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UNRAVELLING THE MAGIC

Alex Andra
Alex Andra

Editor’s note:  This article is based on an interview that took place in the good old days when venues were open for business and people were still able to congregate in public places.  Remember them?  Everyone at Around The Sound wishes you the very best of good health in these difficult times.  We’re all at home in our isolation bunkers and we hope you are, too.  Music is still here to help us all through these difficult times, so please don’t forget to enjoy some while you’re at home.  Normal service will be resumed in due course.

Savill is heading for arenas via the US late-night talk show circuit.  Or, more likely these days, massive viral superstardom via TikTok.  Either way, she’s going to be huge.

Released today, Paige Savill’s debut solo track as Alex Andra, ‘Not the Beginning’, is a punchy slice of power pop that would sit well in the Avril Lavigne songbook via Blink 182, if either of those artists were doing anything at all credible these days.  With crunchy guitars and searing harmonies this song is a roller coaster ride of emotion that places Savill on the cusp of something really special as an artist.  ‘Not the Beginning’ dials up the dopamine levels to maximum reward.  This is a heavyweight track that instantly elevates Savill above the wannabes and puts her in the arena.  What comes next is up to her, but her clearing of her throat at 2:35 into the track tells us that Savill knows she has what it takes to get to where she’s headed.

Around The Sound sat down to speak to Savill about her new project a little while ago, just before the world changed. Alex Andra is the first solo outing for Perth’s Savill, well known locally as front woman with I Call Val.

It’s Friday afternoon, slipping into evening, and I’m waiting for Paige Savill to join me for a chat about her latest project, Alex Andra.  The beer garden in my local watering hole is beginning to liven up a bit as people drift in for end-of-the working week drinks.  I’m sitting with a new-found friend, another lonely soul who’s just told me his whole life story in about five minutes.  It’s not that he’s not interesting, because he is.  It’s amazing how like can attract like across a crowded space with such uncanny accuracy, if you’re open to it.  It’s just that, when Savill arrives, everyone else becomes instantly redundant.

How can that be?

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That’s the $64 billion question (gotta love inflation) when it comes to rock stars.  The genuine ones have no idea what it is that attracts people to them like matter to a black hole.  So, it’s really no use asking them.  I know, because I did and Savill told me, “I don’t know.”

And, it’s not just about the looks or a recognisable face.  Savill’s not yet achieved the level of household fame that has people clocking her face wherever she goes, carefully curated though it is.  It’s not that, not yet.  It’s something harder to define.  It has people looking up to see what’s happening before they’ve even seen her.  It’s something like a force field pushing the air in front of her, creating a tingle of electricity that reverberates through space and makes people turn towards her.

Certainly, my friend had a sense of what was happening before either of us had sighted Savill approaching across what was now a crowded beer garden.  He stopped mid sentence and looked around.  It was instinctive, like a prey animal in the savannah.  He became flustered and, while for a moment he wanted to stay in her orbit, he couldn’t maintain enough self-possession to do so.  He peeled off without finishing his sentence, giving us a glance over his shoulder as he disappeared.

Genuine rock stars are not from this planet.  No matter how they try, they can’t be ordinary.  They speak our language and the best of them speak what’s in our hearts and minds better than we ever could.  But, they are not us.  That’s the point.  Who would want to adore someone if they didn’t have the magic in them?

So, how to unravel Savill’s magic?  Let’s give it a go.

Paige Savill is a walking contradiction.  It feels difficult to say it these days, and it has nothing to do with her capabilities as an artist, but Savill is an attractive young woman.  When did talking about a person’s appearance become a political statement?  Go on, savage me for daring to say it.

The image that Savill presents is no mistake, of course, it’s not just her putting on her best face before she pops out of her front door in the morning.  Savill is a fashion, make-up and jewellery icon in the making.

On her look, Savill said, “I’ve never been afraid of colour.  I’ve never been afraid of being bold in my appearance, but I want to play more, more than ever.  I really want to work with local designers to create new pieces for me, new looks.  That gives me a team as well of like-minded creatives and it gives me a sense of individuality that I’ve never had before.”

Savill’s look is out of this world, almost cartoonish.  It’s a blend of clothing, jewellery and piercings, make up and tattoos that adds to her mystique.  It’s part of what holds the eye after the very fact of her entry into a space has made people look up in the first place.  Without all of this, she’d still be the same person, the same artist and performer, but with it, she makes herself part of the art.  What Savill creates using herself as a canvass brings to mind artists like David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and St Vincent.  Artists of substance who have an eye for the visuals. 

There are some other things that also have Savill well placed in such company.  She’s a shapeshifter, always herself, but never staying the same.  She’s an artist, it’s more than just the music.  And, she’s charting her own course. 

