After years of countless festivals, nightclub sets, and flat-out grinding, Alison Wonderland has truly written herself into Australia’s electronic music history books. Her infectious stage presence, pure energy, and unmistakable production and DJ skills have rightfully made her one of our biggest, brightest international exports to date. Not only that, but we have an especially soft spot in our hearts for her here at Stoney Roads. The moment I walked into this interview, Alison started recalling some fond memories of times spent with Stoney’s founders in their teenage years. But it’s not just personal for us – Alison’s music and personality is a refreshing spark of openness and emotional honesty in an information-overloaded, yet impersonal, bullshit-filled world – and it has locked her permanently into our brains.
Three years from her last LP, ‘Run’ she’s arisen into a new era of her musical journey via her fresh-off-the-press album, ‘Awake’. And it’s by far her strongest work to date. ‘Awake’ is an electrifying, honest glide through Alison’s creative mind, smoothly tapping into the realms of bass, pop, and hip hop. Not only does it flow seamlessly as a piece from start to finish, she’s emulated a rollercoaster of feels throughout each track – joy, sadness, anger, all wrapped up into one. Not only that, it shows a stronger sense of self awareness and confidence in her top-notch musical abilities – you’ll hear a lot more of that powerful voice coming through on this one. Throw in some features from Trippie Redd, Slumberjack, and Chief Keef, and you’ve got an album that just debuted at Number 1 on Billboard’s dance charts.
After hopping straight off a flight from Hong Kong, I got the chance to catch up with Alison IRL to talk about Awake, bringing her massive live show to Vivid in June, and what she would change about the music industry. (Hint – It’s got something to do with streaming and Gladys Berejiklian.)
Coming Home, her fans, and the events yet to come:
Every time I come back to Australia, I feel like I’m back at home. I love it so much here. Honestly Australia is what shaped me and it’s what made me who I am as an artist. I feel like everyone here saw me grow, saw me play all those clubs, saw me move up, and I miss it a lot.
I wanted to do really intimate shows for my release parties. I will be DJing, but it’s more of a space for people who bought the album to enjoy, come, we can all hang, listen to music and vibe. I really value my fans, they’re the most important people in the industry to me. I feel like they get me properly. It’s really important for me to spend time meeting people. I started out in such small venues, so I really wanted to do that again.
I’m also going to be playing something for Vivid Live in June, and I’m going to be bringing more of what I did at Coachella, with that style of stage and event production. I’m really excited to do that, because Vivid is one of my favourite festivals. And I always seem to miss it by about a week every time I come home.
Reaching for perfection:
I’ve probably been working on ‘Awake’ for about a year. I am 100% a perfectionist. Actually, I almost took ‘Church’ off the album – I just couldn’t get the production right. I had tried so many different versions that I couldn’t hear it any more, I was stuck. So I actually went on Instagram Live and had everyone who follows me watch me write the chords, work on the beat, and it really helped me finish it, weirdly enough. I didn’t want to put anything out until I really felt something from it myself. That was really important. I wanna live with what I’ve put out, you know?
The strangest place she laid down tracks on ‘Awake’:
You wanna know? I did work on a beat at a skatepark. I had to get out of the house, I was just sitting on the floor. In America, a lot of people go to skate parks. I find watching movements like that really therapeutic almost. It was just taking me out of being in my dark little hole of a home. It even ended up on the album. In the bridge of ‘Here For You‘, I’m playing a synth. I had woken up at 5am, I couldn’t sleep, that synth was haunting me, I had to get it right. All of a sudden, I went downstairs and sat with my headphones right near the swimming pool and wrote this part. It’s probably one of my favourites because I just have such a strong memory of that moment, waking up and it coming to me straight away.
But when it comes to writing, if it happens, it happens. As a musician and artist I’ve always written really intuitively. If something comes to me and it feels right, that’s when I’ll lay it down. There’s some days where nothing comes. And there’s some days where there’s so much coming to me. I’m not a scientific type of artist where there’s some sort of formula, I have to actually feel something. I do go in the studio and work, I think you need to do that, especially if you’re a performer, to get back into that mind set, but it’s not normally where my ideas come. It’s to warm myself up to what sounds and styles I want to use.
How to attack her album on first listen:
Listen to it from start to finish. Here’s the thing. I’m a DJ. I can’t help making the order like that! It was the most stressful thing for me because I was like “This order needs to be perfect. No one else is going to care but me, but I need it to flow. I always knew it had to start with Good Enough, and end with Awake. The rest was just filling in the gaps in the story. It was pretty much chronological, I left it as the order I had written it, which was fun.
What’s topping her Recently Played:
I’ve been really vibing this rapper named BlocBoy JB. I’ve also been listening to the new Post Malone album, which I actually like, a lot. And a whole lot of this New Zealand beatmaker, Montell2099.
The best things that went down at Coachella:
The best thing I saw at Coachella was David Byrne, the singer from Talking Heads. Closely followed by the Destiny’s Child reunion, which just blew my mind. There was also a really weird moment where I went to my friends trailer – I was doing a guest appearance at their show, and I had 15 minutes to get ready. I literally ran straight in without really knocking, opened the door and Jamie Foxx was sitting inside there. I was really suprised, and he’s so, so nice. MØ also killed it!
What she would change about the music industry:
The nightlife in Sydney. And bring the old SoundCloud back. SoundCloud is a big reason for my rise in the beginning, and I think what happened to it ruined a lot of potential opportunity for musicians making music in their room. I never knew how to reach out to anyone, so I would just put stuff on SoundCloud. I think there are so many artists that we’ve never heard of, making music 10 times better than any of us. Just in their bedroom. Platforms like SoundCloud were offering such an amazing way to discover those artists. That’s how I discovered the music that I would play on my radio show, artists I would fall in love with. Monetisation was always the big issue for them. And people selling reposts means that we don’t have an accurate representation of what people should be listening to. You might not listen to the song, and you might not even like it, you’re representing something just for money. I don’t like it.