A voice to be Seen And Heard: An Interview with vōx

Originally released online for Jute Magazine, August 15, 2018.
Interview: Rebecca Cramer; Photographer:  Carly Foulkes; Clothing: Hannah Kristina Metz; Makeup: Francesca Martin

vox1If music is a conduit for spirit, Los Angeles based vōx is a ground wire. Her debut EP I Was Born dropped to acclaim in May of 2017. It’s “complex set of songs about coping with anxiety and discovering the power within.”  Her music and performances speak to a lost sense of sacred for many. Often performing in churches, veiled in vintage wedding attire, her shows have been described as mystical and transformative. When not on stage, vōx spends her time writing and arranging music in her LA home. She has been selected to attend this year’s Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin. We were recently able to catch up with her and get a bit of a glimpse into the enigmatic chanteuse.

RC: Congratulations on being selected to attend the Red Bull Academy, how amazing and exciting! Can you tell our readers about the Red Bull Academy?

vōx: Thank you! Red Bull Music Academy is like the perfect academy for up and coming musicians. They have lectures, studio sessions and live performances. Thousands [of artists] from all around the world apply, and this year, which happens to be the 20th anniversary, they’ve chosen 61 applicants. It’s in a different location each time, but this year it’s in Berlin because that was the first location they ever had it! I have been to Berlin. It’s one of my favorite cities. But I haven’t performed there yet, so I’m very excited about that! I think that people who live in Berlin are so open to interesting live performances. I think they’ll really understand who I am!

RC: I read that when you decided to take the stage name is vōx (pronounced “wokes”), it came from one of your own tattoos that you had gotten years earlier? Can you describe that epiphany?

vōx: Yes! vōx the Latin word for voice. I think the subconscious reason I got the tattoo was so I could have that moment of realization. I would have never discovered the name without it!

RC: Kismet?

vōx: Yes!

RC: You have mentioned that performing in churches is a way of “reclaiming” that space, were you raised religious? If so, what faith? -You also use the veils as a means of protection, and in the metaphoric sense of an altar, or shrine cloth. How important is the divine in your work?

vōx: Yes, I was raised religious as a child, but instead of feeling inclusive it always made me feel [that I was] on the outside. I think part of why I include religious imagery and perform in such spaces is to allow people who may have felt similarly to know that they’re welcome now. The divine is very important to what I do. I want my work to be love and spread love, to be as pure as possible in the sense that it is holy.

vox4

RC:  I love that your image and work brings a sacredness to the mundane. When you said “I think spirituality often doesn’t correlate with religion. I think of it more as being in tune with the world and its energies.” When you are composing do you feel like you are, in a sense, channeling the divine, a deeper part of your own soul? ..and are they necessarily different things?

vōx: Definitely! I think that in the sense of spirituality and purity of creation, it is channeling the divine. I write from a space outside myself and listen to what is trying to come through me. I usually don’t know what my own songs are about until much later.

I believe we all have the divine in us, so I don’t see it as different. It can feel like channeling from somewhere outside of yourself because I don’t think we often access the depths of ourselves.

RC: Do you think people don’t listen to themselves enough?

vōx: I think it can be hard no matter who you are — we live in a noisy world today. Many of us don’t get enough silence to really listen.

RC: How would you recommend they begin?

vōx: For myself, becoming more aware of the ways in which I avoid the present moment has helped me. Starting a meditation practice is probably the ideal way, but it can be very daunting. I’d recommend reading Thich Nat Hanh’s The Miracle Of Mindfulness and The Power Of Now : A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.

RC: What are you reading now?

vōx: I most recently read two books shedding light on strong female Middle Eastern voices. Gaddafi’s Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya by Annick Cojean and Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy. I would recommend them both very highly. I’m always looking to connect with different female voices. These two books are especially important, because we don’t get to hear the perspectives and the stories of Middle Eastern women often enough.

vox6

RC: You’ve been very open with your own struggles with depression, and you’ve have mentioned wanting to work with youth- to help them motor through the struggle of learning to adult (I have an 18-year-old) – Why do you think that it is so hard?  Do you feel like it is more challenging today? Why or why not?

vōx: I think it’s so hard because growing is painful. That will always be challenging. We have a long way to go with developing a schooling system that would teach us some of the most useful skills of all, things like emotional communication, meditation, self-worth, sensitivity. Those are things that would make being a teenager (and an adult!) at least a little easier to cope with.

RC: There is a quote along the lines of being a craftsman versus a hobbyist – a craft takes a lifetime, and endless work. It isn’t enough to just go with talent – it takes honing and practice – and hard work. How do you work on your craft?

vōx: I think the most important craft I have is songwriting. For most of my life it’s been my main form of expression. I started songwriting when I was around 12 or 13.

