When we last spoke with Ajax–born, Hamilton–based singer/songwriter Alex Whorms about her move to Hamilton in 2013 to study at McMaster University, the burgeoning musician was documenting her transforming life in song. This weekend, Whorms offers her sophomore EP, Burgundy and it’s as personal a document as ever, presented perhaps even more earnestly.
“That’s the risk when poeple date creative people, you never know what they will write about you,” remarks Whorms on the lyrical fodder of her songs particularly one of the lead singles “Too Many Love Songs” written about one particular relationship and its basis in social media. “It wasn’t just questioning whether I wanted to be in the relationship but I was looking how overwhelming the social media and binge drinking and partying is. I remember trying to fit into an image and act how people did online and feeling really wrong about it. It’s not a popular attitude, to not like parties, but I was thinking about all of this noise on me and put all of my thoughts into that song in particular. My favourite part is that it’s an upbeat song in a major key but it’s kind of a song about me being pretending to having fun at a party but I’m just dancing along hoping nobody knows how uncomfortable I am with it. I filmed a video of the song with a bunch of friends recreating a party scene and after it came out a couple of them messaged me saying, ‘I didn’t really pay attention to the words while we were shooting and I thought this was just a fun, positive song and I found out it’s not happy at all’. I enjoy that because you can not listen too closely and just enjoy the song the musical bits of it or you can listen more and find the meaning behind it that a lot of people can relate to: the feeling of not fitting in, and trying to and trying to figure out where you do fit in.”
“For me, I didn’t grow up telling people I wanted to become a musician and kept it to myself,” adds Whorms. “Because all of my songs stem from personal experiences, there is always this worry that you’re going to be judged for what you’re talking about. It’s not always comfortable having people listening to your music and trying to figure out what or who is involved in those songs. It’s not easy putting yourself out there like that but that’s what I do.”
Combining a penchant for the grand piano with aspects of orchestral, pop and indie rock, Burgundy is thoughtful and inventive. Whorms is a songwriter that isn’t afraid to challenge herself as much as her audience. Taking influence from Regina Spektor, Sara Bareilles, Tori Amos or Sarah Slean, Whorms has fashioned herself into a strong young voice on the local stage.
For Burgundy, produced by Whorms and Mark Lalama, Whorms had the Instruments recorded by Amy King at Grant Avenue Studio and then the vocals recorded and mixed by Mark Lalama at The Old Sumbler House in Fenwick. While capturing the song’s essence was important, Whorms wanted to flesh out the presentation to better represent the songs as a whole. With Whorms on piano and vocals, Burgundy also has Andrew Aldridge on electric guitar, Mark McIntyre on electric and double bass, Nicholas Valerio on drums, Michael Panza-Beltrandi ib acoustic guitar as well as Madeleine Kay on violin, Rei Tanaka on violin, Ailish Corbett on viola and Dominic Kim on cello.
“We took a different approach than my last EP and tried to make more of an authentic sound for the instruments,” says Whorms. “We explored a lot of arrangement and mixing possibilities so it’s definitely sounding more polished than before. It took a year and a half so there was a lot more work that went into it but it was worth it for the end results. I grew up listening to Sarah Slean and to have her guitarist Andrew Aldridge perform on my music was a thrill. This is a guitar sound that I’ve loved for years and there it was on my music... and the fact that he’s from Hamilton is really really cool.
“This EP is very much on the somber side and a little more cinematic sounding,” adds Whorms. “It’s almost an ode to my early life growing up in musical theatre. When I think about these songs, I almost see a movie unfolding every time. It conjures up a theatre with the orchestra warming up and I was seeing all of this burgundy of the curtains and the theatre seating so that summed up the album. It sounds like burgundy to me.”
For her EP release party, Whorms hopes for a more intimate affair at a more novel locale choosing Jilliard Guitars to perform the new music.
“Jilliard Guitars was suggested to me and I looked them up and there were a lot of cool venues from this living room kind of venue,” says Whorms. “It made me think that this could be a little more intimate and connect with the audience a little more so I’m really excited to play there. There will be softer songs but the whole night is a little more of a celebration.
“I will definitely be doing a lot of hanging and greeting people because that connection is a real important thing,” adds Whorms. “There will be a mix of serious and giggle worthy songs but it’ll be a fun night. It’ll definitely feel like a living room, chill and low key but with a lot of opportunity to hang out with my band and the listeners.”
Alex Whorms performs this Friday September 27 at Jilliard Guitars with James Hoffman opening. Tickets are available for $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Click on alexwhorms.com