Begonia. Photo by Leeor Wild

Begonia was blessed with a voice that needs to be heard

An interview with the Winnipeg singer ahead of her POP Montreal show this week.

Hear Begonia and you’ll know you have to see Begonia. That’s the whole thing. 

Winnipeg’s Alexa Dirks, aka Begonia, aka OMFG JFC that voice, is in an airport about to do one of her favourite things: sit in a pressurized metal tube for an inordinately long time while it hurtles far too fast at an airport far, far away..

“Flying internationally, I kind of like long flights,” she says. “I’m looking forward to eight hours of just chilling.” The international destination in question was Germany, where she went in order to warm up for her POP Montreal show this week. 

Dave Jaffer: European audiences, generally speaking, are better than North American ones. They pay more for a show and my experience is that they’re just better, more attentive audiences. Do you think this?

Alexa Dirks: It depends on where you’re playing and how you’re doing and who you are. I’ve had good experiences all over, all over North America, all over Europe. Germany I enjoy because I feel like people are willing to take a chance on something they don’t know. I remember when I played with my old band [Chic Gamine] and people just showed up to the show. “Yeah I saw your poster and I came.” You saw a poster? And you came?

DJ: I mean, that’s what you’re supposed to do though. See a poster that catches your eye, go to the show. It’s eight bucks. Who cares?

AD: I just feel like that doesn’t happen as much anymore.

DJ: It doesn’t, and that’s not a good thing. But it speaks to the gentrification of the music scene. Switching gears, I have the worst question. Why did you choose Begonia as your artist name? 

AD: As time progressed [this project] truly became a solo act. I have a lot of bandmates and people that I tour with and people that I really trust, but it is really just coming from me at the end of the day. And that’s kind of cool. I wanted something that was just a bit different than my name, and I’m very connected to plants.

DJ: I feel like I know the rest of the story.

AD: I’m not very good at keeping them alive but I love them and I admire them. And begonias, there’s like a thousand different species and some of them are a bit more dark and weird and rougher around the edges and some are a bit more feminine and I felt that encompassed me.

DJ: Why did you want to do this for a living?

AD: It’s all I can do. My resume would be shit. I’ve never been able to hold any other job for more than five months. This is all that I do, this is all that I know.

DJ: Is this the only thing you know how to do because this is the thing you always wanted to do?

AD: Yeeeeeaaaaaahhhh. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. This is what my heart needs to do, this is what I feel I was made to do.

DJ: Let’s talk about your voice. It is quite the instrument. It is textured, it is thick, and it sort of like knocks you back. Where does this come from? Did you take voice lessons? Did you grow up in a musical family and learn at home?

AD: No. I just was born a hyper-emotional person, and listened to a ton of music growing up. I didn’t grow up in a musical family per se; there are no musicians in my family but there are music lovers in my family. My mom was always singing in her show-tuney kind of tone, church music, whatever. She wasn’t the best singer who ever lived but she instilled the sense of harmony in me. She was a great harmonizer. My dad is a visual artist, so that is something that is a part of me, that lifestyle, understanding what it means to be passionate about something that may not make sense to a lot of other people. 

DJ: What does it mean to play something like POP Montreal? I ask because there’s a certain cultural cachet to playing some festivals. Like, due respect, but ain’t nobody gonna brag about playing CMW. 

AD: [laughs uproariously] I love playing Montreal, I love coming to Montreal, I have a lot of friends there. One of the co-producers [Marcus Paquin] of my album [Fear, released Sept. 13] lives in Montreal so I’m going to stay a few extra days. But I always love playing Montreal. I like the vibe there. Winnipeg, I love being from there, like, that’s my home-base, but I love the travel portion of my job and Montreal is one of my favourite Canadian cities to visit.

DJ: I appreciate how you sat on the fence just then.

AD: I’m a diplomat! ■

Begonia plays as part of POP Montreal with Basement Revolver, Casper Skulls and Revolver at O Patro Vys (356 Mont-Royal E.) on Thursday, Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m., $10