Ahead of the release of her debut album, ‘Moonlit and Devious,’ Allie Crow Buckley talks about evolving, mythology, and recreating experiences through music.
Stream: “Nothing Sacred” – Allie Crow Buckley
We stayed in this town that was literally carved on the side of a mountain and it was so heavy there, the energy was so thick with all of this history, so it was really incredible. A lot of the record sounds like what it felt like there to me which I was very so amazed about.
Since emerging on the music scene a few years ago there’s been a classic nature to Allie Crow Buckley’s music and aesthetic:
Classic, in the sense of immersing in a timeless piece of literature or spending an afternoon wandering around an art gallery of renaissance paintings. There are times when music can make you inspired to learn, engage in the philosophical and fantastical; broadening the mind while also reveling in a daydream. It’s important to read and consume words and but sometimes the extent of what is out there feels overwhelming and everyday life and its few hours in a day gets in the way. While Allie Crow Buckley’s music isn’t outwardly thought-provoking, engaging with it enriches the mind. It feels poetic and rich, fantastical and real, the vocals instantly taking hold of you.
Moonlit and Devious, the debut album by the Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Allie Crow Buckley (released March 12), draws from mythology and dualism, while keeping things scenically fixed in adventure. The opening track, “Nothing Sacred” is an intro of opulent drama, immediately taking the listener to a sparse, heated place- a Mediterranean cliffside, for example, with the glistening ocean beneath us. It’s followed by “Hasta la Vista”, melancholic but freeing as though we can reach up and touch the sky. ‘Always had faith in what I do not choose/ Hasta la vista mi amor/ I guess I’ll miss you’ she sings, the ‘you’ trailing like a wolf howling at the moon.
Sun bleached, in opposition
Line dancing losing the feeling, limb by limb
I fear it’s coming, the gods clutching their bellies
Jukebox ancient token
Italian vistas homes calling
Are we on to something
Is this all part of some plan
Living out some prophecy lifetimes in the making
Drunk and overconfident
Romeo’s throwing me over his shoulder
– “Nothing Sacred,” Allie Crow Buckley
The title track holds the magical aura, there in the title but also the glowing of the synths and Buckley’s familiar vocals that spread across the soundscape like thick shiny velvet, while the instrumental “Serpentress” is tense a spooky. In “Under the Sun,” Buckley references the story of Orpheus and Eurydice (‘I can see you there laying in the tall grass/ Orphic mysteries present future past/ I should have known once you set your sights on me/ I’m a sucker for a song like poor Eurydice’) while the overall tone is slow and hypnotic but with a subtle hint of theatricality (the marching drum beat throughout, for example).
There are songs that instigate a sense of independence, encouraging taking control of the self. “Gold Medallion” and “Hanging Tough” are energized and jubilant, the latter proclaiming ‘Sailing all right, just skating on by/Hanging tough/ I’ve been dreaming alone/ I’ve been cruising round solo’ before stating ‘Call me if you need me/ I’ll be dancing in the mirror’ Like with Allie Crow Buckley’s earlier material, the So Romantic EP of 2019, nature is at the core and one gets the impression of solo traveling to places where they can really connect with themselves and the pure world around them.
“Trouble in Paradise”, for example, immerses the listener into the little details. ‘Barefoot on cobble stones I watched you walking/ We’ve fallen out on foreign terrain and I’m to blame for it,’ she begins before setting the scene of ‘Dining in the banquet hall/ Cracked up broken fortress/ Trouble in paradise says the Italian waitress/ You shift your gaze from mine I look down/ My eyes begin to mist.’ Fiction and reality are seemingly blurred, the melancholy merged with welcoming escapism.
Moonlit and Devious was written after a trip to a small town in Italy, where spontaneous decisions resulted in an experience filled with history and wonder- an example of how fate and nature’s majestic quality can occasionally connect with you and, when it does, it always ends up seeming more special.
The album comes at an appropriate moment when the urge to travel for a lot of people is perhaps greater than it’s ever been. With anything that Allie Crow Buckley conjures up, whether it’s music or imagery posted on her Instagram, we can momentary drift into the fantastical.
Atwood Magazine spoke with the singer/songwriter about evolution, mythology, and the magic of recreating experiences through music.
A CONVERSATION WITH ALLIE CROW BUCKLEY
So I interviewed you in 2019 when your EP, So Romantic, was coming out. For me so much has happened since but also so little has happened. It’s been like a weird balance of changes. So I’m curious to know what’s changed for you over the past couple of years. You’ve created a debut album, for one thing!
