BandLab’s ‘Opportunities’ recipient Alicia DC discusses her musical switcheroos
By BandLab/Colin Kirkland
Last year, Singapore-native Alicia Diva Chandra, who performs under the moniker Alicia DC, went from playing covers in bars to co-creating original music with industry professionals and performing at some of Singapore’s most notable music venues.
Now, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter is making waves in different time zones: As part of BandLab’s Opportunities program and the music creation platform’s ReverbNation service, Brooklyn Magazine has selected Alicia DC out of 3,000 emerging artists across the globe to feature.
Alicia DC has put out two EPs — “Maybe” and “LOVERGIRL” — and a new single entitled “bodyclock,” which, together, showcase her budding skills as a producer, songwriter, and classically-trained musician, as well as the innate versatility of the young artist’s creative vision.
In the brief time Alicia DC has been releasing music, the artist’s approach to writing and recording seems to upend both sonic and stylistic expectations.
“Maybe,” which dropped in 2022, graced listeners with a blend of boppy jazz-pop tracks with hints at a darker, dreamier electro-pop edge that would fully surface on 2023’s “LOVERGIRL,” a collection of songs with hectic turns, soaring distortion, and catchy hooks to assist a wider breadth of moods and more observant, confident lyricism.
Alicia DC’s newest release, a single by the name of “bodyrock,” produced and recorded in tandem with Singapore’s R&B music collective and label PK Records, continues her sonic climb toward creating complex compositions in collaborative environments.
It’s becoming quite clear that Alicia DC, in record time, has built out her comfort zone in the spaces between genres, with the possibilities being, well, endless.
In this interview, Brooklyn Magazine speaks with Alicia DC about launching her debut EPs, what it was like to work with local music legends, inspirations she finds in Korean R&B, and more.
So you were born and raised in Singapore. Is that where you’ve created and performed the majority of your work? I’m mostly performing in Singapore right now. But I’m trying to expand to neighboring countries like Malaysia. We’re trying to expand across the region first, then hopefully beyond that. One of my dreams is to be able to tour around the world and share my music.
Have you ever been to Brooklyn? No, not yet. So far I’ve been to Cleveland and Kansas City, but it felt really quiet in comparison to the America I would see on screens.
You sing most of your recorded songs in English — do you ever write or perform lyrics in Chinese, Malay or Tamil? For now, yeah, I’m mostly singing in English. But I’m definitely open to writing with artists that speak different languages. I do know Chinese and Korean, and Korea’s music scene is very interesting, especially Korean R&B. Sometimes I actually sing covers in Korean.
Which Korean R&B artists inspire you most? Like Jay Park and Loco. Those have been big names in the Korean R&B scene for a long time. I’m just a fan of the level of music production for Korean music — I appreciate it a lot. I also like when Korean rappers have good flow. And even though it’s not my own language, I enjoy listening because whatever they’re rapping about is done tastefully.
How long have you been performing original music? Well I’ve been performing more often lately. My official debut was in January 2022. Since putting out my own music, I’ve been very blessed that event organizers have found me on my socials. I’ve been provided with a lot of opportunities to perform within Singapore.
What marked your official debut? It’s the first time that I actually performed my originals at an official venue. Singapore doesn’t have many music venues but I performed at the Esplanade, which is a big venue at the city center. The nonprofit behind it promotes local music and also brings outside acts into Singapore to expose the locals to a wide range of art and music.
Before that, I was just going to bars and playing covers. But then I tried to start branding myself like, “Hi, I’m an artist who writes my own music. Come watch me perform.”
How did that experience shape your evolution? I was awarded the SCAPE Music Alt. Residency program, which I got through sending in some demos. And I got to work alongside local songwriters and was assigned a mentor who goes by Weish. She helped me a lot with my lyricism and we developed my next EP, which the program fully funded.
And was that “Maybe”? Yeah, that was “Maybe”! I also got to work with a local producer. Together we split the production 50/50. Which is why you hear a blend of really clean sounds and really gritty sounds. The gritty sounds are his, that’s his style, that’s the way he produces––a lot of distortion and synth layering.
Were you trying to capture any specific themes when you set out to write the lyrics for “Maybe”? Every song has a different story. But the EP hits on being depressed about being in school and feeling like I don’t fit in. There’s a line that goes, “Maybe you don’t care what I’m thinking / Maybe I don’t fit in / I’ll leave right now.” And there’s like the irony of combining that with an uplifting trap beat.
How’d you land on that dichotomy? I was listening a lot to a track called “Any Song” by a South Korean rapper called Zico. He does this thing where he combines Latin music with trap beats, or electronic beats. I don’t know the exact meaning, but in the music video, at least, he was very low and I just tried to emulate that vibe with my own personal story of feeling like an outsider. It’s a story that can be conveyed in many ways, and I guess one of them is with trap beats. Ha!
How did you progress from “Maybe”? Well after that I began working on a new EP all on my own and I started thinking that I wanted to delve more into the electronic music world. You can hear that in “Lovergirl,” which I released in February 2023. I produced, mixed, and recorded the album myself. I also tried to move my lyricism away from the repetition of “I” and “You” and “I” and “You” and incorporate more hidden wordplay.
What’s your typical writing process look like? It looks like me running to my bedroom to record a voice memo of whatever rhythm just popped into my head. Sometimes I hear a hook, sometimes the words I’m writing in my journal become the starting point for lyrics.
I’ve noticed that your two EPs, and your new single “bodyclock” play with a vast array of sounds and styles. Yeah, I feel like I’m perceived by the public as eccentric, probably because I’m not good at sticking to one thing. When I put out my first EP it was received well, and people kept on calling me a jazz girl. But to me that was just an experiment. As was the second EP. People would ask me if I’d return to jazz and I remember thinking, “Why should I care? I want to do whatever I want.”
You have been playing more with a full band. Is music-making becoming a more collaborative experience for you? That group you saw, they’re an art collective and label called PK Records. I went to one of their concerts like a stalker and they ended up coming up to me in between sets. They asked me to collaborate with them and that became my most recent single, “bodyclock.” I still did all the songwriting, but we improvised and divided the instrumentals and production between the group. The brass was actually done by my friends from the school I study at — the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music — and I wrote the arrangement.
How has studying music in a formal way helped progress your development as an artist? It helps my songs sound more dynamic than other pop music. I study classical composition and write for an orchestra as well as electronic contemporary music. We make sure nothing is stagnant; every change has to have meaning. Which definitely translates to my personal creations.
What’s your plan for the near-future? I’m working on a few singles with PK right now. We’re taking more of an acoustic approach this time, with more instrumentals. We’re changing it up again.