The pandemic has affected the lives of everyone, everywhere. As a media outlet, I was looking for ways to continue Eclectic Arts during this trying time. As you've read by now, EA has released several BRAND NEW interviews which I am eternally grateful for.
Now, the interview below is with one of my favorite bands AL1CE! I reached out to vocalist Tash Cox about doing this interview a few weeks ago. During the course of completing the interview, she surprised me by inviting me to join their upcoming INSIDE/OUT virtual tour which I was honored but also a little hesitant about. I tend to overthink things and I wanted to make sure I could handle the workload. But, after that feeling went away, I jumped at the chance. So, yes, you will be seeing Eclectic Arts LIVE (via stream) starting on May 22nd - all courtesy of the amazing folks in AL1CE!
Please enjoy reading the interview below. It is thorough and in depth. It really speaks to the amazing qualities of the band and why I am so excited to be a part of their virtual tour. :)
Eclectic Arts: Greetings Tash! How are you and everyone in the AL1CE camp? What are you doing to keep yourself busy/sane during this unprecedented time?
Tash Cox: Hi, Mark! It’s wonderful to reconnect with you! :) We’re all doing ok, figuring things out day by day. Music has always had a wonderful way of keeping us sane and busy. ;) We’re getting ready to launch a virtual tour, in tandem with 2 new music videos and 2 song releases that are slated to be released on May 15, June 1st, and June 15th. Needless to say, all these endeavors are keeping us extremely busy…in a good way!
EA: (laughs) I am never surprised by the amount of projects AL1CE is always working on. It is inspiring. I remember you and Sasha telling me that you’re all “do-ers” and that is certainly the case!
EA: I know that the band has new material recorded - a double album I believe? Please tell me more about the composing and recording process of the new material.
TC: Yes, we decided after the 3 years of touring on The Thirteenth Hour album (our last released album) that we wanted to really unplug from playing live and go back to our roots in Joshua Tree. We originally conceived of the concept of AL1CE while on a camping trip in Joshua Tree and decided we wanted to return to the beautiful desert terrain for inspiration and stillness. We were there for a week and came up with 17 songs that dealt with themes of so much of what we had been going through collectively for the past several years. We have all experienced loss in some ways, so we delved into themes about loss, the tree of life, the breaking of chains, and ultimately finding freedom; we decided that we’d make these songs into a double album called “As Above, So Below.” We came back to LA to really dive into the recording and set ourselves up between Steve’s, Gordon’s, and Scott’s studios. We each have our own idea of sound and aesthetic, so having the 3 studios gave us all a chance to create sounds that we all loved before merging them into the big picture of each song. The mixing/mastering was done mostly by Scott and Gordon, but we all had a hand in shaping the collective sound and vibe. In the AL1CE universe, we like to function as a fully collaborative unit, making sure everyone’s ideas are heard.
EA: So with the double album being all new material, what happened to the cover album idea? I remember seeing something about that online.
TC: So I like to take the approach of flow in all my creative endeavors. When I write a new song, sometimes I think it’ll be about one thing, but by the end of it, it’ll be about something else. I find that if I try too hard to fix the concept in a box that I can get really stuck in trying to finish it. With the cover album idea, we originally thought we were going to make this album into a mixed one with covers and originals. However, when we got to Joshua Tree, we ended up creating much more original material than we planned for (I guess we had a lot to say ;) ). So we decided to shift gears, use a few covers in this release, but also create a home for this album as its own entity, as the songs all fit together in a very specific way. I’m sure we’ll return back to the cover album concept once we finish the current one we’re on…we’ll see where the flow takes us. ;)
EA: With live events on hold, what are your plans to promote the new album(s)?
TC: We unfortunately had to cancel our Southwest tour in April, which would’ve included our first date in Mexico. We had another Southeast/Midwest tour on deck for May/June and decided that rather than cancel it, we would convert it into a fully virtual tour. So we’ve been working with the other bands we would’ve played with, added more onto the bills (since we’re not limited by geography now! ;) ), and enlisted the venues and promoters to take part. As much as the live event community has been hurting, we hope to help raise funds for not just the artists but also for the venues and promoters behind the scene who enable our community and make live events possible. We have plans to host a livestream broadcast to various platforms between May 22 - June 15 and are very excited to explore a totally new platform for us!
