INTERVIEW: Allie X

 

Allie X - BB Gun Press
Allie X – BB Gun Press

Little is known about the enigmatic pop singer Allie X.

When she comes on the stage at Baby’s All Right, I find it hard to believe that, even after speaking with her one-on-one only days ago,  she’s standing before me in the flesh, donning an ecru tulle number, mod sunglasses, and a mile-long curtain of straight brown hair falling down her back.

Before adopting the stage name Allie X, she was Allie Hughes, a classically trained musician from Toronto — but that’s all you’ll get to know about her.  “Respectfully, Ysabella, I don’t talk about my past in interviews,” she says, and I’m not offended; by driving the attention away from her past life, she allows the focus to remain on who she is now, and what that means for her music.

She opens her show with “Hello,” waving at the crowd almost robotically.  It’s mesmerizing to watch her contort her arms into a pretzel or kneel on a bench to play her instrument, the “X-a-chord,” which resembles an organ.

The way that Allie X interacts with her crowd is unlike many pop singers, who might try to hold back-and-forth conversations with the audience or lead into songs with anecdotes.  Instead, her phenomenal vocals are what make the show memorable, and she says little other than the occasional “thank you,” mimicking the way she likes to carry herself as an artist.

“I think I can still have life as an artist and create work that has an intimate relationship with the world, where they feel like they’re being let into something without actually revealing details of my private life,” she says.  “In this day and age, it’s difficult when half of the success of an artist has to do with social media, which has to do with the details of one’s personal life, so it’s something I’m figuring out.”

And it seems that she’s figuring that balance out much quicker than she gives herself credit for.

The driving force of her fan following is the power of “X,” which she describes as “the unknown variable…a blank slate to start from.  Believing in X is believing in the possibility of anything.”

“I have a small, but very devoted following of X’s and a big part of the project is exploring ‘X’ together,” says Allie.  “I’m always trying to think of new ways we can do that.  One of them is part of my Tumblr, it’s a gallery for various ‘X art’ that they’ve made, and we update it usually every couple of days.  So if you make anything and you hashtag it ‘Feeling X,’ it’s going to be up in the gallery.”

And among her go-to poses during the show are the crossing of her arms to form an X, or holding up her crossed fingers.  She even spins around onstage, much like the reblog-ready spinning gifs she has on Tumblr.  She gives fans these recognizable things to latch onto, and while adopting X into one’s life has a different meaning for each individual, it brings her and the fans together.

These symbols of Allie X are only part of the cohesive image she’s cultivated.  It’s a distinct visual style that makes her instantly recognizable, and she credits the aesthetic to adopting X into her life.  That’s a part of what ‘X’ might mean for her, but that’s not what “X” is meant to be for everyone.  As she describes it to me, “If you were to become ‘Ysabella X,’ you don’t have to share the aesthetic that I show.  You don’t even necessarily have to have aesthetic — that’s not really what it’s about.”

And while I might not be sure of my ‘X’ or my aesthetic, Allie X exudes a strong sense of self-awareness and artistic identity.  On delving into other aspects of the art world, she says, “I would love to make a musical.  I would love to make a film, animate a film.  Books, all of that.  But that all needs to stem from me being a successful music artist so that’s what I’m focusing on right now.”

It’s fun to watch her pull at her roots and prance in a cutesy and child-like manner while she sings, “Steal my blood and steal my heart/Whatever it takes to get you off/I’m your bitch, you’re my bitch/Boom boom.”  The stage was a bit small for her presence, and it would be lovely to see what she would do with an even bigger one.  Naked bodies — “a huge pile of naked bodies to travel with me around the world” — if she had it her way.

Presently, she has only performed about ten shows as Allie X, so there is certainly room for her shows and her catalog of songs to grow.

She has co-written a song with YouTube celebrity Troye Sivan, whom she describes as “a truly lovely human being.”  Generally, she likes working with people who “bring a different skill set to the table.”  For example, people who are “good at working quickly or with technicalities of engineering.”  And she describes herself as a “slow” and “abstract” lyricist, preferring to work with “more straight-ahead, quick lyricists,” and “people who have some interesting analog sounds.”

One thing that surely will not change is her flawless delivery, with some of her vocal curls actually inducing chills.  And hopefully she stays a bit cryptic and elusive, too.  She only took her sunglasses off for the song “Good,” but even then, asked for the lights to be turned down.

She works her way through CollXtion I from top to bottom, and when she closes with “Sanctuary,” she holds out her mic and the crowd sings all the words without missing a beat, as if we all know her and have been a part of this “X” project for our whole lives.  And when she prances off stage, shades back on, you’re left with even more questions about her than you had at the start.