Photos by @clivecadillo
By Ariana Hwang & Chelsea Booth
Admit it, you’ve been beguiled by a sad girl before. One with a soft, lovely voice that can lull you in and occasionally move you to tears like an adult baby. You’ve listened to one on the radio (Was it Dido?) before and watched her draped in classic silk or vintage style garments in a music video with pale, pastel colored aesthetics like Marina and the Diamonds. She sings about the past, lost love, and self-growth in a society that puts excessive pressure on women to fit into one mold like Mitski. But that’s not who she is. She wants to be herself, no matter what men or other women think. Fleurt is Alessandra Licul’s way of projecting this courageous thought onto her music. The songstress embraces the insecurities she’s felt when guys told her her lyrics were too “girly.” Listening to her relatable sensitivity, we knew we had to chat some more with the NYC musician. By the end, Fleurt had enlightened us with her own memories, femininity in music, and her EP coming out in February.
What’s your earliest musical memory?
I was in chorus in the 1st grade and I arrived at the Valentine’s day showcase with my hair up in a bun, so they moved my spot from the front of the group to the back so I wouldn’t block any of the other kids and I remember crying and crying because I told my parents I would be in the front row and I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to find me.
How has being a theater kid shaped your music?
Musical theater has shaped my music in so many ways. The harmonizations specifically and vocal arrangements in musical theater really influence my writing, I want to throw three part harmony on literally every single song. I love how saccharine musical theater can be and I want to re-create the heartwarming feeling you get from a fully orchestrated ensemble.
What was it like to have your debut single “Talk Me Down” do so well? It’s pretty crazy that it amassed over 10,000 plays on Spotify within its first week. Does that feel real to you?
NOT AT ALL. It really went beyond my wildest dreams and I still have no idea how that happened. I had tremendous anxiety before putting the song out that it wouldn’t perform well, so really thank heavens because I was so tense I would have compressed into a diamond if it did poorly.
Have you played in any other bands before starting Fleurt? If so, how has your experience in a solo project been different?
I really loved being in bands so much and ideally I would still be in one, but a solo project is a lot more personal of an experience. A solo project is more challenging in a lot of ways because you have no one else to rely on creatively, and more is at stake because the project is a reflection of only yourself. I also feel like a solo project moves more quickly because you are kind of calling all the shots. And also I don’t want any other obstacles in the way of the creative objective for the project; I want there to be music about anxiety, insecurity and sad girls the same way sad boys have had indie and emo music for so many years.
Have you faced any criticism from men on your music that prompted you to create feminine music with sad girl aesthetics, or after you released music? Was there ever any worry that you might leave out a male audience by embracing sad girl aesthetics?
YES hell yes oh my god. I’ve been in mostly male ensembles my whole life and I would present songs or lyrics that were almost always shut down as “too girly” but when one of the guys wrote a love song or similarly emotive lyrics it was totally fine, not even questioned. I really internalized this too, I wouldn’t write things that were overtly emotional or “girly;” nothing too sad, nothing that expressed too much pining over boys, nothing that had any details from my girly life. This was because I was directly afraid that male musicians wouldn’t take me seriously if my lyrics weren’t fun and sexy. I still have this “fear” but I think I just care less now. With Fleurt I’m directly embracing these insecurities but now I’m making music for girls instead of for shitty male musicians.
What are some sources of inspiration for your sad girl aesthetics? Do you have a mood board or something of the sorts?
Honestly I would love to put together a mood board!! I have a little one HERE on my tumblr. My creative process is really visual, so a lot of my inspirations are movies or art. I love the animation and visuals of all the early Disney princess movies, for example. My sad girl sources of inspiration start with The Bronte Sisters, Judy Garland, every femme fatale noir character, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Marina & The Diamonds, Lana obviously, American Girl dolls are definitely all sad girls, I could go on. A new sad girl band I’m really into is Pale Waves!
I think it’s cool that your music dripping with femininity. Right now, a lot of artists are putting out these feminist-anthem type songs. But in a away, being proud of your femininity and embracing is just as much of a feminist statement as challenging your femininity. Is that an intentional choice?
Thank you so much! Traditional femininity is something I’ve thought about a lot and grappled with for most of my life. Vulnerability and sensitivity are a big part of my personality that I’ve tried to kill off over the years for fear of being seen as weak or too girly. I’m trying to see these emotions as strengths now, because frankly I’d rather be sensitive than insensitive. The main focuses of my songs are these emotions and I want to make songs that are intentionally girly as a response to the insecurity I’ve felt about this side of my personality.
Who are some female artists you really look up to?
I’ve always loved Florence Welch, her storytelling is amazing and she has an incredible voice. Patti Smith is another all time favorite, I love that her music is so rough and she was such a fixture of the punk scene while maintaining such beautiful, poetic lyricism.
The music video for your second single “Goodnight (Not Goodbye)” comes out January 4th. Can you talk about your creative process when it comes to music videos?
Well that video in particular is kind of a funny story. I was in Peru recently and had terrible service, half way through the trip actually when I was in the middle of the desert, I got reception and saw a DM from my friend Mike who is my go-to videographer and he basically said wow everything looks so beautiful there please take videos of everything and we can make something out of it and that’s exactly what happened. Mike’s edit really captured the nostalgic quality of the song and I’m super happy with how it came out. For music videos in general this is kind of similar to my creative process, because while I have an idea in my head I’m very collaborative and I love to know what people see when they hear the song and incorporate that into any visuals.
Is that similar to how your musical creative process is?
My musical creative process is it’s own beast honestly. I have a notebook of phrases I like or words that stick out to me or I’ll write down something I want to write about and then when I get a minute to sit at the piano and put everything together I go through this idea book and pick one thing and kind of go from there. I take a lot of inspiration from books and movies so if I’ve recently seen something particularly vibey I’m probably going to write a song about it.
Both singles off your upcoming EP You up? seem to be like breakup songs. Are they both about a specific person or relationship?
Yes is the short answer. The whole EP is kind of a breakup ode. When I originally started working on You up? I had so much unused material from years and years of band stuff and I thought I would record that, but when I got in the studio was basically right around the time of this horrific breakup there were so many new emotions and new things I wanted to say that everything on the EP was written and recorded in the span of 3 months basically. It’s main themes are loneliness, self-reflection, self-loathing, etc. I’m an egotistical maniac, basically.
Tell me a bit about your upcoming EP. What should we expect? What do you think will come as a surprise?
I think what’s surprising about the EP is how upbeat it is. The themes are, as usual, sad as fuck, but I tried to capture an 80s pop kind of vibe. I want it to be as un-pretentious and fun as possible while remaining emotionally authentic, which is going to be my blueprint for music going forward. The cool thing I’m excited to announce is that I’m going to be producing more video content similar to the Goodnight (Not Goodbye) video as I travel this year, so look out for that.
After the EP, will you be focused more on performing or writing new music?
PERFORMING! I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Europe the rest of the winter and into the spring and I haven’t performed live in ages so that is my focus at the moment. Obviously I’ll be writing as always but I want to perform live as much as possible in 2019. I haven’t played live in maybe years, so I’m extremely scared but very excited.
If you had to impart some wisdom a young aspiring female artist, but you were only allowed to use a quote from a different female artist, what would you say?
One thing I’ve really felt as a female musician is that there was so much I didn’t know about producing or live sound or things that audio geek, gatekeeper, male musicians knew all about and it was so intimidating to me, and still is. So I always think of the Kathleen Hanna quote “think of something that you can do as opposed to all the things you can’t do– and do that.”