Alison Wonderland on her “Most Life Changing Album” To Date
The Aussie musician sits down with V to chat about concert visuals, Shakespeare’s wisdom and her latest album, Loner.
The Aussie musician sits down with V to chat about concert visuals, Shakespeare’s wisdom and her latest album, Loner.
Text: Kala Herh
It’s a new era for Alison Wonderland. Not only has the critically-acclaimed producer been yanked through a pandemic like the rest of us, but she’s also recovered from a set of painful personal experiences. And yet, here she is, better than ever. Her latest album, Loner, serves as a testament to her strength. Painfully honest and beautifully crafted, the album takes us through her personal journey to triumph. And as we each grapple to find our footing after the last few years, Loner has arrived to remind us to look ahead at a better tomorrow.
“My life was going a certain way before something pulled everything out from under me,” she shares. “It left me entirely alone, and it all happened around the same time as COVID. I felt like I had hit my rock bottom.”
It was during this time of solitude and looking inward that inspired the current album and its title, Loner. Unwilling to let the darkness characterize her life, she channeled all her energy into music. Despite the title’s negative connotations, Alison says it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but rather something that can spur personal growth.
“What got me out of this was being a loner and doing it alone,” she shares with V. “It made me stronger. I want people to see this and know that you can take a very bad situation and turn it into the best thing.”
Alison has always worn her heart on her sleeve when it comes to music making and this project is no different. Her lyrics are sincere and raw – so much so that it feels like we’re reading entries from her diary instead of listening to produced songs. It is an intimate look at an artist who’s at the top of her game – with no signs of stopping.
Featuring a dozen songs, this album is one of the most authentic looks into the artist’s psyches. The album kicks off with “Forever” and “Safe Life,” which are heartfelt introspectives into her lived experience over the past few years. And as we reach the end of the tracklist with “Loner,” Wonderland reminds us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And despite how hard it may seem now, it will get better.
“The subject of this album was a lot heavier for me,” she elaborates. “It is probably the most life changing album I've ever written for myself personally.”
Earlier this year, Alison took her new songs for a spin at the Avant Gardner in New York. Her production was as explosive as it is delicate, complete with booming live percussionists and mesmerizing visuals. And to a crowd of roaring fans, she performed festival classics like “I Want U” and newer work like “Fuck U Love U” and “New Day.”
“There were some points during that show where I couldn't hear anything,” she laughs. “Everyone was so loud and I was just thinking, 'Oh sh*t, New York f*cks.'”
Before the release, we caught up with Alison, whose real name is Alexandra Scholler, to get an insight into her creative process.
V Magazine: Congrats on your new album! What was your songwriting process for Loner?
ALISON WONDERLAND: I wrote it during the pandemic, so I was alone doing it. I'm always going to evolve because I'm a different person from when I started making music. But I will say every single time I write an album, it's from a very deep personal place and that doesn't change. The subject of this album was a lot heavier for me. It is probably the most life changing album I've ever written for myself personally. When I was writing this, it was like, 'I'm not going to victimize myself. I'm going to come out and I'm going to win during this situation. I'm going to be happy.' And that's what my goal was writing this.
V: Yeah, when I was listening to the album for the first time that definitely came through. Is there a specific way we should listen to it?
AW: I put the songs in order for a reason and I spent a lot of time working out the order. It’s telling a story and I want you to go on a journey with me. Also, track five ["I'm Doing Great Now Thanks (Interlude)"], make sure you play the last part backward.
V: I will definitely do that after the call. In general, what role has music played in your life?
AW: Music is all I’ve had my entire life. I’ve always gone to songs and music for when I’m not feeling good or to help me get motivated. Music has always been a really good friend to me. I think a lot of people will agree with that because music is very powerful. That being said, therapy is good for you. You should go to therapy, but music is a really big outlet for me. Writing songs is a very cathartic experience and whenever I finish a song, I always feel a certain way. It feels like an emotional cleanse. I’ve acknowledged and spoken about what I needed to and it feels like there’s a weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders.
V: I read that you said the album acknowledges the darkness, but also creates its own euphoria through it. Can you elaborate on that?
AW: I always think about this thing that my dad told me when he was trying to get me to appreciate Shakespeare when I was a kid. He was telling me that in every Shakespearean play, whether it be tragedy, comedy, historical, or love story, there was always a pattern and it was reminiscent of life. It always has order and then it goes into disorder, and then it goes back into order, but the order is a more evolved order. So in order to get a more evolved order, you need the disorder to re-rewire everything and learn from it and move forward. I think about that a lot. I think about the philosophy of clarity a lot and how two extremes are actually the same thing. Extreme hot and extreme cold are the exact same thing. They're so extreme that they become the same thing. So in terms of going through stuff in life, you need to have this acknowledgement because it actually helps you evolve and create a better, more insightful version of yourself.
