Stitched Up Heart – Out of the DarknessSunday, 1st March 2020
Stitched up Heart made a notable mark back in 2016 with their full-length debut, Never Alone. Passionate and energetic, there was a fresh feel to what the band was doing in comparison to much of the hard rock/alternative metal spectrum. Some tracks had a more radio-friendly feel, while others had a darker and more atmospheric vibe to them. A tour with Lacuna Coil around the album’s release made some waves (as did several tours that year) and got the word out about the rising act. The band toured significantly for the release, but there was no word about a second release to follow it up.
Last year, the band announced Darkness, and the idea that they would release one song a month before its 2020 release. We are now just weeks away from the album’s release (with all but two songs currently available to the public), and it’s clear that they aren’t keen to repeat themselves. Darkness boasts a much more diverse palette of tracks, some quite surprising and adventurous in the best of ways. We got a chance to speak with vocalist Alecia ‘Mixi’ Demner to get her thoughts on the band’s approach to the album’s release and the band’s progress, as well as her volunteer work, Patreon, and much more.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that releasing all of the songs on a monthly basis has given the album the support you were hoping for?
Mixi: To be honest, I have no idea what the sales look like now. It’s hard to compare because I have no idea what it would be if it was released all at once. The one thing I do like about it, is that it keeps momentum going. Instead of giving everyone the whole thing at once, you get a taste every month or so. You aren’t just throwing everything out that you have, and people’s attention spans are so short these days. I just feel that this is the way the rock industry is going to start moving – I think singles in general. I think the whole musical world is going to turn into a singles world instead of albums, just because of the way that the streaming situation is. But that’s just what I believe. Who knows what will happen? We were just trying to be innovative and try something new.
Dead Rhetoric: I can completely agree with that. There’s a lot of bands that are going towards more EP-type approaches, where they can put out 4 songs and maybe even just do that twice a year in some cases. It keeps you more in the loop.
Mixi: It took us three years to release new music. We are probably going to continue to do it somewhat like this. We’ll see how exactly it goes down, but I have a feeling that it is doing well. Obviously, our first week sales are going to be a lot different as well. But first week sales on any album in the industry today is a lot more difficult too. We’ll see what happens [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: You had over 70 songs written for Darkness. What became the guideline as to what made a song one that you could work with versus one that was cut?
Mixi: We really wanted to evolve and grow. In the beginning, we really threw paint in opposite directions. From super, super heavy to super, super poppy. It was probably more than half way through the writing process when we realized that this was working. Lyrically, I changed what I felt that I wanted to say. Originally, I wanted this album to be all about strength, power, and hope, like “You can do it,” you know? The lyrics weren’t coming out completely authentically because deep down inside, I am a little girl [laughs]. I had stuff that I had to go through to make me feel strong. I found that writing the dark and the light together again was where I felt I could be the most authentic and real.
When it came to the music and sound, in the end, we finally dialed in where we wanted to go and the producer that we wanted to do it with. For us, the producer that we end up going with ends up kind of being the icing on the cake when it comes to the music. Never Alone was Mitchell Marlow, who I am actually going to be writing with next week. You can hear a different quality in producing versus Matt Good, who produced Darkness. They are two totally awesome producers, but also totally different and unique in their own way. They kind of turn into an extra band member. Out of the 70 songs we wrote, in the end, we used the last 11 or 12 that we wrote. We didn’t use more than two of the songs that we wrote previously. It was the last bunch that we ended up using for the record.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there anything you took away or learned from Never Alone that you wanted to do differently this time around?
Mixi: I think that we did pretty good in finding a good guideline [with Never Alone], but I don’t want any album to sound the same. We built a radio world with Never Alone, and we wanted to explore more on the artsy side of things with Darkness and see what happens. With Never Alone, we learned what a radio chart was – it was our first album with a label and a booking agent. We were really like a ‘baby band.’ We had been doing everything on our own before then. So I wouldn’t say there was anything we would do differently because I’m very proud of that album. But we just wanted to change it up and not write the same exact record. We are already working on thoughts and ideas for the next album, because we don’t want there to be such a gap.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there a song that you feel sticks out, or you personally identify with on Darkness?
