After almost a decade in Chic Gamine, you’d think Alexa Dirks would want to slow down, but that’s exactly where her latest project, Begonia, starts. Unable to settle down for a minute, Dirks got to work with long-time collaborator and friend Matt Schellenberg of Royal Canoe to work on her debut EP. Further down the line, she’s already working on her full-length debut to take things forward. We caught up with Begonia before her upcoming tour and studio time to talk with her about restlessness, collaborating and what’s next.
Northern Transmissions: What made you decide you wanted to do something on your own, separate from Chic Gamine?
Alexa Dirks: Throughout the whole band, because it went on for such a long time, we all had personal time where we’d be working on other projects. I had been slowly building this project on the side without really knowing what I was doing, for years. I’d written songs and collaborated people without knowing how anything fit. When Chic Gamine started slowing down, I had all these songs and material, and I wasn’t ready to slow down. Starting this project felt like the most natural thing to do. I’m not very good at taking time so I knew I had to do something or I would drive myself crazy?
NT: What made now seem like the right time to pursue it?
AD: It was more intentional, I didn’t just have free time and tried it out. It was something I’d always dreamt about doing but never had time for because of Chic Gamine. So once things slowed down, it became apparent it was something I had to. Over the years I had experiences that were fodder for writing that weren’t good for Chic Gamine. When you’re with the same people, doing the same thing for nine years it’s pretty emotional.
NT: Was there anything particular that you couldn’t do in Chic Gamine that you wanted to do here?
AD: It wasn’t a “Finally, I get to be myself” it was figuring out what I sound like alone. The beginning of this project I worked a lot with Matt Schellenberg of Royal Canoe and Matt Peters. They helped me bring some of my ideas to life, if you know them you can hear the similarities too. I really crave the companionship of playing with people, and I love the things that can come out of collaborations, and I think I’m at my best when I’m working with others.
NT: What did Matt Schellenberg and Matt Peters bring to the recording and how did you start working together?
AD: Matt Schellenberg and I have been working together for a long time. We were working together on the side. He generally knows the things I like and don’t like. As much as I love collaborating, it’s a very vulnerable thing, but I already know he knows where I’m coming from so I’m comfortable there. He was a natural person for me to work with, because I didn’t have to introduce myself to him and he knew the essence of what I was going for. It allowed me to have the space to be creative. We developed some other songs we’d been working on, it was a safe space for me?
NT: How did it feel to finally be prominently featured in Royal Canoe’s recent single after years of singing backups on their music?
AD: I don’t really care about my name being up there, but it was a fun thing to do that together. I’ve been privy to and sang on their past two records. We’re brothers now, and I’ve collaborated with most of them now. It feels natural now and it’s nice to have more than a humming part. I would still be more than happy to sing backups on any of their songs.
NT: How’s the next record coming?
AD: I have studio time booked, and now I’m taking the summer for festival dates and being at home. It’s a process that I didn’t want to rush into, but I wanted to give myself a deadline so I didn’t take forever. The time’s booked for September, so it’s right around the corner. I’ll see what makes the most sense together, because I want to make an album.
Words by Owen Maxwell