Stitched Up Heart forged their path in sheer passion and earned their keep in physicality and volume. The band’s days of self-booked national van tours and frontwoman Alecia “Mixi” Demner being a Revolver “Hottest Chicks” mainstay was merely the beginning. Driven by a new level of sonic confidence and topped with Mixi’s soaring vocal verve, 2016’s Never Alone is the sound of a band unapologetically coming into its own.
Rock Confidential caught up with Mixi to talk about Stitched Up Heart’s live show, connecting with fans and her passion for inspiring others to make the world a better place.
I saw Stitched Up Heart on a headline gig last year and the first thing I quickly noticed is the connection you have with the audience.
If somebody has seen our show multiple times and they know all the songs, they’ll usually just rock out. But, when people watch the show for the first time they’re usually just observing everything and taking it all in. We do try to connect as much as possible on and off the stage with people. That really resonates and people get the message. If we’re watching a band we like, we notice if they notice us. Chris (Kael, bass) from Five Finger Death Punch pointed at me one time and I was like, “I love you!” I get excited over stuff like that. Why wouldn’t anybody else? I like to try, when I can, to make eye contact and make that connection. We all really try to connect with people and that’s what it’s all about. Thanks to social media we think we’re connecting with people, but we’re not really. You can see people walking down the sidewalk staring down at their phones. They’re not paying attention to other people. At a rock show the music connects you to other people, so why not get closer to the people that listen to your music? Make a memorable moment for somebody.
Has anyone ever taken that out of context and moved into creeper status?
Everyone for the most part has stayed pretty respectful. Most of the time they’re just really excited. I’ll crowd surf and stuff and I don’t get people grabbing my tushy or anything like that. People are more worried that I’m going to get hurt and I’m more worried I’m going to hurt somebody. It took me a while to do that more and now I can’t stop. If the show is packed then I’m going to be jumping on top of people. Sometimes people just want to hang out but we’re doing our job. They respect that we’re working and we have merch to do, we have to load our gear. We’re at work when we’re at the venue. It’s not like we’re just lollygagging around. It’s like visiting your friend that works at Hard Rock Cafe. You can’t just sit there and talk to them the whole time.
What’s your favorite part about being on the road?
It’s really cool to see more people at the shows. We’ve been doing this on our own for a long time. We were touring DIY from 2010 until 2014 when we signed with a label. We hired a merch person. We used to do all the merch ourselves when we first started but that’s because nobody was coming to the shows! It was easy. We played Lancaster, Pennsylvania without a merch person and we about lost our minds. We didn’t know how to do it anymore. We had some friends help us out. We realized from that alone that it’s nice to see a full house and not always having to play hole in the wall dive bars. Even if it’s a small venue it’s nice to see it packed. Another thing that’s really cool is the music is starting to reach people and we’re getting to meet more people at the shows.
What is the most challenging part of touring?
The hardest thing is just those long drives. Taking pee breaks at gas stations and brushing your teeth at a Love’s Travel Stop. I think guys have an easier time being on the road and just being dirty boys. Girls … me and the merch girl are like “We are getting a motel room tonight. We are not sleeping in a Walmart parking lot!” You need some sanity and a nice, safe place. Especially when you’re on the road for seven months.
So much has changed for the band since signing with a label. How do you look back on the past couple of years?
It’s very surreal. It’s like “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” You just can’t see everything. You can’t hear everything. It’s hard to grasp being on the radio, or being nominated at an awards show. It’s hard to put into words. I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it on the next record!
The look of the band has definitely evolved over the years. Was that a conscious decision on your part?
There were some people at the label that steered me away from certain things. I was a little lost and needed some guidance. I change my hair color like the seasons. Having blonde hair for two years has been crazy. It’s been blue, purple, black. I used to think, “Ok, we’re playing a new tour. Let’s do something completely different.” I have learned to stay consistent and stick with something we all like. When I need a hair color fix – I like to dye it a lot – I’ll just put fills in when I get home and get my blue and pink and it washes out in a couple of days and I’m fine. I’ve got to hang out with myself 24/7 and I get bored with myself! I’ve got to do something new so I’ll just get a new tattoo or a new hobby or something.
Sometimes your voice reminds me of a heavy metal Gwen Stefani.
I love it! I love Gwen. She’s a hero.
Who are some of the artists that influenced you early on and are there others you’ve grown to appreciate more over time?
It’s really weird. My dad listens to the Beatles. My mom listens to country. I found heavy music in middle school. I found my neighbor’s dad’s CD collection and he had Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera and stuff like that. I fell in love with that stuff. I’d take a CD from his house and listen to it all the time and was curious about that kind of music. Another weird thing is when I started playing guitar when I was 15, I started playing jazzy kind of stuff. So I started singing a jazzy vocal over it. It wasn’t really the style of music I wanted to do. I had other bands – there were two punk bands I tried to do. It wasn’t until Stitched Up Heart that I knew what direction I wanted to take. This is what I want to do. This is the music I would listen to. Heavy music with a unique vocal style, kinda poppy melodies with a little screaming. It evolves and the music in this band is evolving. It’s more “grown up,” as I like to say.
During the show you mentioned Kitten Rescue. Would you care to tell me about it?
Absolutely. When we were writing Never Alone I started to find myself internally. I realized that I wasn’t all that great of a person. What was I doing to help people? I felt selfish. Everything was take, take, take. There are things you can do to help the world so I opened my eyes and started to give back. I started fostering little baby kittens. KittenRescue.org is based out of Los Angeles and they specialize in orphaned kittens that need foster homes and need to be bottle fed. I fell in love with this organization and last year we raised thousands of dollars by donating a percentage of merch sales. It’s been cool to have people at shows be inspired to help other animals. Inspire other people to want to do something to help and give back. We’d love for other people to take note and do something they believe in that can help the world and make it a better place.