March 11 2019

Annie O Presents: Alex Lilly

New York-Standard Sounds
Alex Lilly brings her debut album 2% Milk to The Standard, East Village‘s Penthouse, as part of the Annie O Music Series. “Her voice is supple and relaxed; she often sounds like a smile is tugging at the corners of her mouth.” - The New York Times. Lilly is based in Los Angeles and has been writing songs while also working as a keyboardist and backup singer on tour with Beck, Lorde and others. Annie O caught up with Lilly before her show on March 18 at the hotel.

Why 2% Milk as the title of the record?

There’s something seductive about milk but when it’s reduced, it’s measured and it’s processed. So, the concept of 2% milk is slightly unsettling and maybe a contradiction? I think I approach a lot of topics with a naturally ambiguous thought process. It can be exhausting—nothing ever has one answer or one mood. And this collection of songs reflects that.

What’s your songwriting process? For instance, with a song like Distracting Me, with all its odd timing, does that song start with a beat? Or do you write on the piano first?

I’m remembering now that I’d been listening to Jive Talkin by the Bee Gees in the car right before I wrote that song. I was driving to Victoria, BC to stay in a shack and read and write (and avoid LA distractions). I loved how sweet and fun that Bee Gee’s tune is but there’s that hiccup in the rhythm (that section in 7/4). I was inspired and programmed the beat first and then wrote the keyboard part. But often I start with a chord pattern I've been screwing around with. A few times I’ve dreamt up songs but none of those made it on this record!

What’s your favorite dessert?

Halo-Halo which is basically a Filipino version of English Trifle, my other favorite dessert, which is just a version of throwing a bunch of delicious, weird textures together.

What’s something that might surprise us about you?

I can juggle. Oh wait, that would surprise no one as I’m a total dweeb.

 

The Standard

What are some favorite spots in New York? My answers might be goofy because I’m not a resident but I did live in Greenpoint for five months and I loved Peter Pan Donuts. Mostly the atmosphere (pastel colors like petit fours) and the wide variety of people who would stop in and sit at the counter. It’s a great place to read. Also, I adore Marie’s Crisis piano bar. I’ve never not had a great time (i.e. never not gotten rip-roaring drunk there). Oh, and there's a beautiful church/rehearsal space right next to McGolrick park. I miss New York periodically even though I've never really lived there.

Who typically plays in your band?

For these next couple touring jags, I’ll be playing solo and teaming up with different horn players in different cities. In Los Angeles, I play with a lovely pack of brass players: Vikram Devasthali on trombone, Jordan Katz on trumpet, and Dan Reckard, James King, and Taylor Plenn on sax.

Are you putting anything else out in the near future? What should we look out for?

I’m releasing another video in the next couple weeks! It will include balloon art.

What do you like about playing music for an audience?

I love it when people get something from a song that I didn’t consciously intend but somehow their impression (if we talk after the show) can feel just as true as my intention. It’s that strange intuitive logic at work. 

What can we expect from your show at The Standard, East Village, as part of the Annie O’s Music Series?

I’ll be playing a set of songs, mostly from my new record. There will be special guests on a few songs: a couple wonderful players on trombone and tenor sax. It will be a marriage between “real” instruments and electronic elements.

 

INTERVIEW BY
Annie O