La-La Land

Stitched Up Heart singer rises from homelessness to rock 'n' roll goddess

Her story's familiar.

Aspiring artist moves to the City of Angels, eyes brightened by the dismal glitter of lights and stardom and success, and the shockingly perfect bloodlines and the overt displays of wealth. Then, the dream quickly disintegrates into pitiful despair; the road to glory is a path of shit.

If you're lucky, you still have a car to live in.

Such was the case for striking Stitched Up Heart singer Alecia "Mixi" Demner, who moved out to La-La Land from Florida with a boyfriend, aiming to leap into the big leagues. Before long, the relationship was over, and Mixi found herself homeless, the odds all stacked up.

"I wasn't underneath the freeway or anything, but my parents didn't know," Mixi says. "Sometimes I'd find a couch, and sometimes I'd pile up my clothes in the backseat of my car and park somewhere in Beverly Hills. Then I just got some silly job and got an apartment, and made sure that I never lost the apartment. L.A. is a tough town. It's very expensive to live out here, and it takes a lot of strength to be able to make it through and not run home screaming and crying to mom.

Returning to her parents in Florida would've have been the easy option. A warm bed, hot meal and mom's love is surely tempting if you're bedding down in a beater, even in the temperate L.A. weather. But then, going back to a life of empty bars didn't sound particularly attractive.

"I grew up playing acoustic open mic nights three nights a week out in Florida," Mixi says. "Trying to write my own songs, and doing my own thing. I played with some other people and had some bands, and I realized that Orlando wasn't really the place for me. I packed up my car, came out to L.A.. I tried different projects but I wasn't 100 percent into them. It took this band for me to think, 'This is it.'"

The homeless experience turned to wisdom for the singer—an extreme, dangerous negative that she'd wrenched into a positive. Now she knows the value of every good thing that comes her way.

"I think if anything is handed to you, you're not going to really understand the value," Mixi says. "I think that there's things in life that we just have to go through."

Mixi put the hard-charging, dark metal of Stitched Up Heart together in 2010, essentially as an outlet for the heartbreak and pain she'd suffered. The band was her free therapy, and it often sounds like catharsis that way, screaming and chugging guitars, big, gusty vocals, thundering rhythm section. It was her way of saying, "enough is enough."

The first four years saw members coming and going. The original lineup consisted of musicians that Mixi met at a Hollywood bar, a recruiting method that goes either way in L.A.

"It wasn't the best chemistry," Mixi says. "It didn't work out, and after a couple of months I was at square one again. The drummer (James Decker), I met before the band started and he was in a lot of bands at the time. He was like, 'We've got to do this. I believe in what you're doing.' We put the guys together, though we've had a couple of people leave since because they wanted a 'real job.' We're really happy with the members we have now, and hopefully they'll stick around. You never know how people's lives change."

As the lineup stabilized, the music evolved into a more melodic and winsome pop-metal. Her voice is as influenced by her love of jazz and blues singers such as Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald, as the female metal bands to which Stitched Up Heart is so often compared (Evanescence, In This Moment, The Pretty Reckless, Halestorm). This tat-and-leather combo successfully straddles the line between artistically interesting and extremely marketable. That said, L.A. is tough, and there are a ton of metal bands on the circuit. How did she rise above the cultural white noise?

"I'm pretty good with social media," she says emphatically. "I figured out how to get people that had never heard of you before to hear you. I figured out all these ways through networking with people on social media."

She adds, "If a show is free in L.A., they'll come. Now, with the label ... it makes it easier."

Ah yes, the label. Stitched Up Heart signed to Another Century, the alt-rock imprint of the metal-focused Century Media Records, in 2015, thanks to Mixi's networking skills (and songwriting and performing). She says the label helped "guide me in the right direction." The band's relationship with the label is working out swimmingly: Stitched Up is quickly becoming a top rock-club draw with 50k spins a month (and rising) on Spotify.

As Stitched Up Heart has gone from local bar band status to a national force, Mixi has noticed a disturbing trend at the radio stations and their listeners, suggesting that rock crowds aren't as progressive as we'd think in 2017, or the attitude toward some rock 'n' roll is still backdated and sexist.

"Stations don't always want to play a lot bands with girl singers, because then the whole thing is going to be girls," she says. "There's still a little bit of that. Maybe I need to sing more like a dude? The bigger that we grow as a band, the more I come across that kind of stuff. I believe from talking to stations that the listeners are going to be like, 'Okay, I've just heard a girl singer and now there's another girl singer—what is this? The girl-rock station?'"

That's horrifying. Mixi isn't one to mope though; rather, she insists that the only way to combat that sort of bullshit is to rule sonically. She'll keep proving herself over and over again, despite that she shouldn't have to work harder than dudes. It's her never-say-die 'tude that lifted the band's powerful debut album, last year's Never Alone. It aids the live show too.

"We really try to put everything we have into the show," Mixi says. "There have been times when we've been on the road for months and I think that I'm going to take it easy, and then I just give it everything ... I can't not give everything.

This week's Tucson stop will be, in fact, Stitched Up Heart's first gig in this city, on their first headlining tour, and Mixi is looking forward to playing somewhere new, and meeting new folks. When this run of shows is over, the band will get to working on the follow-up to Never Alone.

"We're six or seven songs in [to the new album]," Mixi says. "I'll be creating musical babies."