Interview :: Adalita
January 14th 2014
For years we knew her as the frontwoman of beloved Australian band Magic Dirt, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Adalita stepped fully into the spotlight as a solo artist.
Old fans and a whole new following alike embraced her debut record Adalita : fittingly, it won AIR Best Independent Album, was nominated for the Australian Music Prize, and Adalita herself was nominated for the ARIA Best Female artist the following year. Now her brand new record All Day Venus is blitzing the alternative music scene again, this time landing her The Age/Music Victoria award for Best Female Artist just a month after its release. Bernie Burke sat down to pick Adalita’s brains about the new album…
You’ve mentioned that the transformative nature of love gone wrong, and growing up through it, are some of the themes explored in All Day Venus. Tell us a bit more about that.
I guess it’s all in retrospect. I’m writing about my own life experiences, and relationships are a big part of that. I find that through song I can reflect on what has come to pass and what is currently going on. All my work is pretty autobiographical. Also, I’m starting to think that relationships and living are not really a linear thing … everything’s in flux all the time, and there’s so much going on with interpersonal relationships and the relationship you have with yourself. So I guess through music I can explore those things and try to communicate as much of it as I can. I think we all yearn to communicate what’s going on deep inside of us.
But it’s not like I have any answers to anything… it’s really just a very animalistic, driven desire to get these things down.
One of my favourite tracks from the album is ‘Annihilate Baby’, which is such a forceful name and repeating line in the song. Tell us a bit more of what it’s about.
On a simplistic level it’s an angry song about being wrong… through a relationship or feeling like you’ve been dicked around. But I think now I could look at it from another perspective, which is a projection of my own shadow… essentially if I strip it down and really look at it, it’s about the archetype of destruction. It’s about that big angry demon that comes out when it’s provoked. Its also talking about power. It does take over sometimes… it can give you a lot of energy, but sometimes that energy is too much.
You do hear creative people saying that when they go really high or really low, that’s when they have their biggest creative bursts. Do you find that too?
Yeah, I’d say so. And I create in the other way too, where I’m neither, I’m neutral and calm. I actually prefer not to be in an emotional state when I’m writing, but I’ve built up the reserves or the life experiences- whatever it is that fills the songs.
At the actual time of writing, I prefer to be quiet, chilled out and in the moment, it’s quite a different thing to experiencing life. When you’re in the throes of everyday things, when relationships break down, you have an argument with a friend, or you’re stressed out, that’s life, but when I’m actually sitting down and writing it’s a whole other thing. Everything sort of falls away and I’m just in a space with my guitar… it feels like my calm place. I prefer to be centered – not even thinking, just writing and letting it flow out. It’s always been like that… just an automatic response.
All Day Venus is quite a dark album. Do you find that treatment of music works better for you than happy-go-lucky?
I don’t really think about it too much, but I guess I’ve always written dark songs and I enjoy writing dark stuff… not that I haven’t written happier, lighter stuff, – I have, and I enjoy writing that sort of stuff. But I guess it suits my personality more, the serious side of things.
You’ve been writing tunes for such a long time now – do you ever still get writer’s block? Or did you ever?
Thankfully I’ve never had writer’s block. I really enjoy writing and it just flows. I build it up over time and I feel very full of songs and ideas… then it’s kind of a matter of getting it all down. I’ve been lucky.
So your problem is more deciding which ideas will turn into songs, rather than running out?
Yeah, it’s more that. That can be a bit difficult as well because I can get confused – there’s just so much to decide and pick from. I tend to suffer not from the block but from a lack of direction because I’m getting torn in different directions… so that’s a challenge. But there’s usually a strong direction in one way.
It took you two years to write All Day Venus. What happened over that time to get it done?
I was actually thinking about it, cos I was berating myself for taking so long, then I realised it had only been a couple of years… back in the day with Magic Dirt it used to take three or four years. So yeah, I kind of think I did it pretty quickly, I may have even rushed it a little bit in hindsight. I was moving around between Melbourne and Sydney, just hanging out with different people…living a bit of gypsy life for a while. I wrote in a friend’s shed, then I wrote in another friend’s house in Sydney in a nice suburb, then I was in rehearsal studios and stuff… I dunno, I can’t even remember some of the places I wrote!
There was a lot going on, and actually finding the people to play on the record took a while. There was a time when I had to get all these people together and it was really intense, a lot of hard work in a short amount of time, cos i had a deadline. It just kind of all came together right before I recorded the album.
You were in the band Magic Dirt for so many years. Do you feel any more pressure now being a solo performer?
No I don’t. I just worked through not being in Magic Dirt. Doing this record was a band thing so that was always gonna feel weird… but I just kind of worked through the different feelings, the changes and having to move on… it wasn’t too bad. So yeah, I feel fine. Magic Dirt is my past, its in my blood, my family, and it’s always with me even though we’re not doing anything. It’s me… like another part of my body.
There’s a lot more festivals in Australia now than when you first started playing with Magic Dirt. As a performer, how do you think that scene has changed over the years?
Yeah, there’s definitely a lot more festivals, and that’s cool, I reckon the more the merrier. I think the more we have music around and platforms for bands and artists, that’s the best thing. The majority of the mainstream kids love their festivals, so let ’em have it! As long as the music’s good. I think it’d be bad if we didn’t have festivals.
Tell us about your plans for the gigs at the upcoming Laneway festivals.
It’ll be the band that I had on tour with me [after the release of All Day Venus] and we’ll be doing a short sharp set. Just having a ball really, playing to have a good time. It’s gonna be fun.
WHO :: Adalita
WHAT :: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival (SOLD OUT)
WHEN :: Sunday 2nd February 2014
WHERE :: Sydney College of Arts, Rozelle
HOW MUCH :: Sold out!