Former Wellingtonian Alex Ware goes by the stage name of Xela. The Sydney-based all-round creative spends her days working as an artist and designer, but her heart has been with music from a young age. Her second single as Xela, the smooth, sensual and deliberately provocative pop song No Love, was released in early August. NZM is very pleased to premiere the brand new music video below, along with Xela’s own thoughts about and insights to the mildly X-rated track.
No Love was inspired by a conversation with a friend who’d just broken up with his long term partner. He didn’t want to be in love and was fully going to focus on himself which inspired the song and title.
The song is intended to empower others to choose their own path and break away from the stereotype of needing to be with a partner to be successful and content. The video pays homage to three types of stereotypical powerful women (although the song isn’t necessarily gender-specific) – the rich woman representation of the ‘perfect’ Barbie, the CEO and Queen.
“Don’t need you standing over my shoulder, I’m already old enough” is one of my favourite lines – it refers to not needing to be being supervised or controlled by someone else to make your own choices.
I worked on the song and wrote the demo track in my home studio as a rough version, then once I had an overview of what I was after, I took it to the producer I was working with, Patrick Byrne, aka Besopalma, and we finished the track together. We spent two days in the studio completing the tune and developed the second half as we went.
The instrumentation is simple but effective, aligning with the idea of not wanting clutter in your life, and giving the vocals space to shine through. The bass line was something I heard in my head as one of the initial motifs I wanted running through the song. To me, it felt a bit naughty because of the minor staccato melody, which gave me a Bust Your Windows by Jazmine Sullivan sort of energy.
The change into double time at 0:56 has definitely proven to be a favourite part of the song for listeners and is the part that you can really groove to. Actually, it was a happy accident that Patrick and I stumbled upon and it took the song to another level.
Stacked vocal harmonies are something I use often in my songs, drawing from my jazz background at NZSM, and experience in a capella choirs. I have been using this as a motif in my music since I contributed vocals at 16 years old to internationally acclaimed NZ composer John Psathas’ Between Zero And One global collaborative multimedia performance with Strike Percussion and other high profile musicians.
To me, these vocal layerings give my songs a spacey, more ethereal feel inspired by artists such as Thom Yorke, James Blake, Billie Eilish, Bon Iver and Rhye. The mastering was done by London-based sound engineer Neil Hipkiss who has been great in working with me to polish the mixed tracks
I find inspiration from many different artists across multiple genres which is partially why I find it hard to pigeonhole my style and music into one genre – I’m more of a genre-bending human thanks to inspirations such as Radiohead, Bonobo, Billie Eilish, Sir, Raye, Lady Gaga, Lianne La Havas, Nina Simone and Kimbra which can be both a blessing and a curse because I don’t find I fit into the standard playlists – I’m too RnB for the pop curators and too commercial for the RnB people…
As a songwriter, I’ve never been the happy-go-lucky kind of artist writing in major keys with upbeat indie bops – I love the mysterious, sensual and vibey.
I sit comfortably in my sensuality and my body, and I never want to dull myself back to fit in or make others feel comfortable. That’s part of the reason why I chose to leave the song in its explicit version, as it reflects the idea of not trying to change yourself or dull yourself down for others. It may narrow my audience, but I would rather have a targeted following who support the person I am, than be someone I’m not.
My inclusion of unconventionally designed Barbies made by Tiffany Wayne (hair & stylist) at the end of the video reflects the way we have been groomed as children via toys to view looking or acting a certain way as ideal, which thankfully is now changing to be more inclusive and diverse in the toy realm.