EA: With the virtual tour, are you going to be changing the set-list every night then as I’ve seen other bands do on their virtual tours? Ditto outfits - or at least different outfits on back to back performance nights?
TC: Well, musically we’re definitely going to be changing things up every night. Also, it’s a real treat for me to be able to play an actual piano on this one…very excited about that! We have the ability to do some fun acoustic things and really get creative with how we put our sets together. We have a lot of material to draw from, so it’s great to have the chance to be able to share out more of the old and new songs in this format. Also, in terms of outfits, we have some fun ideas on deck, so we’ll be playing with different looks on our virtual tour. One of our friends, Damaris Valverde ( @itsdam_stylist ), is the amazing stylist behind the “Breathe” music video, and we worked with her to help piece together our looks for the 1NSIDE/OUT tour. I was also thrilled to be able to work with Ritual Fashion ( https://ritual.fashion/ ) to create masks for me and Sash that we’ll be wearing and singing in for these sets. ;)
EA: AL1CE became the focus band right when I got into AL1CE (2017). Those reading this may not understand what I mean. For those that don't know, can you take a minute to tell everyone about the other bands that feature AL1CE members?
TC: Well, AL1CE is part of something that we call The Alice Project, which is a collective of musicians and artists that we collaborate with. The 4 bands that encompass the musical side of The Alice Project include AL1CE, Bashrock (3-piece punk with Gordon, Scott, and Steve), Alice Underground (swing with the 5 of us plus Alex Mathias on sax), and Mankind is Obsolete (Gordon, Scott, myself, and Jon Siren on drums). We originally started this collective as a way to bring all our creative and musical pieces together, as we’ve been inspired to create in a lot of different styles and mediums.
EA: I’m sure this is like picking your favorite child, but is there one project that you enjoy even a teeny, weeny bit more than the others?
TC: You know, Sash and I have this fun game we play in rehearsal called. “No, THIS one’s my favorite!!” We truly love every song that we sing and play in the present moment that we perform it. I find that when learning repertoire from other composers and artists that to find the magic in it, I have to truly be in love with it. Each project that I’m involved with brings me joy in different ways. When I sing for Mankind is Obsolete, I feel this incredible sense of catharsis, as it’s been a place to hold a lot of heavier and darker emotions. When I sing in Alice Underground, I feel playful and light with tinges of bluesy longing. And when I sing for AL1CE, I feel like I’m transported to another universe. I think that each project has served so many of my different sides, and I feel that way as well about other artists that I get to collaborate with. :)
EA: One thing that I hold dear about you and your band mates is that all of you maintain a positive approach to everything you do. Of course there's times when things aren't so great - that's only being realistic. How do you and everyone else in AL1CE keep your spirits up when the chips are down?
TC: I find that allowing myself the freedom of emotions and expression is ultimately what brightens my spirit. In certain times, I may be dealing with a lot of darkness, but I find that if I allow myself the space to cry, to feel, to just be with my emotions and to really allow them to be heard in my writing and my music, that I invariably always feel better. Art and music are some of the most healing tools that I personally know of, and just taking the time to play my piano for 15 minutes on any given day is always a game changer for me.
I also have a deep appreciation for my band family and my community as well. We have been there for each other in innumerable ways, and I find that no matter how down I’m feeling, remembering to be grateful for the incredible people I’m surrounded with is a big part of what keeps me going.
EA: Without going into too much detail (unless you don't mind) - you've mentioned more than once that you were bullied in your formative years - horribly so. What was life like back then for a young Tash Cox? How did the bullying affect your adult life? (I was bullied so I do know something about this).
TC: Well, I didn’t have a lot of friends in my early life. I spent a great deal of time playing imagination games by myself, reading books, building unicorn nests in the backyard (unicorns lay eggs, you know ;) ), and playing my piano a LOT. I grew up in the classical world, so a lot of my time was spent preparing for competitions or recitals. I also was highly academic, so I also studied…a lot. The few friends I had meant the world to me, especially the ones who just accepted me as I was. I think in my adult life, it took some time to not be afraid of being seen. I didn’t want to be a singer at first, because I wanted to hide behind a keyboard. Being onstage without something to hide behind was initially terrifying for me. But the first time I tried it in Mankind is Obsolete as a singer, something came through me, and I felt fearless for the first time in my life. It was like I just became a part of a greater whole, with the music just flowing through me. And all the songs that I had written about things that meant something to me had a place to go.
