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Alison Wonderland on Her Momentous Year of Music and Motherhood: “It Felt Good for My Soul”

todayDecember 27, 2023 3

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As beats met baby kicks, Alison Wonderland journeyed through a rabbit hole of profound transformation in 2023.

Criss-crossing continents to bring her bespoke sounds to hundreds of thousands of fans, the Australian electronic music superstar began the year like she did any other. But unbeknownst to the public eye, she was carrying her first child in the late stages of pregnancy.

“I was so sick and no one knew I was pregnant,” Alison Wonderland, whose real name is Alexandra Sholler, tells EDM.com. “I would turn up to play these shows, put a deep smile on my face, but I was crying afterward, just so nauseous.”

Sholler wears her heart on her sleeve. In the past, she’s shared her traumatic experiences suffering from a toxic, abusive relationship and attempting suicide. She’s unafraid to speak her truth, a disposition that requires strength for an artist to exhibit. But when it came to her pregnancy, premature vulnerability was out of the question.

“I had fertility issues in the past so I wanted to make sure things were looking good,” she said.

Losing three past pregnancies had elevated Sholler’s caution levels. But she finally felt comfortable sharing the news in March, when she revealed her baby bump with a triumphant photoshoot.

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As she approached her final trimester, Sholler began limiting her live shows. She committed to a select few festivals, culminating in a jaw-dropping performance on the main stage of EDC Las Vegas in May, when she was nine months pregnant.

But Sholler’s standout set wasn’t her final show before a much-deserved maternity break. It was a month earlier at Coachella where she performed on the Gobi stage for the festival premiere of Whyte Fang, her left-field alias exploring shadowy techno and dark, dystopian bass music. The tent was overflowing with fans clamoring to witness the Coachella debut of Whyte Fang, one of EDM.com‘s best music producers of 2023, and she amassed the highest attendance the stage saw all weekend.

In a one-two punch, Sholler dropped Genesis—an album released under her Whyte Fang moniker—the same day. To say Genesis was well-received is an understatement. Chock full of heady, psychedelic soundscapes, the 12-track album boosted Fang’s Spotify streams by 2000%.

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In a heartwarming twist from the womb, Sholler’s son Max appears to have aided in the direction of Genesis.

“I was working on the album while I was pregnant and he was really into 140 BPM, four to the floor stuff,” Sholler says. “A lot of the second drops were that because he’d be kicking along to it and it would make me feel like I should be putting that in the track.”

“There’s this one song called ‘Atlantis’ on the album that he would always kick to and even now that he’s born, if I play him that song he really chills out,” she continues. “When I came back from the hospital, in the car, he wouldn’t stop crying. The only thing that stopped him from crying was ‘Innerbloom.'”

After all, RÜFÜS DU SOL’s iconic anthem is the ultimate lullaby.

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Whyte Fang was actually Sholler’s alias back when she started making music over a decade ago. But it couldn’t be farther from Alison Wonderland. “With Alison, it’s so personal, it’s all about my lyrics and it’s very much centered around me as an artist,” she explains.

Sholler is an album artist through and through. And when it comes to Alison Wonderland, the albums are healing outlets for her to process what’s happening in her life—a visceral form of sonic therapy. Awake was a time capsule into a dark period of suffering emotional abuse. Loner was about finding strength in loneliness, ripping the negative connotations off of loneliness and replacing them with the notion of transforming dark times into powerful rebirths.

“For Whyte Fang, I wanted it to be kind of beyond that and less about a person and more about the experience and a feeling,” Sholler added. “Just a different reality, it’s not really about me.”

Characterized by raw energy and industrial production, Whyte Fang doesn’t delve into any of the intimate, emotive themes Alison Wonderland does. Favoring a minimal approach, Sholler made a conscious decision not to put her vocals on Whyte Fang either. The few tracks that do feature Sholler’s voice have hazy, warped vocals serving as embellishments to the primal instrumentation at center stage. It’s a far cry from Alison Wonderland’s anthemic, lyrically driven songs.

It isn’t just the music where the two projects differ. Whyte Fang is intended to be an audiovisual experience. Painstaking preparation went into the execution of Sholler’s vision for bringing Whyte Fang to life onstage.

While Sholler is the frontwoman for Alison Wonderland, she’s concealed within a custom-built, LED-lined cage for Whyte Fang. Her outfit is blacklit, morphing her into a strange silhouette and allowing the music to envelop the audience instead of the performer. Choirs, string quartets and cellos—elements of an Alison Wonderland show—are absent.

Whyte Fang performs inside an eerie cage.

