Olivia’s World, aka Alice Rezende, has been to many places and lived through many different experiences in each one of them — and she wants to remember them all. Be it her childhood in Brazil or the time she lived in Canada, music is one of the ways she has found to keep these memories alive. Through the vivid, powerful imagery in the songs in Tuff 2B Tender, Rezende recounts her time in Vancouver before it had a chance to fade.
Our conversation was woven from a wild and delightful mix of English and Portuguese — both of us being Brazilian expats now living in different continents. Rezende and I talked about Olivia’s World’s new EP and the memories surrounding its creation, pictures and stories from her childhood running along. Below we share the highlights from our talk, some of the mentioned pictures, and the music video for “Debutante,” out today.
Slumber: There’s this photo of you and your sister with an Olive Oyl doll [a character from “Popeye”, Olívia Palito in Brazilian Portuguese] and I was wondering if there’s a relationship between that and the band name…
Alice Rezende: Yeah, I sent it on purpose! My mother had this doll she gave my sister, the Olívia Palito doll, and I’m sitting in the middle and my sister, Olívia, is sitting on the right… And I thought it was funny because we could talk about how my sister is the one named Olívia.
Slumber: So where does the band name come from? I read in your bio it has to do with an imagined world under your bed.
Alice: Pat [Pilch, writer] and I were talking about it, because he wrote my bio, and I talked to him about it. I had a dream in which there was a world under my bed. But this dream was in comic book style, it was a comic book story. I’m kinda obsessed with comics — I’ve always been, I learned how to read reading comics, Turma da Mônica…
Slumber: Me too!
Alice: I’m obsessed with it. And I had this very sharp dream one time, and the comic book didn’t have words, but the girl went under her bed and I can’t remember anymore but there was this image that the world opened up under her bed. So I told him that, I think it’s part of my inspiration, this imaginary world that always appears in images in my life, in my dreams…
Originally the band was called Invisible Girl. But Rose Melberg, when she played in the band, said, “I don’t like that, there are too many such and such girl.” Because at the time there were many Cave Girl [Vancouver-based band], something-something girl, and I thought, because I like Velocity Girl, I love the band and I love the name and I think it’s awesome, and she was like nah, we can’t, this has gotta go. And I was like, “okay.” And for some reason, it kinda stuck — yeah, Olivia’s World. It kinda rhymed with Invisible Girl, so it was like, huh! meant to be? And yeah, it kinda is a homage to the way my sister is at the same time. To put it in a very long explanation.
Slumber: And what does she think about having this named after her?
Alice: She loves it!
“I think it’s part of my inspiration, this imaginary world that always appears in images in my life, in my dreams…”
Slumber: Are you the one who created the EPs covers?
Alice: Yes, I’ve always done that. I have fun with it. Since I started playing with bands, I’ve always wanted to draw the projects, and so in the end it was my style, you know? And I love it. I think my original passion is illustration, and comic books. The dream of my life would be to draw a comic book. I think that’s like, I always tell myself that’s my biggest dream, and it’s probably because it’s my biggest dream that I can’t do it yet. I am very afraid of doing it.
Slumber: I feel like your lyrics have very specific imagery…
Alice: Oh really?
Slumber: Yeah. They also sound a bit surreal and absurd.
Alice: I was on the radio a couple of weeks ago with a few friends of mine, at a local radio station. And he said something about it being surreal as well. And I said to him it was maybe a bit magical realist, like, realismo mágico, it’s a very Brazilian writing style, isn’t it?
Slumber: Yeah, very Latin-American.
Alice: Image-heavy, but it sort of flies off, kind of like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, it just kinda flies off…
Slumber: I feel like the images you show us have a specific meaning, and that you know what you’re talking about. Do you feel you know exactly what you’re talking about when you say, for instance, “tiny crown / fit for tiny mice”?
Alice: Totally. I’m thinking about someone specific, and I’m thinking about a specific situation that made me think that, and then I’m like “this is wanted to say to you.” Like, you’re such a little… you think you’re such a tiny little king in this tiny little place… Which is kinda what it is about. Joe, who’s in the band, who’s also my boyfriend, he said to me when we were recording, when you’re singing, when you’re going to lay it out on the EP and this is going to be it, make sure you can see the images, because that’s when it sounds the most you. Or something like that.
