In the video for her intriguing art pop single “thx,” the Kansas City-based songwriter Alyssa Murray plays with her food. Dressed in a stylish scarlet pantsuit, Murray beholds an egg, toys with fistfuls of barbecued meat (like any true Kansas City resident), and stares into a small refrigerator that flickers ominously like the television from Poltergeist. Towards the end of the video, she sinks, fully clothed, into a bathtub full of milk. Like the song that accompanies it, the video is playful, mysterious, and more than a little surreal, but nonetheless has a strong, cohesive aesthetic vision.
A single from her recent Half & Half EP, “thx” is Murray’s first foray into more electronic territory, which she pulls off with admirable confidence. Harmonized “oohs” are smoothed out to a jelly-like consistency, bending and wobbling as they pitch up and down. The production is sleek and fresh, loping alongside Murray’s full, rich voice. St. Vincent is the usual comparison for this kind of art pop, and it fits for “thx,” but as oblique as the lyrics can be, there’s a comfort to them that Annie Clark doesn’t often allow herself. “Nobody is perfect,” Murray sighs in the chorus, “but thank you for your service.” Sometimes, a soak in a bathtub of milk is just what you need to ground yourself.
You’re based in Kansas City, which isn’t necessarily known for its indie music scene. Would you mind telling us a bit about what we should know about KC?
The food and coffee scene here in KC is primo and runs in tandem with the live music scene. There’s multiple independent record labels, great community-oriented radio stations, and a wide array of venues.
KC is also an established jazz hub that attracts many high-level musicians to town. I originally moved to KC to study jazz piano at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2010. The community and the school are highly integrated so it was easy as a student to get into the jazz scene at large.
It’s fairly affordable to live here as well, allowing for more resources to go towards creative endeavors.
You’ve synthesized your various influences together in a really striking way on “thx”. How did this song’s music come to be? Did the lyrics come first or the music?
I initially started with an 8-bar synth & bass loop using my Korg Minilogue XD. From there, I decided to make it a vocal song and began to arrange with that in mind (verse, chorus, bridge etc.). This time I wanted to keep it simple with the chord progression and focus on other textural elements. I also wanted to incorporate some more vocal experimentation and production. I recorded harmonies outlining the chords and began experimenting with different ways to manipulate them. This is what resulted in the surreal intro and bridge of the song. The lyrics followed suit and I was quickly able to record the lead vocal part in my studio. In the past, my writing and production were much more disconnected from each other and it took a long while to have a final track. Yet with “thx,” I had a much more integrated approach and method which resulted in a much quicker and complete song.
What’s the story behind this song? What inspired it?
This song was born in the depths of Fall 2020 when I was stuck at home in the middle of the pandemic. It was inspired by daydreams and fantasies which helped me reflect on what I actually was searching for in my day-to-day life. Fantasy informing reality to sum it up. Wacky and inspiring times for me for sure!
Now that there’s an end in sight for the pandemic, what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to doing?
Looking forward to playing and performing again as well as attending shows! I miss going to restaurants and bars for the heck of it. I’ll definitely be appreciating those spontaneous outings a lot more!
Any plans for new music?
Of course! I plan on releasing a couple more singles this year and am working on my next EP for 2022. I also just started performing live again with a whole new setup and am looking forward to touring in the near future!