Alumni Spotlight: Alexandra Petkovski (FJØRA)

Posted: Dec 1, 2022

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Alexandra Petkovski is no stranger to the spotlight. The Canadian composer, producer, artist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is widely recognized professionally under her artist name FJØRA. The talented creative has been described as “a haunting artist to watch” by Rolling Stone for her unique sound, which combines elements of electronic and cinematic styles, or as she likes to call it “cinematronic”. Since completing the Slaight Family Music Lab at the CFC in 2022, Alexandra’s presence within the screen industry has grown exponentially, scoring for film and TV favourites such as American Horror Story’s Season 10 Double Feature trailer and the theme song for Amazon Prime’s original comedy series, The Lake.

Alexandra’s edgy style and raw talent is captivating audiences and entertainers alike worldwide, including music icon Linda Perry who asked Alexandra to reimagine her hit song, “What’s Up?” for Blumhouse Productions’ horror film series, Welcome to the Blumhouse. Alexandra was also recently accepted into the 2023 Los Angeles Film Conducting Intensive, where she will compose, conduct and record an original orchestral with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at Warner Bros Studios, under the guidance of acclaimed composer/conductor William Ross.

Alexandra’s portfolio of work and accomplishments are sure signs of a promising future in the screen and music industries. As an advocate for female presence in the music industry, Alexandra is one to watch and follow as she leads the way for aspiring female musicians who seek to find their place in a traditionally male-dominated industry. From taking home the first place award for SOCAN’s 2022 Emerging Screen Composers to the release of her EP Tiger’s Eye, it’s clear that Alexandra shows no signs of slowing down – and we’re here for it! We recently caught up with Alexandra to discuss her career journey, her EP, and what’s next for the showstopping creative. Read on in the spotlight below.

Let’s start with FJØRA. What’s the story behind the name?

So the name FJØRA (fi-or-a) actually means “to ebb away” in Faroese. Growing up, my family would spend time on the lake, do driving trips to large bodies of water, and on a whole I feel so tied to water generally – being near the ocean, on a river, even lying beside a pool – it’s extremely nourishing to me. It’s a part of how I recharge, and something I deeply connect with. I feel like I can get lost and found in water. That push and pull motion…ebbing in and out. So there was something pretty profound and cool about having a name that evokes this feeling.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I’ve always known. Music has been my whole life. I’ve had several moments where I definitely questioned my choice to pursue it (“Why do I keep doing this to myself?” “Am I a masochist?”) but ultimately, it’s what drives me, it’s what fulfills me.

You recently released a new EP, Tigers Eye. Can you tell us your inspiration and creative process behind this project?

Honestly, I wanted to creep the heck out of everybody. I wanted to create something that was both unsettling and intriguing. Three of the six songs off this FJØRA EP are covers – I thought this would be an interesting space to explore sonically, where direction and hidden meanings within the songs could be revealed…I’m a massive fan of all things “spooky season,” so this EP was really a tribute to the witching hour for me. “Under My Spell” and “goosebumps” are both potent examples of this spooky love. Fun fact, tiger’s eye is actually a gemstone – it promotes creativity, focusing of the mind, clarity, power and protection. I guess I’ve got a bit of an affinity towards crystals and stones generally…they’re something I’ve been tapping more into lately. (Which is demonstrated by some of my other releases, like my dark debut collection “Onyx,” or my last EP, called “jade(d)”).

How would you describe your music and style?

My FJØRA project has been described as haunting, emotive, dramatic, and epic (she said ever so humbly). The music I create under FJØRA falls somewhere in the cinematic-electronic universe, which is how I came up with the genre name “cinematronic.” In general, as a music creative I enjoy exploring contemporary polytextural, orchestral cinematic, hybrid-synth, trailerization, and vocalize sonic spaces. I enjoy both the dark and light, but it’s really the balance between the two that especially interests me…is there a balance? Or is one actually the other? I think experimenting with perception is part of what fuels my music. And being a musical storyteller.

Also having fun. Can’t forget that.

Alexandra Petkovski (FJØRA) CFC alumni spotlight
Alexandra Petkovski (FJØRA)

Better at Texting recently made its world premiere at the 22nd Reelworld Film Festival. The short film, which was created here at the CFC, features tons of alumni involvement, including Mary Galloway (writer/director), Kent Donguines and Christina Saliba (producers), Alison MacMillan (editor), starring current Actors Conservatory resident Kat Khan, and of course music by you. Can you tell us what it’s like to collab with other CFC residents and alum and what the chemistry was like working on this specific project?

