Alex Capella doesn't blend in easily in Pacific Beach. She's wrapped up in a long black coat and clad in matching black boots at Cafe 976, just a block from Garnet Avenue and three blocks from the ocean. It's not totally unwarranted—it's one of the coldest mornings of the year, which is not to say freezing by any means. This is San Diego, after all.
It's not lost on Capella, who previously lived in Connecticut and upstate New York, that, at least from an aesthetic standpoint, she stands apart from a typical San Diegan.
"It's so funny being here, by the beach especially. I'm in all black and boots, and everyone's in sandals, bleached hair. I don't fit in," she says, with a laugh, between sips of coffee.
Capella performs and records under the name Bakkuda. She also stands apart from much of the music that characterizes San Diego. In a scene heavy on guitar-based indie rock, Capella is a performer who specializes in an ethereal, albeit soulful style of electronic pop. This summer, she released new EP Rule This Space, which explores an atmospheric, yet richly textured sound that sometimes recalls the eclectic dance-pop of Grimes, or the haunting R&B of FKA Twigs, both of whom she cites as influences on her music.
Bakkuda didn't start out that way, though. Five years ago, Capella launched the project as a rock band along with several friends. At the time, she was influenced by an entirely different set of artists.
"I wanted us to be Paramore," she says. "And it was really great. We had a lot of fun, and the band that I formed, we're still all friends and stuff. But everyone had other priorities, jobs and school and such, and I really wanted to take this all the way."
After two years, that version of Bakkuda came to an end, but Capella started dabbling in electronic production. She's entirely self-taught, her sound growing in sophistication as she's adopted new and more versatile sampling and sequencing tools. Before long, the style that you hear on EPs such as Rule This Space began to take shape.
"I kind of jumped right into it," she says. "I started working with a program called Studio One. And then I got Ableton, because I wanted to be able to play live and I know everyone uses Ableton. I just found some YouTube tutorials...then tried it out. Just kind of trial and error."
The more complicated task for Capella has been parlaying her music into a dynamic live show, since being a solo performer puts the burden entirely on her. Over time she's developed a compelling presence. She's been flanked by dancers in the past. She currently employs the use of colored lights. The dominant element of Bakkuda's performances is her powerful voice, though, which she backs with booming electronic beats. Capella is both comfortable and in her element on stage, though it often comes as a surprise to those who meet her that she's introverted and soft-spoken. Yet she says that both her on- and offstage demeanors are two aspects of the same personality.
Bakkuda plays December 4 at Soda Bar
"People come up to me after a show and will say 'you're so much different in person,'" she says. "I'm not a very loud personality, but performing is totally me still. It's just...it's sort of like the side that I don't have the energy to maintain on a daily basis. But it's important for me to have that outlet."
There's drama and darkness in Bakkuda's music, both of which are on full display on Rule This Space. There's a buzzing, quasi-industrial undercurrent to EP highlight "Skills," while the title track features almost voice-like darkwave synthesizers and throbbing bass. While Capella explores a wide range of shades and textures via her music, she's motivated by more positive forces. Bakkuda is a Korean word that has several meanings, one of which is "change." Capella says that she'd like to see her own music be a catalyst for positive change.
Capella also hopes Bakkuda can be a positive influence for other women and girls interested in production, but who might be put off by a field dominated by Y chromosomes.
"I take a lot of pride in being a female producer," she says. "I want to be an inspiration for a lot of women and girls who are interested in music and be like 'you can do it too, even though it's a bunch of dudes.' If you shy away from it because it's a boy's club, then it'll always be a boys club."
While providing a positive influence for women and girls is important, Capella is ultimately more universal in her aims. If people take something positive away from listening to her music, or are inspired to take on a project of their own, then she's accomplished what she set out to do.
"I hope people are inspired to push themselves," she says. "I don't know, I just hope to inspire people to be the best version of themselves."