A Q & A with L.A.'s "Pop-Grunge Princess"
"I Get My Way" drops May 23rd... and ALAENA is calling the shots.
ALAENA is proving that a once die-hard death-core metal musician can go pop… pop-grunge, that is, and that's just how we like her. Her 90s pop vibe paired with that grunge grit makes ALAENA unique – her voice eerie, electrifying, and enchanting.
Influenced by diversity - think Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson – ALAENA's music blends genres and styles to create her own sound, finding her place in the music industry, and gaining fans with a taste for something fresh. Named one of PAPER magazine's "Artists to Watch" in '17, the industry is sitting up and watching indeed.
ALAENA's forthcoming solo debut EP, UN-GUILTY PLEASURES, invites the world into her "wonderfully weird mind," and her latest single, "I Get My Way," is set to drop on May 23rd.
In her exclusive Popdust Q & A, we dig deeper into what makes the singer tick, where she has come from and where she's headed. From her songs to her style to her self-confidence, ALAENA is inspiring and intriguing. Pop-grunge has a ring to it.
Credit Dana Pennington
So, pop-grunge? You are bringing together two genres most would consider opposite ends of the spectrum. What about the mixing of the two appeals to you most?
Pop Grunge to me is an overall vibe. I am not a fan of labeling because music is becoming sooo much more diverse. I want to reinvent how people look at dark pop music and that's where the term pop grunge really struck me. I naturally have this essence to my voice that is angsty like you hear in grunge but still holds a bit of pop innocence. Guitars with distortion mixed with a dark bass line and a pop beat backing it really is the pinnacle of my pop grunge vibe.
Speaking of genres, you started out in the business as a deathcore metal keyboardist. Who were your musical influences in your teens that led you in that direction?
Yes, I was in a band called Winds of Plague. Pretty metal. Haha. I was obsessed with symphonic black metal- and honestly, I still am. I love Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and Emperor. But I grew up listening to it all, which is why I feel like my musical taste varies so much. I loved Britney (still do), No Doubt, Destiny's Child to Marilyn Manson, Korn, Deftones. The list could continue forever! Haha.
Why did you make the choice to embark on a solo career?
I had always jumped from band to band- none of which I started. It was really cool because I was given opportunities to grow as a musician and see the world, but I was missing something. It kind of all just happened at the right time - met producers - made music - was extremely happy - so I knew that this was the step I was supposed to make.
Watch ALAENA's video for "Wasteland."
Now that you're solo and embracing a unique sound, do you take any of the deathcore metal mentality with you? Or is this an entirely different ballgame?
I never changed and neither did my mentality. Actually, I never thought of this before and I'm geeking out having a realization moment thinking about it. Haha. Me playing keys in a metal band with a Mickey Mouse T-shirt on blasting someone like, I don't know, Kesha, on the bus, is now singing pop music with a weird safety pin obsession trying to add screams in her songs subtly whenever she can. I think it is just how I balance those parts of me at each specific time.
You must be beyond excited that UN-GUILTY PLEASURES is complete. If you could sum up the EP in a word (or a few) what would it be?
UN-GUILTY PLEASURES is NOT for the average Joe. Anyone who wants to give me a try I ask you to open your minds and explore these different feelings that my music might give you. One release of feelings I always found through metal was my pent up anger or sadness – stereotypical, I know, haha - but really, how do we express anger in pop that shows that it is
okay for you to be mad while letting go of that aggressive energy at the same time? Being angry at someone or the world can bring you empowerment in the end. Don't hide from it!
Can you tell us about the process that led to its creation? Were you influenced by any artists you admire? Who did you collaborate with? Is there an overall tone you wanted to convey or is each song its own entity? And do you have a favorite track?
UN-GUILTY PLEASURES has been culminating for the past year, some songs even longer. I have been developing my sound and sometimes, you know when it's right, its right. I knew it was time to bring together my EP. I was 1000% influenced by old 90s Britney, TATU, Marilyn Manson, and Cradle of Filth. These were my main go-to references in any of the songs that are on this EP. "I Get My Way" is my favorite track along with "Brand New" as a close second.
Speaking of "I Get My Way," your latest single is about to drop. So, tell us, how do you get your way?
I have struggled with this my whole life actually. I was always a "yes girl" constantly telling myself I was getting what I wanted… until recently I made changes in my life and decided to be this strong empowered female that everyone thought I was. It was tough, and it STILL is. But now, I HAVE MY OWN OPINION, I call all MY own shots. If I feel as though someone or something is hurting me or isn't serving me a purpose in my life, I am NOT afraid to walk away anymore. This song though, "I Get My Way," is specifically about a relationship. A guy I was in love with had no idea how to please me sexually or just in general love me right, so I told him he needs to do this or do that so that I can get what I deserve, what I want! But the message flows over into all aspects of life.
Courtesy of Alaena
Your sense of style is a standout. Have you always expressed yourself so boldly through fashion? What inspires you to set your own rules about rocking an "ALAENA" ensemble?
OMG. I WISH I was a fashionista growing up. I was so confused-mismatched… but then I tried to be someone I wasn't - wearing what I thought everyone would think I'd look cool in and STILL felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. The past 2-3 years, I really just stopped giving a f*ck and fell back into my confused state. But it wasn't so confusing anymore. Everyone loved what I was putting together. My roommate always tells me when I show her two pieces of clothing I say I'm gonna wear, she shrivels up inside her body but then when I put it on, she's like, "How the hell did you do that, it looks good." So, I guess my own rules are: don't care what others think, do what makes YOU feel comfortable.
Tell us about your thrifting? If your fans could find treasures like yours, they'd be thrilled!
Haha, I bet they wouldn't be thrilled to thrift with me! I am in the stores for HOURS. I love thrifting so much! I am in Goodwill, resale stores and even the cheaper clothing stores in the malls finding anything I can because I will take it home and just completely recreate it. I would take it home and just completely recreate it with layers, cutting, pinning, and unconventional ways to wear the item.
Name an artist your fans would be surprised to hear you admire.
That's hard, because I feel like my fans I have now know I love bubble gum pop, dark pop, and black metal. But do they know I LOVE Cardi B? She is such a boss bitch. I admire her, her come up, and how she expresses herself.
What's next? Are you touring, recording, writing?
I will always be writing and record. I have my own little studio at home and write at home as well, but I really want to start playing out. That is my next step. Live shows. I'm a visual freak so this is itching at me because I get to combine performance with art. It's gonna be sick.
If there is one thing you want fans to take away from UN-GUILTY PLEASURES, what would that be?
I want the listeners of UN-GUILTY PLEASURES to embrace themselves and who they are. Don't feel guilty for liking what you like. Find your confidence. Embrace what makes you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed and Make. It. Your. Own!
Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, AMC Daycare, and more.
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