crystal castles' leading lady alice glass is embracing her own darkness
Formerly one half of electronic noise duo Crystal Castles, Alice Glass is the Canadian singer/songwriter about to embark on the solo adventure of a lifetime.
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Alice Glass is bored of being told what to do. Known by most as one half of the hugely successful Crystal Castles, she recently announced her decision to split from the band because, in her words, she's finally ready to "own [her] own darkness". Alice is taking her career into her own hands and, despite fans mourning the end of the Castles, there's a palpable energy surrounding her as a solo act. "It's a fresh start," she points out. "I was 16 when I joined Crystal Castles and I ended up being on the road for six years straight. All I knew was backstage, flights, hotels and buses... I would listen to the same Darkthrone discography and punk mixes on my iPod over and over again. Now I can finally get in lost in my own world; I'm no longer just stewing in the taste I had as a teenager."
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Alice says we should expect her new album to sound, well, pretty dark... "Like a kitten eating their hoarding owners after they die," she says with a satisfied grin. If anyone's going to mix "the darkness in life with pristine cuteness," it's Alice Glass. "I've always connected more with aggressive, darker music and that's what I want to create," she informs. Despite the immense success of Crystal Castles, Alice admits she's been keen to move away in her own direction for a while now. "Now that I've been away from the gruelling touring schedule and had time to think, I know that I would rather be myself," she says with conviction. "I don't have to answer to anyone and I can take my time. Even if only a handful of people want to come to my shows it's better than living a lie playing stadiums."
Despite being only 26-years-old, Alice is a veteran in the music world, with a whopping decade of experience under her belt. Growing up in Toronto, she spent her formative years frequenting dingy dive bars watching punk bands fronted by men a lot older then herself. "I can do fucking better than that," she thought as she watching them gyrate around the stage. It turns out she could, and at 16 she formed Crystal Castles with producer Ethan Kahn. "In the early years of the band I didn't feel worthy of everyone's attention," Alice confesses. "But at some point you think, 'Fuck it, I like what I do'. Playing live is a chance for me to escape - you die and come back to life." Alice is a notoriously hardcore performer, leaping off speakers and disappearing into the audience. Out of Crystal Castles' numerous London shows she remembers Brixton Academy as "so beautiful" but laments that the stage is too "far away from the crowd - I like to be closer and feel a more direct connection," she says. This determination to actually reach out and touch people seems symbolic of a broader desire to shake free from the grip of benign mainstream culture. "I wish U2, Paul McCartney and The Grateful Dead could be appreciated by boomers in the privacy of their dining rooms instead of headlining festivals," she laments. "I'm sick of the music they like being romanticised and glorified. I wish I never had to hear about 'the genius legend of John Lennon' ever again." Instead, Alice is ready to focus on the future of music. "It's our generation's turn," she stresses. "We can be influenced by the past but fuck retro trends, it's regressive. It robs our generation of our rightful identity in the present. Let's support the up-and-coming, struggling artists of our generation."
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The home truths don't stop there, Alice is famously, refreshingly honest about the pitfalls of her industry and has spoken out before about a sinister kind of commodified sexualisation she identifies within it. "Record companies mix this dated, almost cartoonish idea of being something grown men are supposed to find attractive with a market of very young children," she says. "Sex sells and kids buy music, so the natural tendency for people who want to make money is to combine those two things. It's fundamentally irresponsible and it's not taking into account how this affects developing children." It's obviously a much-debated subject, pondered on by musicians stretching all the way from Sinead and Miley to Azealia, Katy Perry and beyond, but Alice doesn't mince her words: "I have no problem with a grown women choosing to do whatever with her body, as long as it's her idea and she's not being manipulated or pressured by selfish individuals or cultural standards." In response to this ingrained sexism she's steadfast in her position: "I want women to have access to safe healthcare and be in control of their own bodies. I am a feminist. Everyone should be a feminist." Alice's strength and determination, which she attributes largely to experience and perspective, is evidently a strong factor in her decision to finally go solo. She seems so fulfilled on her own there's hardly any point asking if she's nervous ("No, not really," she shrugs). That said, running through her conviction is a certain thread of vulnerability she's eager to open up about, "My solo project will touch on the themes of being manipulated by others and the external pressure you feel when someone forces their will on you," she explains cryptically. "The feeling of being betrayed by someone you once trusted is there, the realisation that these things have happened to you, the harsh reality of it all. Everyone has experienced this in varying degrees." When asked if she wishes she could snap her fingers and change one thing about the world as we know it, she reels off a long list so informed and specific it simply ends in "basically I feel sympathetic for 90% of humanity, give or take." If the world's ready for an engaged, informed and honest female musician then believe me, Alice Glass is ready for it too.
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Text Bertie Brandes
Photography Daniel Jackson
Fashion Director Alastair McKimm
Hair Holli Smith at Total Management using Bumble & bumble
Make-up Hannah Murray at Art + Commerce using Topshop Beauty
Nail technician Rica Romain at LMC Worldwide using Chanel
Set design Gerard Santos at The Magnet Agency
Photography assistance Kit Leuzarder
Digital and lighting technician Karen Goss
Styling assistance Katelyn Gray, Lauren Davis, Holly Gorst
Hair assistance Yuhi Kim
Make-up assistance Jen Myles
Production Nikki Stromberg and Matthew Youmans at MAP Ltd NY
Model Alice Glass at Next