Alice on the Roof
By Juliana Russell
Soon before the international release of her debut album “Higher”, Alice on the Roof spoke to Juliana Russell from Black on the Canvas, from Belgium to California, where we discussed valuable experiences traveling abroad, unusually speedy but efficient composition, and the feeling of immortality while on stage.
Thank you for doing this interview? So what is your music about? How did you get started?
Alice: Well, I’ve always been singing. I’ve always been in different choirs, here in Belgium. My parents had me join the Academy of Music, so I did piano lessons and everything. So until I was 17 I was in choir—that’s where I learned to sing in the right key, and mix my voice with other voices and everything. And then when I was 17, I was done with high school here in Belgium, and I just didn’t know what to do with my life at all. So I decided, why not leave, and go on a journey? I went to Oregon for a year, and I stayed with a host family. I was in choir there as well, and that’s where I had the thought, “Oh, I really like music. I really like to sing!”
Okay, awesome. So what are some of your influences and inspirations, musical or otherwise?
Alice: I am really really attracted to Scandinavian music groups, so there’s Björk, James Blake, Sigur Rós. I don’t know what happens there, but when music comes from Northern Europe, you can hear it—they’re just geniuses, they do the music that’s sort of floating, relaxed, atmospheric… That’s the kind of sound that relaxes me, and that I really enjoy.
So you just put out new album, “Higher”. Are there any standout tracks that you’d like to talk about?
Alice: Yes, there is a song called “Racing the Shadows”. That’s about my journey in Oregon, when I was in America, how sometimes it was tough to be far away from my family for a year, but I really learned so much. So that song’s about that. There’s also a song about the Monopoly game. When I was with my host family, my host Dad would cheat all the time. He would hide things in his sleeve. (laughs) He would cheat like a pig! I was so frustrated, I had to do a song about it.
(laughs) Oh, that’s funny! So what kinds of programs or equipment do you use to make your music?
Alice: I use Pro Tools. We do all the demos, the base of the sounds, here in Belgium, in a studio at home—really nice and quiet, no stress. We use a Juno, vintage keyboard. Almost all of the sounds come from that piano. And then I had to find a producer. I’m really a fan of London Grammar, a British band. So I looked on the internet, who’s that band’s producer? And I found the name Tim Bran, and he also produced Laroux. He really matched what I want with the music. He adds some groove, and other sounds that are now in the vibe.
Cool. What’s your compositional, creative process like? How do you go about starting a new song?
Alice: Oh, interesting. Well, it’s very… Intuitive. I don’t ask myself too many questions. I notice, it’s really weird, but most of the songs that are on my album were finished in one day. It’s just my way of doing it. If I start asking too many questions, it stops the vibe. So I just go with the flow. And at the end of the day, if I have the song, I think, “Okay, that’s it!” Cause if I take it, maybe the day after… It feels weird! Yeah, so just in a day!!
Oh wow, interesting! So did you face any technical or creative challenges while writing this album?
Alice: Yes… So when I had written about half of the songs on the album, I thought, oh, these are really sad songs, kind of nostalgic, melancholy… And I thought, this is weird, cause I’m a very positive person in life. So how come? So I decided to put some light in the album. I wanted to do some groovy songs, and I had this idea with a melody and sounds that were kind of… Sexy? Which was weird for me, because I think in life, I am really not sexy! (laughs) But in music, I don’t know, it just came naturally. And so in order to be in the mood, I had to watch a scene from the movie Ghost, with Patrick Swayze, when he builds the plates with Demi Moore… It’s a very sexy scene! So I watched it to be in the mood. (laughs)
(laughs) That’s funny. So in general, how do you deal with setbacks and challenges?
Alice: Well, I ask around me for help sometimes. I’m really glad… The people in the US taught me a way of thinking. In America, you guys have so much self-confidence, and… Everything is possible! (laughs) And so I just look at things, thinking, even if I have a refusal somewhere, or if something doesn’t work, well still it’s a good experience that will make me grow and learn. Once you look at things this way, there’s no stress anymore.
Yeah, that’s good. Do you perform live very often? And so what are some of your favorite and least favorite aspects about performing?
Alice: I do a lot of shows now, in Belgium mostly, but I get to travel as well. What’s really nice is the atmosphere, with the musicians, when we go on the tour bus, it’s really fun, like vacation camp! It’s really fun… When I’m on stage, I feel like it’s the best version of me, an enhanced version. It’s really nice when you think… I don’t know, I feel like when I’m on stage, if I raised my arm like this, I can split the water in half! I’m huge, I’m a god! (laughs) It’s a nice feeling! But at the same time… I am kind of shy, and I have a hard time with people looking at me. I struggled with that at the beginning, but now I feel better.
So what are some of your future plans?
Alice: My album is out in Belgium, but not yet in the rest of the world! I will have some tours, plenty of festivals—crazy atmosphere! And I’m starting to think about a few new songs, too.
All right, well those are all the questions I have. Do you have any final comments?
Alice: Nope, that’s good for me! (laughs)
Okay, thank you so much!
Check out Alice on the Roof’s music on Soundcloud:
Watch Alice’s music video “Lucky You”:
Watch out for Alice’s new album “Higher”, released internationally today!