RC: The process. You write lyrics first, and from there melody?

vōx: Yes, I like to write lyrics first and then melody.

vox8

RC: Do you have a special place that you prefer to work in?

vōx: I always write music from home. I need to feel safe.

RC: If music’s intent is to evoke the senses, and yours have been defined as ethereal and “a beautiful spectacle” is there another image or feeling you feel? Or is that pretty spot on?  Is there something you feel people are missing, or glossing over? Who do you want the audience to know you as? Who are you? 

vōx: I hope aside from the spectacle, people feel the openness and acceptance. That’s what I’m always trying to channel.

Follow vōx on Instagram and check our her music on Spotify!

vox2

photographer: Carly Foulkes

clothing: Hannah Kristina Metz

makeup: Francesca Martin

A Week At The Opera

I recently had the extreme pleasure of working on the hair and makeup crew for Seattle Opera’s acclaimed production of Porgy and Bess.

What a joy.

img_1346-1
Soprano Angel Blue performing as Bess

For a little over a week, I made the almost daily commute to and from Seattle, by ferry, to paint five extremely talented faces of the chorus.

img_1307
So much makeup!

It was chaotic and exciting, (one of the hottest weeks in the Pacific Northwest, to boot!), exhilarating…exhausting, and overall a truly beautiful experience. I am so fortunate to have been able to witness the performance ripen during the informality and rough spots of Tech Week on into the polished richness of Opening Night.  I met some truly amazingly talented people, both on stage, and behind the scenes; and got to reconnect with an old high school buddy.

img_1351
Waiting in the wings

Unfortunately, I had to bow out of completing the run, as my beloved Eugenia Jeep is now at Car Hospital in Tacoma; and the commute was just too frustrating to do without a car — big city commuter I am not.  But I will always be grateful for the connections I made and the work I did that week I spent at the Opera.

img_1309
Plus, there was cake!

Sometimes I write poetry

Tahlequah’s Daughter 

What sort of resolve does it take
to keep your own head afloat after the loss of a mother?
…Or a child?

What is that magic combination
of will and tenacity
that can reignite a drive to go on
without.
What does it take to swim
Deep
into
the depths –
and haul the sinking to the surface
push them along in reverence
while the waves crash and rock in protest
threatening your own demise

Is it instinct?
obsession?
Love?
Doesn’t love lift us?
Buoyant.
Doesn’t love awaken?
Embolden

Doesn’t love penetrate the darkness,
down into the depths
And reach down to say,
You
Must
Go
On.

Eventually, you must leave the darkness-
There is no air there.
Eventually, you must let go
and swim solo
back to the surface
Leave the dead behind
(there is no air there)
and be again.

Ferry life

Today is my first day as a member of the hair and makeup crew for the Seattle Opera. As we live on the opposite side of Puget Sound, getting to Seattle is either a two hour drive (unless there is traffic- in which case take on exponential sit in traffic time), or a 20 minute drive and a 30 minute drive on-ferry.

I love the ferry. And any chance I can get to be on a boat, I’m in. But until today, all our ferry excursions were mostly for fun. This time, is different. This time, I’m a commuter.

I feel a certain solidarity with the other commuters using this extra time to prepare for the day. Today, I ate my lunch (thanks honey!), painted my fingernails, and spied on the other ferry folk. It is pretty easy to diss out the tourists from the commuters. Tourists tend to dress, touristy; commuters tend to stay in their cars and use the time to their advantage (like, painting one’s nails!).

Seattle in the distance

I have had far worse commutes (Evergreen to Denver in the snow? No thanks!), this feels more like the spa equivalent of commuting. Quiet. Cool. Stunning views…

I think I could get used to this.

….six hours later….

Yeah, not too shabby a commute…Sunset over Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound

Is your refrigerator running?

Back in the pre-caller ID days, prank calls were how many of us (especially those in less exciting places) used to entertain ourselves. Sadly, caller ID squelched that wholesome form of entertainment for good.

A few weeks ago, while looking in to insurance I accidentally signed on to one of those National BS calling lists, and now, I get scads of calls daily from these assholes (yes, they are assholes. Hold that thought on my judgement). I have blocked several numbers they call from. I’ve told them to take me off their lists. Yet, they still call. And yes, they are assholes. I have raged with several of them, and tried to be kind, stern, and firm, yet still their “policy” seems to be argue, and then hang up.

Today, I take back my phone line.

I have started calling THEM.

At first, it started as a “I’d like to speak with your manager/customer service/ can you give me the phone number to your customer service.” All of these requests are met with argument (“We don’t have a supervisor.”) and an eventual click.

So I’m going to start prank calling them.

And I thought it would be hilarious to have others do the same. Here is a list of the numbers.

‭+1 (360) 268-8523‬

‭+1 (360) 249-9946‬

‭+1 (360) 266-5328‬

In case you need a little inspiration…

World’s Best Prank Calls.

People of the world!