Mixi: Every single one of them, but I think “Warrior” is one of my favorites. “Problems,” “Darkness,” “Lost” are all some of my favorites. I’m really very proud of this record. As far as lyrically, for me, I really tried to dig as possible and “Darkness” is probably the deepest I got, in terms of the content of the song. I really can’t pick a favorite, but for now I’ll say “Warrior.”
Dead Rhetoric: How important is the band’s relationship with fans – do you feel that the interactions has led you to a more devoted fanbase and larger following?
Mixi: I think it’s changed a little bit over time. When we first started touring, we would be out watching the shows and the other bands, hanging out in the audience front-and-center, hanging out with people the whole time, and then going to people’s houses and hanging out there until whenever. We were a lot more social, but as time goes on and touring happens – you get tired and things can get a little more dangerous. You kind of have to be a bit more careful as the fanbase grows. We’ve realized that we can’t always be out at the shows. There’s been a few scary situations. We try to be as connected as possible without putting ourselves into a situation that would be unsafe. But I definitely think that when bands are connected to their fans, and are available for them to reach out to at any point, to where there’s a level that fans feel more connected, they want to stick around longer. They aren’t so different.
Dead Rhetoric: With safety, I don’t think anyone is going to argue that point. As you get bigger as a band, there’s more exposure and for lack of a better term, there’s a lot of creepy people out there.
Mixi: [Laughs] Yeah, the bigger the band gets, it gets harder. It’s tougher to give all of the attention to everybody too. I would still come out to the merch tables and try to meet everyone but one person would cut like, and I had no control, and then someone wants to talk for an hour while the next one is waiting, and I wouldn’t know what to do. We have found that doing the VIP thing is better to filter people out – people that really want to meet the band and want a guarantee to meet us and hang out. It also helps the band afford to be able to keep touring.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of your favorite touring experiences? Do you feel you learn something new each time you go out on the road with different bands?
Mixi: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think the Godsmack tour and the Halestorm tour were probably the biggest learning experiences for us. We had never been on an arena tour before. Halestorm took us out on our first arena tour and it was just like, what we got a taste of it, “Wow!” There’s so much that goes into it, and so much to learn. You try to soak up everything that you can. But everything is a learning experience though. We learn a lot of what not to do [laughs], and I think that’s why bands progress and grow. We tried to learn from what we did right and wrong in the last run, and try to fix it in the next tour so we can get better and grow. We’ve learned a lot from those bigger tours.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve toured with a number of various musical bands on tour, do you feel that Stitched Up Heart has an advantage in that regard? It seems like you are pretty malleable as a group, where you can do a tour with Godsmack or Lacuna Coil, or you can do Steel Panther or Sebastian Bach.
Mixi: It’s really interesting, because I don’t think the active rock radio genre has really hit the market or ‘80s hair metal, or the mix in-between very much. The response we got from the Steel Panther fans was a surprise. We didn’t think anybody would latch onto us, because our music isn’t really like theirs. But with the show, they were really so excited and it went over so well, that when the Sebastian Bach tour [offer] happened, we’ll see how his fans go – but so far, I think we can try different genres and see what happens. I mean, how many times can you go out with the same band? We are trying to do something different, as you can tell, we like to do that a lot.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also made a lot of connections with other bands out on the road – does that networking aspect help among bands?
Mixi: It is huge. To build relationships, in general, with everyone. There’s so many bands that I look up to, and we are doing a bunch of festivals soon. I just can’t wait! I want to meet everyone. But building relationships is such a big deal – be it with bands, radio stations, our fans and followers. It’s important. It’s probably the most important thing – to build big, genuine relationships.
Dead Rhetoric: Patreon is a platform that more bands are doing, but there was some pushback when it first started. How do you feel that you’ve benefitted from it?
