There’s both a soulful pop euphoria and a blistering rock density to the work of Portland musician Alejandra O’Leary – it’s the sound of a person finding release in her own experiences and hard work. Drawing upon her multicultural lineage (she was born to a Colombian mother and an Irish father), she charges with her shoulders locked into the depths of her various influences. Equally ferocious and reflective, her songs act as a mirror to the complexities that have defined her since she was a child.
Growing up in Maine, she found herself being lulled by the sound of waves and of various albums by The Beatles. During her youth, she experienced the pangs of feeling as though she was an outsider as well as a native, resulting in a complicated personal perspective where this dual emotional awareness surfaced as a deep-rooted love of rock music. “I’ve always been at home with messiness, big emotions and uncertainty,” she explains. “I guess that’s why I like rock and roll.”
She moved to Santiago, Chile when she was seventeen, and this began her infatuation with the process of musical creation. Over the next decade, she moved all over the world, releasing four albums and sharing the stage with artists such as Asobi Seksu and Guster. Blending classic rock theatricality with complex pop melodies, she developed a sound that felt at once familiar and inimitable, a fiercely intimate pop-rock churn that disregarded genres and spoke to both universal truths and specific histories.
She returned to Portland in 2016 with a newborn baby and clear intentions to focus on the recording of a new record. But the process for this album would be a bit different than her others. She handpicked a group of local musicians and sent them demos of her new material – she provided no context and asked that they simply work on the songs and all meet up at the studio. It became clear early on that the record would be far more improvisational than she intended, but O’Leary goes on to say that “this improvisatory spirit keeps things fresh and thrilling.” The resulting collection of songs, entitled “EVEREST,” will be released on June 7.
With “Wires,” the lead single from the upcoming album, O’Leary and her musical cohorts have channeled the spirits of bands like The Breeders and Pixies to create a distorted rock whirlwind filled with shoegaze impulses and indie rock tenacity. Her persuasive voice commands your attention as the guitars hammer away at your senses until you just seem to slip under the sway of the song. Your body begins to move, and you’re quickly lost in its depths. By calling back to those definitive influences, she acknowledges the origins of her inspirations while deftly carving out a captivating sound all her own.