Wellington-based singer/ songwriter/ arranger/ producer/ DJ Alexa Casino is running a tight sonic ship. Her artistic process is thorough and painstaking.
“Most of the time I will write the songs in a day or two. Then I’ll spend maybe even months just going over it very slowly and turning them into something I’m really happy with. But it is quite a slow process after the initial birth.”
That said, she’s not afraid to settle scores with her very own work by revisiting previously released songs.
On her latest ‘Cheer Up Try Hard Tear Up Cry Hard’ EP Fear and Blu being the subjects of such makeover.
“I wanted to change them to reflect where I was, just to reflect my growth as an artist. I re-recorded the vocals and put a beat on to change the structure a little bit. I initially just made those for my live set and then, I thought I should actually release them because I like them much more than that old version.”
The same hunger for constant evolution applies to Casino’s craft as a performer and a DJ with a strong emphasis on regular performances and daily practice. Here, practice is a liberating catalyst.
“Since 2015 I’ve done 30-something shows. With each show, I think about my music and how I want it to progress. I try to do something with music every day because it’s what I enjoy the most and, I guess, the more effort you put into preparing for DJ sets, the more effortless you can make it appear while you’re actually doing it.”
Casino does not invoke any magical fountain of creativity or mysterious stream of inspiration – it is exhilarating but never-ending work. It’s about honing skills and, again, growing.
“I remember when I was a kid, I’d just listen to songs or maybe listen to lyrics or something. When I started writing music, I started really catching up on how songs were put together and how drum beats work and stuff like that. And I guess when I started DJing that’s when another kind of step forward happened. I just became a lot better at analysing songs, knowing what goes well together.”
Casino’s use of auto-tune is also intriguing in that it becomes another instrument, not one’s usual vocal filter. It’s All In Ur Head or Secret Places could prove major aural disasters in less commanding hands but they somehow retain the appeal of their deeply emotional quality.
“I guess auto-tune is like an enhancement of my voice but it definitely feels like a different thing from having a dry vocal. Because I record my vocals so modified, using auto-tune can mask that, and it just allows you to express yourself, maybe even more freely. You have a little less inhibition. It’s just really fun.”