Allie Crow Buckley: Two years ago! So much has changed and so little and it’s been amazing to really take my time with this record. I wrote most of it in 2019 actually. We started recording at the end of 2019 and then of course 2020 happened and there was this long break which was wonderful for me. I wrote the rest of the record and was able to go into the studio and finish it. So it’s been this sort of month and a year, I suppose. It just feels like nothing has happened yet so much.
What have you learnt along the way when creating the album? Have you discovered any new approaches or processes that have opened your mind in regards to making music?
Allie Crow Buckley: Yes, it’s been really fun to see how musicians have adapted. People have figured out ways to write from a far and record from a far and really collage these things together. I think that’s a real positive to have come out of 2020.
Has much changed along the way? You said you had some of the album before Covid happened so did much change in regards to your mentality towards it? Did you rethink ways that you wanted it to be or did it keep the same concept?
Allie Crow Buckley: No I really still had the same concept. The songs that we recorded towards the end of 2019 are really the backbone of the soul of the record. That was wonderful; I was happy to embody a totally different time because I want the listener to enter into a different world and I think that’s something we can all relate to at the moment, wanting to escape for an hour and be somewhere totally different. I think it’s important that the album doesn’t totally embody 2020, it embodies something else. So I think that the core part of the record as it was done before the pandemic. Most of the songs were written before then as well. I suppose it is from a different time, logistically and things and doing visuals from afar, it was this incredible thing to see how people pulled things together even in such a crazy time.
Yeah, that’s interesting. I’ve said it before but there’s just something about your voice that’s really captivating and magical and then this is combined with the grandiose and dreamy instrumentation. You said in the previous interview that you had only recently found your voice, that before writing music you had never felt confident singing on your own. Has your relationship with your voice changed over the years? I imagine artists to sometimes have like split personalities, their performer self and then normal everyday one. So have you developed more of a performer identity?
Allie Crow Buckley: Aww that’s such a great question. I think yes. Before the EP, those first recordings I think I told you were one of the first times I had performed with a microphone and I had just started playing shows so it was all very fresh. Now I think I trust myself more. I understand what’s coming through a little bit more and I can express that better than anything ever before so that’s a really wonderful feeling.
That’s sweet. I understand that a lot of your album was inspired by travels to Tuscany and winding pathways created to be closer to Mother Earth. Please tell us more about this! When was it you visited?
Allie Crow Buckley: Yes! I travelled to this very strange incredible little town which is where the Etruscan people used to live and they were an ancient pre-patriarchal civilization of worshippers and so they carved these pathways deep into the earth to be closer to the goddess or mother nature. So it was just this incredible place, so heavy. It was where the first song on the record takes place. It’s all in that town. We stayed in this town that was literally carved on the side of a mountain and it was so heavy there, the energy was so thick with all of this history so it was really incredible. A lot of the record sounds like what it felt like there to me which I was very so amazed about. I went into the studio with all of these musicians and because we recorded the album on the floor everything is happening all at once so we’re all just playing off of each other which is really special thing. Sonically it ended up representing that experience so well.
That’s so cool! Did you know about this before you visited or was it something you discovered at the time?
Allie Crow Buckley: No! No, it was totally random. We were doing a road trip and there was a town which was a neighbouring area and I was like ‘oh we should stay there.’ Only once we were there did we find out all of this history about the Etruscan people. I didn’t know about them or their civilization before then so it was very very special. A very magical place.
Stuff like that is always so much more special when you don’t expect it but it ends up to be life changing.
Allie Crow Buckley: Yes! It’s meant to be.
When you’re living in those moments do you think ‘oh this needs to be transferred into a song’ or does it come from the memories you hold afterwards?
Allie Crow Buckley: I reflected on it later. The song that is about that area, “Nothing Sacred”, I wrote initially as a poem and it was all in one go on the plane. So it was something that I reflected on later. I’ve been talking to a lot of songwriters about this and it’s so funny because you don’t really know what you’re writing about sometimes in moments and then you look back and you’re like ‘oh right, I was processing all of that.’ That’s why it’s interesting with 2020 because I’m excited to see next year all the people that process that and how they come through because sometimes it’s delayed.
Are there any specific examples in your songs of how these emotions have been transferred into music?
Allie Crow Buckley: Yes, a lot of the songs were written as poems first. It’s wonderful because it feels like a different thing. Sometimes songs come through in more of a form that you weren’t expecting and you’re not sure why you’re writing what you’re writing. A couple of the songs on this record were all written in stream of consciousness, which is so funny. I just love that the creative decides what’s going to be the vessel today.
Sonically it totally matches. We recorded this record on the floor and it’s amazing because a big thing about how Jason, Mike and I create songs and produce is really allowing the energy of the day to dictate how things are going to sound. We keep a lot of what people might call mistakes or unconventional sounds because they add to the magic. We leave a lot of those things, like wrong notes, in because I believe it’s part of that magic. I think that sonically it represents the lyrics and the day with how everyone was feeling and how it flows.
