Always one to revel in curious ambiguity, LA-based singer/songwriter Allie X’s new comic book, “The Story of X: Chapter One,” shies from telling a clear, black-and-white story about the artist’s upbringing. While there are definite strings of truth laced throughout, the narrative adds layers of mystery to what hides behind Allie’s artistic mask.
Co-written by Allie and Lara Casselman, “The Story of X” centers on the young singer and her shadow, who together spin so fast, they become physically separated. She eventually meets the Wizard of X, who tells her she will remain “Allie X” until she writes “the song that will solve X” and reunite her with her shadow.
Produced by Canada’s PHI Centre with illustrations by Renata Morales, “The Story of X” can be read in full, here, or purchased in physical form, here. There are only 21 copies available and each has been signed by Allie herself. We caught up with the COLLXTION I crooner to talk about her desire for personal protection, battle with being good or bad, and insatiable love for sunglasses.
There’s something mystifying about the comic’s narrative—what does it say about you?
“It’s autobiographical, but it’s been abstractified, so everything in there comes from elements of truth—things that I actually experienced.”
How much of it is autobiographical?
“It’s hard for me to say. In my head, I feel like I experienced all those things—even the more fantastical ones. When you’re a kid, your perception of reality is pretty different, wouldn’t you say? And the way that things feel and the possibilities you see are kind of different. In chapter one, all those things took place when I was a very young child.”
Was the focus on childhood intentional?
“I mean, I’m really just telling the story and it happens to start when I was a child. It’s not too intentional in that sense; the next chapters will take place over years when I’m an adolescent. That said, I think about my childhood a lot and I feel like the way that I see the world now, a lot of it is based on feelings I had when I was a kid and kind of how different things are when you grow up.”
There’s a strong allusion to The Wizard of Oz. Why?
“For me, it wasn’t too much of a choice, either—it was just kind of, when I think back, one of those things that really stuck in my head. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz and feeling a sort of relation to it, although not necessarily in a way that paralleled to my own story. In this comic, the Wizard of X is a character in the X world, as well. The wizard has his/her own Twitter account and Facebook account. I don’t know, it just became a reference point somehow.”
You are very mysterious, which seems rare in the pop landscape—something that’s often incredibly transparent. Is this a deliberate approach, or a reflection of your private personality?
“Yes, the short answer is yes. I would like my work to speak for itself and feel a need to protect myself. A big part of becoming X is becoming anonymous, and so I want to feel the protection of keeping my real personal story to myself, at least until I feel comfortable sharing it. This comic is actually the first step into sharing something that’s actually very personal about me.”
The comic seems to center on a battle of self. Would you say it’s fair to conclude that Allie X as a project is rooted in this desire to find yourself?
“Yes, this project is very much about finding the self and for me, specifically, finding the missing part of myself. That is the part that gets lost in the comic, which gets told when Alexandra spins too hard, loses part of herself and is a fragment of who she once was in the real world. Becoming X, for me, is about recognizing that and extracting a need to reclaim that. The art that I make is an expression of that need.”
There’s a large focus on lightness versus darkness in the comic. Is this a battle you struggle with personally?
“Yes, it is. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. I often feel confused about whether I’m a good or a bad person, and another exploration of X for me is figuring out exactly what is good and what is bad, and recognizing that every person has both sides to them and it doesn’t really help the matter to deny either side of it.”
In the comic, the Wizard of X says you’ll be writing songs until you solve X. Do you feel you’ve written that song yet?
“I haven’t written it yet, no. I’m not sure it’ll be a lifelong process, but it very well could be.”
At this point, what do you think would make the song that could solve X?
“I wish that I knew that, Justin.”
Will Allie X end once you’ve written that song?
“I believe that it might.”
Why the comic book as a medium?
“I originally thought I’d present it as a script, actually, for everyone becoming X to interpret however they wanted. But I just thought that was a bit ambitious, and I would prefer that people would tell their own stories about becoming X than retelling mine, but when I started writing the copy, it was very childlike and kind of very juvenile language and I started to picture it somewhere in-between a comic and a children’s book.”
The illustrations are a nice balance to the copy. How did you find Renata Morales?
“Renata is such a dear friend. The PHI Centre and I did a lot of different videos during my residency and we did the 48 Hours of Allie X performance, but we also created the comic while I was there. Renata was working with me at PHI and she just seemed like the perfect fit; she really understood the story. Originally, we thought we’d use color, but we ended up liking the way black and white looked, especially considering the juxtaposition of light and dark.”
Speaking of your performance at the PHI Centre, you absolutely killed it. Did you watch the footage afterwards? It seems you might resist that.
“I’ve never really liked watching myself; just hearing a note that may be pitchy or seeing myself doing some awkward dance move, but I’ve gotten a lot better at that. I also used to have a hard time just playing my songs for people in a meeting. I guess the longer I’m in the industry, the more standard that kind of stuff gets and you get over it.”
Do you wear sunglasses as a barrier from the audience?
“Yes, I feel so vulnerable; you can see so much of a person when you look into their eyes. I feel more protected, but at PHI Centre, I did take them off for one song. With the sunglasses, sometimes I worry that I almost come across as disrespectful by intentionally detaching myself, and I don’t mean to do that. I do want to be honest with my fans in my own way—in a way that’s truthful to the way I feel.”
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