Friday, May 02, 2008
For a woman so clearly focused on songwriting, the associated tasks of performing them live, compiling them onto records and releasing them has happened in quite a contrary way. Main Motif Alexis Hall is, as befits her music, someone discovered rather than found through promotion. "None of my releases have been really conscious on my part. I just made the music and random people offered to release it. Since it was mainly on the Internet it didn't really matter where it was from, so I guess that was why nothing had been released in Australia until now." These releases, 2006's Dots on the Swedish Music Is My Girlfriend label, 2007's Away on Japan's Lost in Found and the WeePOP!'s English release of Matches have had highlights taken from them for the new Cross Paths album, another release at the instigation of a label's owner. "I was asked if I wanted to release something on vinyl. Scott [Brewer, founder of Knock Yr. Socks Off Records and member of local pop group Summer Cats] mainly chose the songs, but it's sort of half of Away, four songs from the WeePOP! EP and three new songs." she explains. Describing the music leaves Hall a little lost for words but listeners the world over lean on the terms dream pop, twee and indie to describe The Motifs quiet yet wonderfully sculpted tunes. "I've never been really good with genres, never been able to describe other people's music," she says hesitating. "The way I'm described often surprises me, and when I get compared to bands it's always because of the sound, never the songwriting, but I kind of like that everyone has their own interpretations. When I listen to music it's always for the melody and the songwriting. I don't care that much about the production, even if the sound is not that good, sometimes that makes me like the song more, the song sounds better."
Motifs' songs themselves are revolutions of their format; their sheer brevity is almost breathtaking with many songs not breaking the minute mark. Perhaps due to a ruthlessly harsh editing process? "Oh no! I think it's the opposite," laughs Hall "I'm really trying to get them longer. I don't want to repeat myself when I write, I guess some people will write songs with four of the same verse, but I'm more interested in having ideas rather than driving them home. I kind of like the idea that you get one listen at that one thing; I have a short attention span. I was thinking that iTunes give you a 30-second preview, which for some of my songs is nearly the whole song! I put in the effort for a short song as much as a long song, and for me that's what I value. I'm putting heaps of ideas into a short amount of space. If you write a really long song you're forcing people to stare for five minutes, whereas with mine you can listen to four or five different songs in that time, and you can listen to them again if you like."
Plainly, a lot of people are doing just that – The Motifs have had over 100 000 listens on last.fm and more on Myspace. In explaining their popularity Hall reaches to the reasons she writes. "When I write songs, I'm not going for a sound, and I'm not very good at talking," she says with a laugh. "The way they sound is a result of the resources I have and I'm really interested in the sound you get when you record at home." Translating these recordings live has proved more a case of reinvention than reinterpretation. "I'd never be able to get that same sound. I might record 10 keyboard parts to a song and then I go 'Oh no! How am I going to do this live?' so it is pretty challenging, but I do like bringing in other people, it's more fun."