What’s in a name? Alison Sudol – aka A Fine Frenzy – a 22-year- old singer/songwriter by way of Los Angeles, spent many a sleepless night trying to name her unique sound.
First there was Midnight Ink, dismissed early for its dark implications. Then there was Cherry Blossoms, a name that was, well, too flowery. No, it was to be found in the casual reading of Elizabethan drama, in a verse specifically, where William Shakespeare set out to describe the process of creating (art, music, poetry, stories, etc.).
Sudol grew up on a steady diet of oldies radio, the kind that your parents used to make you listen to in the car. The Kinks, the Monkees, The Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas all earned honorable mentions. Her dad gets the credit for introducing her to classical music at an early age, forever cementing a notion that lyrics were only part of the equation.
She said she has based her sound with a heavy emphasis on rhythmic importance.
“The music itself, without lyrics, should be able to emit something profound,” Sudol said in an interview.
To that end, her first widely released album, “One Cell in the Sea,” (Virgin Records) is filled with sweeping and vast piano arrangements. Although she credits The Beatles with supplying the tutorial for song-arrangement, Sudol purposely shies away from the Fab Four’s commitment to pop sensibility. In this sense, she cuts herself off from a wider audience and will inevitably settle in the female singer/songwriter niche (a genre most beloved by girls who think that all boys suck).
Instead of catchy hooks and choruses, Sudol lets the crescendos of the piano and swift changes in tempo create the meanings behind the songs, meanings which tend towards the emotional and, at times, whiny. Bottom line – if you’re in the mood, Fiona Apple is better.
Though her music lends itself towards easy stereotypes, she is not without talent, drive or passion. In an interview with The Hatchet, she discussed what her career would be like without music.
“I think I would be a graphic designer or an architect.But honestly I can’t imagine doing anything else right now,” she said. “I need to see if I can make music work for me.”
Sudol’s rise to moderate fame has been swift, moderate fame being defined as when you are still surprised when you are recognized in the organic food market. In just a few months, she went from “quietly making music in (her) living room” to being crowned with the coveted title of a VH1 “You Outta Know” artist. These days, she is hard at work touring the country, promoting her new album and making sure people make the distinction between her and Tori Amos (how many redhead female singer/songwriters can there be?).
A Fine Frenzy will be playing at 9:30 Club (815 V St. N.W.) Sept. 28 with Brandi Carlile. “One Cell in the Sea” is in stores now on Virgin Records.