Alessi’s Ark interview 2020 by Alexander Laurence RADIO KAJW 2020

Alessi’s Ark interview 2020
by Alexander Laurence

Alessi’s Ark is Alessi Laurent-Marke who is a musician who is still in her twenties. She is from West London and has released four full albums and a number of EPs over the past 15 years.
She has toured Europe and America several times. She has played shows with Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons, John Grant and Stereolab, among others.
Alessi’s Ark is a solo project and also a band. It has included several members, including Jason Santos, who has become a full time member. I saw them played in London at the Harrison in November 2019. They have released a new version of the song “Woman.” And there is a new EP called “Truth” released this year which takes us into a new decade.
A recent UK tour was canceled because of Corona Virus. But I was able to talk to the band earlier this year about their music and their lives. In the meantime, there have been several live streaming events and more to come for the rest of the year.
This interview was broadcast on Radio KAJW.

AL: I just played her song “Woman (2020).” Let me ask you about the song. You released this song in 2009. Now we have this new version.

Alessi: Yeah. It’s been a favorite for us to play live. Over the course of the last year and a half, some loyal listeners have asked if this song will ever come out again, because the way we played the song now was very different from the original recording. As you just heard there is percussion and synths. At the end of the song I emphasize the line “When I am looking at the moon, I am blinded by your light.” We thought “why not” because we haven’t recorded anything from Notes From the Treehouse. Now that we are out of the terms with EMI, it’s a record we can experiment with and re-record if we want to. Living with a song for ten years, and I actually wrote that song when I was 14, the meaning has change. Now I am approaching 30, I have come full circle. I haven’t become a mother yet, but I am reflecting on the idea of femininity and womanhood. Even down to the way seeds and plants grow, there are often female reproductive organs and things. I was thinking about ideas about women and womanhood throughout nature. I am just fascinated as I am getting older. I wrote the song before I was 15.

AL: Wow! Just drank some coffee of something? That is interesting that you mention the situation with EMI. I have just been hearing a lot about bands getting the rights back to their previous albums after ten years. So that happened to you too?

Alessi: It’s happened.

AL: There we have it. Let me ask you about what I mentioned in the email. There was this whole West London Folk Scene that happened around 2005 to 2010 when you first started to do music. It had something to do with Communion Music in Notting Hill?

Alessi: Yeah that was Communion. That was done by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons. Also Kevin Jones was involved, who was Ben’s best friend and bandmate. Kevin went on to form Bear’s Den with Andrew Davie. Andrew was in a band called Andrew Davie and the Lucky Egg. There was several bands with the same musicians. Bear’s Den went on brilliantly. As have Mumford and Sons who were like the Beatles at one point. Kevin and Ben set up a monthly night at Notting Hill Arts Club which is right in the center of West London. They sourced this community of musicians who were trying new things. I played there a few times. I met some lovely musicians there. It was the first place I saw Mumford and Laura Marling.

AL: They have a lot of articles about Communion and Nu-Folk online. Was that ever a real scene? It’s ten years later, and you seemed to have more in common with Rilo Kiley and 1990s indie music possibly?

Alessi: Yeah. That was definitely the music that I lent to naturally. I didn’t listen to folk music per se. I was lumped in with that sound through press releases, and people saying “She has long hair and she plays guitar, so she must be folky and like Joni Mitchell.” It was an honor playing with Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons. Their music leans toward the traditional. It was lazy journalists who roped me in because I played shows with Laura Marling and others. My music stuck out like a sore thumb. You can listen to it. I don’t play folk music. I played acoustic guitar and sometimes I would play with a double bass. I wouldn’t describe it as folk music. There was a scene. I felt late to the game because these musicians knew each other and had gone to school with each other. I met Ben Lovett in 2009 after I had done Notes From the Treehouse. Since I had done that record in Omaha most of my first friends in music were in the states. When I got back to London, I didn’t know where to start. Previously I had been in school and I didn’t know any musicians. When I met Ben, he was encouraging and he introduced me to some of his bandmates. Through them I met several others. But that was a solidified group of friends. I never felt part of that group. I just orbited it for a while because Ben Lovett played with me for a while. He was kind enough to take me on board.

AL: You have four albums and many EPs. It seems like you have painted this unified picture: you have the treehouse, there are animals dancing around, you are looking at the solar system. Did you ever conceive of the whole Alessi’s Ark project of this complete description of the physical world?

Alessi: Wow! I never thought about it like that. But I suppose whether I have know it or not, maybe I was lead through the veil, because I fantasized the treehouse as a fantasy of living in London, which is a concrete jungle, aside from great river and parks. I was dreaming of somewhere that was calmer and quieter. The songs were the notes from this said treehouse. Sophisticated is quiet a compliment. I have just been traveling in my mind I suppose, working out different styles and genres. The music is informed by the musicians I have played with. The recent music I have created with Jason Santos is the most candid and autobiographical. It’s more “on the ground” and less esoteric and ethereal. I am talking about the grace and the power of the every day. Hiding behind less symbolism.

AL: Well let’s speak to Jason Santos. What sort of bands were you doing before you joined the Ark?

Jason: Quite a variety. There was some Pop Rock. How would you describe JD?

Alessi: JD was a political punk band.

AL: So you were a little like Crass? That is a little bit different from Alessi’s Ark.

Jason: I started playing on classical piano. I like what we are doing with Alessi’s Ark. It’s more about doing something that is beautiful and the arrangements and the melodies. If that makes sense.

AL: I saw the show at the Harrison. It seems like you are both playing different instruments. There is more musicianship. it’s more fun. You are both playing drums.

Alessi: Yes.

Jason: It’s more about trying different things without people judging you. It can be a nervous situation where people look at you weird because you can’t play so well. But it’s fun.

AL: Let me ask Jason about music in London. There are electronic musicians and there is this new jazz scene happening. We see a lot of these jazz bands playing in America recently. What do you think is going on in London right now?

Jason: Ooh!

Alessi: Idles are really big. The neo-jazz thing is moving very strong.

Jason: Jazz is not really my thing. I see a lot of bands at the rehearsal space.

AL: If people want to practice in East London, what is the website called again?

Jason: It’s called Arch 79 Studios. It’s in Bethnal Green.

AL: I am running out of time here. If people want to find music and merch for Alessi’s Ark, where do they go?

Alessi: Yes. They can go to Alessi’s Ark on Bandcamp for music and artwork. And all the usual suspects: Alessi’s Ark on Instagram. Alessi’s Ark Music on twitter and facebook.

INTERVIEW with Alessi's Ark (Alessi Laurent-Marke and Jason Santos)
Arch Studio: www.arch79studio.com/
Alessi's Ark info: alessisark.bandcamp.com/