BY LEZA CANTORAL
Alexandra Naughton defies categorization. She is a force onto herself. She dances in and out of the lines of people’s expectations and is always one step ahead of the crowd. I am pleased to share this little glimpse into the artistic process and soul of Alexandra Naughton as she talks about her muse, Lana Del Rey. You can follow Alexandra on Twitter @theTsaritsa. You can purchase her Lana influenced book My Posey Taste Like here.
Describe the style and concept behind ‘My Posey Taste Like.'
‘My posey taste like’ is a concept album inspired by ‘Born To Die’ by Lana Del Rey. I mean, it’s a book, it’s not something you can play on your record player, but I think of it as being an album anyway. Like it feels like one. I get words and phrases stuck in my head which repeat in patterns and feel like lyrics and a lot of that was happening when I decided to write this book in a day, which I did because I wrote a blog post on Enclave about something and started playing with the ‘my posey taste like’ lines to start the blog post and then I decided I liked it so I kept going and turned it into a poem which I submitted to Lisa Marie Basile and then I was like, I can make a whole chapbook out of this and I was going through something emotionally at the time and kept playing with the idea of making a sad love album that feels like a lost prairie house dropped on a sunny palmlit street and now I’m even thinking about expanding the chap into ‘my posey taste like: the paradise lost edition’ because I’m still in love with the idea and I have more to say.
Before you wrote this collection you wrote one inspired by Billy Corgan. Is there any connection between them in your mind?
There is a connection because I really like to think of my poetry collections as being albums because I wish I had a good voice and the ability to write music. I am a terrible singer and I don’t really write lyrics maybe more like lyric fragments or unfinished thoughts which are more mood and undertone than the things explicitly stated in song lyrics. I was listening to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins when I wrote ‘i will always be your whore: love songs for billy corgan’ and so a part of his soul, or my interpretation of his soul because I felt like I was absorbing something by immersing myself so much in his work, is embedded in my work in that collection. It’s the same with the Lana collection, ‘my posey taste like.’ I was listening to ‘Born to Die’ nonstop for several months and I just felt very wrapped up in my interpretation of Lana’s soul/persona on that album. Music is like therapy for me and I have a tendency to overplay one artist/album for a long duration because it is soothing and familiar.
What are your artistic influences?
Pop culture, probably. Stuff like commercial jingles, tv shows, cartoons, things I hear on the bus in passing, Brian de Palma films, but also more ‘high art’ shit like short story collections with unreliable narrators and novels written by women.
When did you know you were a writer?
I think I only started taking myself seriously as a writer in college. I mean, I’ve always written. I’ve always been making up songs and putting on performances for my family, ever since I was a baby. But in college I decided I wanted a writing certificate, because some kids in my creative writing poetry class who wrote crappy poetry were going for one. I didn’t even know it was an option. I heard them talking about it and I was like, I can do that. After that poetry class, I took a nonficiton writing class with Lee Klein and started considering publishing my work. It was there in that class that I was like: I’m doing this. I’m totally doing this.
What was the first Lana Del Rey song you ever heard?
There was a Lana Del Rey anthology called ‘Dope Angel Pussy’ and I wrote a poem based off her song ‘Off to the Races.’ I did not listen to the song. I just looked at the lyrics. It was not until later that I actually listened to the song and I was like, shit, this is really good!
What is your favorite Lana Del Rey album and why?
‘Ultraviolence’, because it feels like you are listening to a record from the 60s. It has that warm presence, that ‘wall of sound’ sound consistently throughout. In comparison to ‘Born to Die’, it’s a lot more mature and sure of itself. Her vocals are really strong and beautiful and stand out while being surrounded and wrapped around by the music.
What is your favorite song of Honeymoon and why?
It’s hard to pick just one, but I think ‘The Blackest Day’ is my favorite because it feels like ‘Black Beauty’ graduated from college and discovered more adult problems and it resonates a lot. ‘Swan Song’ is another one I keep playing. I listen to it and it makes me feel like a wandering Judy dressed up like Madeline and wanting to run away but knowing that it’s impossible.
Lana is a lyrical storyteller. You have said that you do not like listening to her songs as singles because the album tells the full story. What do you think is the story she is telling in Born to Die, Ultraviolence and then Honeymoon? Do you see a larger narrative between the three albums as if they were a book series?
Lolita on summer break and reminiscing about her days of being a 14 year old alcoholic, then Lolita going to NYU and living in Brooklyn and building a vinyl collection, and then Lolita as a 30 year old still feeling like a girl and trying to cope with immense pressure from the people around her.
What is it that you relate to about Lana’s music?
The torment of desire. Wanting attachment, fearing disappointment, feeling disappointment but still putting on her makeup. Acting unaffected but hurting, showing it. Lana is disarming. I love her raw honesty, her unabashed fragility.
What do you admire about Lana?
She loves singing jazz and she’s got the blues and she rearranges timeless narratives and constructs them to suit her in the best way. I honestly just love her music, this sounds corny, but it speaks to me.
Who is Lana Del Rey?
Lana Del Rey isn’t a real person. In a way she’s like Andy Kaufman, in that she is always performing. Like that first SNL appearance-- pure performance art, and hella people were shaking their heads like, what did I just watch. Everything is intentional, and that confuses people. She’s on brand all the time. Her fashion is a reflection of culture. That’s how cute girls these days dress. They don’t just wear clothes, they wear costumes.
What is it that inspires you the most about Lana as an artist?
Her ability to brand and make herself an icon. What she’s doing is not new, the old Hollywood revival thing, I feel like tons of singers have tried to recreate that feel that you get when you watch but it feels really fresh and really different.
Why do you think Lana Del Rey appeals to so many young women these days?
She’s cool and doesn’t seem phony. She doesn’t care if everyone likes her. She’s not a Taylor Swift or a Katy Perry. She’s not pretending to be the ‘good girl next door’ because she knows that label is meaningless and detrimental. She’s been around the block. She’s not afraid to put herself on blast. I truly believe every song of hers is about her persona’s personal struggle to varying degrees. It’s fictional, but I don’t think she’s ever talking about anyone else (someone was trying to say ‘Art Deco’ is about Azaelia Banks and I was like, no dawg this is reflection of self/reflection of persona).
What do you think makes Lana Del Rey such a compelling muse?
She’s classic and timeless but also cutting edge. She represents something that was once the ideal, but it’s distorted and wrung out and left for us to absorb what we can.
Leza Cantoral is the author of Planet Mermaid and editor of Walk Hand in Hand Into Extinction: Stories Inspired by True Detective. She writes a feminist column about noir film for Luna Luna Magazine called Shades of Noir and writes about pop culture for Clash Media. Her upcoming collection of short stories, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, will be coming out later this year through Bizarro Pulp Press. You can find her short stories at lezacantoralblog.wordpress.com and tweet her at @lezacantoral.