A Fine Frenzy

Stylesetter: A Fine Frenzy

Alison Sudol is captivating the crowd. From the moment she took the stage, all eyes have been glued to the fiery-haired maven, smiling in her mod lace frock with dimples that beam across the room.

She is thrilled because it is her first visit to Canada, her first chance to play select tracks off of her upcoming debut One Cell in the Sea in the North, and her first Canadian reception. It is, of course, a warm one.

After a haunting rendition of “Almost Lover”—the gut-wrenching ballad that proves at once Sudol’s talent in lyric and voice—the private audience gathered in the loft of Yonge St.’s Club 279 is compelled in their emotional response.

“That’s some good cheering,” she muses, dimples in full force.

“Well that’s some good song,” cries out an immediate reply.

With that, Sudol, who plays under the moniker A Fine Frenzy (usually supported by Stephen LeBlanc on keyboards and Daxx Nielsen on drums), knows that she has found her Northern fans. Any listener exposed to the wonder of One Cell in the Sea is sure to draw allegiance.

Two days later, we’re face-to-face as I uncover that the on-stage charm of A Fine Frenzy spills over into the woman behind the piano.

Flare.com: When you first came out on stage the other night, you sat down and closed your eyes. You seemed so chilled-out. What gets you to that place?

AS: Probably the beginning music in “Come On, Come Out” [the opening track to One Cell in The Sea and the song that A Fine Frenzy opens with when playing live]. That’s why we do it every night. It’s not meditation or anything formal, but in order to be able to be there and be present, I need to get control of my nerves. I usually get really terrible nerves before a show. I have to make sure to breathe and get centered; otherwise it’s like knee-knocking, shaking nerves.


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Flare.com: How do you choose what you’re going to wear on stage?

AS: I’m kind of like Mr. Magoo on the road–like I’ll find my phone in the sink! So, my best friend is on tour with me and has been helping with styling and just generally keeping me together. [We’re finding that] it’s tough to find dresses that look good at the piano right now because of the whole baby doll trend. It’s super cute, but it also makes you look pregnant. Then some things are too short–like the dress [I was wearing the other night] was slightly too short. But I had little shorts on underneath and I always do that when there’s danger.

Flare.com: Good thinkin’.

AS: Yeah, well, I don’t want to pull a Paris, or a Britney, or a Lindsay…

Flare.com: Do you have fun with the styling?

AS: I absolutely love clothes. To the point where, it’s actually irritating my band a little bit because I’m taking over everything with clothes. We have this tiny little closet on the bus and everyone else wants to use it to hang their shirts and stuff and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? No.’ I mean it’s terrible. I’m such a space hog. Clothes and shoes. The big joke is that they need to get a trailer–not for equipment, but for my closet!

Flare.com: You were working with a band originally and then decided to branch off and do something solo. Why was a solo career a better fit for you?

AS: I think it’s all about finding yourself. I was in a high school band and it was a good way of learning how to perform in front of people. To be able to get out there and handle four other guys was very strengthening, but there came a point where it was difficult. One guy was a talented reggae drummer and then there was a jazz pianist and a rock guitarist and a funk bassist and I didn’t know where I belonged. No one really did. Since then, we’ve all branched off and done our own thing in the right genre. For me, I just had to really sit down at the piano and figure out what I wanted to say. You know, you can make music all the time. Just sit there and pump out songs and never really have a point of view. A sense of, ‘this is my music, this is what I want to do and what I want to communicate’, and I had to find that. I had to know where I was coming from. That’s why I went solo.

Flare.com: How did you come to discover your point-of-view? Was there an experience that brought you that perspective? Because at 22, you’re so young to have some of the mature insights that you have in your songwriting.


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AS: I think I was afraid to really express myself when I was in the band because I was so open to everyone else’s opinion. It was very difficult to figure out what I wanted to say, as opposed to what I wanted people to hear. It sounds like it could be the same thing, but it’s actually totally different. I just had to grow up…and learn to play the piano, which I just learned to play three years ago. That was a big turning point. I also just started going back to the way I was as a kid. That’s why I love fairytales and animals and nature. All of those things are innocent elements to me. It is more of who I am as a person naturally, without the weirdness or jaded attitude that comes from being in the music business and living in LA.

Flare.com: So, when you’re living in that environment, how do you get in tune with that innocence?

AS: When I was younger, I lived in Seattle and I was super aware as a baby. I really took things in. It was very green and there was a lot of animal art and representation–they’re much more in tune with nature there–and I think that has something to do with it. It’s just tapping back into where I came from. And reading a lot.

Flare.com: What do you read?

AS: Everything. Everything I can get my hands on. Mostly classics because the language is so amazing. Like Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy and also the stuff that I read when I was growing up, like C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll–those worlds that were so entrancing and vivid when I was a kid.

Flare.com: And you draw those more fantastical elements into your own song writing. Do you ever worry that people may not be able to relate?

AS: Definitely. I mean, “Minnow and a Trout” was one of those songs that I wrote and I was like, ‘Oh God…I love this, but I don’t know if anyone else is going to get what I’m trying to say.’ But I think it’s a side that people should have brought out of them and have that be okay. Adults aren’t really encouraged to [use their imaginations], in fact it’s the opposite, and as a result you lose your connection with that pure joy that you get as a kid. It shouldn’t be something you have to hide. There are enough gloomy, boring, mundane things in life that you might as well have a bright, vivid inner-world.

Flare.com: So, in keeping with that idea of fantasy, since you’re sitting on the cusp of it, if I could grant you three wishes for the rest of your career, what would they be?

AS: There was a concert that Coldplay did. I’m not sure where it was, but it was at an outdoor venue and there was literally a sea of people. I’ve never seen so many people gathered in one place. It was mad. Completely mad. People had their cell phones up and there were glowing lights everywhere. [The band] started to play Yellow and [Chris Martin] held out his microphone to the audience and everyone sang the entire first verse. Not even the chorus–the first verse. To have an experience like that where you have thousands of people doing the same thing at the same time in a joyful moment. That would be definitely one wish. Another wish would be to be able to play with a full symphony. I don’t even know what songs I would play or what I would do, but to have that energy would be incredible. And the third would be to make albums that people want to listen to, to the end. Just album, after album, after album that people are buying and listening to and wanting more of.


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