Stitched Up Heart – Hungry like WolvesThursday, 24th August 2023
Last time we chatted with Stitched Up Heart, it was before their sophomore effort Darkness in early 2020, just before COVID swept the world and shut everything down. The band persevered by seeking out new ways to stay afloat (and relevant) with things like Twitch streaming until tours started opening up again. Now in 2023, they have a new album – their third for Century Media Records – in the form of To the Wolves, and it sees the band looking ever forward, while taking a moment to acknowledge their early roots. A heavy yet vulnerable album that contains the band’s staple atmosphere and energy, but with several fresh twists. We were happy to once again chat with vocalist Alecia ‘Mixi’ Demner about all of the above mentioned topics, what the new album offers, vocal surgery, how she deals with keyboard warriors, and keeping in contact with fans.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s no doves on the cover this time, which were featured on both Never Alone and Darkness. Are you moving towards wolves as your new mascot?
Alecia ‘Mixi’ Demner: [laughs] You know, I wanted there to be animals…but it’s kind of weird. This album – I have always felt weird about putting myself on the cover of an album. But a few people in the business and our team told me to do it. I felt it was very egotistical and arrogant – it seems so vain. Like, “I am the band!” The album art had always been animals. So when we did the photo shoot – it was just one we were doing with a friend of mine – we did it over two years ago. My hair was silver and blue – that’s how long we have had this photo as the album art. I just sent it to the A & R and he said, ‘this is the album art – so just keep that in mind when you are writing the rest of the songs.’
The whole album hadn’t been written yet. So we already had that solidified early on, and we had to go back and edit my hair black. It changed a few months later [laughs]. I went back to the photographer and asked if he could photoshop it. I had tried to edit it with one of those hair apps [laughs]. Eventually, I will release the original photos.
The concept for it was very much being a werewolf and going around destroying everything around, then the next day waking up and being like, ‘what did I just do?’ It was ironic because now werewolves and wolves are all over the place now! It’s strange to me – artists are always on the same wavelength without knowing it. Butcher Babies have a song called “Red Thunder” and we have one called “Thunder,” and neither of us knew we were writing about thunder! “To the Wolves” we wrote before the Nita Strauss and Arch Enemy song came out, so we were like, ‘we have wolves too!” So I feel we are all on the same page somehow, it’s really weird.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about the inspirations for writing To the Wolves, coming off of 2020’s Darkness? How did you see the writing coming between albums?
Demner: I’ll start from Never Alone! We had just gotten signed and we were all hopeful – ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel guys! It’s all gonna be okay!’ You can tell it’s all very positive. Then there was Darkness, which was right after I had my vocal chord surgery, and I was wondering if I could even hit the notes at all. It was very emotional and introspective…and sad girl [laughs]. This one was written a lot towards the end of the pandemic. We do have one pandemic song called “The End,” and it was the first song written. There were a lot of question marks about what was happening in the world. There was a lot of angst – I just wanted to get out there and every time I tried to push forward, things got canceled over and over again. I was frustrated, and it definitely shows in the music.
Dead Rhetoric: Listening to some of your recent talks, you mention the pressure from a multitude of sources and feeling a bit lost with Darkness. How much nudging do you get behind the scenes to get you aimed in a specific direction?
Demner: When you are writing an album and you are used to writing what came naturally, then all of a sudden, Never Alone had “Finally Free” and it basically went viral, and we had a second record to follow it up. Now there was more ‘you have to do it this way’ for Darkness – we weren’t held at gunpoint to do something, but there were a lot of different opinions within the team for what they wanted us to do. The reason we wrote 70 songs for that record was that I was trying to appease everyone and trying to throw paint in every direction towards what I thought I was being asked to do. It’s like when someone asks you to paint something something and you have never painted with a certain technique before. There was a lot of pressure, and with my voice being shot during the recording process, I was like, ‘what am I doing with my life? I don’t have a plan B! What are we doing?”’ I mean, I purposely don’t have a plan B, but I was feeling confused and lost.
The producer from the first record wasn’t available for the second one, so I was super grateful to get with Matt [Good] and we did write this stuff for Darkness really fast once that happened. So the majority of the songs before that took the backburner. We just kind of went with what we did in the studio at that point. I still love the record, but I was so lost as to what I was doing. I didn’t know what my vision was anymore. With this album, you can see the roots of our original upbringing. It’s darker, more industrial and gothy. We have some roots in the dark realm that we all just were kind of told not to show, I guess, because it’s not as popular. Thanks to Wednesday Adams, it’s okay now!