V: That’s a good way to think about it. And I want to talk about a specific song, “Something Real” on the album. Can you bring us through that song and the themes?
AW: Well, first of all, it’s the only love song I’ve ever written. It’s also the last song that I finished for the album. When I had originally written the song, it only had half a verse and a bit of a chorus, but I didn’t really resonate with what I had written about. I had changed since I’d written it and at the end of the album, I was in a better place. I had never thought I would meet anyone amazing and I did and it turned that song into this. I had to make a lot of changes in myself to get to this point but because I had done that and I was in a better place mentally. This song is a different song for me in terms of the sonics. It’s a lot softer and I didn’t think anyone would even care about this track, but when I played it to a bunch of people, they were all saying, ‘This song is hitting me and making me really happy.’ I didn’t really think that this song would be the song, but I love it. It makes me happy because I wrote about something so good and purely positive. The album is actually about a very different situation to that, so it’s funny that this snuck in at the end, but I guess that’s what I always wanted.
V: Yeah for sure. It’s a banger so it all worked out for the best. You also had two sold-out concerts at the Avant Gardner in Brooklyn. What was it like to perform some of your new songs there for the first time? Also, what was the energy of the New York crowd?
AW: I forgot how crazy New York is. It was insane seeing everyone singing all the songs. Even though there were thousands of people there, it felt like just me and two people. It just felt so intimate. When you take such a long break from touring, you get in your own head and you're just like, 'Do people even listen to my music?' So when I finally get to a show, I'm always like, 'Are we going to vibe.' But it was insane. There were some points during that show where I couldn't hear anything. Everyone was so loud and I was just thinking, 'Oh sh*t, New York f*cks.'
V: It sure does! What’s changed since your early albums, Awake and Run?
AW: My outlook toward life has completely changed. My outlook toward music is always going to change. If you're in the industry, and you've released this many albums, you're always going to shift perspectives and grow. If you're not growing how will you stay creatively alive? Visually, I feel like at my shows, I'm able to do more things because I've got more opportunities to film videos and I'm able to access more people to do that. I just want to put on a crazy experience and I'm such a visual listener that having visuals is part of the show. When you’re playing your own music and telling a story, it’s always important to have a visual element to it. But in saying that, I also like playing after pirates that have no visuals. It’s a whole different vibe.
V: You said before that this album is a rebirth of sorts. Can you explain that?
AW: I went through an incredibly traumatic experience, where I hit my rock bottom. I thought I had hit rock bottom before this, but no, f*ck no. This was an entirely different level and it changed my life. I could have been the victim in this situation and I was just like, 'No, I'm not going to do that.' And then I was like, 'Well, why does this type of thing keep happening to me?' Not necessarily this type of thing, but these situations. And I was like the common denominator is me. So I took a long, hard look in the mirror and was like, 'You have to make some changes or you're not going to get what you want in your life and you're not going to be happy.' And so I did that and I made some changes in myself and my boundaries and the way I reacted to things. It was really difficult.
V: For people who are going through a similar thing, who think they’ve hit rock bottom, what type of advice would you give them?
AW: They should just know that the only person that's going to help you right now is you. Do not rely on other people. It will feel like forever until it doesn't and it's going to be hard work. But if you really want to be happy, you're going to have to do that hard work. Life f*cking sucks sometimes. All I can say is if you don't want to be a victim, there's a way that you can flip the narrative so you come out strong and evolved. I really do believe that if you sit down and focus on what you think would actually make you happy, you'll make progress to getting better. If you really want to change how your life is going, you can.
V: That’s pretty powerful advice. Last question for you, what do you hope this album does for people?
AW: The whole title of the album is Loner. That's perceived as a negative thing. But for me, it's a positive thing. What got me out of this was being a loner and doing it alone. It made me stronger. I want people to see this and know that you can actually take a very bad situation and turn it into the best thing. I think it's really hard to see that when it's happening, which is why I put the intro track as "Forever" where it says 'It'll feel like forever until it doesn't.' When you're working really hard and nothing's still working out for you, it will feel like forever until it doesn't. But then one day, you'll start seeing a change. So just keep going and it'll be okay. Just know that you're in control and you can make choices. If you don't want that person in your life anymore, they don't have to be in your life anymore. The only thing guaranteed in life is change and the only thing we can control in life is how we react to change. We're strong. Humans are very strong. You will be able to get through it. You might not get to the place you thought you would, but then in hindsight, you'll be in a different place and you'll be like, 'Oh, that's why I was meant to be here.'
Stream Alison's new album out via Astralwerks below.
And if you missed her in New York, you can still catch her on tour in several states across America.