Interview with Alina Cutrono of SILENTSHOUT

As one-half of the band SILENTSHOUT, Alina Cutrono creates experimental sonic worlds that draw equally from pop music and avant-garde inspirations, resulting in highly original tracks that remain catchy, danceable, and relatable.

In SILENTSHOUT's newly-released video for “Kid in the Headlights,” we can see this avant-pop philosophy visually: in the music video, a humanoid creature battles both internal and external demons against a backdrop of lasers and a soundtrack of soaring strings. It’s dystopian science-fiction, but it’s also deeply human — a narrative about the difficulties of having to act in the face of fear and paralysis. 

The song and video, which were produced in collaboration with Eaves, are a preview of SILENTSHOUT’s forthcoming debut album set for release later this year. We caught up with Alina to discuss “Kid in the Headlights,” her songwriting process, and how she overcomes her own existential dread.

When did you begin writing music, and how do you approach writing a song? Is your songwriting process different in SILENTSHOUT than it has been in your previous projects?

I started writing music when I began taking guitar lessons at six years old. By myself, my songwriting process usually starts with a fragment of an idea that comes to me when I’m out and about, either a lyrical idea that I write down or a melody that I sing into a voice memo on my phone. Then I sit down, usually at a keyboard, and sing my idea one million times until a song structure starts to emerge. I usually try to just spit out the basic building blocks of the song quickly and then add more detail later. In SILENTSHOUT, I still do this half of the time, but the process is a lot more collaborative. I either start in my usual way and give the track to [bandmate Theo Karon] to mess with, or Theo builds a track and gives it to me to write a song to. He also often helps write the lyrics. My process with Theo is fifty-fifty collaborative, which makes it very different from any other project I’ve ever worked in. I pretty much always love the ideas he comes up with, so there’s a lot of trust there.

Photo by Erica Weitz

Photo by Erica Weitz

Your new song (and video!) is a collaboration between SILENTSHOUT and Eaves — how do you approach the collaboration process?

Eaves is a good friend of ours and approached us about wanting to do a song together. He is a purely electronic artist and we love blending electronic and acoustic elements in our songs. We are huge fans of his, so it was a really exciting prospect! He brought us a twelve-minute composition that he had made, which Theo pared down, layered, and reshaped before adding arrangements for prepared percussion, keyboards, and string orchestra. Our drummer Elizabeth Goodfellow played this incredible prepared marimba performance a la John Cage. And then I wrote the melody and lyrics over all of that.

“Kid in the Headlights” is rich with science fiction and dystopian imagery — what were some of your non-musical inspirations behind the track?

Theo, Eaves, and I are all obsessed with science fiction novels and films, so the aesthetic for the video was way up everyone’s alley. In particular, Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, and Star Wars were aesthetic influences. Subject matter-wise, Theo and I are inspired by science fiction themes in our songs as well. I guess it makes a lot of sense, since these past few years have often felt like we’re all living in a real-life “dystopian future.”

This is a song about existential dread and paralysis. How do you overcome these issues in your own life?

It is a constant struggle for me, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people these days. The key is to just keep moving and showing up and creating. Easier said than done, unfortunately. But stagnation is death! It’s all the more difficult to feel motivated again if you let yourself stop moving. This is a subject we deal with a lot in the record we just made.

You describe SILENTSHOUT as “avant-pop” — how does the avant-garde influence your approach to music?

I use this term to describe us because I think our songs are still pop songs at their core — they have choruses and hooks and usually adhere to traditional pop song structure. Where the avant-garde comes in is with the instrumentation, arrangement, and presentation of the songs. Theo and I are constantly playing with weird sounds and unconventional recording methods, bringing in elements that one wouldn't expect to hear in a pop song, such as a shrieking chamber arrangement, a crazy layering of tape loops, unusual time signatures, and stacked tone clusters. Artists like Kate Bush and Bjork are constantly doing this and we are hugely influenced by them.

Photo by Erica Weitz

Photo by Erica Weitz

In addition to being a musician, you’re also a dancer. How does dance impact your music?

My background as a dancer definitely affects the way I perform with the band. I think that expressing my ideas in a physical way lends itself well to what I am doing with my music and the world that I’m trying to create. I had the opportunity to choreograph and perform in my Live Undone video and that was a tremendously rewarding experience. I will definitely be doing more of that soon!

Lastly, what’s next for SILENTSHOUT?

We have a whole full-length record of songs called You Will Learn that we plan to release this year! No concrete release date yet, but follow us on our socials to stay updated.

"Kid in the Headlights" is out now. You can keep up with SILENTSHOUT on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, and the band's website

Nicole Lipman