Is it just me or do you ever find yourself seething with jealousy at super talented people? You know people who put their hand to most stuff and are generally class at it.
Alicia Angels is exactly one of those people. Making music under her Sailor Beast alias, the LA based producer dropped her debut LP Dear Universe, Vol. 1. earlier this year. It’s a wicked collection of upbeat electronica that takes influence from the likes of hip hop, jungle, indie and soul to create a sound that’s pretty hard to pigeonhole and has gotten her featured on the Broad City soundtrack to gaining Fat Lip from The Pharcyde as a fan.
On top of that she’s also an accomplished videographer, and in between making music for her own productions, she’s working with numerous mainstreams acts, both in the US and UK. As mentioned, basically one of those annoyingly talented all rounders and as a big fan of her work, I’m absolutely delighted she let us pick her brain and discuss everything from her creative process and influences to her thoughts on the US dance scene.
Going way back to the start, what’s your earliest musical memory? Was there a moment when you thought “Yeah, this is my thing”.
My earliest musical memory was the Michael Jackson Thriller video when I was about 3 years old – I would ask my mom to play it on repeat every single day until it eventually broke. My MJ phase lasted quite a while.
I also had a blue stereo that had a record button on it so I would start recording the sounds of my backyard – I pretty much knew then that it was my passion.
What were your first steps into making music more seriously? There’s a lot of instruments on your tunes, including guitar, piano and synths and the like. Do you play all these yourself?
I’ve never been a trained musician, I mainly learned to play just by ear, but percussion is the one I gravitate to the most. It’s always the most complex element of my music because it’s the language I know best. When I play piano or synth it’s actually quiet simple – the keys help me create the mood then from there I can go and manipulate the sound. I like to keep my guitars raw but I’m going to be bringing in a lot more of them onto Dear Universe Vol 2. It’s also going to be my vocal album – I think people are going to be really surprised at the direction I go.
Your sound is very hard to define as there’s so many different elements going on. While very much electronic, Dear Universe has an almost indie feel to it. Your latest single My Favourite Ex is also a classic example of this. Is it important for you to try and mix it up? As in, is it a conscious thing or is that just how your sound naturally comes out?
This is such a great question and every time people ask me I have to take a moment.
I tend to just say it’s multi genre with elements of Jungle and then 5 minutes I’ll change my answer. Because you are right, it definitely does have an Indie feel as that’s who I am in my heart. I listen to folk music, nineties and classic rock the most actually, so I want people to experience all those worlds.
You class yourself as 100% independent. What does being this encompass? How important is this ethos to you?
100% independent means I do everything from producing to marketing to distribution, as well as all my music videos and editing etc…
However I actually want to move on from this as I need to focus on the art and live element now. I realise how important it is to have a team and how crucial it will be in reaching a wider audience. Now is definitely the moment where I need to turn the page.
Coming from the US, what are your thoughts on the whole EDM scene? Over here in Europe, while becoming more popular, it’s not as saturated as it is in the US. Is that a scene you identify in anyway with at all? Your sound is a million miles away from it but I’m interested to hear your views.
EDM to me is (and I hate to say this because my EDM friends are going to kill me) is like when you’re in high school and you think you’re really cool, then years later you discover there’s more to life. Basically what I mean is there’s more music and depth to explore. It’s definitely way too saturated here in America. Being honest, I can barely tell people apart in that genre and there are so many EDM producers now that it’s no longer pure sounding.
But, that doesn’t mean I hate it – one of my biggest influences were The Prodigy. Electronic music in the nineties had a feeling about it. If I had the chance though I would rock the fuck out of an EDM festival. I actually dream of that sometimes, just playing a huge rave but my set would take people to a different universe. It would be a show, an entire experience.
Your websites states that the album was “3 years in the making from New York to Los Angeles”. Both cities are notorious hubs of creativity – did you find your sound evolving between each place? What elements of each do your prefer?
