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September 2020 (Arlo Parks)
Feature

ALMA: "I've been through a lot, and I want to talk about it"

ALMA has kept us waiting, but her poptastic debut album has finally arrived.
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Published: 1:30 pm, May 26, 2020Words: Steven Loftin.
ALMA: "I've been through a lot, and I want to talk about it"

If some of our favourites have taught us anything, it's that good things come to those who wait (looking at you, '75). Ever since Alma appeared with thunder banger 'Chasing Highs' back in the heady days of 2017, we've all been anticipating just when she would drop a full-length, and now that time has come - albeit a little later than planned.

"People have been waiting for my album for a long time already, but now it's like all the plans are changed," Alma starts, referencing the impact of COVID-19. "But I take this as a challenge, I'm just gonna fucking do it. I'm just gonna get this done."

It's this defiance that swept Alma and her neon green hair into the spotlight in the first place. Amidst the clattering, thunderous EDM rooted sounds came the image of someone who refuses to fall into line, who wants to do what they want and have fun with it.

"When I started, I was very young and very excited to get my foot in the middle of everything," she says of her initial burst of energy. "We were going very fast, and at that time I didn't have a plan. I was just having fun and being, like, super teenager, and releasing music that felt right in the moment."

While being swept away amongst the attention, fame, and feature requests, time kept on speeding by. But with all these candles being burned at all kinds of ends, the inevitability of a toll being taken was always there, which Alma recalls happening, "Maybe three years ago, after a long tour."

"When I came back home for a while, I just felt like, 'Fuck, I don't have anything to say to anybody.' I don't have anything to say in interviews, I don't have anything to say in the studio, and I'm a person who always has something to say."

Finding herself resolutely in a corner, Alma knew that something was changing, and more importantly, became aware she "was going in the wrong direction," and needed to follow the natural course of growing up.

"I wasn't partying like I used to, and I took a little time off," she says. "I started therapy, and for the first time in my life, I'd decided to have a conversation in my head and kind of fucking get to know myself. When [that happened] I understood that I have a lot of things to say, I've been through a lot and I want to talk about it."

That innate quietness, pushing down whatever's been happening, comes from her homeland culture. "We're literally quiet until we just have to speak about our feelings," she explains. "And that definitely happened to me. I'm super proud of myself that I've managed to crack something inside of me and, be like, 'fuck it, let's be honest'."

"I take this as a challenge; I'm just gonna fucking do it. I'm just gonna get this done"
ALMA

Her work ethic is also due, in part, to Finland. Having said before that she feels like "a hockey game between our worst enemy, like Sweden, and [I'm] the only player," being one of Finland's biggest exports means the country is behind her, almost to the point of an overzealous soccer mom.

"I felt like my whole country was watching. Every time they made an article about me it was like, 'Our Finnish hope Alma did this or that and that', and I didn't understand. I was just laughing about it, but it was obviously effective.

"I started to try to get more successful and, I think it made me a bit mad for a while." She lets the words hang. "It also affected the music. I won't say that I hate my old music, that's not true because it's part of me, but I'm happy that I finally got a little bit of time to just do what I want to do, and ask myself that question, not my country."

It's this awareness that makes up the intricate DNA of her debut, 'Have U Seen Her?' Even the title echoes the sentiment that Alma felt at the point of breaking: "I had to do a reality check, like 'Who am I now?'"

Being a hard-partying, carefree type naturally brought with it it's own points of contention, the main of which was understanding just who Alma is. Therapy may have indeed helped this journey of understanding, but taking that knowledge and translating it into the real world was a mountain to climb of its own.

"At some point, I understood that I've made an impression, some people think I'm this type of human, and, yeah, it's true," she nods to her party beginnings. "But then I felt like, 'this is not one hundred per cent me', I'm so much more than just parties and fucking EDM."

Growing up listening to "Lady Gaga and people that changed the world", it's this mindset that's fuelled 'Have U Seen Her?' Alma wanted to make records "that made me like happy cry, or sad cry," which has finally come to fruition.

Behind the fairytale of 'Have U Seen Her?' comes another figure, who, in a similar fashion to Alma, had to deal with going through being tarnished with the hard-partying brush. Having helped pen some tracks for two of Miley Cyrus' EPs, including the roaring 'Mothers Daughter' and heartbreaking 'Slide Away', it was in these sessions that Alma found some more helping words.

"I was making my album at the same time when we made her EP," Alma says. "And she was like, 'You've got to do your own thing', and she loved the records that I love. She was always telling me that 'this needs to be the single, I know this is probably never gonna go to the charts, but fuck it because it's you!'"

The single Miley was referring to was 'LA Money', perhaps the most hotly-anticipated track on the album. It's rumoured on deep pop forums that many acts including Dua Lipa were after it, but it wasn't leaving Alma's hands for love nor money. Just for that reason, it's Alma's personal experiences and belonged solely to her.

"It gave me a lot of confidence to hear that because it's a risky move. Usually, you want to put out the poppiest ones." While 'LA Money' does have its roots in dark-pop, the words read like a confessional from one of Alma's therapy sessions, including lamenting, "They don't even know who I am."

"Miley and Lindsay, they both get criticised a lot, and I love that; I think that's why they're interesting, that's why they're heroes for me"
ALMA

Miley wasn't the only misunderstood figurehead to make their way into Alma's life during this time. Most recently an Alma penned track was chosen as the comeback for the music career of Lindsay Lohan, who "actually just DM'd me on Instagram" after hearing the Miley tracks.

"She was telling me that she's gonna do a comeback and I remembered that I had a song called 'Coming Back' and it just made sense. We had a lot of FaceTime calls, and it was weird the first time. I was like 'Fuck, I'm talking with Lindsay Lohan!' cuz you know, she's the ultimate party queen."

Helping in understanding who Alma is, these two interactions came from "people that are weird ones, but they're the cool ones for me," she says, "Miley and Lindsay, they both get criticised a lot, and I love that. I think that's why they're interesting, and that's why they're heroes for me."

When it comes to the musical growth Alma's gone through since those thunderous EDM days, well, it's all fed straight from those early influences since she's "kind of paranoid when it comes to new music."

"I don't even listen to radio cuz it's just natural that if you hear new stuff all the time [it's] gonna [be on] your mind," she ponders. "There have been situations where I've been listening to the radio before I went to the studio, made a song, and after two weeks it's like 'What the fuck, this melody is straight from a Weeknd track, and we can't use it'. So now I just want to listen to my own demos, and stuff that I used to listen to."

It's safe to say that the Alma entering 2020 is one more confident with who she wants to be, how she wants to sound, and now knows the importance of looking after herself. All the way down to the words holding a mirror up to any past indiscretions.

"It was so important for me as a human because it was my first time thinking about, 'Hey, I've been an idiot in a relationship' or, you know, 'I'm in LA and I miss my mom... I'm gonna write a song about it'. They're so pure," she mentions of her newfound appreciation for life.

"They're the feelings that I felt in those moments. It took some time to think back and be like 'Oh fuck I was stupid in that relationship maybe I'm not gonna do those mistakes again'. Or like, 'Hey, I love my mom maybe I should call her sometimes, even though I'm busy.'"

And ultimately, it's all down to shaking off any feelings of having to "make music for somebody else," she concludes. "When I basically stopped thinking about charts, and labels, and fans, I started to become me again." 

Taken from the June issue of Dork. Alma's debut album 'Have U Seen Her?' is out now.

June 2020
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