Slumber: Does any imagery from your childhood pop up in your music?
Alice: Olivia’s World, the actual song, which was in the previous EP, was very much bringing that back. I was thinking about it at work. I feel like the older I get, the closer the images come back to me. They just literally hit me. I’ll just be having my day and an image of my youth just brought shit back to me. I don’t know if you have experiences like that — but they definitely inform how I’m thinking. Because they just… they haunt me. In a good way!
I feel like the older I’m getting, it’s almost like my brain doesn’t wanna forget, and I’m always bringing it back. I just think that, I don’t know, with this EP, there are definitely more recent experiences that I’m trying to capture and sort of… the longer you’re gone, it leaves your body. Those images and experiences that you remember and that are so close to you, they’re gonna fade. So please, put it down. You know what I mean? Because I remember when I moved there [to Canada], I was frequently drawing myself as a comic in multiple instances there because I didn’t want to forget what I felt. So I think that’s what’s this EP more… that in-between, “I’m almost forgetting but I don’t wanna forget.”
“...with this EP, there are definitely more recent experiences that I’m trying to capture... those images and experiences that you remember and that are so close to you, they’re gonna fade. So please, put it down.”
Slumber: Did you have a musical upbringing?
Alice: Not really. Now that I’m an artist my mum is like: “well, did you know that my grandfather used to sing?” But my mother had some musical people on her side of the family. Her grandparents used to sing at church, but they were kind of like the leads type of thing, and one of her grandfathers was super musical, play-all-the-instruments type of thing and mum was telling me that the saddest thing in her grandfather’s life was that none of his kids played anything. I think it skips a few generations.
Slumber: But I suppose you liked music as a child, right?
Alice: Yeah, I think so. I definitely wanted to play noisy—I always wanted to play the drums, that was my first instrument, I really wanted to play the drums. And I used to be obsessed with Hanson. You know Hanson?
Slumber: Of course I do. [Laughs]
Alice: Middle of nowhere, and I remember I would set up a stage in my living room, in the play area, and I would put a keyboard, a cheap Casio that we had, and like, I’d pretend that I was all of the Hansons. I put on the music and then I played the Casio and then I’d go to the next instrument and would perform their songs. [Laughs]
So yeah, that’s it. I moved to Australia, like I was telling you, I started writing about music, that’s when I realized that I didn’t know anything about music, and I remember being, like, 22 and listening to the White Stripes for the first time, for some reason. I thought it was pretty seminal, I don’t know — but they are pretty Ramones-y, punky, they’re great. Everything’s fun. And I remember listening to that finally and feeling like I was educating myself and thinking “holy crap, I’m so behind.” And I think that’s kinda always been my approach. I’ve obviously consumed at a ridiculous rate. But I think that’s why I really love contemporary as well, like, new bands.
Slumber: Do you have any Brazilian music that you really liked growing up?
Alice: Yes, let’s go! Well, obviously Chico Buarque… Gilberto Gil… My mother was a huge fan of Tim Maia… I love Tim Maia. “Como uma onda no mar…” — beautiful. I’ll sing all of these to my kids, all of them. Who sings “Como nossos pais?”
Slumber: Elis Regina.
Alice: Elis Regina! An inspiration. And her daughter…
Slumber: Maria Rita.
Alice: Oh, and Rita Lee! I don’t know why. She was completely psychedelic! Oh, another one: Pato Fu! My sister was mad about Pato Fu. “Pinga,” that song is so punk. I love it, I love Pato Fu. What about Mamonas Assassinas?
Slumber: People tell me I cried so much when they died! Did you like them?
Alice: Yes, yes. You need to write about them — put a link. It’s important.
Slumber: As a kid, what bands do you think you would have liked to have played in?
Alice: Hanson, of course. And Mamonas!
Slumber: What about adult you, if you could choose any band, living or dead, to be part of?
Alice: That’s a hard question. Maybe I could be in The Beatles! [laughs] Maybe I could be like Ringo. [Laughs] No. Let me think about it.
Slumber: I picture you as more of a George…
Alice: Me? Cool! That’s awesome! [Laughs] I think that I would like to be in an all-girl band for sure, a really seminal one. But also Sonic Youth.
Slumber: What’s going on with the plushie zoo?
