Punk rock is something that is always evolving, it’s exciting and foundation shaking, and its next evolution is here now, in the form of band Special Interest. Combining elements of no-wave, glam and industrial their forthcoming sophomore record The Passion Of… is electrifying! Vocalist Alli Logout is on fire, delivering an impassioned and at times vulnerable performance; when Alli sings and screams, vocally struts and huh huhs—you believe it! The sentiments and attitude hit straight to the heart. You can’t help but want to shimmy and shake to the angular yet danceable tracks, the band is sounding as focused and tight as ever. We spoke to Alli to find out more.
How are you feeling today?
ALLI: [Laughs] I’m feeling all sorts of things today. I’m currently in the woods. We were in the UK whenever the border closures were happening so we had to get out of there. We flew into New York and New York was closing, somebody was in my room in New Orleans so I decided to go to a land project in Tennessee and I’ve been stuck here with my tour bag; it’s the best place that I could be. I’m doing fine. I had to go to Walmart today and buy an extra pair of panties and socks [laughs].
ALLI: My tour bag just has clothes in it, leather and latex and plastic. I’m literally in the woods now [laughs] and can’t go home, it’s funny.
How did you first come to performance?
ALLI: I had a little friend in high school, his name is Patrick, I loved him; he got me into punk. He was trying to start bands, he wanted to front bands and was really bad. One day I would watch them practice, whenever he went to the bathroom I would play. I did the thing and they were like, “Whoa!” I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do this! I need to beat Patrick at something’ [laughs].
I saw a kid with a Bad Brains t-shirt at a Waffle House and said ‘I want to be in a band!’ He was like “I have boys that want to be in a band”. I was like, cool, then I bragged to Patrick that I had a band now and he was like, “Fine. I have a show for you in a week”. I started my first band and we played that show in Austin, Texas; it was really funny.
How did you discover your voice? When did you start singing?
ALLI: I grew up really religious. I grew up in a religion that only believes in using your voice to glorify the Lord. The ceremonies were very vocally influenced, church hymns. I liked signing in church, so I guess that’s where I started singing. I like a lot of gospel hymns. I like the way they’re composed and the vocal structures of them. That’s where I first started singing.
What helped you develop your confidence?
ALLI: I’m just kind of a bitch. Especially when I was younger, I just thought everybody was stupid all the time because I was around really stupid white punks all the time. They were stupid and I was like, I’m just better at everything! [laughs]. I know it’s awful but, I was just around really awful white teen punk boys for a very long time. I spent a good majority of my life really wanting to fit in and finally I just came to a point that, there’s nothing I can do ‘cause y’all are trash. That’s pretty much how all of my musical projects started [laughs].
What was it like for you growing up as a POC in Texas? I ask because for me growing up here in Australia, I also felt that no matter what I was involved in, or even just school, I was pretty much the only brown person, which was really hard; racism, not seeing yourself represented anywhere, being treated differently to the white kids, stuff like that.
ALLI: Yeah. Also being Aboriginal in Australia, that has such a wild history! Growing up in Texas was really hard, very, very racist, very blatant racism everywhere, constantly rebel flags everywhere, getting moved to places in a restaurant where people can’t see you. I had a white mother, she’s half-Indigenous, we found that out all recently ‘cause she was adopted. It was really, really rough. Things were still pretty segregated, all the places I grew up, because they were just small Texas towns. It was really rough, very deeply segregated. I went to a mixture of predominately black schools and predominately white schools. I’ve always been pretty bad at reading and spelling. I was thinking about the very first time that someone called me ignorant and it was a white teacher that called me ignorant, I was the only black kid in that class. I don’t remember what it was for but, I just remember crying and being like; what does that mean? School was always hard for me, especially because of racial segregation stuff. It’s funny because reading was so hard for me they put me in an English as a second language class, there was a lot of kids from Mexico.
ALLI: Yeah. It’s so cuckoo, my whole education experience was miserable and teachers consistently called me stupid. It just made me so insecure with myself constantly, that’s still something that I very much carry, it’s still playing out today; it’s been on my mind a lot lately. White authority figures are always really, really miserable to me, and every black kid and every Hispanic kid in our school. It was really, really awful. I’ll leave it at—awful! [laughs].
