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Breakups hit hard. Some hit harder than others. For Alyse Vellturo, better-known by fans as pronoun, three years after she broke up with her ex-girlfriend and it’s still much of the creative fuel for her first full-length album “i’ll show you stronger.”
“I think Pitchfork said it the best. I don’t think they were trying to be nice, but I was like, ‘That’s exactly what it is.’ They said, ‘Vellturo’s making music for herself alone,’ and I was like, ‘That’s 100 percent true,'” she said. “When I’m making [music], it’s usually because it’s making me feel better and it’s how I’m feeling and I’m recording it and, at the end of the day, I go back and listen to it.”
Those feelings of catharsis and reflection are present on the album, and Vellturo’s sharing them with audiences while she’s on tour. On Sept. 9, she’ll make her way to The Loft in Lansing.
“I would say I’m a woman and I’m she/her, but I don’t use that as much to identify who I am. I feel like I’m just Alyse and there are certain things I love and I don’t feel like it has to do with [gender].
Full of both personal thoughts and seemingly direct messages to her ex-girlfriend, “i’ll show you stronger” takes listeners to the rocky end stages of Vellturo’s past relationship. Still, despite that being its lyrical focus, it’d be wrong to call “i’ll show you stronger” sad. Its unique combination of jumpy, nostalgia-laden, synth-layered, distorted guitar often produces a sound that’s hopeful. Happy even. And the album’s title seems to be a steadfast resolution to get past former pain. But when asked about its meaning, Vellturo said that the naming process wasn’t that deliberate. In fact, it came from a text message she sent to her agent after being asked to open for a band looking for a support act.
“And I was like, ‘What’s the word on this?’ And he was like, ‘They’re taking their friends out, they need a stronger support act.’ Because one of the first bands was their friends and they didn’t have a good pull, plus they needed the second act to be bigger than me — or that’s what I took away from it. And I just went out with my friends drinking,” Vellturo said with a laugh. “And I texted my agent back in all caps, ‘I’ll SHOW YOU STRONGER,’ like, ‘I’ll show you a stronger support option.'”
But as she looked at her message, the words just seemed to fit.
“It was like a lightbulb went off. This actually explains how I feel what this album is about. So, it was super accidental, and yeah, I’m still not sure if I’m showing myself stronger or people that are listening to it,” she said. “… It’s kind of open to interpretation.”
Fittingly, Vellturo said that sometimes the meaning of various songs can change depending on how she’s feeling when she’s performing them.
“If I’m frustrated, I feel like I can pull different things from that. There’s a couple songs that no matter what, when I hit a certain point, I get really into it, like ‘Temporary Tantrum’ at the bridge part,” she said. “… It definitely depends on the mood and there’s so much stuff going on onstage. Half the time I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t hear myself.’ Or I’m thinking, ‘I hope it sounds good out there,’ and I get really caught up in it, which I have to work on, because I can’t hear what it’s going to sound like in the end.”
But it is that openness and variability in the meaning and interpretation of Vellturo’s music that is perhaps the draw. Similarly to her album title, Vellturo said she got the name pronoun by accident when her friend suggested it, but it ended up fitting much better than Monachopsis — her original name that means the “the subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.”
“It was all just very quick. I didn’t think at the time, ‘Everyone’s going to ask you why you’re called this,’ but I never put that together in my head until after the fact and I was like, ‘Fuck, I need to come up with something,’” Vellturo said. “But I’m a bad liar, I hate lying or faking something, so I still always tell that original story. But I started learning more about pronouns then. Like, ‘Oh yeah, they can be the subject or the object,’ I talked with friends, too, like, ‘How can I make this maybe make more sense than just what it was to begin with?’ And I feel like, yeah, looking back it’s a great, perfect name for the project as a whole, but definitely was very accidental and I didn’t realize until way after the fact.”
Vellturo is not nonbinary herself but as a queer artist is sensitive to the fact that the word “pronoun” itself holds a lot of meaning to many gender non-conforming people in the LGBTQ community.
“I think it grabs people a lot and they’ll go and listen. But I think in general, just being a queer artist and going out and touring with primarily all guys, I’ll get people coming up to me and saying, ‘I almost never see girls doing shows like this,’ which is sad, but also just cool. I’m happy to be out there and not only representing women but also anything besides a cis white dude,” she said with a laugh.
But gender is rarely, if ever, her focus creatively.
“I would say I’m a woman and I’m she/her, but I don’t use that as much to identify who I am. I feel like I’m just Alyse and there are certain things I love and I don’t feel like it has to do with [gender]. But I know tons of people do, and I probably even [do too and I] just don’t realize it. So, it’s kind of hard to say if it even affects the music at all. I’m sure it does, but I very rarely think about it,” she said. “… It turns into this thing where I’m putting [music] out and sharing with the world and going on tour and playing it live, which is amazing. But at the end of the day, it’s mostly me trying to sort out what’s going on in my head.”
See pronoun perform music from “i’ll show you stronger” at The Loft. It is located at 414 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing on Monday, Sept. 9. Find out more information about the show online at theloftlansing.com and about pronoun at musicpronoun.com.