Alice: [Laughs] Okay, so this is my stuffed animals and my sister’s stuffed animals and this is a rainy day… We used to have these rainy days, and we had a camera. And we were like oh, let’s just put them all in the one bed and take a photo. And then there’s her sitting with it, and there’s me. So we’re like… You take one with me, and then I’ll take one with you. That’s what we used to do on rainy days. Let’s just bring them all together for a photo.
Slumber: You look very proud!
Alice: I’m really, yeah. And I can look at them and say almost all their names. But I won’t. I know which ones are mine and which ones are my sister’s. I know which ones. I can tell, that does not belong to me, that belongs to my sister.
Slumber: And there’s this picture in which you’re singing — what’s the story behind that?
Alice: I was watching the MTV Top 10, and this is a time when you watched it every week and it was always the same things because it didn’t change much, and I was singing, and I know what song I was singing: Aerosmith. “I don’t wanna close my eyes.” And in this other photo we’re happily at the beach.
Slumber: Where’s that, by the way? Do you remember the name of the beach?
Alice: Yes, this is my growing up beach, Barra do Sahy, in [the State of] São Paulo. It’s become very bougie now, terrible, but at the time, no one would go, it was really calm, it was like… My grandma had a small little house there, so we were able to go. But I used to love that photo… You’re talking about imagery, and I think like these two images in mind, that I think have always been with me, the beach, Barra do Sahy, and my grandmother’s farm in Atibaia, in São Paulo, she had a farm, and going between those two, the country, Atibaia, and going to Barra do Sahy, it was my childhood… Going to the farm, and then… I think when you’re a kid, going on holiday is like going to Mars, it’s like the best thing ever, it’s the best thing in your life. It still is for us, but when you’re a child everything is way cooler, times a hundred, the feelings, and I think that’s why it’s so magical.
Slumber: That reminds me of the last song, “Grassland”. Do you have any particular image of grassland or is it more of an ideal?
Alice: I think that song is very much kind of how frustrated I get about not having yet that space. I don’t live in a super big city, this town is really small… But having that, grass, just having a sliver of paradise, just a small one… My backyard is my little sliver. But it’s more than that, and I think sometimes I just think that I would really like to live somewhere that is just pure nature. I mean, we all, as humans, we’re so connected, but we forget it so much. And to me… I feel that more and more. It’s funny, because a lot of people really like that song, and it’s the most “I don’t care what everyone’s going to think.” You know? It was like the experimental song, the long song, “I don’t care if anyone thinks this is good or not, this is my song.” And people like it.
Slumber: Originally you had the band in Canada, but you put the EP together back in Australia, right?
Alice: We had the band there, which was me, Joe, and Rose, who lives in Vancouver… So it was the three of us and it was the band there, and when I moved back, Rose was like, I’ll come, we’ll tour there, yes, it’s going to happen, don’t worry. And that’s the plan, one day she’ll come here and we’ll play. We came back here and I found a friend of mine that I really love and I taught her to play the guitar, she didn’t play anything, and she has a beautiful voice, so she joined the band. And we also found a drummer who’s playing with us nowadays, and we wrote the new EP with this new group of people.
In comparison to the first EP it’s almost like it’s just two people in common, Joe and me, but a lot of Rose lives in me. Because I’m really inspired by her music, and I’m always thinking, “What would Rose do?”. She never ceases to amaze me, whenever I listen to her stuff, her old stuff, all the bands she’s been in, all the music she’s written, whenever I listen to it again and again, I always find something new in the sense that like, the way she writes, it’s like… It’s story-telling as well. And just how she thinks about her voice, and how she thinks her voice will complement a section.
“I think when you’re a kid, going on holiday is like going to Mars, it’s like the best thing ever, it’s the best thing in your life. It still is for us, but when you’re a child everything is way cooler, times a hundred, the feelings, and I think that’s why it’s so magical.”
Slumber: How was it for you when you got her into your band? It must’ve felt pretty amazing.
Alice: I was just screaming on the street. It was really funny. I was a little bit drunk and a friend — a guy that I had just met, I was out by myself, we had just met, this guy kinda was befriending a lot of the music people, I am like “yeah, I play music but I really need a drummer,” because I had a drummer but she was like, I’m too busy, she was in another band there, she played for me for a few rehearsals, and she was like I can’t do it, I’m too busy, and I was like okay, fine. And I was like, I really need someone to drum for me, but I want a girl drummer, that’d be cool. And he was like, oh, I got a friend, she might be interested, her name is Rose Melberg. And I was like: [mimics shock].
