Stitched Up Heart recently released To The Wolves, their latest album via Century Media Records. Metal Contraband’s Chelsea spoke with frontwoman Mixi about the making of the album, the creative process behind the music videos, and more. Check it out below:
Chelsea here, excited to be joined by Mixi from Stitched Up Heart. How are you doing today?
I’m doing awesome. How are you?
Doing great, thank you. I’ve been listening to some of the hints of To The Wolves that we’ve been getting. It’s the third album from you guys, it’s going to be coming out on September 1st from Another Century Records. Stitched Up Heart has grown so much so quickly, so congrats on the completion of your third album. Just start off with your feelings right now that the album is just about to be released.
Yeah, we’ve done a lot of growing and still a lot more room to grow. I got all the emotions that you would get when you’re about to show people all of this work that you’ve been doing behind the scenes. And, you know, the lyrical content for me is coming out of places that I don’t usually talk about, so I sing about it. And I feel like it’s just a lot of emotions, good energies, nervous energies. I’m just really excited. It’s been about a year since we’ve been done with the record. So actually having people hear it is interesting because it doesn’t exist yet to most people, yet I’ve been listening for a year. So it’s going to be really exciting, and I hope people like it.
Definitely. I mean, people are already loving what we’re hearing so far, the three singles and music videos that are out. But yeah, that must be such a fun feeling to be holding on to it for a year, and then finally just kind of release it out to the world.
It is, it’s so weird. It’s like you created all this stuff, and visuals and photos and videos and everything. And I was very focused on the visual aesthetic of the whole record with the lyrical content in mind. And so, it’s like one giant art piece that’s slowly being like, you know, shown and eventually revealed to the world. And so it just…I’m passionate about it.
That’s excellent. I can hear the passion in your voice about it already. So can you tell me a little bit more about this lyrical content and where that kind of came from for you?
Yeah, we were watching a lot of vampire werewolf movies. Let me just start with that. Can’t tell at all. But we were watching a lot of Underworld, and I wanted this record to be fierce and more of like…I guess I was feeling aggressive and I just wanted it heavier and I made everybody do that. *laughs* We were just very much in an aggressive headspace, and visually I kept pulling from different monsters like vampires, werewolves, and imagining the human emotion, the emotion of the monsters that we kind of have inside of us. They’re out for blood or they’re out for vengeance or whatever, I usually tap into a lot of human emotion. And I think that this was the more aggressive side. So the beasts and the monsters. I don’t think we’re all angels. And so I just felt like being authentic about the fact that yeah, I got a little devil on my shoulder too.
Definitely. And that fits right in with the genre, of course, of rock and metal. But it’s also an interesting thing to explore, especially when you’ve got a lot of horror movies floating around you too, I’m sure.
Yeah, I was really into Underworld and it was, I just kept playing it over and over, like all the movies over and over. I hope that they write another one, but it’s perfect timing with all of what’s going on with Wednesday coming back, and bringing back that dark goth kind of thing and The Crow and Beetlejuice, and I just feel like it’s a great time to love the darker aesthetics of the horror and stuff like that.
Absolutely, yeah and I mean, for all three of your new videos you had the same director, I noticed, Tony Aguilera, who has done some very cool visual art also along that dark goth kind of vibe, so how did you first connect with him?
Well, it was actually kind of weird. So he’s in Arizona and I think that the label and management knew of him, and he just happened to be available during that time and we wanted to shoot as many music videos as we could with a certain budget. And we were like, all right, we’re going to put out like a week. We’re going to write, I wrote four music video kind of structures in three weeks. We had a week to shoot all four of the music videos. And it’s, I mean, I don’t know if you know, but planning a music video usually takes months and months, but he was just like, no, you could come in like in the morning and we’ll shoot a music video.
Just dig right in. *laughs*
So yeah, he’s a super artsy creative guy. And he likes to play with a lot of camera angles, and different lenses, and broken glass and like…stuff like that makes it really cool. So he also did our photos as well, and we loved the photos so much that we decided to give them the music videos, and I’m so glad we did.
Yeah, some great results there, and it’s cool that you guys are also involved hands-on. You said that you wrote the structure, do you have a storyline in mind or just maybe a general aesthetic in mind when you’re getting into these?
Yeah, so you know you have the performance parts of the music video, which I feel like you need to have that in the heavy music. And then a little storyline that kind of goes in with the lyrics, and since I kind of understand my lyrics more than anyone, I tried to just come up with the concepts and just storyline/performance, storyline/performance, storyline/performance. And then Tony just worked his magic and really brought what I was trying to explain to him to life. We only talked to him the night before we were about to start everything. I didn’t get to go over anything. So the fact that it came together as amazing as it did, we’re very lucky.
That’s great. It’s kind of like one of those things where the stars align and it all just plays out.
