Alina Bea Comes Undone
"It’s the same thing over again," Alina Bea starts at the beginning of one of her latest singles, "Get It Off." The song has a darker electronic underbelly than her previously released Live Undone EP yet still carries the complexity imbued consistently throughout her music. But this time things aren't the same. After splitting from her former band and spending an arduous amount of effort defining and refining her own sound, she's come into her own as a multidisciplinary artist. With two feet firmly set into the ground, she'll be performing the final night of her Bootleg residency before finishing preparations for a heavy new year to come.
Bea's sound has a very otherworldly element to it, as if one hand was rooted in outerspace while the other was here on earth putting pen to paper and finger to keyboard. She credits Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel as being two big sources of inspiration, which can clearly be heard in the storytelling quality she crafted in her debut EP's leading track "Everything is Right." Her music serves to tell stories and give commentary on larger themes in an effort to make sense of the madness in the world around us and we're thrilled to be presenting her show tonight at the Bootleg Theater (more details here). We caught up with Bea to discuss her love for sci-fi, her days as a sideshow performer and how the addition of tonight's string ensemble will elevate the performance and give us a taste of what's to come.
Your first show under the name Alina Bea was just over a year ago. In what ways have you grown more comfortable with yourself and your work since your solo stage debut?
Working really hard pretty much nonstop for a year has definitely helped with comfort levels, haha. My band has grown into an incredible force! We’ve had the opportunity to play a ton of shows and experiment with different arrangements. We’ve also been working on new recordings, which have informed the live show. When I started this project, I really threw myself into it in a way that I have never done before. It’s been crazy and difficult, but it’s helped to build my confidence in a big way.
There's a lot of Star Wars references incorporated into your look: a Sith lord outfit at Broke L.A. to your unique hair styles and a Leia Organa look when we first met you at Play Like A Girl. What is it that draws you to sci-fi-esque aesthetic?
I have always been a sci-fi/fantasy nerd and I think that there are several things that draw me to the genre. The idea of voyaging to someplace you’ve never seen before and imagining something greater than what you’ve been given. Curiosity to push yourself beyond your boundaries. Also the post-apocalyptic, tough, armor-like aesthetic. There are a lot of really inspiring female characters in science fiction that have influenced my style: Furiosa from Mad Max, Princess Leia and Rey from Star Wars, LeeLoo from The Fifth Element. All terrific fighters with fierce determination. And great outfits.
You released your EP earlier this year and three new singles within the last month with New Professor Music. What made them the right label to release your music on?
Greg Katz, who runs the label, is an old and great friend who really believes in me. I feel like I am in very good hands, which is a rare and special thing in this business.
Much of your music taps into larger themes like fate, genetics, emotions, etc. Is that something you think of consciously when writing, as in they’re subjects you’re looking to tackle and explore, or are they things you discover later on when analyzing your music?
Yes, these are definitely subjects that I obsess over and try to grapple with in my songs. Fate and genetics have been particularly fascinating to me lately. How much control does a person actually have over their own identity? I am also working on a lot of songs about fighting existential dread. Very dark stuff. But these are dark and scary times that we are living in. With my songwriting, I try to use personal experiences and insights to relate to these larger themes.
The video for “Live Undone” is a visual feast to watch with stunning choreography and compelling live projections throughout. Can you tell us a little more about how that came to be?
It had always been a dream of mine to choreograph and perform in a fully-immersive video à la Kate Bush in her prime. I had worked with Matt Sobel, my friend and a fantastic director, on some videos for my old band, Body Parts. He is a madman and always willing to take on ambitious projects. I brought Kaiman Walker on board to do the projections because he is also a brilliant madman and a true innovator in his field. It took several months of meeting with the two of them to figure out the set and logistical details as well as work out the choreography on my own (something I have never done on this scale). On the shooting day, the projections had to be triggered in real time and perfectly synced with the choreography and the movements of the steadicam, all captured in one shot! Super stressful, but I think we pulled it off!
Speaking of choreography, you also have a host of crazy talents from fire breathing to laying on nail beds. Where did that training come from and what else do you have in your arsenal?
I learned the sideshow stunts when I joined an all-female troupe called The Sideshow Sirens many years ago. I saw one of their shows and was completely blown away by the complexity of emotions that I felt while watching the show: wonder, disgust, admiration, fear. It was so different from my experience playing in and watching bands perform. I found that fascinating and wanted to try it. So the director of the troupe trained me and I performed with them for a couple of years. My acts were straight-jacket escape, walking on broken glass, fire eating and breathing, bed of nails, and “insectivore” (eating bugs). It was a really great experience and definitely strengthened my confidence and level of comfort on stage. When you’ve eaten a worm in front of hundreds of people, you can do anything.
Tell us about one person - whether it be someone you’ve worked with, an artist you admire, friend or stranger - who has been instrumental in helping you grow into the artist you are today.
I know everyone is probably sick of hearing me talk about Kate Bush, but the moment I discovered her truly changed my life forever. Her music and her videos taught me to be fearless in my exploration of new ideas, no matter how weird they might seem. She has this complete commitment to what she does that I find so inspiring and try to emulate.
What’s one of your favorite musical secret weapons and what make it so impactful?
Theo Karon (multi-instrumentalist in my band) is using a cassette four track with tape loops, instead of just playing samples with an digital sampler. The quality of the sound is really specific and unique and I don’t think that most people realize where it’s coming from when they hear it. It’s very detailed work, putting the loops together. But the effect is worth it.
Most artists have a dream of a place they’d love to play, from the Hollywood Bowl to the top of Mount Everest. Where is one place you have always fantasized about performing?
The Hollywood Bowl would be amazing for a number of reasons. First of all, I grew up in Los Angeles. So I’ve seen a lot of incredible artists perform on that stage growing up. But also because it has this special quality of having this tremendously grand size, while still feeling strangely intimate. Everyone is sitting outside together, surrounded by mountains and coyotes. I think it would be really interesting to perform in that environment.
You’re set to be performing with a string ensemble tonight. How will that elevate your live set compared to a normal show?
Theo Karon, my producer and co-writer, wrote the string arrangements for the new songs we’ve been working on. These arrangements make up a huge part of the aesthetic of the new recordings. In a live setting, I think they will add drama and complexity to what we’ve already been presenting on stage. They will also offer a taste of the type of work we’re doing in the studio.
Any big plans for 2017 now that it’s just around the corner?
We are working on finishing a full-length record and will definitely be touring in the new year. I also plan on putting out more choreographed videos.