Yeah I think that’s really good when artists keep things super natural and don’t overthink the process.
Allie Crow Buckley: Yes, exactly! The fun thing about “Nothing Sacred” is that there’s no overdubs on that song so it’s actually exactly how it sounded in the studio. In the moment we all played that, everyone’s playing at once. It’s an encapsulation of this moment.
That’s really impressive too, because the album sounds so polished.
Allie Crow Buckley: Ahh I had such great players though. Not all of the songs were recorded like that but a couple of them were. Like “Under the Sun” for example. I was writing verses in the studio and we were recording the first verse and chorus and because we were recording it to tape I went back to sing the next verse and sonically it was completely different because it’s just so specific how your singing effects that. So we kept the first verse and then had to make a moment of the next verse, which is part of that fun process of keeping all of the things that people may consider a bummer. I think it really made it more magical.
With your first EP, and this was a focus of that interview too, the songs felt very close to nature- particularly the sea. While this is still the case with your album, I feel like there’s a greater sense of adventure and this probably comes from those stories of travels behind the lyrics. For you, is there a particular kind of landscape that defines you now? Maybe you’ve visited places that have become closer attached to your heart or soul.
Allie Crow Buckley: That’s interesting that you say that. I’ve been saying to friends that I feel So Romantic is very oceanic and Moonlit and Devious is very earthbound. It calls to mind more a forest. The record sort of reminds me of Midsummer’s Night Dream or something, a mystical sort of devious evening.
Now for the cliché questions, how has life been for you during Covid and quarantine? Have you found yourself delving into specific things for forms of escapism?
Allie Crow Buckley: For me it’s been a wonderful time of reflection mostly and not escaping. Really just having this time to be totally different in whatever we’re doing day by day because so much was coming in. In some ways it’s wonderful that we’re able to be with ourselves and reflect and be calm and be still for an entire year. I did lots and lots of reading.
Do you have any recommendations?
Allie Crow Buckley: Ohhh God, endless recommendations! What would you like to read?
Ohh, gimme anything. I just love to get in the mindset of artists!
Allie Crow Buckley: Haha, well I really got into Robert Pen Warren collective work of poetry. I read so much though. I have an ongoing list in my journal of all the things I’ve read!
You said earlier that you’re looking forward to hearing what artists make as a response to this period. Have you been writing anything too that may reflect this in the future?
Allie Crow Buckley: I’m not sure. I haven’t started writing yet! That’s the thing, it’s so interesting because a lot of my friends have written all through 2020 and have been processing in the moment or have been processing something from an earlier time. For me personally I find the things I write are often reflected from further times back and then I read them over at the end and think oh yeah that’s what I was processing. But some people definitely wrote so much and were definitely very prolific in 2020. I’m looking forward to all of the different artists and what their music sounds like, what it feels like that to them and how they channelled the experience. I think it will be really wonderful and really unifying to hear all of that because we all experienced it together. Which is rare. Obviously an artist is going to write about how they were feeling but because we all had this collective experience, I’m really looking forward to how unifying that will feel.
I know you’re stil posting pictures of random classical paintings on Instagram, which I love. That makes me happy. Have you discovered anything new over the past couple of years in regards to art history?
Allie Crow Buckley: Hahaha, still! I feel like I’m constantly going deeper into it and recently I’ve been able to identity more with mythology and a lot of these paintings are scenes from mythology so in going deeper in one aspect of history I’m able to understand some of the classical paintings a little bit better. Which has been very fun because I don’t realize that’s going to happen and then I’m like ‘oh it’s that scene! I can’t believe it!’ So that’s wonderful but yes I still love them just as much as I did. I just think they are so humorous and so special.
That’s awesome. I can hear birds in the background of you speaking and it sounds so appropriate.
Allie Crow Buckley: Ahahaa, I know! They’re hanging out.
I’m in Montreal, Canada, right now and there’s snow and it’s cold so it’s not quite the same.
Allie Crow Buckley: Oh my gosh, I’m standing in my very sunny garden right now drinking some tea.
Ahhh. I also understand that the album is inspired by mythology. Mythology is one of those things that I’ve wanted to learn more about for so long, like I’m fascinated by the concept and it seems a really fun thing to be knowledgeable of. But also a part of me doesn’t know where to begin. Do you have any recommendations for books or other reference points?