Christian Wade/EDM.com

Sholler attributes Whyte Fang’s creative freedom to the support of her fans.

“Anytime I’ve ever taken a risk, whether it be starting to play all my own music at festivals, singing live, having a band in some shows, or doing Whyte Fang, they’ve just been so fucking embracing and open,” she gushes. “I can’t have asked for a better fan base because, without them, I don’t think I could take those risks.”

Not every artist has the freedom to go off the beaten path when navigating the ceaseless pressures of the music industry. That’s a problem Sholler hopes to solve after developing her own label, FMU Records.

“I wanted to create a record label that doesn’t put pressure on artists to feel like they have to put up a thousand TikToks,” she asserts. “I don’t want them to feel like a statistic—I don’t care how many followers someone has—I want them to feel like a human and an artist. I’m not doing this for any other reason than to help artists take one step forward and feel free musically.”

Launched late last year, FMU Records took off in 2023 in its mission to avoid conforming to trends in favor of promoting original, contrarian sounds. This year, the label released the debut single from Fredrick (a side project by QUIX) alongside a string of releases from bass music artists like Sippy and Aliiias. Sholler also organized the label’s first warehouse party in New York, which was headlined by Whyte Fang and featured Jon Casey and sumthin sumthin.

Between her radio show and live sets that reach the ears of countless electronic music fans, Sholler is committed to doing everything she can to put the spotlight on her label’s artists.

“With my platform, I can help promote their music,” she says. “ If it does well, that’s great. If it doesn’t do well, it doesn’t matter. There’s no pressure, I’m not telling artists what to do with their songs.”

Calling to mind the beautifully chaotic bloghouse era, Sholler believes that in today’s content-driven world, rising artists have a much tougher time establishing their careers. “It’s not as easy as someone finding you on SoundCloud,” she pointed out. “People are expected to make TikTok content and Instagram posts, but the algorithm is against us. It’s just really draining and it doesn’t make people feel confident. I’ve felt that with my music, so I can’t imagine someone who’s trying to even find a voice right now having to fight through all of the noise.”

Sholler knows the struggles of an unheralded artist better than anyone. Like most DJs, she started out playing everywhere from bowling alleys to birthday parties. “I played outside of a horse racing track in this weird grassy square where the toilets were,” she said of the strangest location she’s DJed. “My set was 8 hours and I was like, this is weird.”

Paved with rejection and criticism, her journey shaped her resilience and determination. ”I was playing seven nights a week, fucked up shows so many times, and got rejected,” she recalls of her early days. “I learned so much about being a performer, playing to crowds that didn’t want me there, and how to deal with all that and not be negative about it.”

She faced her fair share of misogyny too. “Instead of getting deterred, it makes me want to work a lot harder,” she said of the criticism that came her way. “So every time anyone’s ever turned their nose up at me, doubted me, or thought that I wasn’t serious, I worked five times as hard.”

When people accused her of playing pre-recorded sets, Sholler put cameras up on her decks to prove them wrong, she says. When vocalists wouldn’t agree to feature on her songs and she was told she didn’t have a voice cut out for singing, she placed her vocals at the forefront of her music. And despite being told by someone in the music industry that getting pregnant would ruin her career, she had one of her most prolific years.

These early challenges gave Sholler thick skin. They propelled her to become not just a performer, but a frontwoman who commands the stage with unwavering confidence. Being the first female artist to ever play on the main stage of EDC Las Vegas and the highest-billed female DJ in the history of Coachella are just two accolades in her laundry list of trailblazing triumphs.

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With the past behind, the future looks bright. Looking ahead, Sholler is inspired by “seeing a community again,” fondly referring to the way Brownies & Lemonade are championing creator-driven experiences. “They’re doing a lot for the underground scene and it’s reminding me of when I started out in the future bass scene,” she muses. “There’s a lot of camaraderie. It’s really inspiring and makes me feel very excited about the future of electronic music.”

Considering her own path forward, Sholler expects some changes to the hectic life of a glob-trotting DJ she once knew. “Look, before I was even pregnant, when COVID was happening, I realized that I was over-exerting myself,” she says. “I’m going to do more bespoke shows but I’ll still be touring, I’ll still be making music—that’s never going to change, ever—it’ll just be more selective.”

When it comes to Alison Wonderland, Sholler hasn’t started working on the next album quite yet. But she does have a sense of what the next chapter of the story holds.

“I would probably write about getting to a point of more clarity,” she explains. “I’m in a very good headspace—the best I’ve ever been in—and I’m really excited and proud to be an electronic music artist.”

Written by: 98bpm Radio

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