It’s a New Day for Alison Wonderland: Australian, L.A.-based electronic artist Alison Wonderland has been having a rough time of it. She’s long been open about her battles with depression and the need to focus on her mental health and, much like the rest of us, the pandemic won’t have helped.
But the artist born Alexandra Sholler went through a traumatic incident recently, something very bad that she’s not ready to talk about but that has obviously and naturally had a huge effect on her life and, in turn, on new album Loner. As was the case with her previous full-lengthers Run and Awake, Wonderland pours her heart and soul into this opus. It’s simultaneously devastating and hopeful – always spellbinding and occasionally staggering.
Now 35, Wonderland has seen her career rise dramatically over the past decade, and in the last five years in particular. She’s performing at the historic Shrine Auditorium on April 1 (no joke, we swear), within weeks of Nick Cave, Yungblud and Judas Priest – a genuine marker of her current standing. She’s come a long way.
Wonderland started DJing and producing in 2008, and she says that she took it seriously from the get-go – it was simply a matter of when the rest of the world would catch up with her.
“It’s the age-old thing – there’s so many years of hard work before anyone sees anything,” she says. “A really pivotal moment for me was when “I Want U” got noticed in 2014. It reached number one on Hype Machine, and then all of a sudden I had done a Diplo & Friends [radio show]. That got me some attention, and then the momentum just happened. Really quickly, people were starting to get me. I had not felt like that before, so I took advantage of that and wrote after the first EP an album called Run.”
That album reached number one on the Billboard dance charts, and then she was performing at Coachella. After years of hearing “no” time and again, she was up and running.
“More and more people related to my vision,” she says. “The best advice I can give anyone is always be real, be honest with what you’re doing with your art, only make stuff you love, and it might be a longer road to where you want to be, but keep going because you’re going to hear a lot of ‘no’ before you hear one ‘yes.’”
It was in 2014, the same year that “I Want U” was released, that she relocated from Sydney to Los Angeles. The move actually had nothing to with music, but rather an old flame. The fact that her career took off here was a happy accident. Still, she looks back happily at her time working in her home country. And it wasn’t always about electronic music…
“I wasn’t really attracted to the scene when I first got out of school, because I was playing cello,” she says. “I was a classical cellist and I was over in Europe, and I was more gravitating toward punk and stuff like that. I would go around Europe watching small punk bands play, and then go back and play my cello at the school. It was very weird, because I was completely on my own in that time, but I had crazy experiences and discovered a lot of amazing things about myself. Mainly that it’s OK not to be cool in high school, because when you get out of it, nobody really cares. So it was around the time that I started producing – it was pretty instant for me. I was playing in a punk band in Sydney, and I was also a door girl at the club. Garth Crane, my best friend and manager, said ‘Why don’t you do the closing DJ sets?’ He gave me a DJ lesson, and then I became hyper-focused on it.”
Wonderland discovered Swedish band the Knife and, later, Scottish DJ and producer Hudson Mohawke, and was obsessed. She says today that there’s still a bit of punk in her, but those two artists had a huge influence on her modern sound. She’s happy to be here now, describing L.A. as a “melting pot for creatives.”
“It attracts a lot of people who want to be someone or become something,” she says. “So there are a lot of people out there trying to sell themselves and maybe overcompensate. I find the energy with people here sometimes a little intimidating. I don’t go out much. I don’t get charmed by people who try to sell themselves to me. In Australia, it’s much more chill. People don’t talk themselves up. They don’t have anything to prove. But that’s part of a big city that is known as a place where you can make it and be whoever you want. It’s a land of opportunity.”
Her new album, as previously mentioned, is stunning. She’s found her voice, as things have clicked into place. She spent a lot of time alone during the pandemic, working it out.
“Vocally, I’ve pushed myself on this album,” she says. “I’m proud of where I’ve gone as a lyricist. I’m always trying to be better than I was last time. I like the idea of parallels working together. Order/disorder is a big thing for me. Sonically, there’s a lot of contrast in the songs. It’s an album that I wrote based on something highly traumatic that happened to me, that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet. But I did make a decision to write my feelings out. I chose to do it from an honest place and be as brave as I could. This is 100% the worst thing that ever happened to me, but I refused to victimize myself. I’m going to use this as a way to empower myself. I got stronger, and I think a lot of people could benefit from that.”
With that sense of hope in mind, the single “New Day” makes complete sense. And she’ll be bringing it all to the Shrine on April 1.
“I’m super excited about that,” she says. “Obviously I’ll be playing a lot of new material because there is an album coming. I’m bringing the production of my Red Rocks show to the Shrine – Temple of Wonderland. So there’ll be live musicians, I sing, and it’s more of a live experience. We’ve gone hot on creating visuals and a whole new lightning thing.”
As for the rest of 2022, Wonderland just wants to (somewhat ironically) take Loner to the people.
“I’ve been inside creating it, and now is the time to play it,” she says in conclusion. “Electronic music translates on a way larger scale when it’s live, so I’m really excited to do that.”
It’s a New Day for Alison Wonderland: The Loner album is releasing via Astralwerks on May 6 and Wonderland’s “New Day” single is out now. She performs at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 1 at the Shrine Auditorium.