Like a lot of young artists, Alexandra Savior presumed the best thing for her career would be moving to Los Angeles. Right out of high school, she left her hometown of Vancouver, Wash., to pursue a songwriting career in the sunny excesses of Southern California. She quickly scored a deal with Columbia Records and struck up a partnership with Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. As good as things were going, though, she never quite felt like she belonged.
“I was pretty depressed, I guess,” says Savior, 21. “When I was going to social situations in Los Angeles, I was observing pretty heavily just to understand why I wasn’t really fitting in. I was quite young and it came from insecurity, but I thought that all these people were, you know, like the devil or something.”
And so, Savior retreated northward, settling in Portland. But that doesn’t mean she abandoned her dream. Nor has leaving the glaring spotlight of L.A. seemed to have harmed her prospects: Belladonna of Sadness, her debut album, is slated for release in April, and it’s arriving on a wave of media anticipation, thanks in part to her collaboration with Turner. She more than lives up to the hype. Her velvety, expressive vocals tell aching stories of woe and regret, heartbreak and jealousy. Gloomy and, as she puts it, “kind of murderous” themes pervade the record, masked by soft, punchy melodies.
Those dark thoughts are often tied to Savior's personal experiences. The haunting, melancholy "Til You're Mine" was inspired by a painting she made of the girl her ex left her for, and the emotional turmoil is reflected in the song's obsessive lyrics: "If I were you, I would have chosen her, too," she sings. "Do you think she feels like she's being watched?" On "Girlie," Savior sings about a girl who's "hopelessly showbiz" and "always looking for a wilder ride"—an expression of the alienation she felt during her time in L.A., which got worse once recording wrapped up. "Once Alex wasn't really around anymore, loads of people from my life just shed, and didn't really care about me anymore," she says.
That’s all in the past, though. Since last June, Savior has been based in Portland, though most of her belongings remain in storage. “I don’t really live anywhere,” she says. She’s looking for local musicians to back her up live, since her previous band, the Dudes, isn’t with her anymore. And there’s an indication that, in the future, her songs might take a different direction. She wrote new material while spending December in New Zealand with her boyfriend, and has been trying to fight off the gloominess she’s gravitated toward—although it always seems to creep back in.
"My boyfriend's like, 'Man, I thought we were happy!'" she says.
SEE IT: Alexandra Savior plays Star Theater, 13 NW 6th Ave., with Hamilton Leithauser, on Friday, Jan. 20. 9:30 pm. Sold out. 21+.