Exactly, it was perfect. So Tony Aguilera, if anybody’s in Arizona, that guy rules.
Awesome. So the most recent single and music video we’ve seen is “Immortal”. I love the style of the song – musically, like Alternative meets Heavy Metal meets Metalcore, it’s just a great blend. So can you talk about some of the ideas behind that track?
Oh, yeah, it’s so much fun. That song is so much fun. We just, we really wanted to push our boundaries of how heavy we could go. There’s never been a song that I almost predominantly scream the whole thing. So we just wanted to try and see what would happen. And I’ve been working on my screams and trying to get the lows and the highs and the mids and different placements, and so with that song we were just like, “All right, let’s go as heavy as we possibly can”. I mean, I’m sure we could go heavier, but this was as heavy as we’ve gone so far, so maybe this is the segue. But it’s like one of my favorite songs, because it’s just so much fun. And I think “Possess Me”, our guitar player is very much into the Industrial world, and he loves Black Metal and Death Metal, and we just wanted to bring all of that together. And I do understand that, yeah, it’s kind of weird to be in a metal band and throwing synths in like, programming and stuff in there as much as we like, but that’s just what we like. And at the end of the day, we’re never gonna make everybody happy, so we have to make ourselves happy and write what we like, whether or not somebody doesn’t like synths. That’s the music, don’t listen to it then. *laughs*
Exactly, right? That’s part of it, that’s part of your style. *laughs* In general, I think you guys use melody very well because every track, no matter how heavy it gets, manages to have a hook, a catchiness that’s memorable and something that people can sing along with at shows.
Yes, I feel like for me personally what I like is, I really like a lot of screaming with a catchy melody that you can sing along with. I feel like there needs to be for me what I personally like. I feel like having, even if it’s just the chorus or it’s just a bridge part or something, you know, some Killswitch Engage kind of thing, where you sing and scream. I love hearing the dynamics of that. And, you know, from the belting to the soft vocal to just dynamics in general, personally, I like, and having something that’s memorable, like a melody that’s memorable, that you’ll be humming it later and be like, “Oh, it’s stuck in my head”. And that’s when you know it’s a good song, you know?
Definitely. Although at live shows, I’m sure you also hear people trying to scream along with the screaming parts. I know I hear that in metal shows a lot.
Yeah, it’s great. Should put the mic up to the mouths. We all sound amazing in the car.
Of course. Yeah, that’s when the best vocals come out, right? Well, it’s good practice anyway, when you are a vocalist, it’s definitely good to just scream it out in the car as much as you can.
I do. I actually, that’s how I’ve been working on my screams a lot lately. I was listening to a lot of Motionless In White. I was listening to a lot of old school Asking Alexandria and stuff like that to just work on…My vocal coach is just a singing vocal coach. So she helps me with that end, which I still have work to do. But when it comes to screaming, I feel like if you try to emulate how they’re doing it, it’s gonna sound different with the microphone, live and stuff, but if you can kind of try to feel where their voice is when you’re screaming, you can kind of sense where the placement is. And so if you can pay attention to it, so you can learn just by singing, screaming along to your favorite band.
Definitely, and if you have the foundations of getting that singing training and coaching, you can make sure you’re not also hurting your voice along the way while you’re trying to get into those screams. You’re not forcing it, you’re using your own techniques and just kind of expanding it.
Right. And I’m the worst when it comes to being technical, yeah, I’m so bad at that. I’m the worst, like a vocal coach’s worst enemy, and it’s like, “Great, I gotta teach this girl how to sing?”. Just joking aside, but no, you can get yourself in some trouble with the screaming and with especially all those dynamics, the high notes and the belting and stuff all together if you don’t take care of it and do it properly.
Well, I also wanted to ask you about your choice to sing and play guitar for your live shows as well, especially since for a lot of the music videos, the focus is more on you as a vocalist. So did you always do both singing and guitar, or did one come before the other for you?
Yes, I got my first guitar at 15 years old, got lessons and everything from my dad. And I learned, you know, some basic stuff on the guitar and started writing songs in my bedroom. I was too nervous to play them out in front of people. So I would like, you know, force myself three nights a week to just go to open mic nights in Florida and just play acoustically in front of people. And it was nerve-wracking because it didn’t come naturally as far as playing and performing in front of people, but the writing was always there. So I just had to force myself and the more I did it, the more it kind of turned into a separate person that goes on the stage, versus me who’s awkward. And then when the band started, everybody’s so good. I mean, it’s like metal guitar. It’s not like power chords and the stuff that I would play, open chords and things like that. And so I wanted the guitar parts to be more intricate. So I just kind of backed away from that for a while. And I realized some of the songs are not that difficult to play on guitar, and sing and play at the same time. So as long as I don’t have to switch guitars, I don’t have to retune everything like crazy, then I can sing and play at the same time. It’s really not as hard as I thought it would be.
