Trying to attach a two-word genre to Alina Bea’s music would just be a disservice. The music nods a little towards everything (indie, electronica, pop), while keeping a crisp modern focus. Fans of St. Vincent and Imogen Heap will feel right at home.
Alina’s debut release, Live Undone, came out this past February with New Professor Music. The 5-track EP’s production is executed beautifully. I’d recommend listening with headphones, it’s just one of those records. The storytelling pulls you right into those knock-down-drag-out moments of love.
You might have already heard the vocal talents of Alina Cutrono from her time in the experimental pop band Body Parts. After years of shows, videos, and music, Cutrono left the band in 2014. It was then she began her own writing as a solo project. This past week I got the opportunity to interview Alina Bea on what’s coming up for her.
HappeningInDTLA: When did you start working on the Live Undone EP?
Alina Bea: Oy, too long ago. I wrote the songs in 2014, just as I was about to leave Body Parts. I spent the next year working with a great producer, Mike Richardson; developing sounds and arrangements. It was my first time at the helm of my own project, so I put a lot of pressure on myself. But I love what came out of it! I put together my band soon after and we’ve been playing out in LA (and abroad) ever since.
You’ve been writing songs for years through different projects. Has your approach to songwriting changed as a solo artist?
The many projects that I have been involved with over the years did not really allow me to flex my writing skills. That was always someone else’s job. Which is fine! I think that too much collaboration in a band can be a detriment to the music. And not all musicians are writers. But I am. And I got to this point where I knew that I had more to offer as a songwriter and a lead singer than as a side player. So I finally started my own project. My approach to songwriting is very confessional and raw. I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, who is one of the most honest songwriters that ever lived.
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Listening to Live Undone and Body Parts’ Fire Dream, there’s a common thread of some rich nostalgic synths. Who are some of your influences?
Some of the artists that influenced Body Parts definitely carried over into my first solo EP. Specifically: Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel circa 1986. Those two will always be hugely important to me. But the material that I am working on now doesn’t really recall the 80s that much. I’m looking more to Bjork, The Knife, and St. Vincent now. I am still using quite a lot of synths, but the musical palette has expanded to include strings (violin, viola, and cello), acoustic piano and other acoustic instruments, and Ableton sounds.
When starting a new song, what comes to you first? The words? The melody?
This varies from song to song for me. I usually start with a tiny spark of an idea. A group of words or a little riff or something. And then I sit down and map out the structure of the song and figure out the big picture of what I want to say. Then I sing it five million times, trying out different lyrics until it all fits together naturally.
The video for Live Undone is killer! The choreography paired with all the lighting is absolutely enthralling. How did all that come together? How long did it take to shoot?
Thank you!! We worked very hard on it. I worked with director Matt Sobel and projectionist Kaiman Walker, who are both insanely brilliant humans. We were in pre-production for many months, experimenting with different setups and choreography. Originally, we were going to have the projections on four walls surrounding me, but we had issues with shadows cast by the steadicam operator. Then Kaiman had the genius idea of putting the screens in the center of the room and having me dance around them! As you can see, the video is shot in one take. The night of the shoot, we worked through the night doing take after take and trying to make it perfect. We had to sync the choreography with both the camera movements and the projections (which were triggered in real time). It was bonkers.
Do you have plans to release any more videos for songs off the EP?
I am mostly focused on the next batch of songs at the moment. We are working on a full-length record, but we’ll be releasing a few singles in the fall and I am working on some videos for those.
What would you say are the biggest challenges for starting a new band in L.A.?
Getting people to take you seriously. There are just too many bands in LA. You have to find a way to prove yourself and stand out from the crowd. It can take a long (and frustrating) time.
What’s coming up next for you? Shows? Releases?
We’ll be releasing some singles in the fall to coincide with a local residency, but it hasn’t been announced yet! Follow me on my socials for updates on that. But we are planning some really exciting stuff!!
More immediately, we are playing the New Professor Showcase during Echo Park Rising on 8/20. It’s a daytime show. I have some other shows listed on my website, too.
What’s your favorite book right now?
I am currently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick and it is wonderful! I am a big sci-fi fan.
Where’s the best place to stay up to date on Alina Bea?
Echo Park Rising is a FREE, 4-Day, All Ages festival. It takes place in the streets of Echo Park, starting August 18 (Thursday) to August 21 (Sunday). Along with music, art, and performers, the festival will feature craft beer gardens, vendors, and food trucks.