Allegra Krieger main page

Allegra Krieger :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

[Aquarium Drunkard]

New York’s Allegra Krieger has had quite the year. The cosmic folk artist released her fourth studio album, I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane, in July via Double Double Whammy. Across its 10 tracks, Krieger sings measured soliloquies recounting her memories, observations, and curiosities straddling the mortal and divine. Finger-picked guitars float like sunlight, illuminating forgotten corners of the universe where Krieger finds inspiration. Four months later, Krieger has more to offer: Fragile Plane B-Sides, a compilation featuring seven unreleased songs and a haunting demo of “Lingering.” These songs live in the ether around the fragile plane, less rooted in a particular locus but orbiting it all the same. They still deliver Krieger’s singular, vivid perspective.

Allegra Krieger caught up with AD from her temporary digs in Midtown as she puttered about before work. She shared her profound reverence for Judee Sill, Greg Mendez, and the cast of characters who make her bartending jobs so entertaining. We also explore the adjacent universes that make up I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane and Fragile Plane: B-Sides as Krieger prepares to move on to her next endeavor. | d chodzin

Aquarium Drunkard: Where are you right now?

Allegra Krieger: I’m in my hotel room in Midtown. My apartment in Chinatown was lost in a fire. I’ve been here a little over three months.

AD: That’s a little different.

Allegra Krieger: It’s way different. But, I’m not paying rent, so that is one positive. But, I’m rolling with the punches here. I don’t have kitchen facilities, which kind of sucks. It’s not exactly a hotel; it’s an SRO. I share a bathroom. It’s been interesting! I miss my apartment. I’m hoping I can go back, but it’s all to be determined.

AD: It’s been a big year otherwise — we’re a few months out from I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane and it feels like it’s hitting.

Allegra Krieger: I’m glad! It can be hard to tell. I’m really glad people are enjoying it.

AD: Now, you’re getting set to release a companion project, seven B-sides and a demo. Were these songs from the same or different sessions?

Allegra Krieger: So, the songs on I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane come from a conglomeration of a few sessions. So, most of the B-sides actually come from an initial full-bend session that I did in the summer of 2021. The only song from that session that made it onto the album is “Lingering.” Then, there are a few that are more like experiments. The first track, “Chemical Flower,” is a voice memo that we added some electric guitar and synthesizer to. These are the sort of songs that didn’t really have a home on the record, and I don’t think they’ll have a home on the next record, so putting them out as a middle-ground project feels right.

AD: Love the suggestion that there’s another record coming.

Allegra Krieger: I’m working on that one in November!

AD: Do you feel like you’ve been moving quickly?

Allegra Krieger: I suppose. It might feel that way from the outside perspective. The songs that are on I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane are already a couple years old, to me, and the B-sides are from 2020 and even before 2020. There’s a little bit of a backlog that’s happened and I’m playing catch-up with myself. I’m definitely keeping busy, though. I really like how I feel after I record something because it opens this creative space to write more. So, I definitely like that cycle of creation. 

AD: It was cool to see that you went back out to California to record with Luke Temple and Jeremy Harris. What was it like to return to that space and return to those people?

Allegra Krieger: It was great. I was on tour out on the west coast and I played a show in the Bolinas area of Marin County. I stayed with Jeremy at the studio he used to work out of and we decided to record a solo record. The bulk of the record, the vocals and guitars, were recorded in those two days that I was there. So, it was very brief. I love it out there, it’s so beautiful. It was nice to take a chunk of recordings and build on them back home on the east coast after that.

AD: When about was that?

Allegra Krieger: Wow, I am having a hard time keeping my years straight. I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane was recorded in the spring of 2022, right around the release of Precious Thing, if my memory serves me correctly. 

AD: It does feel like these past few years, as long as they felt while we were enduring them, were all kind of compressed.

Allegra Krieger: Time has been flying by. You know, it seems like not much has happened from 2020 to now, but a lot has happened and it gets mixed together so weirdly.

AD: Thematically, it feels like the “fragile plane” from I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane is an in-between space, like a purgatory. Do the b-sides tracks also feel like they live in a purgatory?

Allegra Krieger: That’s interesting. I feel like the reason that they didn’t make it on I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane is because, thematically, they’re just a little different. The ones that are on the b-sides were written at such a different times. They were written primarily before the songs that ended up being I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane. There was a lot of LA influence because I was there for a couple months towards the end of 2020. I was experiencing a breakup. The political waves happening and the early COVID experience were all there. I had lost my bartending jobs, so I was picking up all different kinds of work. The b-sides are from that moment in my life. There was a little bit more chaos, more constant change. On I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane, there’s a little bit more of a time, place, and routine. I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane, for me, feels very New York-oriented. It’s really centered around my apartment, my daily routines, the smaller details. The b-sides come from a time when more chaos was happening, so there are just bigger worlds on it versus the one world of the album.

AD: You mention bartending: I was reading a piece where I really liked the way you talked about your relationship to service industry work. How do you feel like your work as a laboring person interacts with your creative life?

