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A San Diego all-women band releases a haunting and anthemic new album this week (but don’t ask to carry their stuff). Plus poetry, speakeasies, beer writing shakeups and more local culture news.
“Walking Wounded,” the first track on Hexa’s forthcoming album, “Sigil Sine,” begins with tension.
Synth notes strain across a low organ refrain, building until the vocals kick in. Then, the march-like snare beat keeps time to a song that feels somewhere between a protest, a battle cry (“Throw your hands up, make a scene,” vocalist and frontperson Carrie Gillespie Feller repeats) and a confession of a messy life in a messy world.
It’s an ominous start to a beautiful, anthemic album that not only showcases the San Diego all-women band’s songwriting chops, it’s also emblematic of the collaborative brute of local musicians and proof that the San Diego band is somehow pulling off just what it’s intending to do: finding order in the chaos.
‘I was literally out there.’
Feller formed the darkwave project Hexa in 2015, after playing in bands in San Diego since she was a teenager, including Street of Little Girls, Tactical Fever, Ilya and Høurs.
She started Hexa shortly after temporarily moving to Spring Valley.
“I think part of that was actually that I wanted to get away and I wanted to be in a space where I could create something,” Feller said of the move. “I don’t know if it was that clear to me at the time but now when I think about it, it is.” Being farther away from friends and community in the city gave her space to delve into Hexa. “I bought a bunch of gear and locked myself in the bedroom and figured out how to use it all,” she said.
Don’t Call Them a Girl Band
Originally a solo project, Feller decided to add more band members after a few years. At first, it made sense to bring in shoegaze drummer Acacia Collins. Feller described her own sound on the synth as “very bassy,” so adding guitarist Erika Marie next made sense. The group played as a trio for a year before adding Soft Lions’ Megan Liscomb on bass. “She wasn’t a bass player at all,” Feller laughed. “But she was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll play bass.’”
Feller, though, never set out to start an “all-girl” band. When building Hexa, Feller just pulled musicians she admired and wanted to play with, and people she knew could complete the sound she was striving for with Hexa.
“When I think about my place in music,” she said, “no, I don’t want to be known as an all-female band.”
It’s harder for some bookers and audiences in the music community, however, to see beyond the all-female band.
“I feel like my bands are as good as any band but I feel like I have to hit up people 15 times before anything happens,” Feller said.
Occasionally, some men in the scene still question whether Feller and her bandmates are in the band or just helping carry gear in, while others are overly “in your business,” as Feller put it. “‘Let me carry all your gear for you, let me set up,’” she mimicked.
“I really don’t want you to touch my stuff,” she said.
Collaboration in San Diego
Two of the tracks on the album showcase Feller’s collaborative spirit as well as her willingness to branch out from Hexa’s all-women sound, bringing in male vocalists like Tristan Shone of Author & Punisher and Jung Sing of Silent.
“I Am Nothing But Love,” with backing vocals by Sing, feels somewhat like a Depeche Mode tune: dark and relentless yet catchy, the sort of anthemic number that could get an entire arena singing along (or maybe a dive bar).
Control in the Chaos
Feller’s powerful vocals seemingly betray her self-identified reserved and shy demeanor offstage. While the full “Sigil Sine” album is an expression of a need to make sense of a tumultuous world, performing music on stage is also where Feller feels the most comfortable. “It’s one of the very few things that feels good,” Feller said. “It’s a small place where I feel like I have control over something. So yes, for sure, it is very therapeutic.”
“Sigil Sine” is available digitally on Friday. Hexa will celebrate the album’s release on Thursday, Sept. 12 at Whistle Stop Bar.