…like, hang on a minute. Did you just say? And he was like, yeah, I’m texting her right now about it, I’m saying oh this really cool girl… And I was like stop it, please, don’t! And she texted me the day after. Being like, hey, you wanna hang out? And I was like: holy—I was just dying. But you know when you’re like, this is not going to work out, she’s not gonna like me… But we just hit it off. It was amazing. It was definitely a dream come true. Imagine that, literally… being in a band with Kim Gordon. To me it was the same thing, but better.
Slumber: Yeah, I can imagine! Do you remain connected?
Alice: Yeah, we still are. The label that we’re in, Lost Sound Tapes, that’s her husband. So we keep in touch via John mostly. We do keep in touch, but it’s one of those things where distance just makes… it’s not the same. And it’s okay. I know those people. It’s just hard to make it meaningful for both people, because sometimes that person is too busy to talk, and maybe you’re too busy, it never just is right. But we’ve been saying how much we miss each other, so.
Slumber: There seems to be a theme for this EP: memory, and time, and forgetting, and not wanting to forget.
Alice: Well, I think… I think a lot of the EP, there’s a lot of a part of me that is pretty afraid to continue to age. And I think I battle with that as a human, not wanting to age, because I think that I am an eternal child. Just sort of like battling with that but also making peace. You know? It’s not that bad. Like we were saying about memory. Maybe the more you live, the more you will remember, rather than the opposite.
Slumber: You said that Olivia’s World has to do with this dream you had. Are you a vivid dreamer?
Alice: Yes, absolutely. I have really vivid nightmares.
Slumber: Oh no!
Alice: Which is fine. But sometimes I have, yeah. Really vivid, vivid good dreams. There’s nothing better. As you probably know. Like, good and vivid? It’s never that. My advice for people that wanna do vivid dreams is just: sleep in.
Slumber: Writing my dreams really helps me. It helps me start remembering more, the more I write.
Alice: That’s it. And it’s really good — I do this thing — cause I forget it quite quickly and I wanna remember them all, so when I wake up and I really wanna remember it I say three key-words, three things that are in the dream, and that helps me. You know when you’re half-asleep and you’re like I can’t write it down right now — just say the three key-words.
Slumber: And your music sounds really dreamy as well, in some ways…
Alice: Yeah? I mean… I think that’s a great space to have. Writing is kind of — I don’t know, I think when you sit and you write and you try to occupy not really the rational brain, you just kinda trying to diddle-daddle between the dream — your sort of more relaxed mind with association comes, and you’re allowed to play — but you also wanna make use of your thinking brain in case it sounds bad. You need to allow yourself to explore.
“I think a lot of the EP, there’s a lot of a part of me that is pretty afraid to continue to age. And I think I battle with that as a human, not wanting to age, because I think that I am an eternal child.”
Slumber: I think it’s a process of both — accessing your conscious and unconscious mind at the same time.
Alice: And not letting one rule over the other, because it happens. Because your brain is like “oh, that sounds like crap. Oh, that’s stupid. Oh, you’re going to rhyme that with that? Well, that doesn’t work.”
Slumber: Which do you think usually wins?
Alice: Usually definitely my rational brain. Because it’s the one I access the most, you know? So it’s ready to be like “hm, that sounds like crap, you should probably stop and go watch TV right now.” [Laughs]. “Stop playing guitar right now.”
Slumber: Is there any song that is like your favorite daughter from the EP, or do you love them all the same?
Alice: Debutante is definitely the beautiful daughter, she’s really the prettiest. Can’t believe I’m saying that! [laughs] “Debutante” is the prettiest one, the most pristine. She’ll get married. [laughs] And then, “Hellbent” is like the punk child, she’s the child that doesn’t obey me. And then “Little Sage” is kinda like the middle child. I don’t know. [laughs] “Grassland” is just… I definitely have a soft spot for Grassland. It’s experimental, fun, I got to do a lot of guitar, and fun things. Yeah. I think the first and the last are my favorites, but I love them… No, that’s not true, I love them all. It’s not true.
Check out the music video for “Debutante,” shot by Joe Aguis and edited by Joe Saxby,
premiering officially today: