It’s been nearly a year since Stitched Up Heart started releasing songs one by one from its second album, “Darkness.” The strategy, virtually unheard of in the world of rock music, has put the band in the news consistently for almost 12 months straight, embraced the streaming platform that has come to dominate all forms of music and kept fans hungry for more. On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the eve of the album’s release, Live Metal’s Greg Maki caught up with frontwoman Alecia “Mixi” Demner to discuss the album, its release strategy, the coronavirus pandemic (which has led to the postponement of the band’s spring tour supporting Sebastian Bach) and more.
LIVE METAL: Before we get into the fun stuff, we should touch on the big issue in the world happening right now, the coronavirus pandemic. It’s affecting musicians with tours and festivals being canceled. Stitched Up Heart has a bunch of dates scheduled coming up later this month. Are those still on as far as you know?
ALECIA “MIXI” DEMNER: I just got the call, and it’s pushed to the fall. This whole thing is insane. Obviously, there’s a lot of planning and stuff that goes into a tour. We’ve been preparing, whether it be gear, whether it be flying people places to make sure our crew is ready. The crew has to make sure that they’re available during that time with whatever their side jobs are. So everything—RV rental, merchandise—everything gets pushed and put on hold for this. So a lot of people are really disappointed
I’m trying to look at the positive of it, and I actually already have set up a ton of writing sessions during this time, and I’m gonna try to pump out another album during this time. I’m just trying to stay productive, and since there’s a bunch of people that are usually on tour that we would typically get together with or we’re usually trying to find time that’s available to everyone. Now this time just freed up, and I’m basically trying to fill it.
Trying to make something good out of an unfortunate situation.
That’s always the way to look at it, right? How can this turn into a positive? There always is a positive in it. This whole pausing the music industry thing—I was just thinking about it on my way back home—is going to actually probably affect the music industry afterwards in such a positive way, because you’re taking it all away from everyone. Nobody can go to shows. They’re stopping people from being able to go out and do something. So once people are allowed back out again to go to shows and be at places that allow more than 100, 250 people a venue, they’re probably gonna be really, really excited about it.
Switching gears, the new album, “Darkness,” comes out tomorrow. You’ve been slowly releasing the songs one by one for a while now, but it’s still got to be exciting to have the end product finally out there.
Oh yeah. It’s been a really, really interesting process as far as this release goes. We wanted to try something new with this waterfall effect, and it’s not something that rock bands have really tapped into. So we were curious to see what kind of result we would get. I think the rock fan base is very loyal, and they usually buy albums, but it still has changed over time. I mean, our last record was released in Best Buy. It’s changed so much that now streaming is such a big thing. I even stream. I listen to stuff on Spotify when I want to hear something new. We can’t really be upset about it. So I think that having streaming and having something new and building momentum and keeping things fresh in people’s minds is an interesting way to go about it, and it seems to be doing well for us.
I would think this strategy would allow you to see even more which songs people are really getting into. Have you noticed anything like that or any surprises?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Having each individual song released as its own is so different from just having a whole album and then skipping over a song every once in a while, and then maybe a year from now, you go, “Wow, that song’s actually really good. I never really paid attention to it.” Each song gets a little more notoriety on its own.
I think streaming, in general, you can tell singles are really, truly these days based off whether or not the listeners are responding well. It’s not so much this is the single everybody thinks will be the big one. It’s more this is the one that’s getting the most response based off people streaming it. So you can see it a little more.
With having this longer release process, has it been hard to sit on some of these songs for longer than usual?
For me, no. For the listeners, probably yeah. For me, I’ve already heard them. (laughs) I practiced them a million times. It’s kind of nice having that. But yeah, I could see it would be frustrating for some people—”Give me the album already! Give me the album!” But something to look forward to is exciting to me.
How long was the process of writing and recording these songs?
We probably started in about February and finished the whole thing, after 70 songs, in September, I want to say, of not last year, the year before. So it’s been a whole entire year, because we released everything throughout a year. But the actual songs out of the 70 that we ended up using were pretty much all written at the very end, within a two-month period.
So how did that work out? Was there something that changed along the way that made you decide those were the ones you wanted?
I think just like anything you do in life, the more you do it the better you get. Especially with this record, we tried to try new things, and the beginning as all experimental. Eventually, we found a lane that everybody liked and was happy with, and the producer that we wanted to use, which was a huge, key element. We finally found what I wanted to say, ‘cause that changed also. Originally, lyrically I wanted to just sing about being strong and all this powerful stuff, but I realized that it wasn’t coming out as authentic, because there’s so much it takes to teach you to be strong. So lyrically, I really needed to grow in that sense and find the right deep, dark stuff that I had to pull out of me. Musically, we found a modern rock sound that worked really well, we felt like, for an evolution and not to stray too far from our original identity.