Allegra Krieger: I think pretty heavily. For the most part, I write about my life and my experiences. I write about the people who are close to me and their experiences, too. Work is a big part of my life and I spend a lot of time there. You have so many different interactions on a daily basis; there’s a lot to observe about human nature (not to get all woo-woo about it). You’re around people all the time in service and there’s a lot of peculiar people out there. Also, I’ve met so many interesting artists and individuals from my service industry jobs, so that’s been a point of inspiration, just being around other creative people.

AD: Especially in New York, you’re tethered around interesting characters and you don’t always see the same ones. And your coworkers are a fascinating group of people in their own right.

Allegra Krieger: Exactly. And I’m inspired by a lot of my coworkers. I worked at this bar for a while in Brooklyn that was a music venue as well called Jalopy. There are so many characters that come through there as well as incredible musicians, puppeteers, and illustrators. I met a lot of inspiring artists when I was working there.

AD: What kind of work are you doing now?

Allegra Krieger: I’m bartending and serving at a place on the Lower East Side for now. I might be on my way out of there because I’ll be in and out with touring for a little bit. But it’s one of those jobs where, if I want, I can always come back. In the fall, it’ll be like, “see you later!” and in the spring it’ll be like, “got any shifts for me?”

AD: Speaking of touring, I can remember when you came to Philadelphia to play with Greg Mendez. Greg carries a lot of influence here in Philadelphia and he’s been singing your praises. How did you two get connected?

Allegra Krieger: We have a mutual friend, Dawood, who lives in New York. Dawood had texted me Greg’s self-titled album months before we ever played a show together. I listened to a lot and now I’m a huge Greg Mendez fan. As a person, they’re very genuine and it comes through in the music, too. We ended up playing a few shows in Brooklyn together and we went on a two-show mini tour that started in Philadelphia. I’m just a fan of Greg’s music and I’m excited that, from an outside perspective, it seems like a lot of people are listening and I think that’s just awesome.

AD: It’s nice to see the connections made between singers and songwriters. Artists just have a discerning ear for each other’s stuff and the networks grow. It’s fun to see.

Allegra Krieger: It is! And it’s fun to see people’s music getting up there. For the most part, I’ve seen worked really hard and been really dedicated to continuously making records even if there’s no immediate payoff. It’s rare that the payoff ever comes. It’s nice to see when just a little support comes someone’s way.

AD: There’s a suite of guitar tones on “Smoke Dome” that felt really unique. Can you describe that one to me?

Allegra Krieger: That was my guitarist, Jacob Drab. He has this setup—I’m not sure if I’m going to describe it in a coherent way because I am not sure what it really is—but he has these reverb boxes that are old army canisters. He makes some crazy guitar sounds with those, and he makes crazy guitar sounds in other ways where I don’t even really know what’s happening. Some of the parts he comes up with are so unique.

AD: The found things that make sound waves suddenly do something.

Allegra Krieger: Yeah! And he works at that guitar shop, RetroFret, and is an amp fixer + buyer there. He’s into those unique pieces that can really alter the sound of the guitar.

AD: Fragile Plane is your first record you’ve put out with Double Double Whammy; how did you start working together and what has that been like?

Allegra Krieger: That’s been so awesome. They’re so smart and organized in ways that I will never be. I think I met Mallory [from Double Double Whammy] through Dawood, as well, at shows. I had this solo record that I was adding things onto and I hit her up asking if DDW would want to release this. They’ve been extremely supportive. They’re a really good team, especially for only two people. 

AD: It feels like they have a good curatorial ear for stuff that’s in your sonic neighborhood.

Allegra Krieger: Totally. There are a ton of artists who they’ve work with that I love and their current roster is incredible. I feel really lucky to be on that list of folks.

AD: It’s also just nice to be on a team with people who are just smart and organized and send things to people.

Allegra Krieger: They’re good at what they do and they’re good people. I have a lot of faith in them.

AD: It’s nice to have that kind of trust in people who also have to make money. Once you put money and art in the same room, it can be so weird, but there are people who know how to make it work.

Allegra Krieger: Exactly. They don’t do any weird pressuring in any way. They don’t give a strict structure. They trust their artists to make what they make and there’s a healthy balance there. I know for a fact that’s not the case in many artist-label relationships.

AD: That trust is huge and the payoff is so good on the other side. The music that comes out of a relationship like that makes more sense. Also, the visuals on the b-sides cover are distinct. I like the album art.

Allegra Krieger: So, most of it was from the I Keep My Feet On The Fragile Plane record that my friend Ellen Foster-Price designed. I met Ellen in 2015. She’s from London but we randomly met each other working on this farm in North Carolina together, so it’s been nice that we’ve continued this relationship. She’s designed all of my album covers thus far. We replaced the image that was on the Fragile Plane album with an illustration done by my friend Astrid Garcia. She’s also my coworker at the place where I work now. She does a lot of silk painting and she has these large murals. She has a lot of beautiful work she makes centered on bodies. I just thought of her when I was thinking of artwork to associate with this record. I wanted something with similar ties to the Fragile Plane record, but a little bit different.

AD: It’s really cool to think about how you met this person in North Carolina and kept in touch, and now you’ve been in New York all this time and there are these people in this orbit who’ve helped you now make this suite of art to encase your albums. The album’s also got that rootedness in New York City. What role has place and travel occupied in your creative life?

