Al Spx, the centerpiece of the Canadian “doom soul” outfit Cold Specks, made waves in the music world this past summer when she released her debut album “I Predict a Graceful Expulsion.” The singer songwriter has a moody, achingly beautiful, sweeping sound that has garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from music critics. Spx’s songs, while being intensely personal, also touch on ideas of universal scope – isolation, faith, sadness – themes to which her listeners everywhere can relate. Spx was nice enough to sit down and respond to some questions I emailed her way. She’s on tour right now through Canada, the US and Europe. Go see her if you have the chance and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about – and if you live in Copenhagen you’d better buy your ticket early.
You’ve spoken in previous interviews about how you take inspiration from musicians from the American South – which ones in particular? Do you think your music tends to be similar to theirs in style?
I think my music is inspired by a great deal of things. Musicians from the American South seems to be one of the bigger ones. I think it’s because I discovered music from that region around the same I started singing. I adore James Carr and when I was younger I studied him obsessively. I could have easily made a straight up soul record. But I wasn’t interested in that. I wanted a collection of songs that would reflect what I was feeling at the time. I think the result is probably something greatly influenced by music from the past. But I’d like to think I am doing something different.
Do you have a favorite track off your debut album? Or are they like your children in that you’re not allowed to play favorites?
At first, they were all my babies. Currently, I am more than willing to put some of them down. My favourite song on the record has always been ‘Hector’. Sonically, it is a wild one.
What has been your favorite place to perform live? Any cities that had particularly good crowds?
DENMARK! The Danes seem to have really attached themselves to Cold Specks. We recently played to over 1000 people in Copenhagen. That doesn’t happen very often for us. In fact, that was the first time we headlined a show with that many people in the audience. It was COOL.
What’s your creative process for writing your songs? Do you write the music at the same time you write the lyrics? Does it vary from song to song?
To be completely honest with you, it’s different every time. Sometimes the music comes first. Sometimes it’s the words. Sometimes there’s a melody and everything is based around it.
Your music is self-described as “doom soul,” which seems entirely fitting for the bleak but soaring music you create. You’ve spoken about how the songs on “I Predict a Graceful Expulsion” were written at a different point in your life and that they don’t necessarily reflect on your life now. Do you see yourself creating more music in the doom soul genre, or do you think you’ll move in a new direction?
I’ve been writing more. It seems the songs are driven more by rhythm. The nylon acoustic has been put to rest but the songs, and the voice are never overwhelmed. I am a firm believer that the human voice is the most beautiful instrument in the world. I think my songs will always focus on that aspect. I’m not sure what DOOM SOUL is. Maybe, we’ll fully realise it with the next record. Rob Ellis has been drumming with us on tour recently and my producer Jim Anderson has been on bass. We’ve been experimenting with combining operatic vocal drones with off-kilter rhythms. It’s been interesting. I never want to get stuck doing the same thing. I think it’s only natural to keep experimenting. Besides, new directions are always exciting.
Remaining Cold Specks tour dates
11/17 – Harold M. Williams Auditorium at the Getty Museum – Los Angeles, CA
11/18 – Bottom of The Hill – San Francisco, CA
11/20 – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR
11/21 – St James Hall – Vancouver, BC
11/23 – Festival Hall – Calgary, AB
11/24 – Festival Hall – Calgary, AB
11/26 – Park Theatre – Winnipeg, MB
11/28 – Cedar Cultural Center – Minneapolis, MN
11/29 – Schubas – Chicago, IL