Even crouching in a crab-infested crevasse (photoshoots can get perilous at times), Clovelly was therapeutic for Astronaut Alex. Since the pandemic, the singer-songwriter has been snorkeling at Suburban East Beach three or four times a week. Underwater, she observed “scary, alien stuff”, like a group of choreographed squids that change color whenever they catch her looking at her. She befriended a blue groper named, obviously, Bluey.
“Being underwater is completely silent and you see the same fish and animals hanging out together every time you come back, it’s kind of cute,” said Alexandra Lynn, 27. “Even though the ocean is a brutal atmosphere and they all eat each other and everything, it feels like a safe place.”
What Jacques Cousteau called “the silent world” can be found in the new album by Alex the Astronaut, How to Grow a Sunflower Underwater. There are repeated nods to the existential calm of spotting the same old fish in the sea; the throbbing drones and bubbling patterns sound like your head is splashing in a swell. “The title project was How to keep hopesays Lynn, “you know, when things went pretty badly.”
Avoiding the character-driven excursions that punctuated his acclaimed 2020 debut The absolutely nothing theory, Lynn calls it her most vulnerable job to date. With his pun tumbling back to the fore, the album is dense. It looks like there is a lot of life there.
“It was a very hectic time,” Lynn laughs dryly. “Too much. I have to go to therapy this afternoon, actually, and sometimes when I arrive I’m just like, ‘I don’t want any more events, I’m done with events!’
Last year, while undergoing therapy to cope with PTSD as a full-time carer for a loved one, an experience she discusses in the songs Haunted and Sick (“I don’t want to say who, but it was very difficult…It was like an endless cycle,” she says), Lynn was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“I was already in therapy for all this other stuff mentioned on the album, so it was like, well, we already have quite a bit in the mix, why not add one more thing?” Lynn jokes. “I think for me, taking care of sensory things directly helped other things. It’s like this big puzzle, I guess.
In May 2021, with the support of her friend, comedian Matt Okine, she publicly revealed her diagnosis during a stand-up at Sydney’s Comedy Store. On set, Lynn mentioned that she was watching Atypical on Netflix, a comedy series about an autistic teenager who decides to start dating, when a realization clicks.
“Since I was little, a lot of people have noticed stuff I’ve done and said, like, ‘Oh, you’re so autistic,’ but it didn’t seem like a good thing and so I didn’t. never really saw that for me,” Lynn says. . “Like, when I saw rain man or the representations of autism on television, I never said “I understand that”.
“In Atypical, it was mostly the character wearing noise canceling headphones. I’ll notice, especially at airports, that I’ll wear my noise canceling headphones and feel completely calm, then take them off and be like, “No, not yet.” There were a few social quirks that I had occasionally commented on from friends, but it was mostly sensory stuff.
In an interview with disability activist Dylan Alcott earlier this year, Lynn said she wanted to talk about her experience with autism because of the stigma and misinformation that exists around the condition. She’s already noticed sly differences in the way people respond to her since she revealed her diagnosis.
“People look at me a lot more, I noticed. A little look in their eyes like they were searching for something, trying to figure out what it was,” she said. ” It is a bit boring. ‘Cause you say, ‘I’m no different?’ I think part of it is a lack of education. And so why I want to talk about it, I guess, is first of all just because I talk about everything [laughs]but also to show that this is such a diverse group of people and that there are many different experiences.
Lynn says being diagnosed at 25 also meant she already had her own ideas about autism that needed to be reframed.
“Like, at first, I was super embarrassed. I didn’t expect to be because I had been going through the process for a long time – it takes time to be tested, you have to pay a good amount of money and then you wait six months on a waiting list and then you finally make it. But when I got the diagnosis, I was like, ‘I don’t really know what to do with this.’ I felt embarrassed The only thing I knew about it was rain man, The Big Bang Theory, and like when people say, “Oh, I think this guy has a little autism.” All negative. So I didn’t want to tell people.
She says she felt like a veil had been lifted where other people could see something about her that she herself had not realized; that even though she felt like everyone else, they could see that she was different.
“It took me a while,” Lynn says. “I got to the point where I was like, ‘Look, I know I have real friends and not everyone is nice to me. [laughs]. I know I’m not Sheldon’s The Big Bang Theory, the butt of the joke or something like that.’ And then I realized, far from it, no one is like that! Everyone has their own quirks and personalities and I shouldn’t say, “Oh, I’m not them, I’m different.” I’m the right kind of autistic! Destigmatizing all that was a good learning curve for me.
The therapy helped. She’s been doing it since high school, Lynn says, when she couldn’t sleep. And she chased him.
“I saw a lot of different therapists and found the therapist I liked about four years ago, which was a really good time,” she says. “I love it. It’s so much fun and they’re so smart; it’s like a friend on steroids. Like, given that they’re trained and it’s science and stuff, they can give you good advice. I think everyone should go, because it’s so good for you.
full of energy Octopuswhere Lynn sings “I think I’m like an octopus sometimes, trying so hard to blend in, I forgot I’ve got something I could give”, is the only song on the album that touches on his diagnosis directly – so much so that his original title was Autism. But other tracks also highlight Lynn’s big-hearted songwriting, including the life-affirming debut single Haircut.
The song, the closest to the album, finds Lynn continuing her self-exploration around her queer identity. A still wordy chorus where she sings “Since I cut my hair I feel so much better, but it was more than that, now the mirror looks back and I feel like I’m meant to “, gives goosebumps with his celebration of hard-earned self-acceptance. Lynn says she shaved her head in May 2020 to help raise PPE funds for COVID nurses, and immediately felt transformed.
“I remember saying, ‘Oh, that’s weird. I wish everyone could experience it because I think then everyone would have a lot more understanding. ‘Cause I never knew anything like it, never even thought about it until I cut my hair and then all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh, maybe ‘there’s something else I didn’t understand myself.’
“I thought I did a good job, you know, I walked out, walked the line diligently as an LGBTQ person, and then… It was kind of like autism. There was a lot of like, ‘Nah, that’s not a thing. Wait, yeah I think that’s a thing. And now it’s like I don’t really understand, but it’s just there and I have to keep exploring it.