In my experience I was always not black enough to hang out with the black kids and not white enough to hang out with the white kids – my mother is white and part Chinese, she was adopted too – so I’m kind of caught in the middle of everything.
ALLI: Yeah, that’s an evil mixed-kid nuances that we float in and it’s a really weird place to be ‘cause – I think that is an experience of anyone that’s mixed race – you don’t really fit in anywhere. That definitely was a big part of my life, of definitely feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere, specifically the white side, it was so violent and miserable what they did to kids. It was really awful.
Through doing creative things and through creativity, do you kind of in a way then get to make yourself, to be whoever you are or want to be? You create your own world.
ALLI: I guess so. I feel like the way that my creativity works is, I’ve been very influenced a lot of my life because of my awful life experiences and experiences in school. I’ve been very influenced by spite, wanting to prove people wrong, that has worked out in really good ways but also in really bad ways. Like, the only reason that I went to school was to prove people wrong, everybody I know came from shit and I always knew that I was going to be shit! That’s the same way that I got into punk, wanting to prove my friend wrong, that I could be better at it than him [laughs]. I create because I literally have to, because the world that I live in is not a world that I want to live in. I tried to create so that we can all figure out how to be together. And… to just have fun!
Special Interest have a new album coming out?
ALLI: Mhhmm. We just literally had a meeting on Houseparty and figured out the date we’re going to release it, so that’s exciting!
ALLI: Yeah! I’m really, really excited about it. I think it’s my personal best work in music thus far in my life. We put a lot of time and effort into this album. It’s been almost two years since our last album [Spiraling] came out. We all just have really ridiculous lives and everybody works a bunch, but whenever we come together to create, it’s unlike any musical collaboration that I have ever had in my life—that’s why I love the band so much. It’s so much fun and it’s so easy, that’s what’s great about us, it’s so easy for us to be together and make stuff, it comes out really well.
The first album was kind of predominately improv in the studio with a lot of my lyrics. ‘Young, Gifted…’ was improv’d, I wrote some other things that day of. I only did this once with the new album but, I spent a lot of time writing the lyrics and thinking about them and describing what was going on around me and how I’m feeling. It was very cathartic. I’m very happy that it’s going to come out soon too.
I can’t wait! I’m so excited. What kind of moods and emotions were you writing from?
ALLI: Oh my god! I have so many moods and emotions [laughs]. A lot of this album is very much based on the nuances, in the in-betweens, of feeling and knowing that we need to be better but also being consumed by queer party culture [laughs]. A lot of my lyrics are kind of satirical but not as much this album, they’re a lot more straight forward. I wanted this album to be urgent and to be towards something, to be something that can propel us forward in a way that makes us seen and heard. But, also fun and also knowing that we want everything to blow up in the process and know that our people are being taken care of. I wrote a lot from that place, from the fun times to the intense times, to questioning everything around me in my own reality that consistently plays tricks on me. Also, the relationships I’ve been in and the ways that I learning about myself and my own obsessive behaviour. Writing about co-dependency and how consuming it is; how much it hurts to be in those patterns consistently. I wanted the album to have that emotion to it but, also moving us forward. Moving forward with love is what the album is all about.
Was there a song on the new record that was hard for you to write?
ALLI: Oh my god! Two of them… a few of them… actually they all were! The very last song called ‘With Love’ it took me weeks to write. I went my friend’s house and there’s people coming in and out of there all day, they’re all the people that I love and that are consistently inspiring me. I worked in a room in my friend’s house while everybody was hanging out. I’d drink a lot of matcha and write what was coming to me, it ended up being really beautiful, but it’s very wordy, very much a poem. Whenever I hear that song, I look back and feel what I was feeling, that feeling of being around people that you love.
‘All Tomorrow’s Carry’ was… easy to write.
‘A Depravity Such As This’ was the only one I wrote in the studio with Maria [Elena Delgado; bassist]. Maria was like, “what’s this song about?” I’m like, a girl. And she’s like “uhh… they’re always about a girl!” [laughs]. She’s like, “we don’t have a song about the city” and I’m like; what if I write a song about the city that sounds like it’s about a girl? [laughs]. That was improv’d in the studio and it’s one of my favourite on the album.
