by Michael Thomas
Depending on the circumstances, you may see Alissa Klug decked out in Mexican Day of the Dead face paint, performing reggae music or playing solo with the aid of a loop pedal. Klug is a musically busy woman, to say the least.
Klug knew she wanted to be involved with music since she was very young. But she didn’t know that she had any musical talent until she was 10 years old, when auditioning for a school play. “I sang the song that we were supposed to audition for and everyone in the room was quiet,” Klug said. “And from then on it became not just an interest in music but an interest in being a performer.”
That interest in being a musician has culminated so far in three acts Klug plays in. She plays in a reggae group called RudeBoy RudeGirl with her friend Newton Walker. And then there’s Zuviri, a project started by Julio Zuviri which is described as “experimental Spanish folkloric pop.”
“It’s really kind of eerie, a lot of it,” Klug said. In this band she plays the cajon, a type of box drum. “Very ambient, it’s very experimental. We also tend to be very costumey, we kind of go with the feel of what we’re singing about. So we often paint ourselves with Day of the Dead makeup.” Google the band and you’ll see how eerie they can get.
It’s already obvious that Klug has had a lot of musical influences, and her solo project Alissa Vox Raw is a way to play with them.
“Ever since I was young I’ve been a bit of a nomad. I spent many years in Asia, Latin America… I worked in Brazil, I studied in Cuba, I recorded in Africa. It was just really all over the world,” said Klug. “[I was] interested in how many vast and varied cultures there are in the world and everything that goes along with those cultures. Mostly the music, and how the culture is reflective of the music and vice versa.”
Her globetrotting stint led her to encountering musicians whose command of their craft was “unreal,” as Klug describes it. She remembers being at a school of the arts in Havana, Cuba. “From morning til night all you heard was people playing, people tuning, it was just music at all times.”
Alissa Vox Raw as an act has existed for about two years, but the inspiration for looping came at a much younger age. “Whatever capacity I was listening to something, I always loved to harmonize on it, even if there were no harmonies in the song,” Klug said. Klug got her first taste of looping when a friend of hers asked her to do backup vocals for a show he was doing. He had a loop pedal for his guitar, and they soon began playing around with Klug’s looped vocals.
“Before I knew it, it was like a whole choir of my voice,” Klug said. She then began to play around with all kinds of software and hardware at home to see what worked best for her, and in the end she decided on hardware (a loop pedal) as opposed to software (carrying around a computer). “I wanted it to be more organic,” she said.
Writing songs with loops actually comes pretty easily for Klug: “It’s easy to write when you’re just using your voice. I can just hum anything or make a three-second vocalization of whatever kind for a few seconds, do a couple harmonies on that.” As a percussionist, she also loves counter rhythms, so her songs as Alissa Vox Raw will tend to be very percussive even if there’s no actual percussion in it. As for ideas, Klug will sometimes have a phrase pop into her head, and she’ll build the song around that. A song of hers called “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” began with the line “‘Cause I’ll be waiting.”
There is no official recording for Alissa Vox Raw yet, though Klug is working on an album right now which she hopes to have out in the winter. It will be called Vox Edit, which also plays on the way Klug got the name for the project. While doing edits for radio, any unedited clips from musicians would be labelled with the artist names plus “vox raw.” After the clips were edited, they would be labelled with the artist’s name plus “vox edit.”
Klug is also no stranger to festivals, having recently played Indie Week to an exceedingly packed Free Times Cafe. “It’s fairly intimate, but I’ve never seen it that packed,” Klug said. “And if it wasn’t for the fact that people were coming and leaving they would have never fit everyone in there. We had to be kind of creative for getting seats for people.”
In the future, Klug hopes to tour outside of Canada, specifically to the UK and other parts of Europe. Having been in Toronto for a while now, perhaps she is once again longing for the nomadic lifestyle she once lived.