I mean, it definitely comes across as intimidating as well. And I feel like drums have always looked intimidating to me too, because you’ve got all limbs working at once. It’s like anything where we have to focus on multiple parts of different instruments, it could definitely be challenging. But you definitely pull it off. It doesn’t seem challenging when you’re doing it.
Oh, thanks. Well, the songs that I play are pretty easy, but *laughs*, but I’m never going to play “Immortal”, I’ll practice it till the day I die, and I’ll probably never play that one live.
That’s okay. You’re just focused on your screaming for that one. You’re good. So also, I want to talk to you about the production side because Kevin Thrasher from Escape the Fate produced To The Wolves, and now you guys are going on tour with them soon. So tell me about the connection there, and what do you feel he did for the band as producer?
Oh my God, so our management is Powerline Management, and Escape the Fate’s under the same management. So we kind of grew slightly friends over the pandemic because we were on Twitch and streaming and stuff. And Kevin is, you know, he’s producing for Machine Gun Kelly and he just did Gwen Stefani’s new single. Like he’s…definitely kicking some butt out there in producer world. So he cleared out his schedule for two days and we went over there, and we wrote two songs, “Taste for Blood” and “To the Wolves” really fast. We bounced off each other so fast creating those songs as far as the structure, the skeletal structure of it goes. And then we were talking about features, and I brought it up to management like, hey, why don’t we just have Craig on it? I mean,Kevin’s on it. So then, together, it’s Escape the Fate pretty much, like half the band. And Craig was totally down, which we both didn’t expect, because he just did a bunch of features. So it was super, super cool of him. And then he came in and did the music video, and now he’s taking us out on tour. And I’m like, “Dude! I owe ya, big time”. So yeah, he really went to bat.
That’s great. I mean, I’m sure he appreciates you guys’ talents, and realizes that you’re a good band to be helping to bring up on the way there as well. So I also saw some pictures on the Stitched Up Heart Instagram that you guys met Danny Elfman the other night, and he’s such an icon. That must have been such a fun show. Just wanted to ask you about that.
Oh my goodness. That was so random. So, our guitar player is very much into film scoring and composition, and television and trailers and music in film. And Danny Elfman is obviously one of his favorites. His sister’s an actress and she is dating this director that is really good friends with Luis Guzmán, who’s the dad on Wednesday? And he got tickets to the show, but he couldn’t make it, so he asked him if he wanted the tickets, and it was last minute. Yes, of course. We’re going to the show. But, we didn’t realize it was like, VIP backstage, all the things. So we were sitting next to crazy cool people, I don’t know what any of them do, but they look like they do stuff. And it was just a wild performance. I mean, Danny Elfman is just ripped now. He just turned 70. The man is just swole and tattooed to the brim and grew out his hair. Like, he really took that pandemic seriously and killed it. He killed it. Like, if I can do that at 70, that’d be sick. And then we just ended up backstage, and the publicist for Luis came up to us and she was like, we didn’t know what to do. I don’t want to talk to Danny. I’m so awkward. Why would I just go up and talk to the guy? I need people to approach me because I’m just, I don’t know, weird. And she’s like, “what are you doing over here? Danny’s right over here, come talk to him”. And I’m like, “okay!” And then the weird thing is this – our guitar player, Merritt, before we were on our way there, I was like, “what would you say to Danny if you met him?”, not thinking we would actually meet the guy. And it’s like I predicted it.
I was going to say, you must have known, some part of you knew that was gonna happen.
It was so strange. And it was like, he hadn’t played in 30 years, performed live. So it was super cool. And we both didn’t know what to say. I started talking to him about tattoos, because he’s all inked up now. And I would have talked to him for hours. I feel like we could have hung out, but there were so many people that wanted his attention. I couldn’t take the whole night from him, you know? So hopefully we’ll meet again.
Well, that’s still fun though. You had an experience, you got a story now, and you got to hang with Danny for a while. So that’s cool.
So back to today and upcoming, To The Wolves, what’s up next for Stitched Up Heart right now?
We are gonna get out there and tour, probably as much as we possibly can. If it was up to me, I would be out every single day in every single state and city in the world and country. And I just wanna be out there on the road right now. I miss it. And yeah, that’s the plan. Just get out there and play these songs.
Good stuff. Well, it’s definitely something to look forward to. And of course, you know, at this point in time, the album hasn’t been released yet. So there’s still more tracks to look forward to for everyone to hear. But, right now we’ve got three amazing singles and music videos to enjoy. And we’ll look forward to seeing you guys out on the road.
Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for chatting with me.
Thanks for joining me today, I appreciate your time.