Alyse Vellturo, working under synth-pop pseudonym "pronoun", seems primed to take on the industry.
In the spirit of International Women's Day, we decided to take a closer look at the rising artis that is pronoun. She’s been on all sides of the musical process, from producing and engineering other artists to managing them as part of a record label. Her current effort, which began in 2015, represents a more serious solo journey. ‘At the core it's kind of me in my bedroom making music. So, I write, record and produce all of it next to my bed. The most recent stuff has been a little bigger. I'm trying to evolve my sound.’
Vellturo is the heart and soul of pronoun, and the music is very much born of her mind. ‘It's very honest, indie rock-pop, with melodic emo influences. It's all just experiences I'm going through and it's how I process them. It makes me feel better. When I was feeling really, really upset it was the only thing that made me not lose my mind. That's, I guess, the sound. I guess it's not a sound.’ The slew of singles from her upcoming debut album, i’ll show you stronger, exhibit her strength for breathless, hypnotic indie rock. There’s an unbounded confidence in their production and performance, with a breezy, positive sound that masks darker lyrics.
I felt something was missing, so I started making songs for fun
As she explains, Vellturo’s path to pronoun has been a long one. ‘When I got into high school, I was like "I wanna be a rockstar!" so I started writing my own music and playing guitar and kind of producing my own songs, but very loosely. I ended up going to a music college, and realised I wasn't that talented at it. I felt very much like I was around these amazing, amazing musicians and there's no chance for me, like, what an unrealistic goal.’ Despite the roadblock in her own musical career, she immediately sidestepped into helping others. ‘I started producing other people's music and recording other people and engineering other people. And I was getting into management, and what a record label does and stuff.’
‘Shortly after college I was working at a management company and I realised I was really happy with my life, but I felt something was missing, so I started making songs for fun. I went through a really bad breakup, and it was the only thing that kept me sane and helped me talk through everything that was going on. That's how this project came into place, there's a lot of beginnings and ends and starts and finishes, but that's how I've ended up here.’
It's not been an easy journey, but it makes for an incredibly inspiring story: a solo female artist climbing the ranks through a predominantly male industry (particularly on the management and production side) before stepping back into a more creative endeavour. When we asked her if she’s happier where she is now, she’s quick to reiterate the importance of that journey. ‘If someone told me three years ago that I would have a music project that'd be on tour in the UK, I would have never fucking believed them. It's cool because I work in the music business and it's very interesting. People never know what it's actually like, working for and with artists. So, it's been really interesting having it actively happening to you.’
We asked about one of her latest singles, ‘Stay’, and it turns out it isn’t new at all. ‘Stay is interesting to me because it's my oldest song. Like, it's older than this music project, it's one of the songs I was making just for fun. A lot of this album is pretty old and when I get home and I'm, like, bored, I pull up old demos and that was one of them. It's basically about the moment when you're breaking up with someone, literally in that room. "Here comes the deafening silence" and the thought process someone might be going through internally when that is happening.’
Turns out, ‘Stay’ is so old because Vellturo is hesitant to put out an album that she doesn’t deem totally worthy of people’s attention. ‘It's my first album, you only get one first album, and I really don't want it to be bad. I really don't want it to be okay. It's taken me a very long time to finish it because what scares me more than anything is just adding noise. So much stuff is coming out now and I never wanna be adding to the press releases people are getting, adding to all the output. I want whatever I put out to be like "this deserves to be out, this is something". A lot of the songs are really old. A lot were written in the time when I wrote the EP, but I also think it's a good next step. See if people like it.’ It’s an understandable position for someone who has spent so long building up to this project, and the pace of creation really shows in the final products.
Regardless of her thoughts on putting out “noise”, Vellturo has a light-hearted approach to criticism. Where most artists use the biography section on Spotify and similar services to explain their music or offer a personal tale, pronoun’s is a selection of quotes from mediocre reviews of her music. It’s a hilarious, if confusing, inversion of a cut and dried industry standard. ‘Do you know what SubmitHub is? It's a very cool idea. It's a website where you can submit your songs to smaller blogs and they have to listen to the song, and they have to write feedback either saying "we love it, we'll post it" or if they don't post it, tell you why. They get so many submissions, it's supposed to be specific but some of it is SO specific.’
What scares me more than anything is just adding noise
As she explains, the idea initially began as an even more intricate joke, ‘We had the idea to put very high-end photos from my photoshoots and then quotes from my criticism so that people who don't know me and are scrolling through Facebook are like "what is this person who is just posting high-end fashion photos and "very repetitive, kind of boring"?" so that's kind of how it started. And when I posted the first one so many artists came forward like "thank you for sharing this! It gives me hope!". I have a bio, I should probably put it up there, I just haven't gotten the chance.’
With LGBT month just behind us, we took the opportunity to pose an important question to Vellturo: is it time for equality in the music industry? ‘I'm not out on the road that much, and I feel, in the States at least, I don't find much homophobia. I find a lot of misogyny. That's where the real struggle is. And then probably racism as well. I feel like it's getting better, but it's forever a battle. I haven't personally seen much homophobia at all, but I've only been doing this for like two years, so I'm sure it's unfortunately alive and well.’
As a closer, we follow up by asking if she has any advice for people who might be facing such adversity. ‘Probably the same thing that everyone says, that it does get better, it really does. Especially if you're younger and....a lot of people haven't experienced prejudice. Most people that are in power are cis white men that'll never experience it. When you're younger and you're different—not in a bad way—but like, you're not like everybody else, it's very easy to feel weird and isolated.’
‘Just know that as long as you're trying to be who you really are, as you get older it gets better. It gets so much better. The kids that were making fun of me were so boring when they grew up. I guess that would be my advice. I can't give overall advice except for that. It's kind of like puberty on steroids.’
pronoun’s debut album i’ll show you stronger releases May 24th