As you said, it’s been a while since the first album. It’s been almost four years. How have you and the band changed during that time?
Oh, gosh. A lot. (laughs) So much. When “Never Alone” was being written, we’d just got our first record deal after touring as a band for five years. I just became sober right when that writing session was happening. We didn’t even know what Active Rock Radio charts were. We hit the ground running with that album, and it just evolved. We met so many people. We made so many relationships over the last couple years. It’s been really cool. We’ve grown, obviously, as performers, as songwriters, as people in general. We’ve learned so much.
Do birds have some kind of special meaning to you? They’ve been on the covers of each album.
Yeah. I feel like a bird is something like what music does. It kinda takes you away from everything. You can fly out of your life and just be sucked into this whole other world, and it’s this freedom. And birds kind of feel like freedom to me. With “Never Alone,” because I was a bright-eyed, doey-eyed baby in the real rock industry at the time and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and everything was looking amazing, and the doves coming out of the darkness was this, OK, there’s a light. And I went through a lot of stuff afterwards, and I kept seeing crows everywhere. I didn’t even plan to do this bird theme, but it just worked. They were everywhere, and I kept noticing them. I was like, “That’s got to be some sort of sign.”
I started looking into what they represent, and they’re very, very wise creatures. They’re supposed to be messengers almost from a different realm or a spiritual realm. I looked at it as there’s a sign in this. The lyrics, how I went through some dark times again, the whole thing kind of tied in really well together with the dark crow coming out of the light, like I just went through greatness, but look, stuff is happening and you have to go through it, and that’s part of life and not to be afraid of it anymore because you know you made it through it before.
But yeah, it’s a sense of freedom and being able, musically, to take you out of whatever your day-to-day life is.
I noticed following the band on social media that on your last tour, you had started to play guitar on stage a little bit. Had you done that before?
Yeah, that’s how I started writing songs when I was in high school. I got my first guitar at 15, and I would go to open mic nights three nights a week and play acoustic and sing along. For the longest time, in every band I was in I either played guitar or bass. When I started this band in 2010, the guitar player was so good, the first guitar player was so good, I just quit. (laughs) I was like, “Dude, I will never be that good. I’m gonna leave it up to you, and I’ll just sing and scream, and focus on that.”
For the longest time, I hid behind the guitar. That guitar was like my safety net, my blanket, and I realized I could actually perform without it, which was a whole new learning experience. Then for I don’t know how many years, we would hire a rhythm guitar player, and we just kept having this revolving door with this one guitar player position.
When we thought about it the last tour we did with Steel Panther, we decided that it might be smarter for us to get a sound guy out front instead of a second guitar player, because we found a guy that was really good and the chemistry was great. So we decided to try the last tour out with it, and I was like, “What songs need a second guitar?” And “Catch Me When I Fall” was the only one that really needs it. So I was like OK, I’ll learn this one song and we’ll see how it goes. And I was super nervous. (laughs) It had been nine years since I played on stage with a guitar. I was even nervous to practice with the band. I was like, oh my god, I’m gonna be horrible. The first show, I hit one wrong note, but no one noticed—I did. I practiced every day, just the one song, and it went well, and it sounded great.
So we decided we don’t need a second guitarist for the moment. It’s just more fun for me. I learned another song of ours that I’m gonna bring in. I don’t want to play every single song on guitar, ‘cause I still have to perform. It’s kind of breathing life into me, to be honest.
What was it like to tour with Steel Panther?
Well, what happens backstage stays backstage with that band, but they are such great people. They really, really made sure we were happy. Just really great people, super supportive. Michael Starr literally watched every single set. He watched us play every single night. We hung out, and we’d have little meetings, check in on each other, see how everybody’s doing. And actually the fan base—this was the thing I was most surprised of—the fan base, I didn’t know how they were gonna react to us, being that we’re, obviously, a different kind of style of music. I was scared they were gonna ask me to show my boobs or something (laughs), because some of the audience might be a little crazy. But they were so receptive and responsive. We were really shocked, because everybody was just so excited to be at a rock show that they were probably the most energetic crowd we’ve ever played for and super exciting and fun. And I think that’s how the Sebastian Bach tour ended up happening. We didn’t realize that’s a whole entire different kind of rock genre that we hadn’t explored, and we might be OK in the ‘80s hair metal scene—I don’t know.
I think that’s all the questions I’ve got for you right now. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
No, just with the tour being postponed, in the meantime I have already set up a ton of writing sessions, and I probably am going to be fostering some more bottle baby kittens, which I usually do when we’re not on the road. If anybody is interested in helping this rescue that I’m super passionate about, their website is kittenrescue.org.
Stitched Up Heart YouTube channel