This year, Chicago’s Spring Awakening Music Festival, the largest dance music fest in the Midwest, will return to Addams/Medill Park with another packed, meticulously curated lineup, including Tchami, Virtual Self, Tiësto, Alison Wonderland, and more across its three-day span. Dancing Astronaut has teamed up with the fest to get to know its standout acts a little better, just before SAMF arrives to bid spring adieu June 8-10.
Alexandra Sholler, aka Alison Wonderland, EDM’s token Aussie with the purplest hair and some the most massive bass beats in the game, is heading back to the Windy City for 2018’s Spring Awakening. Aside from her status as a globetrotting DJ/producer, Sholler is also a classically trained cellist, songwriter, and singer — her voice can be heard on nearly every track she writes. Last year, she made headlines for her stellar performance at Coachella, where she and Rezz were the highest paid females on the ticket — not to mention Coachella history.
Known for her transparency about struggling with mental health, Sholler has become something of an advocate in that domain for both other artists and her fans, often taking time out of her sets to speak candidly on the topic. Both her new album, Awake, and her 2015 album, Run, are weighted in unequivocal emotion, a redemptive motif encircling her momentous trap beats and intricate sampling.
A highly in-demand collaborator, Sholler has teamed with talent across the spectrum, including Lido, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Chief Keef, and most extensively, fellow Aussies, Slumberjack, whom she speaks so fondly of with Dancing Astronaut before she heads to SAMF’s Equinox Stage June 8. She also divulges into inspiration for Awake, must-see sets at SAMF, and her at-home, one-woman DJ sessions.
How would you compare the Australian dance music scene to the US’s?
I grew up in the dance music scene in Australia. It’s what shaped my whole career as an artist. I feel like the festivals are different. I remember the first time I played EDC Las Vegas in 2015. I had never seen an electronic festival like that in my entire life.
Quite a bit of time elapsed between Run and Awake. Were you working on Awake for that entire time?
No I was not. I did a lot of touring off Run. To be honest, I didn’t expect Run to get the attention it did when I made it. I find it hard to produce and write while I’m on the road, so I started working on Awake when I had more down time in one place. I am also very inspired by my emotions, and Awake is about a pretty heavy series of events in my life. I can’t pick and choose when things happen to me or where I find creative inspiration, and I started writing awake to deal with those particular issues.
How have you evolved as an artist in that time span?
I am not sure. I feel like as I grow as a human, I grow as an artist. It’s very organic for me. I grow off feelings and intuitions. I am super bad at planning, so I think I just have more insight now. I don’t really think about how I have grown. I think I definitely am a better songwriter and producer. That’s the great thing about art: you can always learn new things.
Last time I saw you live, you got up on the decks and had so much enthusiasm. Do you still get that hyped about DJing?
100%, even when I’m alone I get hyped. I think this is the only thing I genuinely love, to be honest. I DJ alone in my house for fun. Once I played for eight hours straight at a house party I threw in LA. Ask Jai Wolf, he was there. I feel better behind the decks than in front of them. Every time I play I feel at home and it is super cathartic for me.
You’ve collaborated with Slumberjack on your past two albums. Tell me about your experience working with them.
I just f****ng love those boys. We really get each other musically. Everything just flows so easily. We always seem to make music in the most random places. “Naked” was finished in a hotel room with sh**ty laptop speakers and my iPhone as a microphone. “Sometimes Love” was made in a kitchen. I prefer collaborations that feel organic where there is mutual and equal respect. I work better that way. I mean everyone does. It is important to have trust in each other’s creative processes. I feel all of that with the Slumberjack boys.
What’s your favorite part of being on tour? Least favorite?
My favorite part is playing shows and feeling the adrenaline and connection with a crowd that comes with that. My least favorite part is the loneliness.
How does it feel to be returning to Chicago for Spring Awakening?
Amazing. I cannot wait. I love the crowd there.
What three sets would you recommend from the Spring Awakening lineup this year?
I would not miss Virtual Self, Bleep bloop, Oh and this loser. Her mother paid me $20 dollars to say this: Alison Wonderland.