The Queens, NY artist releases her new album "Evolve or Dissolve Pt. 1"
"I think it's the most honest work I've ever made in my life," Alec Gaston tells me of her recent release, "Evolve or Dissolve Pt.1" in a coffee shop in Williambsurg. She's sipping an iced chai, and we sit in a corner booth, chatting about this recent body of work and the process of creating it. Listening to this record feels like a wandering and sensory journey through a personal and intimate story. The music moves effortlessly between rap, rock, dance, and indie psychedelia. Alec's honest voice carries us through the album's multitudes, with lush guitar and vocals and compelling percussion underneath. The multi-instrumentalist shares, "I was writing songs and recording from when I was 13 or 14, that was when I made my first album. From a very early age, I could identify my favorite part was arranging and putting worlds together in that way." This keen sense of production comes through the tracks, and each one has its own intricate and rich sonic landscape that you can happily get lost in as a listener.
Alec speaks of these songs as "hearing myself for the first time. Previously, I felt like I had to compartmentalize myself into different pieces because it felt like all of me was too much all the time." In the song "Misused," she sings, 'The weight of the past feels like a grave on my back / I can't stand it, I can't take it back,' which seems to touch on this former self. This reflection is channeled into a song that feels honest and confessional. Co-produced and written with Gabriel Stanley, this is an exploration of pop, with a driving beat and shimmering electric guitars in the chorus.
My personal favorite track is the second song on the record, "Caught in a Lie". It opens with a Radiohead-esque acoustic guitar loop, with affected vocals and a twinkling piano flitting in your ear. Then, a catchy, early 2000s drum loop drops in, and she asks the question, 'Is it ever the wrong thing to be caught in a lie?' The song carries with it momentum and intricacy in the music, with gentle and swirling vocals atop. It's sandwiched between the album opener, "See Through," an R & B tune featuring rapped verses from Gaston and Qung Xav, and the third, pop-centric track, "Misused." In these first three songs, Alec makes it clear that she can dance between genres, and that we should toss to the wind any expectations about where the rest of the album will lead us.
One factor that contributes to the distinct nature and tone of each song is the broad band of collaborators featured on the album. "I wanted to have an idiosyncratic collaboration with each song, so there’s a different grouping of people on each [one]," Gaston shares. The record is co-produced long time friend and collaborator Bryan DiMaio, and features Justin Nash Fisher, Chase Potter, Steven Gridley, Spaceman Patterson, Bill Campbell, Matt Schumacher, Horace Phillips, Danae Greenfield and Antonio Solis. "The album is the sum of a lot of really talented people and everybody trying to serve the song." Each track carries with it a cast of characters who bring forth a unique quality and sound. This sonic diversity is held together by Gaston's voice and songwriting, and the honest story behind the lyrics.
When I ask Gaston about the theme and meaning of the album title, she shares that, "At the center is me and my identity that I had known was there for some time, but was overwhelmed and intimidated by stepping into. I knew the words represented a commitment to myself to transition, that’s what it was about. It was deeply personal in that way." The words "Evolve or Dissolve" make me believe there is something at stake, or that some threat exists. If you don't transform, you could disappear into the ether. Alec shares, "My life is at stake. I felt like if I don’t do this, if I’m not gonna be who I am, I don’t want to be here. I’m so happy to be on the other side of that."
In addition to songwriting and working on her own music, Alec is also a film scorer, producer and engineer. She produced and mixed roughly 10 albums over the course of creating "Evolve or Dissolve, Pt. 1," sharing that her hope is to "[amplify] voices as much as I’m calling in energy towards what I’m trying to put out." She works out of her studio in Ridgewood, NY, constantly collaborating with local artists. When I asked her what's next, she responded with a sense of peace, saying "I have so many hopes and dreams, but I’ve also been doing a lot of things I want to do, and I’m quite fulfilled. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen."
Written by Nan Macmillan