Allie Crow Buckley on Her Debut Album “Moonlit and Devious” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 28th, 2024  

Allie Crow Buckley on Her Debut Album “Moonlit and Devious”

Light and Shade

Mar 17, 2021 Photography by Nastassia Brückin Web Exclusive
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Allie Crow Buckley’s musical world is informed by travel. Born in San Francisco, Buckley moved to Venice, and then spent her formative years growing up in New Zealand. Then it was back to California, this time Malibu. After high school and spending a few years in New York, she returned to Los Angeles. It was there Buckley’s interest in creating music blossomed. After releasing an acclaimed EP, So Romantic, in 2019, Buckley returns with a sublime debut album Moonlit and Devious. It’s a beautiful cohesive body of work full of poetic imagery, distorted guitars, and atmospheric keyboard flourishes that showcase her timeless voice and evocative songwriting to perfection. Under the Radar caught up with Buckley to discuss her debut album and her love of travel.

Andy Von Pip (Under the Radar): You’ve travelled all over the world and lived in a variety of different places growing up, and that comes across on the album, there’s a real sense of freedom and space that flows throughout.

Allie Crow Buckley: I’m really glad you got that from the album. It definitely does inform my creativity and I’m grateful I grew up in a family that allowed me that space and to experience so many different places. My parent’s jobs took us all over but they also just loved exploring new places so that’s certainly had a big impact on my outlook and my work.

You trained to be a dancer, was it ballet? You mention “arabesque” in the lyrics of the album’s title track.

Yes, you spotted the dance terms! I studied all sorts of different kinds of modern dance but primarily yes it was ballet, I used to dance for a company in New Zealand and it was a big part of my life. I do still love it and it’s funny, I didn’t have any thoughts about being a singer back then.

When did you decide to start creating music? Did your family realize you had this remarkable voice?

Well, there was a big gap between stopping dancing and me deciding to write music. I started doing music seriously when I was about 22, which is later than a lot of people. My first show was when I was 24, and at that point my friends and family had never even heard me sing before or heard any of my songs. I was always writing poetry for myself and I was such a fan of music that I thought it would be great to meld the two together. I love classical music, which came from dancing, and my dad was into prog whilst my mum was into classic songwriters like Lucinda Williams. And me? Well I absolutely love Black Sabbath, so I’m like the ethereal Black Sabbath. [Laughs]

Moonlit and Devious sounds much darker than your previous releases, musically it conjures up imagery of clouds coasting across a full moon, and throughout there’s that juxtaposition of light and shade, which the album cover seems to represent perfectly too.

Thank you, I love that image of the moon and clouds! For the album cover, I collaborated with a friend, and she did all the art direction. So much of the record has to do with duality, sonically there’s a moonlit side and there’s a devious side. And I think she captured it so well on the cover, it looks like half my face is lit by the moon. It’s certainly darker than my previous EP, So Romantic, which is kind of more oceanic, whereas this album is much more grounded, rooted, and a little darker. I wrote most of the record on my organ, which is a Wurlitzer fun maker.

I recorded the backbone of it with the band live and to the floor and to tape. I loved recording this way as it allowed everyone to provide the fuel for whatever the song needed at that time. I had such a great band too, Lee Pardini on keys, Dylan Day and co-producer Mike Viola on guitars, with the other co-producer Jason Boesel [of Rilo Kiley] on drums. We all played through the songs once, and the Moonlit and Devious world started to evolve. We recorded it in just over a week, Dylan and Lee are incredible tone masters, so we all cultivated that darker tone in the studio. The darker theme hadn’t been something I’d consciously set out to write, but we drew it out as the album evolved organically in the studio.

I believe the album was written pretty quickly in a rush of creativity?

Most of the songs were written within two weeks. I wrote a lot of them on synth bass and organ. So yes, you’re right, the bulk of the album did come about pretty quickly, although there are a few others that made their way onto the record that came later, such as “Under the Sun,” which I was still finishing writing in the studio. I’m so glad that this record resides in such “a world” of its own. A lot of the songs on this record started life as poems. I’ll generally start with lyrics then go to the organ and work on the melody. I got the organ a few years ago, I was drawn to it because it looked fun and I prefer writing on keys. It’s genuinely given me so many songs.

And it’s self-released?

Yes, it’s self-funded and self-released. We did talk to labels but it’s such a specific record that I really wanted it to be exactly how I wanted it. Obviously, if other people get involved and are an extra voice in the room you don’t always get to have that freedom. As it’s my debut I really did want to have that creative control. Even down to the artwork. It’s a full body of work and I’m so lucky I’ve had so many incredible collaborators here in LA who were happy to get involved. So down the line, I’d happy to collaborate with labels, but for my debut I really wanted it to represent my vision, my own world, and I’m really excited it’s got to exist in all its strangeness. [Laughs]

Given you had quite a nomadic upbringing and the album’s been informed in part by travel, how have you found the last year with the restrictions that have been imposed on us all because of the global pandemic.

Well, travelling has become a huge passion. In my whole life if I ever have any spare money I usually spend it travelling. It’s the most inspiring thing for me, I’m always trying to go somewhere. COVID has been heartbreaking for many reasons—it’s certainly been the weirdest of years. Here in California, it’s been super strict, which isn’t surprising as for a while LA was a COVID epicentre. In other ways it’s been interesting, you know, to explore the stillness, which I have appreciated. And of course, I’ve been working on the recording of the album. At home it’s nice and I have a cool outdoor space, but I still can’t wait to travel again when it’s safe, I do miss it.

How do you hope the album will affect the listener?

As a music fan, I’ve always loved to enter someone else’s world, a lot of older records have that ability. Because we recorded live with the same band it allows for more of an imprint in that way. So that’s what I would hope the listener could get from this record, to escape into another world for 38 minutes. It’s nice to be able to deliver this album at a time when perhaps people need that escape, it’s for everyone. I miss playing shows, but we all have to adapt and think creatively so I’m working on some livestreams and I’m just so excited for people to hear this album.

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