Spice up your life!
I came across these fun graphics while looking for a compendium of what are “must have” spices -we have a good base, but I’d like to try some other less familiar combos.  Plus, for the first time ever, I am going to actually clean my spice collection out;  dumping and replacing the less than fragrant bottles; refilling the empties, and cleaning and labeling them all (Oooh! An art project too!); and also expanding to include some less familiar spices. We have the most amazing grocery in Poulsbo, Central Market, (their parent company, Town & Country Markets has a  heartwarming back story) with more bulk items of more variety than I am won’t to have seen before.  I’ll be buying my replacements and new herbs/spices there. I’m super excited!

cook-smarts-guide-to-flavoring-with-spices_543325358c24f
CookSmarts Guide to Flavoring with Spices

While looking for a recipe for a jerk spice blend, I came across these fun kitschy kitchen info-graphics! I mean, who doesn’t love a chart?! If I had more wall space in my kitchen I would frame them. As it is, if I use this handy dandy chart as a guide to stocking my spice larder, we are in pretty good shape. I love that they pair spices/herb with different key flavor profile. This is the kind of thing that makes me long to teach Home Economics!

I don’t usually use dry ginger- I try to keep fresh, or at the very least a tube of it in the fridge. (Side note: when retrieving a link for the ginger paste, I found this. Daikon paste?)

Not only is there the lovely guide for your basic stocked spice cabinet, but there are also, info graphics for 1- Spices by Cuisine; 2- Flavor Profiles; and 3- A guide to Aromatics.
😮

Aromatics are combinations of  very specific combos  for different signature flavor profile groups. For example: “the trinity” in Louisiana cooking- celery, bell pepper, and onion; originated from the French Mirepoix (celery, carrot, and onion); and there are both Latin, and Italian Sofritos –really quite fascinating. An Italian Sofrito, is only different from a Mirepoix in that it is cooked in Olive Oil rather than butter. Huh. These combos are what give us those signature flavors we look for in different cuisines.

By this point, I am wondering what genius academy went to all this amazing graphic work to sketch out this wealth of knowledge in such succinct tasty morsels? CookSmarts. I’d never heard of ’em. But I like what I see.  Their About page declares:

“The kitchen can be a stressful place if no one ever taught you how to cook”

Huh.
…and further that they are “here to empower you with the know-how and tools to live your best life in the kitchen because a simple home cooked meal can be the source of greater health, happiness, and community.”

I want to find out more information about them. They offer a “free trial”, so I signed up. The membership levels were a bit vague. Despite the 6.00 a month (72.00 up front) being the most popular, I went with the free one. I will share results in upcoming posts… so stay tuned!!!

More charts! For good measure:
😉

<3B

A little light..

I am super stoked about this Little Window. I’ve been working on her for a long while. The little figure was something from my Aunt’s. She is hanging out in a bespoke shea butter tin. The moon is an antique carved shell button; the small frame was on an icon I picked up somewhere; and the rest is just craft fluff.

I’ve been mulling over and over what she was gonna look like. I thought seed beads rain drops. I knew I wanted a garden at night, in the rain. But she really just came together a few weeks ago. Once I split the moon, the rest just fell into place.

Think “I wandered lonely as a cloud” set in a moist rose garden. She is lost in her thoughts. It’s melancholy, intentionally.

I love how she turned out. I have a few more edits to make, but I am happy to introduce, Moondance, or maybe Mandy Moondance….?

Holding on to Hope

After the baby jails I had to disconnect. I’d already had one breakdown this year, let us not court another. SO I have had to unplug a bit more.  Which is hard, because it is very easy to not pay attention, in an effort to avoid the subsequent ennui.   I’ve read this article a few times now, and it is very validating (I am also seeing a therapist. She is awesome.), because the existential fear  is really real.  There is about half a country drowning in it right now. There are ways to help yourself, and others, endure. Thank you to Johnathon Foiles for your encouraging article How to Hold on to Hope

Making the “…crap into credible*”

I started making tiny shrines a few years ago. I have been a found item pack rack for a while, not a full on horder, mind you, I am very particular in what I salvage. Weathered nuts and bolts; odd bits of metal; springs; tiny things – cars, babies, doll parts…
These things are casts offs. Sometimes intentional, sometimes accidental but all things that were once part of something else. So I make them part of something  new, again.

This was my first shrine. I made it about four years ago.  It’s rough and my Mom thought it was a bit sacrilegious. The Baby Jesus came out of a King Cake from Mardi Gras one year.  Seems more so to just throw it away, in my opinion.

Initially, I intended my shrines to be a way of honoring other religions, recognizing the beauty and the sacred, present in even little cast off bits.
I have since reconsidered the project, and am calling them Petites Fenêtres or “little windows” it suits them better. They aren’t restricted in what they are trying to accomplish- which is simply to appreciate an alternative view.

*Edina Monsoon