I’m sorry to hear that you experienced bullying yourself. I feel like the bullying made me very sensitive and empathetic toward others as well. I always feel very uncomfortable to be in a room when there’s any kind of intentional meanness going on…it hurts my heart, because I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that. I like to live by the rule of kindness…being kind to others, kind to myself (not always easy, but I try! :) ), and to try to surround myself with people whom I consider to also be kind. The bullying I experienced in my early life made me truly grateful to encounter so many kind-hearted and really amazing people since then and also feel a soft spot for those who don’t quite fit in. I like to think of our tribe as a collection of misfits who somehow fit together.
EA: Thank you for sharing that. I think that others that have been bullied can empathize for sure. I know I can. Even though it happened years ago for me, I’ll never forget that feeling. And it directly impacted my teenage years and beyond.
EA: AL1CE members have their hands in many different creative projects outside of the bands. What are some of the skills and interests of the band (such as acting, writing children's books ;) , etc etc)?
TC: Well, I’m a big believer in the fact that you can find artistry, expression, and creativity in any field you endeavor in. We all come from a variety of fields and skill sets, and I find it interesting what we each are able to bring to the table from the fields that we draw from. Steve, as you know, is also an ER doctor…and probably one of the most level-headed and positive people I’m privileged to know. But aside from being the amazing drummer that he is, he also is an incredible song arranger and light programmer who can think of killer vocal harmonies (and has a killer voice himself, though I can’t seem to get him to wear a headset ;) ). Scott is also a brilliant composer, producer/engineer, and computer programmer. He’s written an app for me that I’ve used to book our tours called Tourouter. Any kind of programming on the back end or setting up of technical things comes from a collaboration between Scott and Gordon. Gordon is not only a gifted bassist, singer, and songwriter/composer, he also has been the musical director and bandleader for big bands, musicals, tv shows, and a whole slew of other musical projects that he’s involved with. Sasha is the mastermind behind our videos and visual aesthetic. She had her own dance company and has used her incredible prowess as director and visionary to make our music come alive through dance and the video medium. She also is an amazing actress and voice actress…I got to see her star in The Last Five Years and was blown away by the incredible passion and presence she brought to the stage. I myself am currently working on my next children’s book in the series I started, a novel in the works, and a screenplay, on top of the music. I’ve been finding myself veering heavily into the writing world, though I have it in me to enjoy theater, opera, and classical singing still. My classical work has been on hold with everything going on in the world, but I still love to sing that style on my own (thankfully my neighbors are very patient ;) ).
EA: So I’ve heard you talk about your classical upbringing and your background in the classical world. I can’t help but be intrigued by this. Can you in a nutshell go over that part of your musical background please? Like I can see you performing piano recitals and such. But what about voice? Were you singing classically and/or operatically too?
TC: When I was 9 months old, my parents heard me singing in tune in church. I grew up in a church that had no instruments, only a cappella singing. So I think I grew up with an innate sense of harmony from my upbringing. I was very fortunate to have parents who encouraged and cultivated the musical talent that they saw in me, and they started me on piano lessons when I was 2. Originally they thought about violin but couldn’t find a teacher who was willing to teach someone that young. No complaints from me though, I love the piano! So I took up classical singing more seriously after I started singing for Mankind is Obsolete. I was passionate about learning how to be the best singer I could possibly be in my own way, so I delved into as many styles as I could, studied from a variety of teachers, and got a hold of as many books as I could to help train my voice. I can geek out for hours about the voice! In any case, I joined a small opera company, singing chorus for The Magic Flute, and from there, dove more into the classical world. It brought together so much of what I love about art…live performance, theater, ensemble work, and an orchestra….what more can a girl ask for! So I managed to join various choral groups and opera companies for different projects and have had the great privilege of performing in what I consider to be dream concerts at Disney Hall, getting to sing with incredible musicians and singers and performing some of my favorite classical works. One particular choral group which is near and dear to my heart is the Donald Brinegar singers, conducted by my mentor, Donald Brinegar. The group is incredible, and I’ve learned so much about music and singing from him…I’ve definitely applied what I’ve learned about choral singing and intonation to my singing in AL1CE. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to reside in different musical worlds and appreciate what each one has taught me.
