American Artist Allen Ling on Why He Put His Life’s Love Stories Into a Trilogy of Songs
California-based Ling also teamed up with rap-rock band Flipsyde’s Dave Lopez for production and guitar on songs like “Straight Into The Ocean” and “A Name In Your Book”
Aug 19, 2023
Between running a physical therapy business he owns, being the primary caregiver for his 90-year-old mother and maintaining a farm, you’d think Allen Ling wouldn’t really have time and energy to become a rock artist too.
With the release of two songs and their film-like music videos – “Straight Into The Ocean” and “A Name In Your Book” – Ling picks back up on music after a long gap. The Chinese-origin, American artist based in California was singer and guitarist in a 13-piece band and apparently wrote over 200 songs sometime in the Eighties. They were “exhumed” in 2009, by which time Ling was also into comic books, publishing and executive producer for other artists like The Runaway Hearts.
While Ling counts the likes of Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys and The Cure, there’s also an unmistakable Nineties and early 2000s alt-rock flavor heard in the lush production aesthetic and guitars heard on “Straight Into The Ocean” and “A Name In Your Book.” Released in June and July this year, the songs are part of a trilogy of tunes that are loosely inspired by Ling’s own tryst with love and relationships.
He even brought in actor Aramis Knight (recently seen in Ms. Marvel as Kareem/Red Dagger) to play a character in the video for “Straight Into The Ocean,” which details a story about heartbreak and extreme measures taken while grieving lost love. “I wrote that song straight out of heartbreak,” Ling says over a video call from the U.S.
The video for “A Name In Your Book” opens with a performance of “A Straight Into The Ocean,” where Ling is seen performing with regular collaborator and friend Dave Lopez (from rap-rock band Flipsyde) and unravels a love story that’s a prequel to the plot of the first release. In an expected way, Ling invokes a reference to Star Wars and the franchise’s storytelling chronology. Ling said in a statement about his choice of subject for songs, “I believe some of the best works of art and music are born from incredible suffering. I try not to seek out heartbreak as a source of inspiration, but it finds me.”
After screening at film festivals around the world (including India), Ling felt it was time to give the videos a wider release via YouTube when he became “more removed from the emotional component” of the things he was addressing through the song and stories on screen. He’s seen people call the storylines funny whereas he was actually going for tragic. Ling says, “What was interesting was that Gen Z… really young teenage girls saw the video and they felt, ‘Oh my god. That is so sad.’”
The visual storytelling side to Ling also comes from running his own comic book publishing company, he says. “The ultimate artform, as you know, is film, with music, dialog and acting and visuals. It was only a natural evolution to keep pushing the envelope,” Ling adds.
As for music, he found a friend in Flipsyde’s Dave Lopez through a common friend in 2016. “He has an emotional way to play,” Ling says of Lopez. The guitarist joins our call to talk about Ling and their process and how their songwriting often ends up leading to Ling visualizing what he has in mind for a music video. “Usually it starts with an acoustic guitar, me and Allen sitting down and strumming. We put it on a canvas and he takes it somewhere else,” Lopez says.
They’ve worked on the third song called “Remember” to round out the trilogy, which Lopez calls “very emotional” and also likens to Flipsyde’s first album. It’s slated to release later this month.