After teasing us for several years with a number of outstanding singles and stellar performances, Alice’s Night Circus dropped her first album on us on August 28th. This was directly after a furious promotion at Weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln where she performed and sold advance copies of the CD. She even had limited edition vinyl copies. I managed to get an advance copy of the CD and I reviewed it first, which you can read here.
I was curious to see how the album had been received along with a general insight into her life. So when the opportunity to ask her some questions came up, I took it.
I was interested to know how Alice’s Night Circus came about. Was it a purposeful project to begin a music path in steampunk? It would appear that nothing could be further from the truth. Julia had already been a steampunk for a number of years before starting work on original material. But she’d previously treated it as a separate entity. “I didn’t specifically write anything to just be purely Steampunk but I think because that was already such an important part of my life that it influenced some of the music anyway. As I was working on things I’d let some Steampunk friends sneak a listen and the reaction was so positive the music just seemed to be embraced by the Steampunk community over time.” Talking about the steampunk community she said; “They have become the most amazing platform and support for me to take my first steps into original music.”
Speaking of inspiration, the album has clear influences from artists such as Florence and The Machine as well as styles such as Broadway. But is that right? Is she inspired by these? Or does she draw it from elsewhere? “I am hugely inspired by Florence and the Machine. The energy she brings to her live performances has always made me strive to do my best, I also really enjoy the honesty she brings to her sound as well. I’ve always loved musicals and I’ve always had quite a big voice. For a while I did consider heading to the West End before I worked on my original music so I think some of that snuck into my sound as well, purely because it seems to suit my natural voice so much. I’ve also been inspired by musicians like IAMX, Muse, Oingo Boingo and Kate Bush.”
We can all agree about the power of Alice’s voice. Does a voice that big also give confidence to the bearer? “When I very first started out I used to be terrified about going out to perform! I would be visibly shaking on stage for the first couple of songs but doing the pubs and clubs I really learned how to harness my nervous energy and turn it into positive performance energy. I also started to use meditation and visualisation to get a little control of the butterflies and I found it really worked for me to redirect the nerves into something useful.”
Would that mean that she prefers the live action of a stage or does she still prefer to squirrel away into a studio? “For me it’s all about the live performances. I thoroughly enjoy working in the studio environment but there’s really nothing else that compares to getting out on stage in front of an audience and feeling that energy and the atmosphere of live performance. I just really love to sing live!”
Alice’s Night Circus records in a studio in Sheffield, UK. That’s Julia’s home town and is also the founding city and base for Steampunk Journal. Julia recalls how she was lucky to stumble across the recording studio because they offered “Artist Development”. Given that at that point she’d never written any original music since school, she wanted to ensure she got the correct guidance. “I went along and met up with the team at Sheffield Steelworks and I got on so well with them I decided to write and record there. I worked with an incredible team of professionals, amongst them the Grammy nominated and Ivor Novello award winner Eliot Kennedy. It really was an honour to work with such people and learn everything I learned from them.”
Julia’s parents are incredibly supportive of her and attend events with her. Do they have any input in the music at all? “My lovely dad is so helpful, he comes along to help me out at all my gigs, whether it’s helping lug equipment around and set up or manning the merch stand for me afterwards. Despite this he hasn’t got a musical bone in his body, which I’m sure he would admit to himself if asked! During the recording process I did allow him and my mum in on one session, just so they could see how it all came together but that was about as close to having any input on the music he got!” So my suspicions were incorrect and he’s not in the studio towering over the sound technicians making sure it’s all perfect.
Julia splits her writing between a small team, but ultimately makes the decisions on the sound. “I have full control over the final version, sound and production because it’s very important to me that the sound in my head at the start is what comes out in the song when its finished.” It’s that desire for perfection that has enabled Alice’s Night Circus to take her time to create her album. Eight years in fact, “I first went into the studio all the way back in 2010, then spent quite a long time just building up my music slowly until I had enough to start doing live gigs with a completely original set. So it’s been on the go for a while now!”
Her patience and determination has paid off. The album was very well received at Steampunk Journal when I reviewed it. The reception from fans has also been incredible: “The reception has been completely overwhelming and amazing! On the release day at Asylum the rain unfortunately put a little bit of a damper on initial plans but people still came out to show their support despite the rain and they all queued up patiently to get hold of the album and the vinyl. In the following days my social media has been covered in people happily listening to the album on holiday, in long car journeys and more – it’s been really lovely to see everyone enjoying it!”
While at the Weekend at The Asylum, Alice’s Night Circus supported steampunk super band Steam Powered Giraffe.“It was absolutely the gig of my life on the Sunday night. The crowd was really buzzing and the atmosphere was electric, it was fantastic and so much fun. For the very first time in my career performing as Alice’s Night Circus, I could actually hear the crowd singing along over the top of the music. I’ll never forget that.”
To the Future!
What are Alice’s Night Circus’ future plans? Maybe a collaboration or duet? “Quite a few people have hinted they’d love to see a Victor and the Bully/Alice collaboration – and I really think that could be a lot of fun! The absolute dream one day would be a collaboration with Danny Elfman though, a girl can dream!
“(For the immediate future) I plan on continuing to gig, I have several coming up all up and down the country including the Sub-Aquatic Steampunk Weekend, Hastings, Cogwarts, Steampunks in Space and a New Years Eve gig up in Newcastle. I’m also excited to be playing at the Zandari Festa in Seoul, South Korea at the start of October too. I’ve started getting some radio play from stations like BBC Radio Lincolnshire so I’m hoping to just keep building Alice’s Night Circus and getting the name out there to see where it takes me.”
You can follow Alice’s Night Circus on Facebook: Facebook Page
Visit her website for information about her gigs and other news: Main website