Alexa San Román has had a rough five years out of the limelight. After the breakup of her previous musical project Heirsound, Alexa became disheartened with being at the forefront of the industry. She stepped back and got behind the camera. She made quite the name for herself as a director, making commercials and music videos for a slew of labels and artists. Alexa was never sure she was ever going to return to this side of the industry again until the unimaginable happened to her. She lost all her grandparents, and her best friend's dad passed away within a few years span. She journaled all these hardships over all these years of her life, and one day it came to her that she could turn all this grief and pain into a therapeutic piece of work. Now skip to the present day, she has released this said project, now known as MESSY, under the eponymous label of SAN ROMAN. Shortly before the release, we had the privilege to ask her a bit about these last five years that led to writing new music, the new record itself, what may come in the future, and more.
Hello Alexa, how are you doing today? Alexa: Doing great! Gearing up for the record release and very excited!
You took a long five-year break from music. It must be thrilling to have jumped back in after so long? A: Thrilling is definitely one word to use [Laughs]. It's been quite the journey, but I definitely feel ready to get back out there.
What was the big defining moment that you would say led you back to making music? A: Hmm, I don't know if there was one specific moment... More like a few moments all in a row that pushed me back towards the music. I was very discouraged for a while and was going through a really hard time in my personal life, so I stepped away. As time went by, I started writing again for fun with no pressure, and all of a sudden, I was sitting on a record. At that point, I was like, "Okay it's time to record this and see what happens."
You’re set to release your debut album, MESSY, on November 18. How would you compare it to releases from your previous projects Love, Robot and Heirsound? A: Yes! I think this album kind of took me back to my roots. I would say this solo record feels closest to Love, Robot's first album, Rebuild | Rebirth -which was all songs from my journal. I think I got a little lost after that, and this record brought me back to center.
Has the process changed on releasing your own music now being fully DIY versus your time releasing music in your previous bands? A: Honestly, no. This process has always kind of been the same for me, as I've never been signed to a record label or anything like that. I've been lucky enough to be in charge of all my own releases and the pace at which I'd like to release them. The only difference with this is it's a solo album, and I have never actually ever released one fully by myself before.
It’s pretty impressive and a colossal undertaking to write your own record, then to go on to perform all the vocals, guitar, and bass on it. Looking back at the entire process, what were some of the biggest challenges making MESSY? A: It was definitely a change to not really have a lot of collaboration on this. I was so used to collaborating with other musicians in my previous projects that when it was time for me to release MESSY, I was looking around like, "Okay... Well... There are no other opinions around to bounce ideas off." Which was an adjustment. There's a lot of empowerment to being the only one involved, especially when the record is so emotionally specific to my journey, but it can be a little bit lonely without the comradery of official bandmates. I had a few of my good friends actually track some of the instrumentals on the record, specifically Brando Hom (drums), Jackie Kalafut (guitar), and Holly Desautels (bass) -which made the process feel really fun.
What were some of your biggest triumphs you have from making MESSY? A: I would say just simply pushing through emotional roadblocks to get myself into the studio to record was a triumph. I was in such a low place at the beginning of writing this record, and I honestly wasn't sure if I would ever step back into the music world again like this. The fact that I am days away from a record release is actually mind-blowing to me. I wasn't sure if I'd ever get there, but those instincts definitely came back.
One thing I absolutely love about your music over the years is every project has its own distinct sound that sets it apart. Once again, while also blending some of your older sonic elements into MESSY, you’ve moved more into a twirl of pop rock and indie rock that juxtaposes the confessional lyricism of the songs. Has this always been intentional or has it been coincidental to have the sonic structure of your music to always be changing? A: I think as I mentioned earlier, I was kind of lost for many years trying to figure out what music I was supposed to be playing. I learned that it's okay to like certain music but not actually write that type of music. This record has helped me understand my sonic structure will probably always be rock centred, and that has always come naturally to me. I feel very comfortable in the indie rock space, and I think moving forward, the music I will be making will lean more that way.
As mentioned, MESSY features significantly confessional lyrics and you have said this album was your therapy. Could you elaborate further into what this album and its songs are more about and the deeper significance it has to you? A: I went through a period of significant loss and grief. All of my grandparents passed away during a few years span, as well as my best friend's father. I was facing my own mortality and trying to come to terms with my childhood being over and everything that I once knew -traditions and older generations- were changing and leaving. This record was something that I had to make for myself to get through some of this time.
How long did it take for you to be able to fully open up to writing what you felt was “right” for this forthcoming record? A: I've never really had a problem opening up. More so actually taking the time and effort to record and release music. It took me from 2018 until now to finally re-identify as a musician and actually release music, and I feel very ready. What do you hope anyone can take away from MESSY after they can get their hands on it and give it a listen? A: I hope that people need the record the same way that I did and that they can let my words tell some of their stories. I know we are all connected, and everyone goes through feelings of grief, loss, and rebirth... I just want to share my experience so in the event just one other person needs to hear it, I've made some sort of a difference in the world.
After leaving the spotlight some five years ago, you have become a highly sought out director -mostly known for shooting commercials and music videos for Journeys, D’Addario, Hopeless Records, Fearless Records, and many artists. How is it different being entirely behind the camera, to now directing and editing your own music videos while being behind and in front of the camera at the same time? A: It's definitely been different getting back in front of the camera [Laughs]. I couldn't really do any of it without my sister Sam -she's really helped operate the camera when I am unable to film myself, and she's always been a staple in the visuals surrounding all of my musical projects. I also enlisted the help of the talented Maddy Talias, who was the DP on the "Stay Where You Are" video shoot. As rusty as I thought I was going to be, it was surprisingly easy to get back into performance mode.
Finally, what do you have planned for the last few months of the year and even maybe going into the new year? Any plans to tour the new music? A: Playing shows is not out of the question! I mostly want to get this music into the world and start to create more visuals around the songs.
Thanks so much for taking the time today, Alexa! Is there anything you would like to add before you have to go? A: Just a thank you to everyone who has been following my journey and stuck around to support me through these quiet years. I am very proud of this record and excited to share it with anyone who wants to listen!