Sometimes I feel Spotify’s algorithm goes out of its way to give me a hard time. By making comparisons and connections using my listening habits I’m constantly inundated with new music I’m never going to get around to listening. But every now and then something grabs my attention like rlyblonde’s gritty indie rock debut single Fantasy.
This really cool song has been on my playlists for almost four weeks now. Interestingly it was released on Valentine’s Day last month. Those who know me, know I get a kick out of what I call anti-Valentine’s Day songs. I feel like Fantasy falls in this category and I wondered who was this incredible new artist I was listening to. A little further investigation led me to discover this was the work of 27-year-old, Brooklyn-based Carina Allen. In short, despite Fantasy being Allen’s music debut, she isn’t by any means a stranger in the music industry. Allen is an established photographer, videographer and creative director who has helped New York indie acts get a foothold in the music industry. So to hear that she decided to cross over and showcase her talents as a performer is a long time coming for this talented multidisciplinary artist.
I recently reached out to Allen to chat about her new cross over adventure in music, her stunning bittersweet debut single and the Fantasy music video which is a wonderful satirical take on The Bachelorette.
Carina, can you tell us a little bit about your musicial journey? And what was the inspiration in making your own music?
I’ve been surrounded by music for a while now as I’ve been working as photographer and director in Brooklyn for the past five years. My main clientele is musicians, working with them to shoot album covers, press photos, video content, live shows, etc. It’s become such a huge part of my life that eventually it just felt kind of weird that I wasn’t making music myself. I got a little bored sitting on the side lines and really wanted to be able to express myself in a different way. It’s super different to make comissioned art for other people versus art about your own feelings and experiences.
How did you find making your debut single? And what was the creative process you went through to achieve that?
I sort of sputtered and started a handful of times on tracks that I thought were “THE ONE” but when I wrote “Fantasy,” it really hit me in a different way that just clicked. I was writing a lot of really emotional, songwriter-y music which I still hold dear to my heart, but to come out of the gate with music for the first time, I knew I had to do something kind of bold and in line with my personality. I also credit a lot to a songwriting class I took in the Fall of 2021 with School of Song, (a resource for online songwriting courses). I wrote “Fantasy” for one of the homework assignments about trying a new process than we usually did. So instead of writing lyrics first, (my default) I started on GarageBand with guitar and electronic drums and somehow ended up here.
Which artists do you draw most inspiration in developing your style?
I am really inspired by a mix of bigger name iconic artists, like Avril Lavigne, Liz Phair, Marina and the Diamonds, Hayley Williams, etc and also a handful of indie or up-and-coming artists closer to my own circle like Sir Chloe, Pom Pom Squad, Kristiane…..Slow Pulp, Beach Bunny, Tramp Stamps, Chloe Lilac. I’ve been really inspired by the people around me and just how creative and hardworking they are. Going to tons of live shows over the past couple years has just infused this life into my creative work that I was really missing during the pandemic.
How has your experiences in photography and directing impacted on your approach to writing and performing a very melodic pop but gritty alt rock song?
I think when I wrote “Fantasy,” along with a handful of the other songs that are on the way(!) I was sort of like, what would my dream project be? Who’s my dream client? What’s my dream video to direct? I got kind of tired of waiting for someone to hand THAT dream project to me and instead decided to just do it myself. I see a lot of the music in tandem with the visuals, so for me it’s an all-encompassing thing. I’ve always been really into art that’s somewhat satire. I love sort of over the top displays of glamour or fame, I have a soft spot for the sort of “crybaby” aesthetic. My music and all the visuals coming along with it really embody all of these themes I’ve already loved for years.
What was the message you wanted to get across with this song?
I spent a lot of years dating [men, specifically] and there were points where I just felt like a shell of a real person… like I would go out and just regurgitate the same anecdotes about myself that I knew made people laugh, or that were somewhat seductive or flirty in a way. It’s cool to nail the formula for romance, you know? But eventually it just doesn’t even mean anything anymore…so “Fantasy” is kind of my reply to that. It’s for anyone else who is stuck in zombie-mode in their romantic life perhaps. Or for any other folks out there who maybe are exploring what their sexuality and identity mean to them. All in all, the message is that at the end of the day, you can and should always be happy with yourself.
The video for Fantasy is dreamlike and sensual. Can you tell us more about the visual and the creative decisions that went into its direction?
Thank you! From the minute I wrote this song I knew I wanted to do a “Bachelorette” satire. I am obsessed with “The Bachelor” franchise… I just think it’s so ridiculous. Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed, so this was the natural choice. I felt like it just fit the song so perfectly, the narrative of feeling pressured to perform a certain way, on top of not understanding how you can possibly find a “true love” connection in 1-2 dates. Visually I wanted the video to be a clear echo of the “reality tv” look, ie. overly gaudy decor, nighttime shooting, aggressive back light, etc. But I also wanted it to still feel cinematic and beautiful, more so than the actual “Bachelor” is. So I opted for a handful of daylight shots where traditionally they’d be shot at night (bachelors arriving during the day versus at night, running away Colton-style). Thankfully I was working with a team I really trusted and my DP Xavi totally understood what I was going for, topping off the rose ceremony with the iconic “water gag” lighting trick that perfectly emulated the insane look of reality TV lighting. We basically filled a kiddie pool with water, put a giant mirror in the bottom, and bounced a light off of it back up at everyones faces. It was genius.
Do you have any advice for new artists wanting to following in your footsteps?
I think a lot of creative work and music particularly is about your network, which is probably annoying to hear, but it’s true. Music and visual production (generally) can get super expensive, so it’s not a small commitment to make. Certainly there are more DIY ways to do everything, which I totally respect and encourage. But I think managing your expectations for what you want out of what you’re doing is super important. Otherwise I just say, be yourself and the people who are in line with your vision will find you and vice versa. You’re not gonna be everyone’s cup of tea, so don’t try to be.
What can we expect as we follow you on your journey in 2023? Are you releasing more projects, can we expect to hear more like Fantasy or will you be exploring different sounds and genres?
Yes! I have another single “Spiltmilk” coming out next month along with a video. She will be the second single off an upcoming EP (also called “Fantasy”) that explores a similar sound, along with leaning a little more pop and a little more indie rock on a few tracks. That will be out before the end of the year, and I’m just really excited to start to play all this music live.
Finally, I really hope we can catch up again at a later date, but before I let you go, what are three things that inspire you outside of your creative interests?
Road trips, the moon, and my friends.
Congrats to the interview. Carina’s way to break into music is really interesting. Intuitively, it makes a lot of sense to me, but you still have to translate your artistic nature into music. I think Carina deserves a lot credit for having pulled it off.
It was an absolute pleasure to talk to Carina Allen. Such a wonderful artist who knows what she wants. She’s an artist in my opinion who is seemingly fully formed in her late 20s and has arrived on the world stage ready to make the most of every single opportunity.