Allyson Camitta Has Done Everything — Now She Fears Nothing
The musician once pursued molecular toxicology, software engineering, and fashion design. With Shallowhalo, she enters her final form.
Allyson Camitta has lived many lives. Before she started the musical duo Shallowhalo, she worked in fashion. Long before that, she briefly studied to become a doctor. But music is her current — and possibly final — act.
The band, a collaborative effort between her and Ezra Tenenbaum, played their first show in 2021. She started teaching herself how to DJ less than a year ago, and soon after, started the popular monthly night We Take Manhattan with Charlie Baker.
And while music is her main act, Allyson is a multi-hyphenate by trade. She learned to code in 2020 and works full-time as a programmer while balancing her active role in nightlife. Somehow, she makes it look easy. As I click through photos of her at parties, I wonder how many of them are currently saved to someone’s mood board. Despite the effortlessness she exudes and the extensive community she has built in New York City, this is new to her. Allyson often speaks of her artmaking in terms of clouds; she embraces the hazy state of becoming, allowing it to change shape, pass through, and continue to form and refresh.
Did Shallowhalo start during the pandemic?
Yeah, I basically changed my life during the pandemic. I was working in fashion and lost my job like everyone else. I was rethinking what I wanted to do with my life because working in fashion made me hate it. Then I started making music.
Did you go to school for fashion?
My major was a business degree called Design and Management. For my electives, I took design courses. I took pattern making, draping, and construction. So, I learned all of that and was making stuff on the side. I was mainly looking towards going into styling. And I did that for a while. Then, I worked in film in the costume department for a couple of years. It was really exhausting, working 12 hours a day and not having any time to do anything outside of work. Work was my life.
When the pandemic happened, I realized that I wanted to have that separation. I wanted to have a regular 9 to 5. That seemed like having more time versus working 12 hours a day.
I went to coding boot camp and spent months learning this new language and ended up getting a job. That's also when Shallowhalo started. They started simultaneously.
What made you want to start playing music?
Growing up, I was a music super fan, going to multiple shows a week. I grew up in the suburbs of LA in between the desert and Los Angeles. We would get all the bands that were playing LA, and they would drive through Pomona, which was nearby. Looking back at the shows I've seen as a teenager, I'm like, wow, I've seen so many cool bands.
I did play music growing up. I played the piano and the violin. Playing synth came naturally.
Did you move to New York after high school?
Out of high school, I went to UC Berkeley for molecular toxicology. My parents really wanted me to become a doctor. Every day, they'd be like, “You should become a doctor. You should become a doctor.” After hearing it every day for years, I started to believe it.
I tried it, and it lasted one semester. I dropped out, moved to LA, and started supporting myself. I spent a couple of years working in retail working at Crossroads and at Sephora.
All these tiny pieces are painting a really solid picture.
I feel like I’ve lived ten lives.
There was so much lead-up to you even being in New York. I think of Shallowhalo as such a New York band. There’s not that much on the Internet about you. It feels like the project is so much about presence, being there in person.
That's the biggest thing I've gotten out of making music: connecting with other people, being a part of a community, and helping build that community. That didn't really start until the pandemic, where, out of necessity, I bonded with some other musicians. We had this tight crew (May Rio, Harrison Patrick Smith, Blaketheman1000, Frost Children) and sent each other demos and dreamt about playing shows together.
Shallowhalo feels out of space and time in a way, but then I’ll listen to a lyric, and it references Cory Kennedy.
I like to have fun with the references, and I love having a lot of inspirations, but not focusing too much on one in particular. It’s this big cloud in my head. For example, one of my favorite movies is Fantasia, the original Fantasia. I haven’t watched it in over ten years, but I use what I remember from that movie as inspiration. The bright colors, the magical mushrooms dancing around, the inanimate objects, the unicorns, the dreaminess of it, but I also remember being really scared of it.
A lot of times, people say we have an 80s sound. I'm thinking about it as a 2000s sound, which references the 80s. So it's like, yes, we’re referencing the 80s, but I’m looking at it through the lens of the 2000s.
The project feels well-rounded because you’re thinking about it at every level, whether it’s the music, the performance, the concepts, and the visuals.
I think of it like a world. Everything is building that world: the performance, the characters, all the props that we use, all the visuals.
My past experience with film and fashion and working at Sephora…all of these random things I’ve done throughout my life have helped in this project, being able to use those skills.
Can you talk more about the live performance?
Our live performance is an extension of the feeling of the songs. We try to bring in props. I try to loosely choreograph things. The choreography is more free-form. I have moves that I do in front of my mirror at home and end up repeating those moves on stage.
I love performing live. It definitely doesn't come easy for me. I feel really shy. Music has pushed me to become more confident. Every time I go on stage, I feel like I'm getting a little stronger.
You’re exercising a muscle. I know that you DJ as well. What role does nightlife play in your life?
I feel like I live two lives – my day-job life and my night life.
I've been having so much fun DJing. I started DJing through this trip that I planned with some friends upstate. Ezra had a set of CDJs, and we didn’t know how to work it. Me and my friend Charlie Baker got super into them. We were entranced and stayed up until two in the morning, just messing around with them and having so much fun. Charlie was like, “I just met this guy who has a bar. We should set up a night there and DJ and have our friends come.” We set a date a couple of weeks after the trip, and that’s how we started this monthly party called We Take Manhattan.
I love how much of a self-starter you are. You're like, “I'll figure it out.”
That’s my motto. I spent a lot of time being scared of things and not doing things because I was scared of failing or messing up. Since I started making music, I've been doing everything that scares me.
Are you working on new music right now? Where are you in that process?
We’re still deciding on whether to release an EP or an album. We have five songs that are finished, and we just released the first single, “Decision of a Flower,” on October 13.