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*CONTEST CLOSES: WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 8, 2017 @ MIDNIGHT
Even though Begonia, aka Alexa Dirks, didn’t officially release a collection of music last year, 2016 was still a big year for the Winnipeg-based musician. Known for her voice in the JUNO Award winning, harmony-driven group Chic Gamine,
Due out February 10, the collection of songs that forms Begonia’s Lady In Mind lets the extremes of Dirks’ past and present coalesce into a sound that is both battle hymn and breakbeat body mover, incorporating themes which are confident in and of themselves, and yet sometimes caught in the middle. Dirks finds herself in a similar situation to the Begonia plant itself, in one instance – rough around the edges, and in another – petite and elegant. In between the plant attempts to harmonize its two poles, trying to find a balance. The result is Dirks’ timbre which recalls the golden age of soul, proud and courageous. And yet, it still returns to the ground, finding a quietness, a hesitant intimacy.
Today, Begonia shares “I Don’t Wanna (Love U)”, a song about “not fully understanding how to let go of someone while also understanding that you can’t and shouldn’t have them in your life anymore,” says Dirks. “A few years ago Matt Schellenberg sent me this sample idea he had been working on and we sat down and wrote the lyrics together. I was going through a messy breakup at the time and liked the idea of having more aggressive and emotional lyrics against such an upbeat production backdrop. It’s basically the best I could do at writing a ‘diss-track’. I’m not very good at confrontation, or ‘diss-tracks’.”
Joined in studio by producers Matt Schellenberg (Royal Canoe) and Matt Peters (Royal Canoe, Close Talker), title track “Lady In Mind” is guided along by 90s synth waves over top of a warm rhythm section, questioning what it means to be woman. Raised on a healthy dose of religion, the rhapsodic church organs and gospel clap alongs of Dirks’ formative years are blended with staccatic, static beats on “Juniper”. “Out Of My Head” returns to a celestial swell to support a blue-collar rebel yell. A song of love and loss, the indecisive ballad “Hot Dog Stand” questions whether or not it’s fine to be alone.
“Mostly, these songs are about love in different forms,” says Dirks. “Some of them stem from a pretty important and bad breakup, but they’re not all about my relationships with men. They are about my relationship to myself as a woman and the others around me while I try to understand the joy, anger, and restlessness that fits into my life. It’s like a second puberty, my body is changing, my mind is changing, and I know I’m not the only one who can relate to this journey. I want people to listen to this music and feel empowered. I especially want women who feel a little awkward and lost in their day to day life to feel like they are not alone.”
Having spent much of the last ten years on tour, the tracks on Lady In Mind were penned on the road or during brief stops at home in Winnipeg. The layering of acoustic instruments with modern synths, and the duality found in both her songwriting and the name Begonia are very much informed by the way in which Dirks finds herself in everyday life – a young, bold woman who, sometimes to her own chagrin, prefers a grandmother’s aesthetic of fake flowers and doilies. Compounded by Dirks’ musical upbringing of 90s R&B, 70s folk, and Fiona Apple each taking up equal space in her discman, this leaves her trying to bridge the gap between old and new, between fire and ice. Entangled in the middle of it all, we find Begonia, the place and sound where Dirks is most comfortable, and yet still questioning how it is she ended up there.