New York was where Sailor Beast was born. While I was making music years before NY, it was nothing like what came out when I was there. The first job I landed was a recording studio and event space in Chelsea, NY, but it was private so I could stay there for hours – I would even sleep over sometimes if I didn’t feel like taking the train.
I would stay there for hours and hours making music and inviting all different types of artists over. Then after those days I had a house in Bushwick Brooklyn where all I would do is get inspired and come home to make music with artists and friends. We had a revolving door. It was pure creativity and magic every single moment.
I really miss New York but LA is my home now, and I like the nature and the peace that comes with creating. Except I do feel like the magic of bumping shoulders with artists is missing as it’s the same people here, just a small group of us. Everyone that is up and coming is friendly and knows each other, but no one leaves their house – I’m trying to change that.
How does the creative process work for you? Are you constantly creating or do you set time aside? What part of producing do you find the most challenging?
Yes I’m constantly creating, and if I’m not creating I’m hiking with my dog during the day. I’m a full time artist and I also work in film art directing music videos for mainstream artists building all the sets. I know I’m crazy doing both, but I pray one day it all merges and I can do that for my own. It’s sort of already happening for Sailor now.I’m always working on something, even if it’s my car.
A huge influence of mine is Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips. To me he is the ultimate creator, as he does it all and doesn’t stop.
How do you translate your stuff live? What kind of setup do you have when playing out?
I’m currently working on a Sailor Beast live set, which is picking it apart and playing it all live. I recently went on a search for musicians in LA and have a pretty great list of talented people that I may bring on board to make this happen. I used to always just DJ with a live drummer but now that I have all of this original music I feel it’s time for me to approach lives differently.
Your music has been featured in one of my favourite shows, Broad City. How did this come about? Were they fans of yours?
Every time I hear that name I get butterflies as it’s my favourite show too – I’ve never related more to a show. Basically I reached out to Matt Fx who was the music supervisor. We had a lot of mutual friends and he’s super young and in the music scene out in NY, so he was always down to support local artists. The girls did tweet about Sailor Beast though which was pretty awesome. We were so excited we filmed a video for Retro Spaceship a few weeks later.
As mentioned you also do a lot of video work which goes hand in hand with your music. Which medium do you find more satisfying? What projects have/are you working on?
They’re both super rewarding. I just finished a feature film for Kesha and that was one of the coolest things I’ve done film wise. I worked with Petra Collins director Kevin Hayden, and Petra is a huge influence to me in the art world. I also learned to scuba dive in the pool they shot Titanic, which was kind of an epic moment.
Music videos are a different beast, every single one is different, including every crew, artist and personality. So many variables but its great. Music to me is home, it never feels forced, just pure and always feels like a connection with your higher self.
I am in love with both worlds though. My ultimate goal in life is to make a feature film and create the entire soundtrack to it.
What are you listening to at the moment? Any artists that are blowing your mind? Likewise with film.
The last three artists I listened to was Janes Addiction, The Pharcyde and Shaun Ross. Shaun is a unique model and now music artist. I met him at the local bar I go to and he was super genuine – I’d love to record him. Fat Lip from The Pharcyde has always been supportive of my work and he’s down to come to the studio – I need to make that happen.
Can we expect to see you playing in Europe in the near future?
I’m actually dying to. I just did a video for a new artist Mira May from London. Her and her best friend / manager have a beautiful light about them. She just signed to Island Records.
We drank coffee at their place after the shoot and talked till like 5 in the morning. Being with them made me expand my mind about coming out there. I think I would flourish there to be honest, but don’t have that many connections out in Europe. I should get on it.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store?
I want to collaborate with as many artists as I can, shoot the music video I have planned for Dear Universe, Vol. 1, seek out a publishing deal and be an all around better person.
I’m pretty sure she’ll get them all done as well. A massive thanks to Alicia for the interview. Absolutely no doubt you’ll be hearing way more about her in the near future.