Cape God

Cape God

In 2015, HBO aired the documentary Heroin, Cape Cod USA. Like many who saw it, Allie X was deeply moved by the stories of young, well-to-do adults whose lives had been destroyed by fentanyl addiction. But for Allie (the Toronto singer born Alexandra Ashley Hughes), the film became more than just something to recommend to friends—it provided the conceptual framework for her second full-length album. Cape God is not just a convenient pun, but an imaginary parallel universe—“a place on the East Coast that kind of looks like a Gregory Crewdson photo,” she tells Apple Music—in which Allie uses one of the film’s female subjects as an avatar to confront painful memories from her own past. “I wasn't writing songs when I was a teenager,” she explains. “I wasn't sharing my pain or my fears or my shame or all the things that were going on with me. And that’s all stayed with me, so I needed to sing about it now—because that stuff is really what causes us to be the adults that we are.” The themes of alienation and insecurity that course through the record are also highly emblematic of Allie’s musical trajectory as a Canadian indie outsider who’s managed to infiltrate the upper ranks of the Hollywood pop machine, earning kudos from Katy Perry and writing credits for stars like Lea Michele. Recorded in Sweden with producer Oscar Görres, Cape God is a testament to Allie’s unique stature as an artist who can lure both Top 40 sensations (Troye Sivan) and key alt-rock players (Mitski) into her amorphous sound world. R&B bops like “Devil I Know” and “June Gloom” may flex the pop prowess Allie brought to past hits like “Casanova” and “Paper Love,” but lyrically speaking, they’re party jams for the misfits who weren’t invited to the party. Here, Allie takes us on a track-by-track tour of Cape God’s unique topography. Fresh Laundry “I wrote that opening line—‘I want to be near fresh laundry’—when I was sick in the bathtub, like, three years ago. And I was just like, 'Oh, fuck—I wish that I could just go back to being taken care of by my mom, and just put my face into a clean, Tide-smelling towel.’ But that's a feeling that I've had for a long time—like, wanting to be taken care of, but not really knowing how.” Devil I Know “This one’s maybe the most accessible song, the one you remember right away. But lyrically, it’s pretty dark! I'm singing about myself—for me, it's about battling your own demons. There's a line: 'I can pretend that I'm just praying now, but I'm only on my knees/I could scream, “Somebody, help me out,” but the wicked one is me.’ When you boil it down, that's the message of the song.” Regulars “This is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written; it’s like my torch song. It's how I've always felt. It's a very universal theme: There's a lot of people that feel like outsiders. Like, I know how to fake it, I know how to please people, but I don't feel understood a lot of the time. That applies to the music industry; it also applies to all the boys that never thought I was attractive in high school. I had a real visual in my mind when I was writing that one—when I sing, 'What a feeling/Hanging off a building,' I pictured people going to their nine-to-five jobs in their corporate suits and they're just there hanging from skyscrapers by the edge of their fingertips, smiling and thinking, 'I might just let go.'” Sarah Come Home “There's a songwriter, Sarah Hudson, who's known for writing 'Dark Horse' for Katy Perry. She was supposed to come to this session and she had to cancel at the last minute, so we were just joking around in the room and being like, 'Sarah come home!' And I was like, 'Wait a second—that's actually a really good lyric for this world that I'm currently building!' The song isn't directly about something that happened to me—I didn't have a friend named Sarah that ran away and couldn't find her. But I did have friends that felt lost, and I wanted to help them, and I also relate to the feeling of not being able to fit in with my family. I think I was musing on what my family had been feeling when I was nowhere to be found. And I had one friend in high school who was so dear to me, we were just like sisters—I had so much love in my heart for her, and I still do. And so I put those feelings into the song as well. It's kind of like a weird mixture of a bunch of things that just really fit perfectly in this world.” Rings a Bell “This was another thing that I had written in my Notes on my iPhone for years, and I told Oscar that I wanted to do something that has a swing in it—like 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' by Tears for Fears, or 'The Way You Make Me Feel' by Michael Jackson. And Oscar was like, 'Oh, it's so hard to make that sound cool.' And I was like, ‘Just try it!' And sure enough, he did. When the chorus comes in, and suddenly you've got all this percussion going on, it’s really impactful. Lyrically, it’s one of the more lighthearted songs on the record. It’s more about nostalgia and infatuation, written from the perspective of somebody—me, I guess!