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve known you for a while now and am aware of many of the struggles you’ve had in getting Stitched Up Heart off the ground and to that point of wider recognition. What’s toughest about getting your band in the limelight with so many other bands vying for the ears of everyone around you?
Demner: It’s weird because all musicians have the same goals. All of the bands – it shouldn’t be a competitive thing. But because it’s a business, the industry makes it competitive. Money talks. So my goal in all this isn’t to be the center of attention or the best band in the world. We want to be the best version of what we have done in the world. To grow from what we have achieved and get better and keep growing. We don’t want to compete with anyone else. I just want to be happy and do what I love, and be able to travel the world doing music – and not be stressed about paying the bills. That’s my goal. I obviously want to headline arenas, but my main happiness level is that I’m good if I can afford to live and do what I love for a living.
Dead Rhetoric: With the shifts and changes to Stitched Up Heart’s sound over the years, what do you feel is the piece that really defines the band?
Demner: I think it’s the dynamics. If I had to sum up a Stitched Up Heart song that would be the standard for what are finding ourselves with, it would be a sick riff – one that slaps and just gets you going. Some thick, solid drums that really just pound it in there. Then drop out on the verses and leave some room for whispered vocals and some atmosphere, musically. Then build up to the more open, belty choruses and maybe some screams and stuff. Then a sick breakdown – like sick – I want a moshpit breakdown! There’s no such thing as too heavy of a breakdown, I just want to go crazy there [laughs]. I think that really sums up the formula we kind of write.
Dead Rhetoric: I know for a while you wanted to avoid screaming and had vocal surgeries. For a while it seemed like you were never going to scream again. What made you change your mind?
Demner: I’m in this mental space of being transparent and honest. I think the authenticity and truth really shows people what you have been through and what you are going through. You can relate a lot more. I was advised not to talk about it before. When you go play a show, then you have people listening to see if you can still sing, you know? There’s always judgements. But I’m at a point in my self-healing journey [laughs] that I’m getting better at not caring what anyone else thinks. It’s more about my truth.
I went through a lot and I want people to know that I went through when I was writing that record. I am fine with people judging. They are going to do it anywhere. That’s where I am at, and it’s a struggle I go through – just like anyone else. I am working on my voice every day, maybe more than I should [laughs]. It’s scary when you work towards something your whole life and then one thing that you can’t do anything about is basically taken away and you don’t have a plan B. Over the pandemic and that period of time, I really don’t know anything else that would heal the hole in my soul without creating music. I just keep fighting the good fight.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking back at the COVID downtime – you and a number of other bands started Twitch streaming. Do you think it led to more people following the band in anticipation of To the Wolves?
Demner: 100% yeah. Ironically, I think the reason we are going to be touring with Escape the Fate is that they were streaming on Twitch and we became sort of friends via the internet that way. One of the girls, who is a Patreon, Kendra, I moved her into my house – she was on Twitch and she met the love of her life hanging out in the chat rooms on our Twitch streams, playing Among Us with us. She’s going to be coming out on tour and doing merch with us this time. We met on Twitch. You find your people. So yeah, I think it was a good thing for us to do. It sustained us as a band during a time that we were supposed to be promoting our record and we couldn’t do it. It was a fun little hang out time.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance keeping in close contact with fans as your fanbase continues to grow? One of the things that pulled me and probably many others in your direction was that intimate level of contact with the fanbase at live shows.
Demner: I have no boundaries [laughs] – I’m working on that as well! Actually what’s weird is that for a while we haven’t gone out to the merch table in a while. I think it was like 2018 or 2019 and this will be the first tour we will be back at merch. It ws due to COVID, but also I had a few strange experiences too. It was weird. You know, one guy messes it up for everybody. But this time, I am going to be out and connecting and I feel like I have missed it. When I get off stage, I beat myself up over everything. I was just on my phone with my therapist about this. Every note I miss, everything I do wrong – I beat myself up like a stick on my head after the show. But I think some of that is because I didn’t go out to merch afterwards. Even though I don’t need the praise from everyone else, I should be happy with what I did right. It will be interesting, because I can more easily hear from people after the show, as opposed to me just going, ‘oh my gosh I missed that one thing so bad,’ it might be one small thing but I will absolutely tear myself apart.
