Alice on the roof is a 20-year-old Belgian artist. She shot to fame in her own country with ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ and its infectious melancholic sensuality. The record was top of the charts for 8 weeks and become the most-played title in 2015. Now, after releasing an EP of her ethereal pop in the spring, Alice is preparing to bring out her first album.
Her father an instrument-inventing electrical engineer and her mother an architect, Alice entered an academy of music aged six. “I learned to sing in harmony and absorb family influences – from Peter Gabriel to Jewish and Chinese music. I studied piano and especially vocals. I’ve always been much better at expressiveness than technique.”
When she left to restart her last year of high school in September 2011, Alice ended up in Brookings, Oregon, “the state’s most southwestern city, by the sea. I love new experiences.” Although she is not religious, she joined the movement of a small American community that includes Mormons and protestants. “I went to church every Sunday with guides who looked after me and offered encouragement. Every day, I sang with a jazz band at seven in the morning and I did an hour’s choral work with fifteen people in a choir called Sea Breezes. We sang country songs, big American productions and Sting (she smiles). I’d already done choral singing in Belgium, but in Oregon, there was more nerve and a strong sense of performance. They’re not as shy as us. The experience gave me greater self-confidence. I was even named Prom Queen at the end of the year.”
Alice is a naturally anglophile singer without borders, even if her English-speaking tastes (Bon Iver, Beirut) also run to a selection of Nordic talents. “I’m a great fan of Björk, Sigur Rós and that Danish singer, Oh Land. They taught me to develop more warmth in my voice.” Another frontier crossed.
Alice had the idea of sending her demos to Tim Bran, a British producer and mixer known for his work with London Grammar and La Roux. “Tim immediately agreed to partner us, so Marc and I made loads of return trips to his London studio where he has a collection of analog keyboards. Many sounds on the album come from a vintage Juno Roland 106 synthesizer and the tones on the record range from light to more aggressive textures.”
Three tracks from the spring 2015 EP are on the album (Easy Come Easy Go, Monopoly Loser, Like A Dying Rose), along with nine others. They all breathe a poetry in which the bitterness of adolescence emerges softly through the adult paradigms. Alice explains those sensations. “Throughout the year I spent in the United States, I was feeling quite sensitive. I had a long-distance Belgian romantic relationship (…) that shaped my lyrical writing and musical development. I’d also decided to learn to be independent by living far from my family, which is what Race In The Shadows is about. That lesson has helped me now I’m doing the most frightening thing in my life: singing (she smiles).”
From the suspended ballad Let me Down to the almost funky groove of Sound Of Drums, the album forges inevitable bonds with melancholy and other tactile sensations, often in an enchanting game of hide and go seek. “I sing in English because it’s easier for me to say things in that language than in French, my native tongue. The poetry I try to put into my songs avoids being too direct, leaving a certain leeway for interpretation. The musicality of words leads to emotion…
I’m studying to become an elementary school teacher, but if the music and concerts take off, I may have to stop. I’m so excited, but I tend to take things little by little to avoid getting too frantic. I adore performing live and the feeling I’m committing to every word. I’m still Little Alice, not with a big head, but with bigger shoulders… and I’d love to go back and sing in Oregon, even in a small dive of a club. The Americans helped me get rid of my inhibitions…”