Allie Crow Buckley: Yes! So one of my favorite writers in the world is Robert Graves and he wrote extensively about mythology and he has some really great books and interpretations. So I would start there, he’s wonderful. Also I just the read the, I think, Emily Wilson translation of “The Odyssey” and that was wonderful. I saw that myth in a totally whole new light so I think you should read that one. But yes it’s one of my largest influences and one of my favorite ideas in mythology is they say nothing new under the sun and there’s a song on the record called “Under The Sun.” Basically it just means that all that has happened before will happen again, sort of deja vu if you will. We all find ourselves in these situations where you’re like ‘havent I learnt my lesson through this already?’ There’s so much to draw from mythology. It’s all there for the archetypal lessons and people and also it’s just charming and I really love getting to enter that world.
How did that fascination begin? Is it something that you’ve had since you were longer?
Allie Crow Buckley: Always. Always since I was a child I’ve been deeply fascinated with mythology. So it’s always been a part of my life and I think inherently it just influences my music and I’m most always reading something mythological because it’s just endless and a really wonderful way to understand the world that we live in.
Yeah, that’s why I really want to delve into it more but like you said there’s so much so it’s like ‘where do I begin?’
Allie Crow Buckley: Exactly! Exactly. I think Robert Graves is a great place to start.
Cool. The overall concept of the album is coming to terms with life post-breakup and reclaiming a sense of identity. I feel like, dealing with a breakup, is a really obvious reference point for an album however the individuality comes from the references to your travels and the mythology. Was this an intension to approach the writing of the break-up from a less obvious angle? I also feel like those things create an element of fiction to the painful reality of losing love.
Allie Crow Buckley: It was more of an internal break-up, I didn’t break up with a partner. It’s more about losing a certain part of yourself in order to grow. I think that’s maybe where the theme of a break up comes from. Again this wasn’t a theme that I was consciously writing about but reading the lyrics back or hearing the record back I could see ‘oh wow that was a certain departure from my self’ I think that might be the conflict you are able to hear within the record. A big theme is duality, which is also a big theme in mythology, and just that inner duality and of course just growing.
Yeah that makes more sense actually. And have you learnt more about yourself from looking back at this record?
Allie Crow Buckley: I think in reflection you inherently understand more about yourself better. So absolutely. Whenever I finish a body of work or a record I always feel more connected to myself and have a better understanding of what I was going through then. It’s almost like this puzzle comes through and you’re not sure why and you read it back and you’re like ‘oh that’s how I was feeling!’ Music is so wonderful because everyone can connect to these things that come through. Obviously they’re personal but it’s a collective thing as well.
For sure! In terms of the recording and production of the album, could you give an insight into this. Where did you record and when?
Allie Crow Buckley: Yes, so it’s the same band as So Romantic. It was produced by myself, Mike Viola, and Jason Boesel. Then it’s Dylan Day on guitar and lee partinie on keys and that’s the whole band. It’s just us which was really fun. And Dave Cerminara engineered. So yeah it was this awesome experience to create with them and also to be open to the energy of the day. It was so fun to play through these songs and see where they went.
As a debut album, has the process been how you envisioned the making of a record to be? Obviously you said how covid effected some of the process and opened your mind to how people creatively adjust but, overall, did anything surprise you along the way?
Allie Crow Buckley: It was how I imagined to make one! Because I personally love recording with a full band on the floor, it’s always what I wanted to do, and we were able to do that. It felt very special in that way. And because half the record was record before, it holds a different energy. But overall it was wonderful, just as it should be. It was exactly how it should be because that’s what was happening in the moment.
I feel like I ask everyone this at the moment but, with it being difficult to plan ahead these days, do you have anything you hope to do following the release?
Allie Crow Buckley: I’m really excited about some of the visual things that we have in the works. But of course touring’s not really going to come for a while but it’s been wonderful that people have been adapting in that way, doing more streaming or spending more time on visuals. So we’ll see how this year unfolds but I look forward to creating much more because it makes you be more creative. It’s a totally new landscape. So adapting to things like that is really wonderful, in its own way.
Are there any songs on the album that are particularly special for you, that maybe hold the most memories sonically and lyrically? Because you said the record captures what you experienced on your travels.
Allie Crow Buckley: I think my favorite song on the record is “Under the Sun.” I wrote it where I’m standing right now, in my garden. That one began as a poem and it was really fun to see how that one got turned out in the day. Then the guitar was recorded on my couch afterwards. Dylan came over for a glass of wine and we decided to add some guitar.
Finally, as a debut album, it’s like the complete introduction to you and your visions. What do you hope that listeners take away from this? Is there a particular way that you would like your music to be regarded or a particular mood you would like listeners to feel?
Allie Crow Buckley: I suppose, like I said earlier, I hope they’ll be able to enter a world for a while and to get lost in it and go on this journey. I guess that would be my only hope for the record. That’s what I personally love as a listener, putting on a record and being transported to a world.
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