“I haven’t seen another solo female artist in this genre,” Savill said, “particularly writing about the content that I’m going to be writing about.  I’ve written lyrics in every other band that I’ve been in, but you’re not always as raw.  I’m trying to be more cathartic with my lyrics.”

This is a big call, the sort that makes trainspotting types head for Google to prove you wrong.  But that would be missing the point.  It doesn’t matter a damn whether Savill’s right or wrong on this, all that matters is that she’s willing to put out the challenge.  That’s just the kind of ‘fuck you’ that separates superstars from musicians, and it’s rarely seen these days when we’re all being so careful not to put ourselves above anyone else.  There’s more than a few bands and artists doing the rounds of local music scenes that should be taking notes, because they’re going to be stuck playing to enthusiastic crowds of less than 50 in some of their towns’ worthier venues until the day they quit if they can’t find the same grit that Savill has. 

Whereas Savill is heading for arenas via the US late-night talk show circuit.  Or, more likely these days, massive viral superstardom via TikTok.  Either way, she’s going to be huge.

Being true to herself hasn’t come easy for Savill.  Breaking out as Alex Andra was tough to do.  “I’ve really let people’s views of me, not even their views, but their possible views, affect what I’ve done,” said Savill.  “I just don’t want to be doing that anymore.  I want to be able to go, ‘This feels right,’ and I’m going to do it and I’m not going to care.  I think it will show itself.

“Alex Andra is a role model,” Savill continued, “the same way that there have been women in my life that have been role models, the ones who don’t take shit and can play.  This is a big room for me to be able to play creatively, because I don’t have to rely on anyone else to approve it.

“I think there’s going to be a platform for me to speak my mind about a lot of things…. I’ve always been very political, but I also feel like I’ve kind of shied away from it a little bit, because with your band there beside you, backing you up, there’s only so much you can say.”

Unencumbered by having to fit in with the creative visions of others, Savill’s manifesto now is simple:  “I want to be loud, I want to have fun.”

Musing on what she’s aiming for, Savill said, “The market is younger girls, because they inspire me.  That’s what I’ve been trying to find is that youth in the way that I approach music, listen to music and how I treat myself.  Like a child again.

“For the next couple of releases, it’s been really focusing on my personal growth.  I’ve felt that this is a real opportunity to do that now that this is my voice and my image alone.  The first one, ‘Not the Beginning’, is really tongue in cheek, because it’s obviously not my first release, but that song is about this progress that I’ve made and how people are hanging on to something that I was or expectations of what I’m going to be and there’s a lot that I’ve been working on that’s making me better than that.”

Around The Sound’s review of Savill’s first release as Alex Andra is at the top of this article.  We think she’s nailed it, and nailed it good.  If you’ve managed to read this deep into this article, you’ll also know that we think that Alex Andra is an important artist in the making.  She’s got what it takes to be one of those other worldly beings that holds the thrall of us mere mortals.  But that’s not to say that the woman behind the artist is about to get lost in the maze of stardom, particularly when it comes to the all-important social media.

On that topic, Savill said, “The feeling that I get sometimes is that you’re drowning in it, but at the same time, you’re in an empty room shouting to no one.  It’s this really uncomfortable mixture of those two.  That’s why I think you have to stay detached from it.

“That’s why I chose the name Alex Andra, because that’s an extension of me.  These are parts of me, but I still need to be able to take that off at the end of the day and put my phone down, look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘You’re Paige, you’re not anything else.’  I’m just wearing that hat when I’m doing social stuff.

“I think that’s what makes it so healthy, that they (the artist and the person) do live together, that you can say, ‘This is how I’m feeling at the moment,’ or, ‘This is something that I’ve worked through,’ and the music is a product of that work.  I wear different hats for different projects and for me that’s a really healthy way to work in that space.”

Staying healthy is a key preoccupation for Paige Savill.  As someone who’s experienced mental health issues along the way, Savill is all too familiar with the pitfalls of people expecting you to be someone you’re not, but for her that doesn’t mean she has to be lit up all the time.  She’s far too savvy for that.

It’s that ability to think of herself as a package, with objectivity and distance that, in the end is the definable part of Savill’s magic.  The larger part of it will always defy analysis, just as it should, but what we can know is that Savill is a canny operator as well as an artist who can write absolute bangers and perform the living daylights out of them.

Just to confuse things, Savill left us with this:  “Humans are complicated and I think that if I was going to try to appear as myself… You can’t!  How can you regurgitate every single part of yourself online and then assume that it’s going to be consumable.”

Make of that what you will, but don’t spurn Savill’s invitation to consume her.  If first release, ‘Not the Beginning’, is anything to go by (it is, we’ve heard what’s coming next), you’ll be delighted with all of Savill’s musical flavours and left wanting more.

‘Not the Beginning’ is released on Perth label, Doomity Records on all platforms today.

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