Dead Rhetoric: I think when you are playing in those shows, be it good sound or bad, I think a lot of it goes right by everyone anyways. But I think it will be good to get that positive feedback. You don’t need it, but it’s definitely a boost to get that one on one contact and hear about the difference you make from those people.
Demner: When I was younger, I saw Goldfinger bring a bunch of people on stage, and I was one of them. It was so cool! I remember that moment forever. Any time a band pointed me out from the stage, it was so cool – it’s something I will always remember. I want people to have those memorable moments. I still have them with artists I look up to. I will always remember the first time I spoke with Maria [Brink] or the first time I spoke to Lzzy [Hale]. Those moments – I want people to have those moments with me too.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s your biggest takeaway from growing as a band – what life lessons have you learned in getting to this point in your career?
Demner: Where ever we are…I don’t know [laughs]. I was going through and doing all of the preorders and I’m handwriting every order and going through all the packages to make sure they are done properly…there’s a lot of people! That’s cool! I didn’t handle our preorders on the last album, but there’s a lot! It was like, wow we have actually grown. It’s weird to see it, you know what they say, you can’t see the forest from the trees. We were just trucking along. We aren’t in a van anymore, thank God! But if inflation keeps going up and more we might be [laughs], but those are the tours we won’t take. Just the RV upgrade – it may not be a bus, but having my own little space. I can relax and rest there.
Playing arenas, doing our first arena tour was with In the Moment, Halestorm, and New Years Day – it was definitely a ‘whoa, we are doing it!’ Then the Godsmack tour – wow! I remember doing our soundcheck to an empty arena and thinking, “I hope people show up!” You get on the stage and they are all there and it’s like, cool! But growth is hard to see when you are the one growing. I have made better choices – we’ve learned so much, but have so much still to learn, and we are continuing to grow.
Dead Rhetoric: I always see you on Blabbermouth with Stitched Up Heart articles in the comments section – do you find that commenting helps to deter some of the negativity?
Demner: Absolutely, 100%. You have to stand up for yourself.
Dead Rhetoric: I have seen a few of them lately, and they aren’t so bad!
Demner: Because I’m peeping them in there and calling them out and fighting back and no one wants to get yelled at. The commenters don’t think that the artists actually read those. Most of them don’t, but I know that the Blabbermouth ones are going to be really interesting. So I can’t wait to go and fight back. Which also talks to my growth as a person. 5 years ago I would have ran away with my tail between my legs, but now I’m like – let’s go!
Dead Rhetoric: I was speaking to another vocalist a few months back with a similar topic and they weren’t getting that same response – people were kind of ‘meh’ about it all. So it’s good that you have seen an improvement.
Demner: I think they also know that I’m going to fight back, so people read the comments just for the entertainment. Like, what are people going to say? Now it’s like, what’s Stitched Up Heart going to do about this? One guy was like, “Who?” So I said, “Who the F are you?” [laughs] like who are you? I think four people commented just saying, “That’s why we love you.”
Dead Rhetoric: If you could get it to the point of ‘What’s Corey Taylor have to say about this’ then you know you’ve made an impact [laughs].
Demner: I absolutely love that. I’m inspired by his openness and authenticity. I think that’s a huge reason why people gravitate towards him as well. As an artist, what’s the point in being fake? The point is to create your art how you would create it, not anyone else. That’s what this record is…it’s so us. It’s what we wanted to create. I love the Corey Taylor chime-ins every once in a while – he’s definitely an opinionated person. Ronnie Radke is another one like that. He gets a lot of hate for that. He loves to stir the pot. It’s like, any press is good press kind of thing. Hey, it’s entertainment at the end of the day.
Dead Rhetoric: If you could change one thing about the metal/rock community, what would it be?
Demner: I would have more women for sure. I would make it a 50/50 split. I would create a whole festival with just bands with females in them. I feel like that’s something that hasn’t been done and I don’t know why. In Europe, there’s so many more females in metal. Metal is a lot bigger there too. I feel like America is slowly catching up, but we have some work to do.
Dead Rhetoric: You have the tour with Escape the Fate coming up – what else is on the horizon once To the Wolves comes out?
Demner: We are going to go out and plan to support the record all next year. I want to stay out on the road as much as possible. If you are a band that’s cool and want to take us out, hit us up! We’ll be down to support. I really want to get out of the country more. I feel like we experienced the UK once, and now I am writing all these preorders for The Netherlands, France, and Finland – all the cool metal places like Germany…let’s get out there. I feel like we haven’t really tapped into that market at all.