By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Towards the tail end of 2020, South London-based cult act Alex And The Wonderland recently released a timely neo-folk song, “Isolation Shituation” as a part of the Help Musicians UK charity.
Performed by frontman Alex Wonderland and violinist Maria Lukova, the song takes a humorous look at the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions in the United Kingdom, made more of a challenge for those in small city apartments with no private garden spaces, for what feels like endless months.
“Isolation Shituation” was also accompanied by a video directed by Grahame Hanna (Chemistry INC), which brings the lyrical London struggles to life.
Life has come a long way for Wonderland, who was nearly murdered a few years ago and has also served as a live sound/recording engineer for acts like Bastille, Florence & The Machine and Carolina Chocolate Drops.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Wonderland about the new song and more.
Music Bugle – What inspired your artist name?
Alex Wonderland – Three things, really. One, Wonderland is my surname – for real! Two, I thought it would work if the fine band of musical creatures that play alongside me, were known as that. We were originally collectively known as just “Wonderland” for the first six months or so, before it became apparent that I was leading almost autonomously in creating opportunities, organizing, songwriting and treating it as a business to maximize growth and potential success. Three, I felt the name “Wonderland” also embodies the huge range of world music influences and genres we encompass musically, as well as all the thoughts and wonders that either bounce around in my little head. I’m quite a rational, introspective person.
Music Bugle – What was the process in putting together your new single “Isolation Shituation?”
Alex Wonderland – The latest single “Isolation Shituation” was written in late March of 2020. Just as the whispers of a pandemic were starting to turn to grave concerns in the UK. Although we may have only started to isolate a week or two before, I was already starting to feel the impending antisocial anxieties, that would remain in place for sometime, within the confines of a small apartment in London, without a garden. Cities aren’t supposed to close down, so it felt haunting and slightly apocalyptic for a while. Maria Lukova – the violinist in the act, would eventually start to meet me in outdoor parks and often said, “What an awful shit-uation it is,” which I thought summed it up perfectly! We recorded it in October just before the second lockdown occurred and released it alongside an amusing promo video a couple of weeks later. We had both received some funding – Coronavirus Hardship Fund – from a charity called Help Musicians earlier in the year and I felt I wanted to not only say a real “thank you” to them, but also raise awareness for other pro musicians who might need their excellent services and help in these very trying times, so we decided to raise money and donations direct to the charity and I’m thankful that scores of people have contacted us to say that they have made monetary donations direct to the Help Musicians website. It’s keeping the hope of a future career alive for many, I hope!
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?
Alex Wonderland – I grew up in Dartford in Kent. Dartford gave the world “Mick n’ Keef,” who famously met at the train station there as teenagers, ribbed each other for the vinyl record collections that they were both holding and The Rolling Stones were conceived soon after. The fact that I need to retell somebody else’s story of where I am originally from, probably says it all really! I was well ready to move away from there and from my Irish parents by the time I was 18, in order to get closer to London and enter the music industry as an assistant for a classical record label. I did return to Dartford a few times in my mid-20’s with an indie band called The Soundcasters whom I co-founded and played bass for, as we performed on the main stage at the summer festival – as main stage warm up to “Chaz n’ Dave” and Jason Donovan! We were also invited to switch the Christmas lights on the following year, on the high street to approximately 2,000 people. Those are still some of the largest show audiences I’ve performed to, so I guess that could contribute to my most proud or fondest memories of my hometown.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape?
Alex Wonderland – Up until the end of last year, I owned a self-converted camper van, which I christened “Mad Max” – he was an old royal mail LDV Maxus. He was always there to pick me up, bring me home, take me from hospitals, police stations, vacations, save me from abusive relationships, witness me almost being murdered in the street, reluctantly drag me across the country at 6 a.m. to Crown Court trials and catch me from real homelessness. I sought a lot of solace from Max. He’s the only one who has witnessed almost all of my somewhat traumatic stories of the past four years. Although I was living quite ferral for a while, sometimes, I would escape with him all over England, but in other ways, he was home and somewhere I felt safe, around London. Many songs were written inside him and even a handful of famous people popped in to say hi, as well! I had genuine reasons to part with the van, but after all the unforeseen restrictions on movement faced this year, I do miss him a lot!
Music Bugle – That being said, how have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Alex Wonderland – Aside from what has been mentioned previously, I’ve not personally had anybody close to me die or suffer with a long Covid illness – thank fuck! Ironically, this was a year you do not want to be “positive” and you do not want to go “viral”! (Laughs) – But seriously though, the music work and in particular performing live as Alex And The Wonderland, has suffered quite a devastating drought – financially, as well as impact on scheduling plans moving forward, fears for the future of live music venues and my own mental health. I am just about holding it together though… with pegs!
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Alex Wonderland – In recent years, I kind of feel there is too much reliance on vocal autotune to make a track, rather than being used to save a track. As a producer myself, I can hear it nine times out of 10, which often bugs me. I prefer to hear a natural soul with all its idiosyncrasies. I dont care if its a rapper or a screamo metalhead! There’s less individualism now, with too many modern-day vocalists sounding the same, in my ear’s opinion!
Music Bugle – What do you hope happens in 2021?
Alex Wonderland – Apart from the obvious, concerning world health, I really hope music festivals, theatres and nightclubs reopen in 2021 and that we can all socially get together in large numbers again, without having to wear ugly masks or feel like quarantined animals.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Alex Wonderland – Tankus The Henge have recently released a super good album called “Luna Park,” if you’re into old school songwriting and arrangements a la Dr.John – and London-based rapper “Shocka” also dropped a new album recently, which instead of just namedropping all the positive things that big up his own ego – yawn – actually tackles real shit, like mental health, growing up without a father, how women should be referred to in public and focusing on the real impact artists should have on people, as opposed to concentrating on their social media numbers. Shocka’s peers should take note! Never met the guy, but already feel as though I know him and his concerns, so that’s half his job accomplished, me thinks!
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Alex Wonderland – One I heard recently from Russell Brand was, “Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen.” I like the sentiment of that, because there are spells when I do worry about what people may think of me, or what may I may be capable of, when in reality, my fortune could lye in not giving a fuck!
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest challenge lately?
Alex Wonderland – Fitting into my 34″-waisted trousers!