‘Be Whatever You Feel’ – Alison Wonderland Talks ‘Bad Things’, Her Fans & Being Free
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 Words by Amar Gera / Image via Natalie Imgraben //

One of our greatest exports…

The creative journey is one fraught with peril, defined by endless growth. And if they’re lucky, one day an artist will get to a place where they can look back on all of their tribulations, and gently exhale as they realise that the countless hours of hard work paid off. Sydney’s Alison Wonderland has been through it all, overcome every obstacle you could possibly think of, but it’s clear she doesn’t need luck. It’s clear that the absolutely relentlessness with which she grinds, the never-ending heart she gives to her fans and the frequency with which she bares her soul is more powerful than any divine intervention. She’s a sonic and artistic powerhouse, and most importantly, she’s completely, unapologetically herself, hence why she’s one of the most groundbreaking and inspiring artists of her generation.

Her latest tune ‘Bad Things’ (out today) sees Alison continue to dig deep and let fans in on the struggles she goes through in everyday life, displaying a lush masterclass in confessional storytelling. Not to mention, it features one of the most euphoric and emotion-inducing drops of the year, one that would without a doubt be truly cathartic to see live. We also gotta give some shine to the music video too, which totally immerses us in the vibrancy of her vision, and is easily one of her most transportive visuals to date. It’s all got us missing the magic of live music even more than we already do, but the wait until we return to normal is gonna be a hell of a lot easier now. Especially when we’ve got Alison, in all of her honest artistry, helping to keep us inspired.

We caught up with the homegrown talent (and highest ever female DJ billed at Coachella) to get the deets on ‘Bad Things’, suss how she’s doing over in the States and ask her first hand what her fans mean to her. Of course, the following conversation is gorgeously honest and real, and just goes to show the purity of her spirit, the purity of an artist that just wants to create, and give her all to the people she loves most.

Check it below.

How are you going! How have you been managing during the craziness of 2020?

Honestly, I feel like every time someone asks someone how they’re going, they’re just like, “I’m going. I’m surviving.” [laughs] That’s like the main answer in 2020.

I’m actually okay though, I’m taking advantage of being home. I’ve just been writing a lot. It’s easier for me to write and make music when I’m not on the road, so it’s kind of a bad situation that I’m just trying to make the best of. It kind of sucks though, because I really miss home. And I wish I could see my family, but it’s so hard to travel at the moment. It’s really not under control where I’m at, we’re still kind of quarantining at home.

Is it really hard being away from home?

Dude I’m so homesick, you have no idea. I found this place in L.A. that makes Milo, cause there’s no Milo in America. And that’s what I order every day. I swear to God, like I actually put some on Instagram recently. I’m literally only drinking Milo. It’s… I’m so homesick. My mum Facetimes me every day. I just really miss everything about home. And the coffee as well, just everything. So, yeah. As you can hear, I’m really homesick, and I wanna come home so bad [laughs].

I saw the pic you posted on your IG last week on the day you were meant to play Red Rocks. Was eating Ben & Jerrys and Doritos in the bath as exciting as it looked?

Honestly, yes! I know people think things are done for Instagram, but for real, I had a bath that day, and just drank and ate. Like that wasn’t a lie, I definitely had a cry as well [laughs]. I was genuinely so upset about Red Rocks because, I mean, I don’t know how to explain it if you haven’t been there, but it’s… It’s honestly my goal venue, and I got to play it twice last year as a headline act, and that was probably a bigger show than Coachella for me.

I had so much planned for this year, but I would rather people be safe. And I’d rather come back next year, with an extra year to prepare for the show, and have way more music. I’m just gonna try to make the best I can out of this. Because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and for me to make that about not being able to play a show would be terrible. But I definitely did have a very big party in my bath, and I asked my friend, I was like, “Can you please come take a photo of me?” Which is why I was wearing a T-shirt. [laughs].

Now, I want to say thank you for ‘Bad Things’! It’s really dope to be able to sort of recapture that festival, moshpit atmosphere at home. Did writing it help you recreate that feeling of being on stage? Or that feeling of festival season?

I actually wrote the song before the pandemic. There was originally no drop or anything. When I’m songwriting, I’ll sit and I’ll just write the lyrics and the melody to a piano or a guitar, and that’s how ‘Bad Things’ started. I was like, “Holy shit, this could be really dope.” And I really had a vision for it. And I wanted it to be something that was quite epic and build up to an arpeggiated synth in the drop. I wasn’t so much trying to make a festival vibe song though. It was just more capturing the spirit of what I was writing about.

‘Bad Things’ is kind of a rebirth to me. It’s not a negative song at all. It’s actually me kind of being like, “Okay, get rid of anything toxic in your life, and be grateful because you’re alive, and you should start reminding yourself why you’re here.” That’s basically what it’s about.

So, it was a big… It was a big thing for me to write that. And I wanted the music to kind of sound like a rebirth, like something very epic.

The video for the tune is so trippy and badass, but it also just feels so you, even more so than the ‘Peace’ vid last year. What was your inspiration for when writing the clip?

Basically, I saw myself, like even when I was writing the song on guitar, I saw myself in a bed. And I always thought that… I’m very visual when I write, and I always thought that I was gonna be in a bed at the start, if we ever filmed something. And then I wanted it to zoom out, and have me in this crazy field. As if I’m not actually in a bedroom.

And I wanted myself to feel as free as I could, and in a completely other world. Which, again, is just like me kind of letting go and just being as free as I can, and being okay with being by myself. And obviously, I really like trippy visuals. It’s a thing for me. And I wanted to kind of encapsulate what it feels like when you are tripping. I was really wanting to be in a Bizarro world that’s way more colourful and moving way more different than usual.

So that’s kind of how the video came about, and I always saw myself multiplying in it. There’s this whole concept that I’m writing about at the moment, about being okay with being by myself, and getting to know myself again. So I think that video kinda represented that, you know, feeling free and tripping out on your own. Just exploring everything and running around.

That drop is so damn euphoric and uplifting. The whole tune feels like it would close out a set so perfectly. With all this time in lockdown, have you got any new ideas for the live show at all?

 I’m constantly getting ideas for the show. I feel like every time I play a show I’m evolving. Like last year, I brought out strings, drums and everything for Red Rocks. But I definitely think for this one, visuals are gonna be really important. Especially because I want people to feel euphoric in that drop. So I don’t know, we’ll see once I start hashing it out properly. But I definitely can’t wait to play it. This is just such a sucky time with no music festivals happening. And festivals are such a happy place for most people, so it’s hard.

Being someone who really thrives on performing and that aspect of being an artist, what’s it been like to have been away from the stage for so long?

Honestly, it’s been so strange for me. If you’ve been following my career, you’d know I’ve been touring non-stop since I started. Even when I was a local DJ, that’s all I was doing, just playing shows. So, I have my decks set up at home, and I just vibe out around here sometimes and just have a bit of fun [laughs].

But I really do miss it. I miss traveling, I miss meeting people and the excitement. I miss the nerves as well, that’s kinda what keeps me alive. But at the same time, this is the first time I’ve ever really spent a solid amount of time in one place in a long, long time. I’m just trying to live in the moment. I think like the best thing about being a touring artist is it’s really easy for you to adapt. Because usually, one minute I’ll wake up in one country, then I’ll get up at 5 a.m. and go to another country, and it’ll be like “Oh, this is what we’re doing today” or “Oh, this is where we are.” For me, I’m just very adaptable, so I think once everything comes back… I’m just excited about all the music everyone’s making right now. I think a lot of artists struggle with making music on the road. So whatever’s about to come out is gonna be really amazing, and I think it’s gonna be a really pivotal period for music.

But I definitely miss it more than anyone will ever now. Every time someone sends me a video of a show, I get emo. Because the adrenaline that you get from doing that is kind of unlike anything else.

 I love how you’ve been keeping us updated and have kept assuring us that new music is on the way. Do you feel a sort of duty to your fans to let them know you’re still creating? To give them something to look forward to?

 I’d never say I feel any duty to my fans… I feel like I’m just a sharing person anyways. So when I get excited, I have no filter, so everything… Like, if you read my Twitter, that’s just me. That’s like the most me, I’m very much what I am online, I just wanna share. And if I’m excited about a track, or I’ve been working in the studio with someone, I’m gonna say something. Sometimes I can’t, but most of the time I will.

I just feel really connected to my fans. I always wanna share with them. It’s almost like a little family going on there with everyone. It’s a really nice story. They’re the people I wanna tell stuff to.

Just focusing on your relationship with your fans, every time I’ve seen you live there’s been a connection you have with the crowd that feels so unique. It feels like you’re really trying to give all of yourself to us. What are those moments like from up on the stage?

Aww. Literally the exact same. I feel like I’m in a tiny room with all of you. It’s the exact same for me. I always feel like I’m giving everything, every time. I’m glad that you… I’m glad that translates. Thank you [laughs].

Is it sort of healing in a sense?

Yeah it is. I feel like it’s the only time I’m not really thinking about anything, or wondering if I look weird or if I’m saying anything weird. The only time I don’t think about any of that is when I’m on stage. I don’t even care. I’m just kind of up there, letting go, and I honestly don’t even feel like I’m on earth when I’m up there [laughs]. I think a lot of artists actually say that, beacause being on stage is like a different thing altogether.

But yeah, I don’t really feel like conscious, but I still am, and then there’s this connection I feel as well. It all sounds really weird.

It sounds wonderful.

I just don’t know how else to explain it [laughs].

You once said that performing is “the most honest version” of yourself. Is there a “most honest” show you’ve ever played? And if so, what’s the most honest thing you’ve communicated up there?

Honestly, I would say most of my shows… I’d say like all of my shows are honest. It’s hard for me to choose. There are some shows that I’ve definitely had to put a lot more work in than others, but even… It doesn’t matter if I’m playing a warehouse, Red Rocks, or Coachella. Like, for me, being honest is a part of my performance, so I can’t really pinpoint that.

But I do feel like it’s sometimes important for me to send a message to the crowd. That, you know, “This is where you’re able to let go, and it’s a judgment-free zone. It’s okay to feel things, and everything will get better.” And I do think that’s a really important thing to talk about. As everyone freaking knows, I’ve struggled a lot with my mental health. But I’m definitely getting a lot better. I’m working on that. But I… I try to be there for people, and I try to bring that to my shows.

And I want everyone to feel included at my shows. Whatever you identify as, or whatever you wanna wear, or however you wanna dance. I don’t want it to be pretentious, and that’s kind of my main thing. And if people are gonna come to my shows and judge those people, then they’re really not welcome [laughs].

Just capping off, you’re so unapologetically yourself. From your music, style, personality and even as an activist. Has that always been the case?

100%. The good thing about having a long career like I have, and it’s still kind of moving, is that you can look back and see that I’m the same now as I was then. But I’m definitely a lot wiser now [laughs]. And I have a car now, so there’s that [laughs].

But I feel like I have a strong sense to… If I have a platform, like if a lot of people watching, I wanna make sure that I do something positive with it, and not kind of use it for narcissistic purposes. I don’t give a fuck about materialistic things. Except for the car, the car is pretty cool. I can drive around now [laughs]. But I honestly find it more fulfilling to kind of make a difference as much as I can, and I think that the people that don’t speak up during those times… those people kind of suck.

Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone trying to embrace their artistry and all that they are, but aren’t totally comfortable in their own skin yet? 

 I have so much advice. Fear is like the one thing that’s gonna stop you, so you have to take risks. Be yourself, don’t try and be what you think people want you to be. Be whatever you feel, and if it makes you feel something special, that’s the right thing. And take the time to experiment. Take the time to learn your craft.

You don’t have to be in a rush. It’ll happen when it happens, and you’re going to hear a lot of no’s before you hear yes’, and I say this a lot. You are. It happened to me, and you just have to keep going if you really believe in yourself, and just honestly be as real as you can. Because you can tell everybody you put all of yourself into your art, but at the end of the day, you’re the only one that’s gonna know that.

Alison Wonderland’s new tune ‘Bad Things’ is out now, along with the accompanying music video. You buy/stream it here.

 

Words by Amar Gera September 24, 2020
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