Stitched Up Heart’s goals for their sophomore album were daunting: “For each song we tried to throw paint—musically speaking—in a completely different direction, trying to create something innovative and different without losing our identity,” explains singer Alecia “Mixi” Demner. The end result is Darkness, 11 deeply emotional songs, including “Warrior” and “Darkness,” boasting a sonic sheen that’s at once organic, yet intense and electronic. Produced by From First To Last singer/guitarist Matt Good (producer of Asking Alexandria and Hollywood Undead), Stitched Up Heart realized their impressive aural goals, blending, warping and creating their own brand of rock by utilizing “different elements to modernize our music and make it unique and fresh.” Proof is in the intense dynamics of first single, “Lost,” which features forceful guest vocals from Sully Erna of Godsmack. (Stitched Up Heart kicked off the anticipated Darkness touring cycle with Godsmack and Volbeat in April, 2019.)
While the musical growth and creative chances taken by the L.A.-based lineup is evident, fans of the band’s 2016 debut, Never Alone, will recognize the Stitched Up Heart’s signature sound: Demner’s flexible, passionate voice—a bit more airy and breathy and cool on this record—over ultra-melodic but sometimes unsettling heavy, riffing rock with darkly electronic guitar stylings. Of the band’s lauded debut, Shockwave magazine said, "...Never Alone personifies the new hard rock genre to near perfection.” Indeed, Never Alone, released in mid-2016, debuted in the Top 10 of both the Billboard Heatseeker and Hard Rock charts, with SiriusXM’s Octane putting the single “Finally Free” on hyper rotation.
While Darkness has been worth the wait, it’s actually an album that might never have been, hence the many shades of, well, darkness on the record. “At first, lyrically I wanted to write about strength. But during the time we were writing the album, I was going through a lot of challenges,” explains Demner. “It was really hard to be strong in a place where it’s dark and it's scary.” She doesn’t want to dwell on her personal life, but in short, a health issue and surgery challenged her voice. The pressures she endured during that time are reflected in lyrics like “Can’t get a hold of the state that I’m in / I’m feeling the weight / On my shoulders.” That said, Demner adds, “I know at the other end that you come out stronger; you grow through what you go through. But still, that theme of dwelling in darkness goes throughout the album.”
In addition to Demner’s challenges, the entire band felt pressure in following up their successful debut. “As human beings, want to be better than we were yesterday. We wanted to make a better record than we did before. We want to top ourselves every time,” they say. To that end, the band wrote 70 songs over a year-long period. The final contenders were tracked at producer Good’s Arizona studio. Getting out of LA was cathartic for Demner, who drove across the desert alone to write and work with Good before being joined by the band. “You know, those feelings you get when you know there's some sort of transition that's about to come? Driving to Arizona was like I was closing a chapter of my life and going into unknown territory,” she says. Demner remembers the moment when the song “Darkness” fully clicked for her: “I was staying at an Airbnb during the recording, and I listened to it while I was floating in the pool at night, staring at the moon. It was beautiful, and I just knew then that the song was going to be something really cool.”
Other stellar songs include “Warrior,” which, Demner admits with a laugh, was “ordered” by her grandmother. It was the first song written for Darkness, and the frontwoman relates, “’Warrior’ is in some ways literal, about being in the military, and questioning why you're fighting, and what you're fighting for. Whether it's the right choice, and if you're doing it for the right reasons,” she explains. “My grandpa was in the military, and I did a song on the last album for veterans as well.”
As for the overall sound of Darkness, Demner gives Good high praise. “The cherry on top is all of the sound design elements.” For instance, “Matt would take recordings of my voice, then turn it into its own melody and its own instrument, making it into an electronic-like sound. It’s something we hadn’t done before; we just want to be as innovative as possible.” The band were spot-on in the album sessions. “We were going to give Decker about a week to do the drums for the whole record and he finished it all in like, I think three hours or something crazy! Randy and Merritt totally stepped up in the studio too. We challenged ourselves and took a risk musically and it couldn’t have gone better.”
Getting Erna on “Lost” involved more travel for Demner. “We had been going back and forth on a song to do together. We'd pretty much finished our whole writing process and still didn't know what song was right for him. As I was listening to our album as a whole and I realized that ‘Lost’ could work.” The frontwoman flew to Erna’s Nashville studio for the recording. Demner’s lyrical take is about how the brain can be destructive, noting, “it’s like a machine, always working and thinking, but it can spin out of control and turn into a dark depression.” But Erna went even darker. “He looked at it as basically an evil entity of darkness in your mind, like a computer virus, if you will. It’s somewhat seductive and enticing and luring you into this depression, and it doesn't want to let you go.”
Humbled by the success and attention garnered for Never Alone, Stitched Up Heart are eager to thank their supporters and fans with tons of touring, helping to get Darkness into the light. “While there are a lot of dark parts where I dug really deep on this album, there’s hope as well,” Demner affirms. “If you just hang in though the tough times, there’s still cool stuff that happens in those times… and of course, now that we love our new record and are on tour, everything’s so exciting.” If Darkness is personal, it’s also purposely universal. “I ask the universe to try to come up with the words so that I can reach people as deeply as possible,” says Demner. “My hope is ultimately to really have our music connect intensely with people—guys, girls, young, old—everyone and anyone.”