Alexandra Scott
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Alexandra Scott

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"Out of 'XS: Scott skips reality for Bonnaroo"

Published May 26, 2005, in issue 0421 of the Hook

BY HAWES SPENDER EDITOR@READTHEHOOK.COM

Last year the Hackensaw Boys were Charlottesville's emissaries. This year it's the Dave Matthews Band. But another familiar name will also represent Hooktown next month at that 700-acre Tennessee musical camp-a-thon known as Bonnaroo: Alexandra Scott.

The fourth annual outdoor extravaganza, running June 10-12, will feature the singer-songwriter all three days under the tent for up-and-coming artists.

"Needless to say, I'm terribly excited about this," Scott tells the Hook from her home in New Orleans.

In the late 1990s, Scott varied the urban sound of her old band, the District Basement Collective, with solo work that culminated in the 1999 album Styrofoam, which WNRN mined for a track for on its Station Break album.

Accolades for Scott have amped up since she moved to the Crescent City shortly after the turn of the century. Her new solo album, the independently released Spyglass, was named to a New Orleans alternative newsweekly's "best of" list-- just three notches below the latest from the Neville Brothers.

And despite Scott's indie status, Theresa Andersson covered "Good Girl" for her own album and for the soundtrack of Infidelity, a 2004 Lifetime Network movie.

"If Gillian Welch and Gwen Stefani had a cool Bronte-reading younger sister, she'd be Alexandra Scott" said a reviewer in the Manchester Union. Another reviewer calls her "subversive." They left out "potty-mouthed."

Although she takes the "f-bomb" out of the album's lone cover, Radiohead's "Creep," she peppers Spyglass with decidedly airwave-unfriendly language-- even repeating an x-rated bit in the heart of a power-pop number called "I Want a Boy" that might otherwise receive radio airplay.

"You'll be gratified to know," Scott says, "that I have been working on a G-rated version."

Friends say Scott recently rebuffed an offer from Survivor producer Mark Burnett to appear in a new reality show to find a singer for INXS, whose lead singer Michael Hutchence hanged himself in 1997.

"She auditioned purely because someone thought it would be funny," explains her producer, Tim Sommer. "She said, 'This isn't the way I want to be known.'"

Sommer, credited with signing Hootie & the Blowfish to Atlantic Records, brought lush production values to Spyglass and now partners with Scott in a duo called Hi-Fi Sky. They just released a disc called Music for Synchronized Swimming in Space.

A 1995 Vassar graduate, Scott dodges an inquiry about her age.

"My whole life I've wanted to be 66 years old, so that I could dress like Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias, drink bourbon during the day, and garden obsessively," she says.

Scott's last visit to town was a barely publicized and thinly attended affair at Gravity Lounge in August. More recently, she opened solo for Richard Thompson and even sang at JazzFest this year (with regional favorite John Boutte)-- in front of 1,000 people.

"I do like playing for packed houses," Scott confesses. "Let's hope more of it happens."
- BY HAWES SPENDER EDITOR@READTHEHOOK.COM


Discography

Spring-EP unreleased
Spyglass-2003

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Alexandra Scott believes rock and roll can be all of these things: intimate, witty, graceful, playful, elegiac, serious, silly, as loud as a cyclone, as quiet as desert whisper. She is one of the most tender and intense, poised and self-possessed musicians working in the American South, and she is on a continued quest to redefine herself as an artist, and reach new hearts with a highly original sound and approach that combines rock & roll power, PopArt simplicity, and singer/songwriter immediacy. Alexandra Scott has been on this quest to for as long as she can remember. She has been playing guitar since age 11, and by the time she was 14, her mother was driving her to bars, nightclubs, and open mics in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, where she frequently shared a stage and swapped songs with the not-yet-known Dave Matthews. She grew up listening to country AM radio, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone and Carly Simon, but as a teenager she fell in love with The Replacements, REM and Suzanne Vega. Like Edna St. Vincent Millay and Lisa Kudrow, Alexandra Scott attended Vassar, but unlike Millay and Kudrow, Alexandra majored in classical guitar. She also sang operatic arias with an orchestra and jazz standards with a trio, and listened intently to Sam Phillips, Chris Whitley, and British electronica. After graduating from Vassar -- something fellow Vassar attendee Jacqueline Bouvier never managed to do -- Scott returned to the sleepy high-drama life of Charlottesville, where she studied dance and yoga, and in 1998 recorded her first album, "Styrofoam," with producer Guy Eckstine and engineer John Morand. "Styrofoam" had just charted on CMJ and Alexandra was touring the East Coast in support of it when she was invited to join The District Basement Collective (or The DBC), a dreamy drum&bass soundscape whose debut album, "Listen," won the Musician’s Atlas Award for Best New Electronica Band of 2000; singular, high energy live performances up and down the East Coast followed, and the DBC’s second record was all set to go, with one single on the dance charts, when record-label disputes sent the album to the dead zone and the band members on their separate ways. By that time, Miss Scott was living in New Orleans and teaching yoga. In 2002 she met Tim Sommer, another recent New Orleans arrival, and the two quickly became great friends and musical collaborators. Tim had already achieved success as a teen music journalist, the leader of acclaimed art rock band Hugo Largo, and he had worked as a VeeJay on both MTV and VH1. In the 1990s, Sommer had worked at Atlantic Records, where he signed and A&Red Hootie & The Blowfish and Duncan Sheik. He moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work as a record producer and return to making his own music. Alexandra and Tim shared a love of really pretty music, weird noise, undistilled emotion and layers of nonsense; all of this is joyfully evident on SPYGLASS, the Alexandra Scott album Sommer produced in 2003. The 14 songs on SPYGLASS pay homage to a lifelong love affair with the crazy and diverse worlds of Britpop, singer-songwriters, the twang of a country note, the glassy sway of California rock, and the creative repetition of German artrock. "Spyglass" is an entryway into a world where genre is something to be assimilated and transcended in the pursuit of singularity. It is a strange and powerful voyage, and showcases the many sides of a diverse and passionate artist. In the last months of 2004, Alexandra ventured into two recording projects that were to take her lifelong exploration of High Pop, High Noise, and High Art to an even more dynamic, challenging, and attractive place. In late 2004, Alexandra Scott and Tim Sommer formed the ambient pop band HI-FI SKY, who are on a happy and simple mission to make cinematic shivers of luscious drone pop while channeling Eno and Abba. In April of 2005, HI-FI SKY released their debut album, MUSIC FOR SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING IN SPACE, 67 minutes of grand, ghostly, spacious, melodic sound; it is quiet music to be played very loudly, unless it is loud music to be played very quietly. Also during April of 2005, Scott and Sommer, with the aid of 18-year-old whizkid violinist/keyboardist/theremin master Sam Craft, began to perform live as Hi-Fi Sky. Sommer and Scott also set forth an a ambitious, pragmatic, and thoroughly modern plan to market Hi-Fi Sky cds through alternative retailers, and to establish Hi-Fi Sky as a production team capable of great sensitivity, great silliness, and remarkable invention. Meanwhile, Scott and Sommer determined to move Alexandra Scott’s solo work into a place that combined the harmonic density and creativity of Hi-Fi Sky with the love of supple melody, emotional intensity, and rock&roll animalism that had always been a part of Alexandra Scott’s solo work. With Hi-Fi Sky acting as producer, Scott recorded SPRING, a six-song EP that combines electric noise, southern elegance, and ethereal tunefulness. Just as creative as SPYGL