‘Street Pulse Beat’ was the last one I wrote and I couldn’t figure out a vocal pattern for it, it was really hard, but we needed another song on the album. We were like, this one is slow and really glam but, I couldn’t think of anything. I went in and did a take and it was just awful! It was so embarrassing, what I was trying to do. I told the band from the second that we jammed it out that I feel like I need to sing on this track, use my voice and not scream. They were like “no, no, no, don’t sing, maybe try a slow wordy thing”. It was just bad. I went in there one day without everybody else and did a take like, ok, I’m going to try to sing this. I put some time and intention into the lyrics, it was really hard to write because I was in the middle of a breakup, that didn’t need to go as bad as it did; it was just me holding on to something that I shouldn’t. Also, being deeply incompatible with somebody but loving them regardless.
Sometimes the way that I have learned to love has been out of a really awful need of survival and it’s really bad whenever those things play out in a way that ends up hurting you and the other person. I finally figured out what I wanted to write and went in and sung it and they were like “we love it!” I said, I told y’all I need to sing it from the jump! That one was hard and it’s really hard to listen to for me. It’s really glam ad cheesy and fun. I hope that it translates to folks; who knows? That’s just all of my feelings [laughs].
What’s the album going to be called?
ALLI: The Passion Of…
Where’s that come from?
ALLI: I don’t know? We were just like “The Passion Of…” and it just kind of stuck [laughs]. We were having a hard time naming it for a moment but The Passion Of… just stuck. It’s really simple.
As well as making music you also make film?
ALLI: Mhhmm, I do.
Where did your interest in that spark from?
ALLI: I’ve always been really interested in film making. I remember from being very, very little realising the power of being visually moved by something and just knowing that it’s something that has been used from evil that could be used for good; that can really affirm who you are. Cinema changes lives! I’ve always been interested in making films, I’ve always had a lust for life whenever I’m on the upside of a manic episode. I’ve loved to record videos with my friends since I was younger. I realised how much it meant to me to be able to identify with the characters. I wanted to start making my own to show the beautiful world of folks I am around all the time—there’s so many different ways to live. Cinema is what got me around to being a punk and being gay.
You were saying that cinema changes lives; was there a particular thing you saw that changed yours?
ALLI: Yeah. The only thing I really remember from being a kid – I was five – where I watched something that hit me… I watched Schindler’s List.
ALLI: Yes, wow! It really obviously set up my perspective of the world really quickly. I didn’t really understand the genocide that happened via slavery and via colonialisation; I didn’t have any context to how that was in my blood as well. I remember being wow! This is how the world works. They want to kill us all for no reason!
There are so many things that have inspired me. One of my favourite films is Amarcord by [Federico] Fellini. The way that he satirises his town of people is something I have always wanted to do about rednecks and the place where I grew up [laughs]. I really loved a lot of the Rocky films when I was younger. I think Nowhere in the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy introduced me to polyamory and also, I knew the concept of being bi, but everyone is very fluid sexually, or dating each other. I was like, oh my god! That’s what I want to be doing. I always struggle when I’m on the spot with this question, I need to write about it more, that’s one of my plans over this quarantine.
Do you do any other types of writing?
ALLI: Just film stuff. I was just inspired by someone that I love recently to start writing, she really encouraged me to start doing poetry. I’ve written a million poems but I have never thought of them as that, or thought of myself as a poet or anything. I did a reading and wrote all these poems specifically for this reading, I chose a thing out of my phone and wrote up what that meant to me. It’s been a really wild and healing process. It’s been a way of processing lots of life events, that’s what I’m using writing for now. It feels really good. I’ve been writing a lot of poetry recently. I started a Signal group of friends because I wanted to read other people’s and get feedback on mine. It’s a really fun group and once a week we submit a poem, that’s trying to keep us a bit creative during the crisis… one of many.
It’s cool how far you’ve come with words, at the beginning of this chat you told me you used to have trouble reading as a kid and now you’re writing all these different things!
