When I was a teen, I wanted the impossible for someone born in 1987: to have come of age in the '80s. In attempts to replicate the pastel-hued adolescence of the Brat Pack, I sang Madonna into my hairbrush and wore shoulder-padded blazers from the thrift store unironically. I spent Friday nights watching Square Pegs on TV Land until dawn while eating snacks as a distraction from the resentment that I felt toward Weemawee High's student body.
As high school bled into college, my rabid appetite for all things '80s shifted solely toward music. I learned about bands like Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, the Smiths, and Depeche Mode from cool older friends who still practiced the art of making mixtapes on actual cassettes. I checked out Left of the Dial , a four-disc compilation featuring essential tracks from the '80s underground music scene, from my local library during Thanksgiving break my freshman year and fell in love with the electric buzz of OMD's "Enola Gay." It was my way of living in the '80s, and I loved every moment of it.
Listening to Cellars, the current project of Alle Norton (who was born in 1990), offers a similar effect. Cinematic like a montage from The Lost Boys mixed with the melodic perfection of the Cocteau Twins and Blondie, Norton's forthcoming album Phases revives the best of '80s emotions through catchy backbeats and pulsating synths. Norton's ability to create such gripping earworms stems from her training as a sound engineer in addition to her nostalgia for the '80s.
I was thrilled to talk with her about Phases and her latest single, "Do You Miss Me," which feels like the perfect track to blast while driving through the city in a retro Corvette with the top down (while wearing Ray-Bans, of course).
Dianca Potts: Phases reminded me a lot of my favorite darkwave and synthpop bands from the '80s. Could you talk a bit about your musical influences?
Alle Norton: My music taste changed a lot as I was growing up. When I was a kid in the early '90s, I distinctly remember hating everything that was synth-y and '80s because at the time it felt just dated and cheesy, and it gave me this weird nostalgia for my childhood. I didn't really like the stuff that I listen to now [until] I started listening to college radio and got more into underground music in middle school and early high school. I [discovered] bands like Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine, and I just continued down that path and got more into older electronic stuff and Italo pop as well as classic rock.
DP: How did you get into making music?
AN: I've been singing since I could talk, and when I found out what a piano was, I wanted to play it and just taught myself how, along with guitar when I was eight. I grew up playing music with a rock band in this weird evangelical church that I went to as a kid, and I was playing every week, which was good for me as a musician. Once I got out of that, I got into recording, and I went to school for sound engineering. I had messed around with it a bit when I was younger, and I started making my own recordings at home on my computer. I started listening to a lot of [the] stuff that influences my project now when I was 20: Debbie Deb, Sheila E., Latin Freestyle, and a lot of early Madonna, and that developed my sound a lot.