Indie Artist Raises the Stakes, Premieres New Single on CQ
By Dale Henry Geist
Al Riggs has released, in their words, “too much music over the last decade,” but today’s release of “Alice” is a watershed for the gender-fluid artist. Riggs picked Country Queer to premiere their new single, and the choice makes sense: “Alice” is a dreamy love letter from Alex, Al’s male identity, and it’s charged with the kind of rueful admiration that can come only from longstanding intimate relationships, which this surely is.
If you follow indie music, you might already know Al, who’s based in Durham, North Carolina, from their many solo recordings or from their work with such artists as Megafaun, The Mountain Goats, H.C. McEntire, Skylar Gudasz, or The Love Language. If you don’t know their music yet, you’re in for a treat.
I chatted with Al about what went into the creation of “Alice”.
“My fiancé was asleep so I was just sitting on the couch and doing some deep thinking on duality and multiverse theory and crap like that,” they said, when I asked about where the idea came from. “Just thinking about the other versions of me existing in other planes of existence.”
Alice is a fully-realized character, which comes through in the details of the song’s lyrics, like how she’s “always got a sunburn,” and “waves at the passing dogs.”
“The idea is that the part of me that stayed behind at home is still running around doing things, but not really living their best or happiest life. [That would be Alex.] Still at home clinging to old ways of doing things. Maybe still in the closet. Alice, on the other hand, is ultra feminine and proud and resourceful.”
Alex’s attitude toward Alice is complex. “It’s a mix of aspiration and wistfulness. I know there’s parts of myself that won’t reach their fullest potential. Autism sees to that. But the wonderful thing about the multiverse theory is that all of these planes and people exist at once.”
When I asked Al about their process, they said they try to just get the words out first, and figure out the meaning later. “I ended up deciding it was an important subject because it goes hand in hand with how complex and ever-changing the thoughts behind gender can be. Coming up with different explanations for ourselves, to help us cope with the bodies given to us and the people we actually are.”
Later this year, Riggs will release ‘Bile and Bone,’ an album recorded during a short stint in New York, working with friend and guitarist Lauren Francis. Riggs thinks that “Alice,” though recorded more recently, under quarantine conditions, is a good introduction to the album.
“Musically it’s a big step up for me. Using a new set up, better equipment. And I think it would be a better and quicker intro to what we have planned for ‘Bile and Bone’ than anything else I’ve done before.”
“Alice” is available starting today through Bandcamp.