—meeting someone for the first time and feeling a hopefulness and possibility it could go somewhere.” June Gloom “That song has a bit of soul in it; we found a really cool drum loop for it. There’s a lot of sarcasm in it—even the name ‘June Gloom,’ it's sort of poking fun at itself. I pictured that being written from my bedroom window, looking out at the street at a bunch of cool kids smoking and being hot and flirting with each other...and not being able to participate at all and being stuck in bed and just kind of making fun of the whole situation.” Love Me Wrong (feat. Troye Sivan) “Troye had tweeted about [my 2015 single] ‘Bitch’ before he even became a musician, and was just known as a YouTuber. I DMed him, and he had been working on music, so I was like, ‘We should try writing together.’ And then Leland—aka Brett McLaughlin, a very successful writer now—was the one who put us all in a room together, and the rest is history. I've written for Troye for years now—I wrote half the songs on Blue Neighbourhood and Bloom. With him, there's never any pressure to sound like what's on the radio, which is usually how it is when you're writing for another artist in LA. ‘Love Me Wrong’ was actually originally written for a film that Troye was in and it didn't make the cut, but I was so in love with it from the day that we wrote it in 2017. At that time, it was so different from the record that I was working on, Super Sunset. But then when Cape God started coming together, I was like, 'Oh, this has to be on it.' I knew that really early on—thematically, it totally fits in. When we wrote it, I was really tapping into those same feelings, even though I didn't know I was about to make a record about them.” Super Duper Party People “I've never had a song like this where I’ve performed it before its release, and it gets the biggest response of my set! It wasn't written specifically for Cape God. My boyfriend and I were driving home from Niagara, and we were just joking around—he said, ‘You should write a song called “Super Duper Party People.”’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, I love that!’—and then I just back-burnered the idea. Cut to me in Denmark on a writing trip a year later and my iTunes is on shuffle, and this loop comes on that Ollie Goldstein had sent me, and I was like, ‘Oh my god! This is “Super Duper Party People.”’ So I was Skyping with my boyfriend that night, and I was so jet-lagged and we were laughing so much, and I wrote this whole rap over it, and that’s what the verses are. Julius, the guy who manages the studio in Sweden, came in to do backup vocals, and that inspired me to sing it in a more Swedish way, like ‘supa doopa!’ That song just brings me a lot of joy.” Susie Save Your Love (feat. Mitski) “I discovered Mitski’s music a couple of years ago and was instantly smitten. She has such a singular voice—it was so authentic, so sad, so relatable. Mitski’s taking a break from the music industry at the moment—she’s not on social media, she’s not touring. And so when I asked her to sing on the track, she was like, ‘I love this song so much, but I'm saying no to every feature right now.’ But then one day I was flying somewhere and when I landed, there was a text from Mitski saying, 'Hey, no pressure, but if you still want me to do the feature on the song, I think I would like to do it.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god, yes!' She doesn't really do features, so I feel very lucky. ‘Susie Save Your Love’ is a song about being in love with your best friend and she's dating a guy you don't like—you know he doesn't treat her right, and you just want to scoop her up and save her.” Life of the Party “This is one of the last songs written for Cape God. It’s based on the idea of being at a party or in a social setting and being completely inebriated to the point where you come out of your shell and you feel like you’re part of the group. But, at the same time, there's a part of you—even in your state—that knows you're not, and that you’re actually being made fun of. It's not like everything that I'm saying in that song happened to me. I took it really far—like, there are implications of sexual assault. But I don't think there's a song like this right now, and I wanted to write something for anyone who's been put in that position, whether it's being kicked when you're down or being taken advantage of. There's also some bliss in it, which makes it even more complicated. I've definitely had that feeling where I was like, 'I am completely destroying myself here…but at least I'm feeling something.’” Madame X “This was written with one of my favorite writers in Los Angeles, a fellow Canadian named Simon Wilcox—she wrote ‘Jealous’ for Nick Jonas. She’s one of the only writers in LA that’s able to go there lyrically with me. It's a song about singing to your drug of choice: 'Come into my room with me and wrap me up/I love your touch/Come into my room with me and make it stop/I think too much.' It's about being held in the arms of your drug of choice, and then we also put in a lot of East Coast imagery in there. I saw myself being in the freezing cold water of Cape Cod—or Cape God, I should say—and feeling really good, even though my body was freezing.” Learning in Public “This song is almost written from my current state of mind, all these years later, having gone through everything and becoming a more confident woman. The process of writing the record was therapeutic—I was able to reflect and sympathize with my younger self and give her a voice. That was a very liberating thing to do for myself. I'm saying: Life is flawed, I'm flawed. I'm still learning. I've learned a lot, but I've got a lot more to learn.”

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