On Stage (Spotlight): Allie X, new name, new music

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Allie X

Since the release of her new album “Collxtion II,” publications and album reviewers have been referring to Allie X as a new pop act.

That’s hardly the case.

Allie X, who will headline a show on August 29 at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com), has been making and releasing records for quite some time.

Using her given name, Allie X started releasing albums in her hometown of Toronto, Ontario back in 2006.

“That was a whole different time,” said Allie X, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Portland, Oregon. “I don’t go back to any of that music now.”

Allie X is now touring in support of “Collxtion II.”

Through expressive lyricism and innovative visuals, the project explores themes of identity, fragility, and imperfection, with a minimal dark pop sound and a DIY edge.

“I made ‘Collxtion II’ over the course of two years,” said Allie X. “I used a lot of different studios.

“It was a long period of time and a long process—taking older ideas, deconstructing them and then building up from scratch. I wrote a lot for the album. And, I write for others as well.”

Allie X’s debut album “Collxtion I,” which was released in 2015, is a supercharged pop record that explored the world of X.

X is the universe Allie has created for her fans, and even more so for herself. It is a place that provides a sanctuary for those unresolved fragments of self — those parts of you that still don’t feel whole or fulfilled. X is the place where one can go when they need reassurance that everything doesn’t need to be certain and defined at once.

“’Collxtion II,” which is the second full-length from Allie X, asks the question — Is it O.K for things to just not make sense sometimes?”

“You don’t really have an answer because there are infinite answers,” said Allie X.

It may sound ambiguous – but it’s not.

According to Allie X, “I’ve always had to find hidden roads to be understood. When I was a kid, I was always hiding my teeth, my body, my personality to fit in. I became very good at it. I would dress myself in a way that hid imperfect shapes and stay quiet so that my weird sense of humor didn’t throw off my friends’ boyfriends.

“All I ever had working in my favor was my music. It helped me navigate my way through life. I got to become a person of myself, and that made me feel stronger.

“This album is an exploration of who I have become. Each song on this album can be thought of as a piece of me. Some are memories, some are dreams, some are my interpretation of reality.”

X is therefore a reclamation of Allie’s true self. It fills in the empty spaces with possibility. For Allie, exploring that sense of uncertainty is merely the theoretical aspect of the story of X.

“X has many meanings throughout history, science and literature,” said Allie X. “I love the anonymity X represents. I can be who I want to be. And, I like the chaos it represents.”

Allie X grew up in Toronto and first established her music career there. Then, she moved to Los Angeles.

“When I moved to L.A., it was amazing at first,” said Allie X. “It was just what I needed. It was dreamlike and surreal. A year in, I started to get more jaded about living and working in Hollywood.

“I like leaving it and coming back to it. I like to go home to Canada. I love Toronto. But, for me, I never really found my place there.”

Returning to her native Canada, Allie realized the songs she’d been working on for “Collxtion II” needed to be stripped down again and re-built to give her a new sonic identity. Being back in Toronto gave her clarity.

Video link for Allie X – https://youtu.be/9A6_a-Suv9c.

The show at The Foundry will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Scott H. Biram

Kung Fu Necktie (1248 North Front Street, Philadelphia, 215-291-4919, kungfunecktie.com) will host two interesting indie acts over the next two nights – Scott H. Biram on August 29 and David Nance on August 30.

Accordimng to Biram’s press release, “Rock and Roll ain’t pretty and neither is Scott H. Biram. The self-proclaimed “Dirty Old One-Man Band” successfully, and sometimes violently, lashes together blues, hillbilly and country precariously to raucous punk and godless metal.”

It goes on to say, “Biram ain’t no candy-ass singer/songwriter either, sweetly strumming songs about girls with big eyes and dusty highways.

“His singing, yodeling, growling, leering and brash preachin’ and hollerin’ is accompanied by sloppy riffs and licks from his ’59 Gibson guitar and pounding backbeat brought forth by his amplified left foot.

“The remainder of this one-man band consists of an unwieldy combination of beat-up amplifiers and old microphones strung together by a tangled mess of guitar cables.”
Prior to becoming a one-man band, he was a member of a punk band (The Thangs) and two bluegrass bands (Scott Biram & the Salt Peter Boys and Bluegrass Drive-By).

