Interview by Alexander Laurence
London-based Alessi Laurent-Marke has been doing music for almost three years now.
I have been writing about her for so long on the Portable-Infinite, that she was
called just Alessi back then. I attended one of her first shows, if not the
first. Much time has passed. She recorded an album called Notes From The
Treehouse (2009) with Mike Mogis. Her album came out earlier this year in
the UK, but not in the USA. She has played almost 150 shows by now. She has
done some art shows. She played at Glastonbury with Neil Young and others. She
has an EP coming out soon. She is off to Germany for the first time for
some shows there. She has done this all at the age of nineteen. Hopefully we
have a full length record to look forward to soon, and some American shows
AL: How do you like being here in New York City?
Alessi: New York is amazing and made even more special by some wonderful
friends that live there.
AL: Who is in your band now and how did you find these musicians?
Alessi: The Ark ebbs and flows and it's more like a gang than a band I
hope. Not that there's anything wrong with bands, but gangs/collectives
means more people can be involved! The fellows I’ve been playing with
for quite some time are Jamie Backhouse (guitar), Sam Nadel (drums)
and Adam Newton (bass). Sam lives in London and introduced me to both of
the others, Jamie lives up in Liverpool and Adam lives in Bristol.
Sam and Adam have been in their own band, Blackbud for a long while. I've
been fortunate enough to meet and play shows with members of the Willkommen
collective and we recently recorded some new songs together. It's been lovely
sharing the songs with these very kind
people dotted all around the country.
AL How were the recent shows with Cerys Matthews and Au Revoir Simone?
Alessi: They were very nice and both took place at the Union Chapel. It is
a very ornate chapel in Highbury & Islington. The acoustics are
beautiful and the audience sit amongst hundreds of glowing tea lights.
Cerys has the most beautiful voice and her band are very talented and
sweet, some from these parts and some from Tennessee.
AL: How has association with a big label like EMI been?
Alessi: Working with EMI was a good experience at first and it gave me the
chance of working with Mike Mogis, which was an experience I'll always
remember and hold closely. When the team I worked with left, the label became a
AL: I heard that you met artist Laura Levine recently. She created the
cover of your album. How was that meeting?
Alessi: It was a dream to meet her. She is a very rare and special person –
I admire her very much.
AL: What are your new songs about?
Alessi: Learning and friendship mostly.
AL: Are you writing about new experiences or are these more songs
connected to the earlier ones?
Alessi: New experiences.
AL: How do you feel about people downloading your music illegally?
Alessi: If somebody comes across your music and it keeps them good company,
that's what matters. There's so much music to find and search through, not
everybody wants to pay for it - but if they find an album or an artist that
strikes a chord with them, hopefully they'll go and tell a
friend or their sister and spread the word. It's a different way of paying
for it. Enthusiastic word spreading.
AL: How were your shows at CMJ?
Alessi: They were fun. The Living Room is a lovely venue and wins brownie
points for having a photobooth . Some very sweet friends came out to that
show despite the torrential rain and we ate a Mexican dinner up the road
afterwards. It was a win!
AL: What were some of the festivals you played this summer, and were there
any stand out moments?
Alessi: We played at quite a few this year ; Bestival, Glastonbury, Secret
Garden Party, Camp Bestival...and they were all very different and special
in their own ways. It was wonderful playing for little ones at
Camp Bestival - it's a family friendly version of Bestival that takes
place at Lulworth castle. The smaller festivals like Lounge On The Farm
and Nozstock are out there on their own in terms of paying attention
to lovely little details. One stand out moment was at Nozstock where
we are stuck in Dad's car in mud so thick, every single car on the
site had to be towed out by one tractor, one by one. Almost like
magic, we soared through the mud and avoided the tractor towing! Hyde Park
Calling was one of the best weekends of all time. We played on a bandstand
and then went to listen to Neil Young and his band play around the corner. He
is one of my favorites and it was just before my birthday. A very special
AL: How do you go about making videos?
Alessi: 'For one year' and 'The Crown' were made by Layke Anderson. 'My
Bedroom' was made by Madeleine Morley. Making things with friends is unlike
anything else in the world. We had a lot of fun just wandering around together
in different areas. 'For one year' covered a lot of West London - Ladbroke
Grove, Kensington and Holland Park and 'My Bedroom' and 'The Crown' were
both made in North London, in and around Hampstead Heath. 'The Horse' was made
by a lovely duo called 'DuckEye' in East London and we brought over Jake
Bellows to sing his parts. I was quite nervous at first to work with a team
other than friends but I've been lucky that everyone I’ve worked with has been
very warm and welcoming. 'Over the Hill' was made by Karni, a director from
Bristol who most often works as 'Karni + Saul' with her husband. The video
was made in an old house overlooking the river, up the road in Hammersmith.
A family live there and their cats and dog kept us company. One cat made an
appearance at the beginning of the video - look out!
AL: You have done some art shows. Can you describe what was happening in
Alessi: I've always liked drawing and a friend, Lynden, encouraged me to
share the drawings in a local exhibition. Sometimes, it takes a friend to give
you a nudge to do something and you feel brave enough to do it. She has b
een organizing exhibitions and most recently a music festival, under the name
'The Velvet Sneaker' and is somebody I really admire. The exhibition was up
at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith from august 4th till September 27th and
with Lynden's support it wasn't half as nerve wracking as I thought having
an exhibition would be. At the moment, I'm working on some artwork for a band
from Milan called Green Like July and drawing some bits and pieces with Ben Phillips -
you can have a look at his illustrations here : www.benjaminphillips.co.uk
AL: Is there a new EP on the way?
Alessi: Yes, It'll be called 'Soul Proprietor' and it'll be out early next
year. Ben and I have been working on the artwork. Three of the four
songs were recorded live.
AL: What other new bands do you like?
Alessi: Treetop Flyers are an amazing band from West London, my family and
I try to catch as many of their shows as we can. There is a lot of special
music in Brighton; Shoreline, Sons of Noel and Adrian,
Mechanical Bride... and I recently heard Dan Michaelson & The
Coastguards perform and thought their sound was lovely too. From
across the waters, I still listen to favorites ; Neva Dinova, Coal
Beautiere, McCarthy Trenching, Thunder Power and more recently ;
Forest Fire, Sharon Van Etten, She Keeps Bees, Alberta Cross and
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
AL: Can you recommend a book?
Alessi: Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser.
AL: What should people expect in the shows in Germany this December?
Alessi: Some new songs from and probably some singing together, I'll be
going over with Jake Bellows. Give him (Neva Dinova) a listen if you haven't
All photos taken by Angel Ceballos.