We’ve been fans of London duo AlunaGeorge since they released their addictive debut record Body Music back in 2013. To no surprise, the duo (made up of Aluna Francis & George Reid) have been smashing it and slaying stages around the word the past handful of years, releasing their rad sophomore album I Remember just last fall. We recently caught up with Aluna Francis in Toronto while the duo were in town opening for Coldplay.

Check out our photos and interview below.

Sidewalk Hustle: We’ve spotted you wearing a So So Glos T-shirt on stage in the past – what’s some of your other favourite music related merch?

Aluna: *sigh* Ooof… that’s a good question! *laughs* Well you know I have an Erykah Badu sweatshirt, and it has a silhouette of her face on it, it is so striking.

Mmm, classic.

Yeah, that’s my favourite new piece of artist merch. We went to see Bruno Mars the other day and my drummer got the most Bruno Mars T-shirt he could get, like…

Three different faces?

Yeah! Like, standing in different positions on the front of the shirt, and like “Bruno” down the side and it was like, “Yes, YEEESSS!” It’s like one of those T-shirts that’s designed to like, look good like after about a hundred washes. I like those ones.

What’s it like seeing a big show (like Bruno Mars) seeing that you’ve also played these big stadiums now, opening for the likes of Sia & Coldplay, to graduate from the underground dance scene to the stadium performance side – not just as a fan experiencing it on the other end but also as a participant?

I think it’s just interesting cause as somebody who hasn’t had any production apart from like, the one time we did it for Coachella, and you see like these bigger acts like Katy Perry, Drake, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, and it’s like, you think you want to learn from seeing their performances but everyone is so individual that you kind of end up just being like, “I just have to invent something from my imagination, and somebody will interpret that with the kind of things that are available”. It’s like, yes you can do things in the sky, and things like that, but like, what do you want to do?

Cause, the sheer scale of it is like, massively different, than say, underground basement venues.

Yeah, and then like, even with Banks, I’ve seen her show develop over the years, and you know, she went for the authenticity of her movements, and then made that into sort of choreography and I thought that really worked very well, but she didn’t have massive amounts of visuals behind her for example, and I was like that’s an interesting choice.

Have you noticed your performance change outside of production?

Well, because we’ve got it so stripped back, a lot of the days it’s just me and the boys with no lights, and it’s daytime. So then it’s about my connection with the audience and the ability to almost downsize a stadium to the feeling of a living room or something like that. I do find the arenas easier to work with in that way, because in my mind there’s the possibility, the remote possibility that you might actually do that, in an arena show, have just your band and yourself and a focus, but in a stadium you just wouldn’t. If you had your own show at a stadium, there’s no way you wouldn’t make use of all the production stuff, so when you’re not doing that it can feel like, “Oh I’m really just not providing a show here”. *laughter* You have to push that out of your mind. It’s kind of hit or miss whether I kind of manage to reduce the size of a stadium to the, to a like, a very intimate kind of thing. I try my best.

Do you still get nervous?

Umm, no, it’s not really about nervousness for me. It’s often about, digging into a particular place where I’m being as open and honest as I can because the instinct in front of all those people is to clam up and to hide away, and be almost like, just a generally good performer, which isn’t always what people want *laughter*. So those are my challenges, like, this is somebody else’s audience but talk to them like you know them, and they’ll feel comfortable, do you know what I mean?

Are you guys working on a third record?

We are, I don’t know what we’re working towards. I really, still have dreams of a, of doing a umm, what do you call it? Not a theme…

A concept?

Yeah, a concept record. Kind of culminating in a lot of the kind of ideas that I’ve been wanting to express. I was talking last night about what the fear is of saying what you really think, in terms of social media, and the fear of kind of bringing on the haters, and putting yourself in that line of fire. We came up with quite a good positive which is, if you know without having to wait for people to interpret what you’re saying in an interview, you can say something and then if you want to go back and change it, correct it, you can say it again, you know? And, so, that kind of leaves almost less possibility to misinterpret it, to be misinterpreted as an artist, which I thought was quite an interesting.

(Social media) is an interesting tool. An interesting sort of extension to an artists’ experience in our modern age now, with all these different tendrils of connectivity that you & your fans can communicate with, whether it’s Instagram, whether it’s your Twitter, whether it’s Facebook. You’re more connected with your fans than ever, yet people still say “Oh, but everyone is just on their phone and we’re all so disconnected”.

Yeah, yeah, that’s weird. That’s a weird juxtaposition. *laughter* But for example, I sometimes feel like you can use Instagram and things like that in the same way a photographer does to kind of, hone in on, focus in on things that you find interesting, that you wouldn’t necessarily strike up a conversation about. I’m not one of those people that is pointing at my observations, but I notice a lot of things you know? I’ll notice someone across the road wearing a strange outfit but they’ll look at me like, “Why do you look?” *laughter*

What’s inspiring you right now, both musically and fashion-wise?

Fashion-wise I’ve gotten into simplicity again. I started off being really interested in just black and white, just that aesthetic, because I like the idea of being as expressive as you can just in monochrome, and then working with colour later. And also, that’s what we were doing with the music, being very minimalist. And then I kind of just got into colour again but just in a vague way. I’ve gone back to sort of a monochrome but with an individual colour, which I really like the idea of. I’m very much following red at the moment, because the “Turn Up The Love” theme for the single cover is red.

The colour of passion.

Yeah, I got inspired by this idea of this thing called “The 33 [Piece] Wardrobe”, which is like a minimalist wardrobe. The idea of making a wardrobe from scratch was really appealing, so I’ve had like three of my outfits made for stage, and then I’ve just collected pieces to go with that collection from thrift stores. I find that really exciting to be able to have a reason why you’re going into a store cause you’re adding to a collection, and moving on to a different colour scheme.

Sonically, what are you digging right now? What can you not stop listening to?

I like the new Tyga album, and looking forward to getting the Kelela album. I really like Cardi B. as well. I think she’s quite genuine.

What sort of themes are you feeling? What’s been percolating in your creative brain?

I think a theme that I find interesting is the acknowledgment of a type of barrier, and our perception that it’s a fixed barrier, that it’s not changeable. Discussing how you can almost tear those boundaries down, even though society will continue to say that they’re there. I think that often people who have done that will say it’s easy, cause they forget what it was like to be & feel very entrapped by some of those barriers. I just wanted to perhaps discuss what is there that can switch your mind over? But I’m not sure that I have the answers yet so I’ll have to find out during writing the next record…

Lastly, any general advice?

General advice? Yeah, I think, don’t wait till you’re perfect to share yourself with the world.

I Remember is out now via Island Records. Grab a physical copy here or a digital copy here.

photos by Kate Killet