The debut album by Alexandra Savior is a highly-anticipated release for a newcomer. She’s relatively under the radar still, having only put out a handful of self-directed videos to her haunting, psychedelic pop. Her voice is a mesmerising force and was the subject of a bidding war for many major record companies once she finished high school and moved to LA aged 18.
“There was a lot of shit. I met with one label who when I walked in I did a showcase and afterwards they were like do you want to be Katy Perry or do you want to be Pink?,” says Savior who’s talking with Gigwise on her brief visit to London to play a show. “I was like they’re not getting this vibe at all I just got up and walked out and was like fuck off.”
Fortunately, she had an alternative that’s worked: “I chose Columbia the only ones that seemed to care about my artistic integrity.”
Savior’s vibe is that of “feminist angst with a horror film feel.” She rates Burger Records’ La Luz among her favourite bands and loves Terry Gilliam films. She certainly doesn’t fit into a major label female solo artist cliché and is right to have been disgusted by said labels comments. Another area that shows her taking strong care of her art is her lo-fi self-directed videos.
Moreover, the three years Savior’s taken to develop and wait until the sound was there with the right collaborator to put out an album shows self-respect and integrity. “When I was signed at 18, a lot of musical and personal development needed to happen. I could sing and write words but that was about it. They threw me into the deep end with all these songwriters; lots of people were coming in but it was hard to get a consistent sound with a lot of them. But quite early on I started working with Alex [Turner] and I sensed it was going to work.”
Savior and Turner's songwriting partnership was over a year and half period, and it was such a great connection that the patience she allowed it to blossom showed fantastic intuitive foresight. “At first when I first started working with him, he had committed to sign on but you never know, he was really busy and I didn’t want to wait around so I kind of tried to work with other people but as the musical relationship developed and the songs stated to come with more of a consistent theme. I had to stop working with other people as I felt like I was cheating on him or something, like cheating on the record.”
The snippets of the album we’ve heard so far in the singles reflect those comments. There’s definitely something distinctive and enigmatic about the sound. This isn’t a minor coasting in from a celebrity to endorse a newcomer - this is a big release for Tuner, too. Savior and Turner collaborated on all 11 tracks bouncing off each other to equally contribute lyrically and musically. Turner’s taken any time he could in between touring commitments to be in the studio with her and make something great together.
Of how their two minds contribute to the overall feel of the record, Savior says: “I think there are two threads one form Al one from me. Alex’s is this 21st century digestion of California, mine is this feminist angst horror film feel.”
In terms of how she would approach the writing with Turner, she says: “We both delve into a fictional story because we didn’t really know each other and it’s easier to write about a fictional character than it is to write about yourself in that situation. The characters are a mixture of our fears and insecurities.”
Once the pair had written the songs they would record demos onto an 8-track Tascam (tape machine) that ensured a focused performance without too many unnecessary overdubs. Savior tells me it was fairly easy to translate the demo into the big studio after that.
The release of this debut album feels like something that’s the culmination of a lot of hard work from a very young age, but also someone who was born with a gift. “I started when I was 15. I originally wanted to be on Broadway so I went to theatre school but I got kicked out – I can’t remember why. Anyway, I made a friend in school who played piano and we would do covers. My first show was a talent show at school and my Mom brought all her friends to support me because they were pretty sure I was going to be really bad. But I think after seeing me they were surprised."
How is it performing to her mother? “My mum always cries, one time I was playing a café in Brooklyn when I was 16 and she stared breaking down crying - like hysterically crying - and then I started crying because when you see your mum cry you cry. So I just had to stop and I said we have to go. I was so mad at her,” she laughs.
It was her mother - evidently moved by her performance - who invested a lot of faith in her career choice to skip University and go to LA to follow her dream of being on stage. “I moved to LA two months out of high school and my Mom supported me for a bit, but things moved very quickly,” she says implying her breezy route to financial independence.
It’s easy to see why her mum put so much faith in her and why labels pounced. Savior is a rare talent that once the word spreads like even more of a bushfire than it already is - the world won’t be able to get enough of her songs. 2017 is hers for the taking and her future is even more exciting. “I’m going to write the next record by myself," she says. "I deinfitely feel more connection to the lines that I write and sometimes when it's aline Al's written I feel like a robot. Obviously I was a child when I started working on this so needed some development. Having learned from the best in the business and contributing on an even level with Turner for her first professional musical venture is an incredible start and a fantastic addition to the music industry.
Debut album Belladonna of Sadness set for release 7 April. 'Mystery Girl' single is out 13 January.