ALLI: Yeah. It really does just take your friends to love and encourage you to start doing a thing. That person that helped encouraged me with poetry also encouraged me to start working on parts of myself that I’ve been too afraid to confront. Also, gave me that gift of being like “you should write, you’re good at this and… la, la, la” it’s something that I’ve realised is something that is important for me. I have come a long way, I need to start giving myself credit for that shit! I’m constantly in a self-deprecating spiral but, I’m really trying not to be that person anymore.
The world can be such a negative, hard, tough place; what things do you do to stay positive or hopeful?
ALLI: You have caught me in one of the most depressed periods of my life. I’m depressed because I’m working on things, on character flaws, that need to be confronted; shit that has needed to be processed and it’s really hard to do that work and bring up all the ways that you have been hurt and abused. To talk about how you have normalised really awful things. I’m in that weird point in my life where I feel I am on the cusp of where I’m about to breakthrough into something healing and feel more deep and ok in myself. I’m extremely depressed, everything just feels so intense. I’m constantly watching my friends get hurt and constantly not being able to pay for things, it’s hard but the things that do keep me positive are the people in my life ‘cause we just have fun! We’re really funny. That’s what keeps me going, being able to talk in here and listen to people and their experiences and what they’re thinking and freaking out about and what they think is funny and how they think about this situation to get through. How you live and take care of each other is by listening, that’s a big lesson that I am learning in my life right now. I need to listen a lot more and think of everybody as a teacher. Hanging out with friends is something that I’m doing to stay positive.
I just started picking up boxing and that’s been really nice. I haven’t been able to do it much in the crisis. I stay positive because I do have a lot of great people in my life who have really brilliant and talented minds. I feel so honoured to know so many people that I do know. Everybody in my life are brilliant and revolutionaries! It’s cool to be in such proximity to people that brilliant.
I feel that way about the people around me too. It’s been said that the people you hang out with are a reflection of yourself so that means you’re pretty brilliant and revolutionary too!
ALLI: [Laughs]. I’m not going to self-deprecat. I’m going to say, yeah, you’re right!
I’ve been through a lot myself in the last year and I’ve had to deal with my own flaws and mental illness and different things, normalising different behaviours and things like what you were talking about earlier, I can really identify with where you’re at. I can say that since I faced everything… the truth of things, which is not always pretty…
ALLI: It is never pretty!
It really sucks! But, when you really do it, it is a breakthrough and my whole life has been changed because of that… sorry I’m getting all teary.
ALLI: Yeah, I’m literally surprised that I haven’t cried this whole time [laughs]. I was crying actually before you called. It’s really painful to be truthful with yourself. It’s hard, I’ve told myself so many lies and normalised so many things because they have been things that have happened to me. It’s really not ok, I have been in such an awful… I feel like I’m about to come to the place where I can accept these things that have happened and try to figure out how to live a life I want to live and to be more honest and to apologise, to not be selfish. It’s really hard to do all of these things. It’s really hard work. I’m trying my best to try to attempt to do that right now.
If I have learned any lesson, it’s that we absolutely need every single one of us here, we actually do, because we’re not going to get through what is happening in his world if we don’t have each other because it’s so small and things are so fucked! We’re constantly in fear of our lives. There was just a really bad drive-by outside of my house a few weeks ago. I watched my neighbour get killed, it was intense. I had been in a spiral but then it sent me into a whole other spiral because I’m just like, this is crazy that I have normalised gun violence! I didn’t think I was affected until I had friends that were like “no, you’re affected” and I was like oh my god, I’m freaking out, I am! This has been my whole life, that was a lesson that I learned very early on, I learned to stay below the widows. That’s something I was taught as a little kid, it’s been normal my whole life. We need all of us! Even the people that I can’t stand, I need them too. We really do need all of us. We have to figure out a way to survive—that’s my main mission right now. A lot of my feelings have been going into the music lately. I’m a ball of emotions right now.
I’m always a ball of emotions! I’m a very sensitive person.
ALL: Yeah dude, me too! [laughs].
Please check out: SPECIAL INTEREST. Alli Logout on Instagram. SIQ FLICKS NOLA – Punk cinema and discussion series uplifting marginalized voices. studiolalalanola – A Black and Trans production studio in New Orleans LA that aims to create space for those who don’t have space. The Passion Of will be out on Thrilling Living and Night School.