Collaborating with fellow CFC residents and alum was and is fabulous. I think for me, the CFC composer in residence lab [the Slaight Family Music Lab] was an opportunity to become a part of a community of like-minded individuals – creatives – who want to tell stories. Working on Better at Texting was a prime example of this: it takes a team to bring a story to fruition, to take it over the finish line. I am grateful to have gotten to work with all team members of Better at Texting, and beyond this, to have generated strong relationships moving forward for future collaboration. The energy as part of the creative process telling Better at Texting’s story was what every film composer hopes for – open, communicative, and receptive. Mary (the director) and I worked together in carving out the primary moments of the film score, and she really let me run with all ideas that I had throughout. I’m very proud of the whole cast and crew for Better at Texting; having the film premiere and screen at various film festivals now after the CFC residency is just icing on the cake.

Can you share some of the highlights from your time at the CFC as a resident in the Slaight Music Family Lab?

Definitely. Getting to compose for orchestral ensemble and record at Revolution Recording Studios in Toronto was for sure a highlight for me – the studio space is absolutely gorgeous and getting to be in the recording booth whilst hearing my work performed back to me was genuinely awesome. Another highlight for me was the music showcase piece. Having the chance to tell a story of my own on film, and then score it, was something I never really thought I’d get to do before. The short film story’s outline and foundation basis is fairly personal to me (no spoilers here! haha) and I felt the CFC provided a safe, secure environment to explore this film concept. The score (hopefully) captures this personal nature. Can’t wait for when this short film is released out in the world.

How would you describe the role that music plays in the overall storytelling process?

Music is as strong as the lead in a story – in fact, I believe the score is a character in the storytelling process. Music holds great power and responsibility in its role…it has to support the story justly, lend perspective to the audience, and heavily contributes to the direction a story can take overall.

What are some of the biggest challenges and some of the biggest joys of creating music for film and TV?

I may answer both of these questions with the same response – problem-solving. Problem-solving in creating music for film and TV can be equally challenging as it is joyful. It can truly be such a struggle trying to find that sweet spot in telling a story sonically – finding that missing piece, or moving around the existing pieces of the puzzle – however, once you do – dang. If that’s not joy then I don’t know what is.

The internet continues to radically change the music industry. One of the great changes we’re seeing is that independent artists are now able to reach international audiences with just a click. What are some of your thoughts on the future of music and the opportunities artists need to leverage? 

Yes, definitely, the internet was a game-changer (and continues to be so). Well, as an independent artist, I have to credit the internet with the audiences it has opened up to me and made possible for me. Also, as a music creator generally, the internet really is a necessity in facilitating opportunities, collaboration, and expanding one’s network. Plus, I personally have found artists and creatives online who have inspired my own work. I’m not sure it’s so much thinking about the internet as a landscape for an artist to leverage within, but more about the connection it can provide to an artist on their journey. All of this being said, I have days where I seriously consider a non-internet, no-social-media world and contemplate what my chances of success would really look like…probably not great, but man, to live off the grid. Tempting.

Alexandra Petkovski (FJØRA) CFC alumni spotlight
Alexandra Petkovski (FJØRA)

How do you stay inspired? What are some of the strategies you use to beat writer’s block and any other creative challenges you experience?

Inspiration is a part of that ebb and flow. (Sort of ties nicely into that “to ebb away” meaning behind FJØRA, huh…) Some days the creative well-source overfloweth. Some days that well is bone dry. No matter what, I try to remind myself that at the end of the day I am (just) human. It’s all right if not every idea is the idea, sometimes you gotta run the water brown until it starts flowing clear. Taking time away from work is also totally fine, and actually, also equally as important. (Somewhere out there my friends and family are shaking their heads, saying “oh, is it, Alex? Do you take time off, Alex? Tell us more about this!”) I’m really trying to drive this point home for myself a lot. It also doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time off either, if this helps reduce anxiety surrounding not working. Going for a walk, hanging out with my family’s dog, reading a chapter in the latest book I’ve got, catching up with friends over coffee or a phone call – I’ve found it’s the simple things that get me out of my head space that really help any blockage that occurs creatively.

Can you share any words of wisdom for aspiring creators?

The space is out there for you. You just need to carve it out.

What’s next for you? Are there any new projects you are currently working on?

Yes, most definitely. Several things in the works that I’m very enthused about…I recently released the Sondheim Series, which is a 3-piece reimagination EP honouring the life and legacy of Stephen Sondheim, composed, arranged and orchestrated for live orchestra and SATB choir. This project was massive to scale, and really tapped into a wide gamut of my own wheelhouse – getting to work with and record with live musicians is the gift that keeps on giving. I’m very excited that two of the pieces off the Sondheim Series (“Giants in the Sky” and “Children Will Listen” arrangements) are on the 2023 Grammy’s ballot for consideration under Best Arrangement for Instruments and Vocals. I was also just accepted into the 2023 Los Angeles Film Conducting Intensive, where I will get to compose and conduct for the Hollywood Studio Symphony, recording at Warner Bros Studios. I’m thrilled!

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