Alessi Laurent-Marke has a very clear idea of what her new album, The Still Life, means to her. “It’s the stage in life that we’re all working towards and we’re all hoping for, where you feel aligned and accepting. It’s like that feeling of realisation” she explains, with more assertion and confidence than seems possible from a 22-year old. Whilst Alessi's sure of what The Still Life represents to her, the album is more of an exploration of how to attain it than a declaration of achievement. “My grandparents live in France, and they’re in their eighties, and they’re in the still life, as much as I can see. It would be wonderful if we could bring that still life a bit earlier to eachother, but I think it’s something that comes with experience, wisdom and time.”
In the six years since her first EP, Alessi’s done more than her fair share of growing up. Despite still living in Hammersmith, in the same room she grew up in, her lyrics betray a wisdom and other-worldliness that Alessi attributes simply to time passing. “Before when I was writing, I wasn’t really ready for my own experiences, and I was writing songs about a life that I hadn’t lived yet” she explains, “My first song was 'Glendora', which I wrote when I was fifteen, and I described a man’s body as being an island. I didn’t even know what a man’s body was like! It’s a bit embarrassing to think that I’d dive into my imagination so much.” For The Still Life, Alessi hasn’t so much dived into her imagination as recounted personal experiences, and she describes the inspiration behind album opener Tin Smithing as recalling a taxi ride she shared with an Irish man last year in Gallway, and how she sculpted a song from it. “There are moments when you feel so switched on, where everything’s loud and bright and you can’t be awake enough, and that’s when I feel inspired to write.”
Inspiration doesn’t always come that easy to Alessi, though. Throughout the interview, she hints at a period of “not seeing colour or feeling things” which she describes as a darkness, and is forthcoming about the confidence issues that still plague her as much as they had when she started. “I was at the stage where I was thinking ‘when am I going to make a new record? Do I even want to make a new record? Does anybody want to make a record with me?’ Y’know, the types of things you think about at four in the morning, every morning. I struggle with confidence in myself, and that’s something that’s still there, but with the record, I feel quite confident in the sound” she explains. The confidence issues and 4am nerves subtly worked their way into The Still Life, particularly in track ‘Money’, where Alessi alludes to the struggle and sings “What’s clearer in the dark makes getting out of bed so hard.”
When it comes to the actual production of the album, Alessi went about the process a bit differently to her previous two efforts. The Still Life was recorded in the home of singer-songwriter Andy Lemaster in Athens, Georgia. “I felt like it wasn’t enough to work with a producer, I really wanted a sidekick. I wanted it to be a very small unit, because I thought we’d get closer to the sound if it was just me and Andy” Alessi claims, and describes a three-week period of late nights, early morning walks and experimenting with synths. “It was fun to play around with a different soundscape, and playing synths and bringing in a more digital aspect to it. I think this is the first record where I went into the studio with a more focussed idea of how I wanted it to sound, and I really wanted it to be representative of the music I’d been listening to.” The final product is definitely a departure from her earlier acoustic work, and whilst Alessi might struggle to express herself and how she’s feeling, she’s entirely confident when explaining the record. “I feel like The Still Life is kind of an embodiment of a positive mental shape. People really relate to some of the songs, because it’s how they feel, or how they’re mum felt last week, and it’s like therapy. That’s what music is to me, and I hope I can do that for other people.”
The Still Life is out on April 15th on Bella Union.