Alanna Joy debuts Alternative Rock sound with new single ‘Tell Me’ featuring Matt Carstens
Known for her vulnerable lyrics and fierce performances, Irish/South African songwriter Alanna Joy has performed extensively around South Africa, sharing stages with the likes of Craig Lucas, Majozi and Hezron Chetty to name a few. She is now back with a brand-new single and music video ‘Tell Me’, which represents a shift in sound for the Cape Town-based musician.
I caught up with Alanna Joy to find out more about the new offering and her future plans.
Congrats on the new release. Please tell me a bit about the journey of putting this new single together and the new sound you’ve embraced?
‘Tell Me’ was one of the first songs we wrote as a band. When we formed last year, most of the material we played were songs I had written previously as a solo folk/pop artist. We had already started to shift towards this darker, rock-influenced sound, and it was coming through in our live shows, but I don’t think we really defined it until we started working on new material.
We recorded most of the song, at home, on my laptop and then we sent it off to my friend Sloani for mixing and mastering. It was actually set for release in April, but due to the world-wide pandemic, the music video editing process got delayed and we wanted the video to come out with the song, so we decided to wait a little and make it more impactful. It was tough to wait, but it gave us time to plan the virtual launch show and figure out all the tech aspects of streaming.
Amazing! So, how was it working with Matt Carstens?
Matt is this amazing, down to earth yet total Rockstar character. Recording with him was such an adventure because every time we tried to meet up, the universe just wasn’t on our side. For example; the day we recorded vocals, his phone was stolen, so we had to communicate via his band-mate Dean, and then on the way there, his tyre popped! But the man never lets anything stop him.
Oh no! Haha. But the song delves into emotional vulnerability and mental health. Tell me about the story behind this song and why you wanted to write about these topics?
I don’t discuss it much, outside of my music, but when I was younger I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. A lot of my music revolves around lessons I’ve learnt, many of which are related to mental health and learning to overcome these challenges.
The human experience is so similar, we all feel pain and loss and love and heartbreak, so hopefully writing about the things I’ve been through and have learnt from, can help others on their own journeys.
‘Tell Me’ in particular was a concept I had been toying with for a while. I wanted to write a song about the conflict of wanting to reach out to someone, but not knowing how to and not wanting to burden them. It was only when I was helping a friend of mine deal with the same feelings that I realised how to write about the concept. I think I needed to see it from both perspectives, and that’s probably why the song is a duet now.
So, how about the music video; What is the story around it and what do you hope people will take from it?
Last year, we met Nick Mackay, the videographer, editor and co-director on the project. He wanted to do a music video with us for free to increase his showreel. After a little initial scepticism and many really productive coffee meetings, we came up with the concept. We knew it needed to be simple, as we had no budget and we wanted it to represent the message of the song in a meaningful, but relatable way.
The actors were friends and students we knew and they really put their hearts on the line for this project, with some of them offering to explore issues they had actually suffered with. It felt almost therapeutic to explore these topics together and turn them into art.
The video explores three couples and the issues they face as individuals and how they connect to each other. I thought it was important to explore different types of relationships for the video, not just a heteronormative or romantic one. We have a friendship between two guys, a same-sex relationship and a straight relationship. If you look carefully, you’ll see that each individual and relationship have a specific story, but we put them on the same couch to demonstrate how universal sadness and suffering is. To show that anyone and everyone goes through hard times and how important it is to be there for each other.
That’s so awesome. On another note, how have you as an artist experienced the lockdown so far?
I’ve been really lucky, compared to the vast majority, because I have a family that won’t let me starve during this time. A lot of artists I know are really struggling.
Obviously, the loss of gigs was devastating, with our first UK tour and the gigs that were meant to pay for our upcoming EP being cancelled. It felt really hopeless for a while. I took some time to mourn what I thought this year was going to be and going to bring, and then slowly, I began finding new ways to move forward. It’s been really beautiful to see the support from our fans during this time and to see how musicians have come together to educate and help each other figure out new technologies and online platforms. There’s been a lot of divisiveness and hate online, but I’ve also witnessed so much love and generosity.
And tell me about your launch concert last week: Was it your first virtual show and how was the experience?
It’s funny, it actually felt like I had played a real show (just slightly less hot and sweaty) when it ended. We’ve hosted a few live streams on Facebook and Instagram but this was our first YouTube stream. It was cool to see how many people tuned in and it felt so special to interact with everyone. It’s obviously really weird to perform to a camera, in your living room, without seeing anyone or feeding off of their energy, but the live comment aspect is quite cool, because you get to connect with everyone in quiet a personal manner. The live streams have definitely been a highlight of this time because of that.
And what else have you been working on right now and what do you hope to do once this is all over?
We’ve had to put our EP on pause due to lack of funding, but we’re still adamant on getting some content out during this time, we just have to be a little more creative with it. One special project we have been working on will be out on the 12th of June. I can’t say too much about it, but it’ll be an ode to the live shows we are all missing at the moment.
When this is all over, I’m never taking a live show for granted again, whether I’m on stage or in the audience, I’ll be savouring every moment. I don’t know about everyone else, but this lockdown has made me really appreciate human connection and all the things that come with it. I can’t wait to play a loud, feel-the-bass-in-your-chest show and then have a beer at the bar with the beautiful souls that support our music.
Indeed. Lastly, what would like to say to other artists who are really having a hard time right now?
There’s so much I could say, but I think the most important thing is to just keep helping each other. I think often the music industry feels quite competitive, but I’ve seen a shift recently where everyone is helping and educating each other. It’s been quite magical to see. Let’s keep helping each other grow.
Watch ‘Tell Me’
Get ‘Tell Me’
Photo 1 and 2 by Seth Ryan
Photo 3 by Laura McCullagh