic song. Whereas the other ones are a bit of a punch you in the face, punch you in the gut, take off your tits, take off your face, you know, at the end of this, the record I wanted to say, “But I’ll keep dreaming.” 

As someone who has heard all your records, it feels as if the 80’s has continuously been a reference sonically and it’s as if this album is no different. Do you think that’s fair to say?

I didn’t mean it this way, but this is sort of seen as a sister record to Super Sunset. The ‘80s is my favorite genre of music and then on this record, because I did it by myself, I just thought, well, why not just indulge in all my favorite things? Not only did I reference the ‘80s, but I got really into like a specific period in a specific place in the eighties. By that, I mean mostly what was going on in the UK in the early ‘80s and even the late ‘70s. That period of Kraftwerk into New Order and other bands sort of around that time really fascinated me. Then it got me thinking, what gear were they using? Can I afford to buy that piece of gear? Can I find something similar? And I didn’t really use plugins. I wanted it to sound pretty authentically of that time in terms of the production. I didn’t want modern-sounding radio drums. I didn’t want really low lows on the low end. I wanted it to sound like something that was produced at that time.

You tend to tour your albums. You’ve already got in-store record shop appearances planned. Is a tour announcement on the horizon?

I’d like to but I’m also like scared to tour. I’m scared of the loss of money and I’m scared of getting sick again. I had to cancel a big tour in 2022. I feel like I can’t afford to do that to people again. Like, I don’t wanna lose. So I don’t know. And I have PTSD about the whole thing but I also love to perform and promote my stuff, so I’m struggling with it actually at the moment. We’re looking into touring, but we haven’t made a final decision.

Lastly, what are you hoping listeners will take away from the album when they do hear it?

You know, first and foremost, I think what I always want listeners to take away is a sense of belonging. A sense of feeling something. I like them to have their own personal experience. I don’t need it to be all about me. I think once music has an audience, it’s meant to become something else. So that would be my first wish is that it gives people some relief or it gives them a chance to express themselves or it gives them something to relate to, something to cry to, something to laugh to. But my second wish, on a personal note, would be that I just put something out there that really represents who I am and very authentically who I am. That chance for me to be seen and understood would be the secondary thing that I would wish for. I think that’s the great privilege of being an artist, is having a chance to really like, take your feelings, put them in the world and have people say, “Yeah, I understand that, I see you,” you know?