“I grew up in the country along the San Marcos River in Texas,” said Biram, during a phone interview this week from a tour stop in Rochester, New York.

“I did listen to classic rock. But, I was also tuned in to Leadbelly, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Doc Watson. My dad played sax and a couple of my uncles played guitar. In our house, there were always instruments around. I sang to myself a lot – which I still do.

“I screwed around with guitar since I was six. I didn’t get serious until I was 13 or 14 and I’m 43 now. I took music theory in high school – but it wasn’t practical then. Over the years, I’ve found it more useful.”

Biram’s debut album was “This Is Kingsbury?” in 2000 and, 14 years later, he released his eighth album “Nothin’ But Bad Blood” on Bloodshot Records. This year, he released his ninth album “The Bad Testament” – also on Bloodshot.

“I got burned out on guitar for a while,” said Biram. “Last winter, I took six months off for the first time in 20 years. Then, I fell in love with guitar again.

“I travel with five guitars. I play mostly vintage guitars and they’re all tuned differently. One of my favorites is my 1959 Gibson hollow body.”

After years of playing in bands, Biram opted to go solo.

“I had been doing more singer/songwriter acoustic thing on the back burner since 1996,” said Biram. “When my band Bluegrass Drive-By broke up, I made a couple solo records and started touring. I was playing weird venues – like coffee houses. I wanted rock venues. So, I started stomping my foot on my mic stand and that evolved into a foot stomp thing that goes into a sub-woofer. When I got signed to bloodshot, I realized a lot more money could be made by doing originals. So, I turned it into a job and it’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

Biram has the grit and talent to make it as a one-man band – and more resilience than most of the artists out on the road today.

On May 11, 2003, one month after being hit head-on by an 18-wheeler at 75 MPH, Biram took the stage at The Continental Club in Austin, Texas in a wheel chair with an I.V. still dangling from his arm. With two broken legs, a broken foot, a broken arm and one foot less of his lower intestine, Biram unleashed his trademark musical wrath.

One of Biram’s most telling quotes is – “I’m a hard act to follow.”

Video link for Scott H. Biram – https://youtu.be/8iN3pai9zYM.

The show, which has Gallows Bound as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

David Nance

On August 30, David Nance will return to Kung Fu Necktie to treat area fans to another round of songs from his new album “Negative Boogie.”

Nance played the venue in Philly’s Northern Liberties neighborhood on July 27, 2017. The live recording from the show is available on his bandcamp page.

Nance, Omaha veteran of warble and hiss, released “Negative Boogie” earlier this year – an album billed as “his new concoction of chug, throb and greasy swagger.”

When recording “Negative Boogie,” Nance traded in his beaten-up Tascam 488 (portable studio) for the bulletproof glass walls of A.R.C. Studios in Omaha.

“I recorded ‘Negative Boogie’ back in December,” said Nance, during a phone interview this week from a stop in Maryland. “The record label threw some money my way and I said – O.K., I’ll go into the studio instead of using my eight-track home recorder.

“The first day of tracking, I did 15 songs live in the studio. Mostly all of it was done on first take or first run-through. If a part wasn’t quite right, that was O.K. We wanted to keep it sloppy – keep it real.

“The vocals, drums, bass and most of the vocals were done live. We had to make sure we didn’t clean it up too much. That was always our biggest worry.

“Everyone in the band is from Omaha so we decided to use A.R.C. Studios. It had a lot of gear we were able to use – a lot of toys. We got to use their mellotron and the steel drums they had there.”

There wasn’t a lot of preparation or long writing sessions heading into the recording process.

True to habit, Nance built on scraps and scrapes as his starting point.

“They were just songs from previous album sessions that hadn’t been used along with songs that had been written since the last album,” said Nance.

“I was trying to write songs but I didn’t want to make songs that are identical. But, the structure is the same – just playing sloppily and leaving it up to chance.

“On this tour, we’re out with Simon Joyner. I go on first with my trio. Then, the three of us are onstage with Simon as his backing band.”

Video link for David Nance –https://youtu.be/tjeS_d4QuNU.

The show, which also features Jason Spacin’ and Simon Joyner, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.

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