EA: AL1CE has always been a DIY band. Where does the drive come from to handle everything the band does on your own? Do you ever see a time where you sign with companies to handle particular aspects of your career?
TC: You know, Mark. One thing that living in LA has taught me is that you can’t wait around for other people to make your career. We’re very bombarded in this city by promises of opportunities that, to be quite frank, are often quite empty. When I first started singing in Mankind is Obsolete, Jon, our drummer, came from the DIY punk/metal community in Ohio and brought a lot of that ethos into the band. One of the first things we did as a band was record an EP, print some shirts, get a van, and hit the road. We really haven’t stopped doing that since then, though we’re definitely very upgraded from the first van we had, which couldn’t make right turns (not kidding on this one….we had to figure out how to make circles on streets to get where we were going. One-ways were always an adventure! ;) ) The idea and mentality of being DIY to me is that you have the power to create the art you want and make it however you want on your own terms. Granted, there are many advantages to having backing as a band, but why wait to try to be good enough or valid enough to share the art you’re passionate about? Touring and creating music is possible for any band. If we ever brought in other people to be a part of the AL1CE universe, it would have to feel just like that….like they were a part of the family in some way. I like to work with people who are equally driven and passionate in their respective fields, which is why I love the collaborations we’ve taken part in. I think that any business people we collaborate with are people I’d also consider to be artists in their own ways. All that being said, none of what we do would be possible without the incredible support from our community, and I’ve seen great acts of generosity from our supporters who have helped literally fuel and feed us as we continue on this journey.
EA: Is there video of this van? I can’t even imagine how you guys drove that thing around on tour (laughs).
EA: I was watching a music documentary and one of the band members said, "I don't want to play with any other guys - this is it". Do you feel the same way about the members of AL1CE? What if a member decided to leave the band - would you replace them or would that be it for the band?
TC: Whew. Difficult question. Well, to me AL1CE is what it is because of the hearts, minds, and spirits of all the members involved. It could never be what it is without all of us. That being said, who can really know what will happen even tomorrow, especially these days? I find as a human of 2020 that every day is a forever changing chapter. Every time I sit at my piano, a different tune comes out. Every time I open my mouth to sing or speak words, something different comes out, because I’m a different person from whom I was yesterday. So if any one of us were to not be a part of AL1CE, it wouldn’t be the same. But it’s something we all love so much and believe in so much that I think the group as a whole would continue to create together, no matter what. And that brings my heart great comfort, knowing that.
EA: When the show is over for AL1CE, as we know it, how do you want to be remembered as a band?
TC: Oh man. This question really draws at my heartstrings, because I can’t ever imagine a time without AL1CE. The thought of ending chapters are thoughts that make you really look at mortality. Over the years, I’ve approached my songwriting from a really deeply introspective and emotional place, but when I share out my art, it’s rare that I fully elaborate on what each song was about. I think I like the idea that every individual gets to have their own experience of the music and art as they choose to, in their own ways. It’s very meaningful to me when individuals tell me how our music has affected them positively, helped them in some way, or inspired their own lives. Making music with AL1CE has had that effect on me personally, and it makes me so happy to know that it could do the same for others. So I guess I hope that we’re remembered as something that has had a positive or inspirational impact in some way, even if it’s just a small ripple. ;)
EA: Tash - thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I still remember how I was sick in September 2018 when the band was here over Labor Day weekend (again). And the one that reeeeeeaaally got me bummed was the show in February of 2019 when I was all set to go to the Highline Bar only to be reminded I was scheduled for a different show the very same night (that had been rescheduled from the fall that I forgot about). I wrestled with that one for a long while.
In any event, I’m looking forward to the new videos, music, and virtual tour from AL1CE!
TC: We were super bummed to not get to hang out with you as well but totally understood! :) We’re so grateful for all the interactions we have with you in whatever form, Mark! We consider you to be a fellow kindred spirit and truly appreciate all that you offer as an insightful journalist and fellow artist. Thank you so much for your time and energy that you put into your work and for your beautifully thoughtful questions!
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