Cold Specks is the moniker of Canadian singer/songwriter Al Spx. Her self-described “doom soul” music received a warm reception when she released her first record, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, on May 21, and she has since been touring the U.S. and U.K.
We caught up with Spx on an early New York morning while she was in London to chat about the album, Adele and her attempts to write a pop song.
A lot of the tracks on the record deal with some pretty heavy stuff—death, religion, family. Does this come from personal experience, or is it more the general idea of these concepts?
The record is I guess a handful of things that have occurred in my life. I think it’s about a handful of things that I could go on and on and on about, but it’s up to everyone else to interpret. It was written over a couple of years. I wrote the record in the privacy of my bedroom, and it was, I guess, brutally honest because of that, and I had never expected to release or make an album.
Prior to this release, you were very private about your music. Was there anything in particular that made you so wary of sharing it, and what gave you the confidence to finally put it out there?
I think I just wasn’t good at anything else. I had a shit job, and I met a man by the name of Jim Anderson who really wanted to make an album and had access to a studio. At that point I couldn’t really say no.
How does it feel having the record out and knowing that so many people are hearing something you considered to be so private?
I don’t mind. I’m happy with it being out there. It’s sort of a strange thing to have written all of these songs so many years ago about a certain period in my life. Now that I’m over that nonsense it’s a bit of a strange thing to experience—playing sad songs all the time when you’re not feeling that anymore. I guess I’ve learned to remove myself from the songs when I’m on stage. So it’s all good in the hood now!
Are there any songs you were particularly nervous about sharing live?
I can’t remember the last time I played “Lay Me Down.” I stopped playing it a couple of months ago. I don’t have any intentions of ever playing it again unless there’s an amazing show or unless there’s some kind of amazing turnaround that changes the way I’m feeling about it. I doubt I’ll ever play that goddamn song again.
The name Cold Specks was inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses, and you’ve also said that you’re inspired by artists like the Strokes, Ryan Adams and Sam Cooke. How do you feel these influences shaped you as an artist?
Yeah, the Strokes, Ryan Adams and Sam Cooke were three of the very first great musicians that I became obsessed with. When I was younger I worshiped all three of ’em. I still listen to them. It’s great music. I suppose all those writers as well, all of them together, speak through my music somehow.
A lot of people are comparing you to artists like Adele and Clare Maguire. How do you feel about these comparisons?
That’s a tough one because I don’t really listen to their music. Who is the second one you said?
I’ve never heard of Clare Maguire so I can’t really say, but with Adele that’s fine with me.
I personally don’t see the Adele comparison.
Yeah, it’s lazy journalism is what it is. It’s lazy journalism in the U.K. The journalists in the U.K. are fickle, and they are lazy. That’s where comparisons like that come from, but I’m sure if someone actually sat down and listened to the record, it’s quite obvious that it’s very much not like that. I think it’s because Adele, despite what everyone thinks about Adele’s songs, has got a very great voice. She’s one of the rare ones who can actually sing who has made it big. I don’t know, I think the comparison is that I’m a female singer and she’s a female singer, but the songs behind us are very different. But whatever.
Now that you’re in a happier place than when you wrote the songs on the record, how do you feel that the change in perspective will impact your future writing?
I tried to write a pop song the other day, and it turned out to be another morbid collection of noise. I don’t know. I’m not good at it.
So there aren’t going to be any pop songs with backup dancers?
[Laughs] I said that jokingly, and it’s really funny because I’m a piece of shit who jokes in interviews from time to time. Someone asked me about that today, and I thought it was really funny.