Allegra Krieger: I moved around a lot when I was in the early half of my 20s and late teens. That feels like something that’s separate from where I’m at now. I feel very rooted in New York City. A lot of my songwriting is pretty centered in having a time and place. There’s also a recognition that there’s more out there than just the earthly world. Now, I have memories that I pull from in that time when I was transient and now I have moments where I feel pretty stationary. Or, at least I felt pretty stationary until I lost my apartment. What is home now? What does that mean? I really felt like I had this sweet Chinatown rent-stabilized situation and that I’d never leave. But that wasn’t permanent! 

AD: There’s a rootedness that your spirit draws from and is exciting. The apartment was exciting and it was a sweet situation and now it has to be rethought…

Allegra Krieger: Exactly. Now I’m living in a hotel in Midtown and my belongings are still in my apartment, for the most part. This is a whole new environment that I’m navigating the ecosystem of. That’s come through in the songs that I’ve written in the past few months. It’s about wherever life puts you.

AD: I also saw that you cited Judee Sill as an influence, “Lopin’ Along Through the Cosmos.” Can you recount your history with that song for me?

Allegra Krieger: There’s a line in that piece that’s something like, “however we are is okay.” I think that the song, other than just being extremely beautifully composed and sonically comforting, lyrically there’s this magic and comfort and catharsis to it. I remember when I first listened to that album and it was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It was these weird folks with classically inspired orchestrations with this otherworldly content that’s spiritual but also has a dark undercurrent. The song “Lopin’ Along Through the Cosmos” is just a song that I would play any time I was upset or lost or any kind of negative emotion. That song puts things in perspective. However things are, whatever’s happening, wherever you are, you have your place in the universe and it is what it is. She’s a beautiful, one-of-a-kind person whose music has been important to me.

AD: It sounds like the perfect song for a person who’s in a state of flux.

Allegra Krieger: Exactly. It touches on movement. I grew up very religious, so I grew up with a strong belief in a certain God and a certain afterlife. I don’t feel the way I felt when I was young and I don’t share those beliefs, but there is something comforting about the spiritual nature of Judee Sill’s music. It touches on the hope that there’s something beyond this current world. Maybe not even hope, just the question of what’s out there in the cosmos.

AD: That comes out nicely with your music in that idea of a fragile plane. Life is a highway, I guess.

Allegra Krieger: And I loved that song when I was a kid!

AD: Whatever teleology they envisioned in that song is wonderful. In your music, though, there’s something comforting about your own acknowledgment that there’s something beyond. There’s no set belief in what it contains or who it’s there for, but there’s got to be something.

Allegra Krieger: Truly. Sometimes, I have no idea. I always say that I have loose convictions about that kind of thing. I’ll read a book that’s not oriented in a particular belief system and I’ll become convinced by that. It all could be possible. I don’t think that we know, or at least, don’t know.

AD: How do you feel like your faith-based upbringing comes out in your creative life?

Allegra Krieger: I think it comes out in having somewhere to put pain and somewhere to put the difficulties of life. With religion, when you have difficulty, you come together in prayer. Maybe you pray the rosary or something. On an individual scale, that is how I approach songwriting or listening to music. There’s a community aspect to it that you find most often in religion. There’s catharsis and divinity, even. I think that, with music and lots of different art forms, they reach that scale of divinity. It’s a practice and a place to find solace in a world where that is difficult to find, otherwise.

AD: There’s a ritualism in music that’s really transferable. In teasing out a song or practicing a melody or working on your voice. When did you really make singing a part of your life?

Allegra Krieger: I grew up playing classical piano. At some point, I was getting interested in songs. I remember bringing a ’70s songbook to my teacher and she said no. I just did it on my own time, anyway. By high school, I was writing melodramatic pop songs. It took me a while to find my voice. You emulate other artists when you’re young, so it’s hard to find your voice in practice. In the last few albums, I’ve been trying to figure that out. I’ve always sang though. My mom was a choir teacher and I sang in the kid’s choir. Once I started getting excited about songwriting, I started to sing outside of my own personal space and playing shows.

AD: Nice! What kind of music and literature has gotten you enthusiastic right now?

Allegra Krieger: For this record, I was really inspired by the work of Clarice Lispector. I read all of her books in a short period of time. Now, I’m reading Carlo Rovelli, he’s a physics writer. That’s been cool because I like the perspective that he gives. They’re great for people curious about physics who don’t know physics and they have a spiritual tint to them that I enjoy. I’m also reading this book by Anna Kavan that’s sci-fi and allegorical. It’s apocalyptic but poetic. The writer dealt with a lot of substance abuse in her lifetime, and the novel focuses on ice encroaching upon a world. 

Musically, I’ve been spinning that Greg Mendez self-titled record. I’ve been listening to Crosslegged, too. I played a show a few years back in 2019 or 2018 where I met Keba Robinson and I love her music. She released a record earlier this year, Another Blue. I always make time for Frank Ocean and Elliott Smith. For the past year and a half, they’ve been what I go back to the most.