Mixi: Well, I met you [laughs]! I definitely wouldn’t know you so well [without Patreon]. Behind the scenes, you can go out of your way to ensure that they [supporters] are happy and you can go out of your way to give them a little extra little things that you can’t do with the usual person who watches your social media or Spotify. There’s t-shirts, paintings, handwritten lyrics, Skype hangouts – it’s definitely helped to grow this family that supports and helps each other. Again, it helps the people that really, truly care – I feel like I can go to them with any concerns or what I’m feeling any day and just tell them and it will be totally fine. They aren’t going to judge me like the rest of the social media world would. They really, really care.
Also, when it comes to the money – musicians don’t make a lot of money, I feel that Patreon is such a huge movement for independent artists, or even artists like us who are on a label. The music money goes to the label for paying for the albums. When we go on tour, we make money. When we get home, we are just sitting there, on our hands, like what do we do? No musician wants to get a job delivering pizzas, which is what I have been doing for years and years before Patreon happened. I’d go on the road and be a rock star, then come home and deliver pizzas. It was just the worst! You can’t keep a normal job when you are constantly touring. I realized that Patreon has made me able to focus solely on music and art, and it has been amazing. It also gives me time to do more volunteer work as wel.
Dead Rhetoric: I think there is a difference too – if you look at your Patreon compared to some others out there. There’s a lot of focus on your end. Not all of them have that same level of effort. It’s a testament to what you do that you are able to grow with it as well.
Mixi: I don’t really know what other people do, but I like to be able to touch base with the secret groups every single day. I try to make sure that everyone hears from me at least once a month with the signed autograph things, but I really can’t compare since I don’t know what other people do. But I’m glad that you think I do a good job, because I feel like I never really do enough. You have no idea how grateful I am for it. I think about it every day. If I didn’t have this, I would be so bummed. I want to make sure that everyone is happy, all the time. Maybe that’s why there’s not too many people that every really leave my Patreon, they usually just drop down. I hope that we’ve built a pretty decent community.
Dead Rhetoric: You just mentioned the volunteering piece. You do a lot of work with animals – rescue kittens, horses and have the Filthy Animal clothing company, among other things. Is it important to give back?
Mixi: Absolutely – I feel like this world, if you are constantly taking, the world will take too. It’s a balance. When I do things to help the kittens, I feel like it helps me more than I am helping them. Right now, it’s not really kitten season, and I’m bummed that I can’t bottle-feed. It’s starting up soon, but I’ll be on tour most of the year. But when I can between tours, it doesn’t even feel like volunteer work when you love it. The horses – when the fires happened in Malibu I got kind of drawn into it. They haven’t really needed my help much lately, so I feel I need to find more stuff to volunteer for until kittens are back in season. I feel like doing stuff for others feeds your soul so much. You get back way more than what you give.
Dead Rhetoric: At this point in your life, what does Stitched Up Heart mean to you?
Mixi: It is probably one of the most important things to me. The band is on my mind constantly, 24/7. I think about it all the time, and I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s a top priority.
Dead Rhetoric: In looking at the cover for both albums, is there any connection with having birds on the covers of Never Alone and Darkness?
Mixi: Obviously, I love animals so I wanted to make sure that the artwork for Never Alone had animals on it. It needed to be something that represented what the lyrical content was – hopefulness and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. All of that positive energy that was a part of that album. The doves being a very light representation of being able to break free through the window, with the darkness inside. You are in the darkness and going into the light.
With Darkness, I kept seeing crows everywhere. I looked at it as a sign, and it would coincide with the doves. I wanted it to be the opposite, where you are going back into the darkness again, but you aren’t as afraid. It’s like the dark dove diving back into the clouds with the white background. It’s like life, there’s ups and downs, tunnels and light. The more you go through it the more you grow and learn.
Dead Rhetoric: You have some dates for the coming months already announced. Is the plan for 2020 basically just to tour as much as possible?
Mixi: Yeah, lots of festivals, and lots of tours. We are going to try to start writing more music, so that when this album comes out, we can keep a more consistent release time in the future. We’re trying to keep things moving!