Culture Report: Hexa’s New Album Finds Order Amid the Chaos
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.
Dance, Lots of Poetry and More Culture News
- On Thursday, Mesa College hosts an artist talk and reception for April Rose and Katie Ruiz’s show, “Chromatic: Grounding with Color.”
- The Rosin Box dance project celebrates its second year of enabling City Ballet dancers to take creative control over choreography and works during their summer break. Performances run at White Box Thursday through Sunday. (U-T)
- Noir thriller “Sudden Fear” screens on Thursday to close out the La Jolla Athenaeum’s summer “Flicks on the Bricks” outdoor film series, which has been celebrating vintage thrillers. (KPBS)
- Chula Vista’s Weird Hues gallery opens a solo show with Baja artist El Soldelrac.
- San Diego Repertory’s Latinx New Play Festival opens Friday and runs through Sunday. (CityBeat)
- The opening reception for SDMA’s “Black Life” exhibition is this Friday, featuring live music and more.
- If you haven’t had a chance to check out Chula Vista’s Manhattan Bar (an Eater-approved notable dive bar), local bands Forest Grove and Gloomsday will brighten it up (just kidding, it will be extra dark) on Saturday.
- On Saturday, Borderlands Noise Festival in Tijuana showcases experimental and electronic noise performances from the border region. Related panels and other programming runs from Wednesday into next week. (Vanguard Culture)
- OMA’s Dress Rehearsal exhibition, featuring the sculptural garments of Melissa Meier, is reviewed in the U-T.
- Also at OMA: Six Word Story opens on Saturday, featuring art and (very short) story combo pieces.
- Melissa Walter holds an artist discussion about her ambitious “Of All Things” installation at ICE gallery on Sunday afternoon, and it’s a great chance to see this buzzed-about piece in an otherwise appointment-only venue.
- There’s a new poetry reading series in town. The next From Stage to Page reading is in Verbatim Books’ sweet new event space on Sunday, featuring Jenny Minniti-Shippey, Karla Cordero and Joe Limer.
- On Sept. 4, writers and poets nationwide will participate in readings to raise funds for justice for immigrants. Writers for Migrant Justice’s San Diego event also takes place at Verbatim Books.
- SDMA’s Art & Empire exhibition runs through Monday.
- Time to grow up: The Fleet’s inspired “no adulting allowed” exhibition, “Pause|Play,” which challenges visitors of all ages to play — screen-free — in a childlike setting, closes Monday.
- The California Senate passed a bill Monday allowing K-12 students to be administered medicinal cannabis on campus. The bill permits (but does not require) school districts to create their own regulations. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Tahona’s forthcoming cemetery-adjacent mezcal speakeasy Oculto 477 seems to be here to make all of our spooky dreams come true. (Eater)
- No more unlicensed dispensaries on Weedmaps in San Diego! (San Diego Entertainer)
- Ponce’s has been serving up Mexican food in Kensington for 50 years. (Eater)
- This Edible San Diego primer on tequila is fascinating.
- What’s more trendy right now than tiki, speakeasies and Kearny Mesa? Well, lots of things are trendier than Kearny Mesa but there’s a bit of all three in Kilowatt’s new “Forbidden Cove,” opening Friday. (West Coaster)
- CityBeat’s beer columnist, Beth Demmon, announced that she’s leaving the paper and launching a weekly digital column with San Diego Magazine. When I interviewed Demmon with her predecessor at the alt weekly, Ian Cheesman, both claimed that CityBeat was integral in launching and fostering their beverage-writing careers.
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
- CityBeat’s cocktail writer’s treatment of his alcoholism is raw and, at times, difficult to read. This week, Ian Ward tackles mocktails and while, sure, it’s a glowing endorsement for the product-at-hand (in this case, Vistal’s Jamaica el Jardin), it’s not the kind of food criticism that was written to get framed on a restaurant wall, and that is probably always a good thing.
- Can we, as a collective American readership, get past the featured nipple-squeezing photograph in this New Yorker profile of Iggy Pop and continue reading about this iconic, subversive and wild performer? I … don’t know.