Straight Line Stitch, the Knoxville, Tennessee metal band, was on the path to becoming one of the biggest groups in metal several years ago. They had build up a substantial following, with performances on the RockStar Mayhem tour in 2011, and Alexis Brown, the band's singer/songwriter, was regarded as one of the hottest chicks in Metal.
But, over the last few years, Straight Line Stitch has faced a ungodly amount of adversity, with countless line-up and record company changes, and other intense internal struggles. While many would walk away, Alexis Brown sublimated her frustration into songwriting. The result is an intense, brutal, and beautiful six-song EP entitled, ‘Transparency,’ which will be released on June 30th, on Pavement Entertainment.
The resurrected Straight Line Stitch is currently in the midst of rocking hundreds of people a night on the "Civil Unrest" tour, which features Ill Nino, and many other great rock and metal bands. Later this summer, the band plans to embark on a headlining tour.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with Straight Line Stitch's Alexis Brown.
RMS: Alexis, I want to start by discussing the many changes and challenges you faced with Straight Line Stitch during the past couple of years. You have a new record label now; you have a new band lineup. It seems like a lot has transpired in that time period. Could you briefly tell us what has gone on in the Straight Line Stitch camp in the past few years?
AB: I guess, in a nutshell, we’ve been trying to survive a living hell. Like you said, there has been a lot that’s happened. Before we just signed on with Pavement Entertainment, we had lost management and label, and kind of experienced this epic fall from grace, I guess you could say. Several times, we tried to reboot, or rebuild the band. Just so happens, we had a lot of band members that didn’t work out. Not that we are this band that chews up members up and spits them out, but a lot of things factored in where, financially, things didn’t work. Some members experienced death in the family. There was just a lot of drama going on, and writing the EP, ‘Transparency,’ was like an epiphany for us. It’s been like, four years since we released any music. It was kind of like- how I describe it- a light at the end of the tunnel. Definitely thought about throwing in the towel a couple of times, because there was just so much going on, and nothing seemed to go right. Nothing seemed to gel. But, when we started to write, it seemed like everything- I don’t know- it just kind of locked into place, and everything that I felt bottled up inside of me kind of spouted out. I actually used the record as a platform to pick myself up; I think we all did. We were just so down on our luck and beat down with so many closed doors, and we just put everything we had into this EP, and here we are! (Laughs) In a nutshell.
RMS: It seemed like you had a lot of momentum after your release, ‘Fight of Our Lives,’in 2012, and it was just kind of disapated. I didn’t realize all adversity was going on around the band camp.
AB: Oh, yeah. And all through that time, we were still performing; we were still relatively underground. It was just that we had internal conflict, as well as outside conflict. It was just so much going on. Like you said, so much adversity.
RMS: You mentioned that you were able to kind of write your way out of it, and that is pretty much what this EP is. Are you writing these experiences down and using it as a cathartic type of avenue to get your emotions out?
AB: Oh, yeah. The best I can explain it is that this was definitely a way to get back to the basics of why we were doing this, you know? I think, when we got signed the first time, I think we got comfortable, and kind of forgot why we were doing this. We were just like, “Everything is taken care of. We won’t worry about anything.” You know, just be there when you’re supposed to be. We kind of lost control of the business aspect of things, as well as just like, knowing what was going on, in and out of the band. So, we definitely had to get back to basics and say, you know, it’s not about the title of being a rock star. It’s not even so much about the fame. It’s about music; it’s a universal language. It’s about getting negative things out in a constructive way.
RMS: In reading prior interviews with you, you mentioned that you were also influence by R&B music when you were growing up. At any time, during the last three years, did you ever consider maybe getting out of metal and trying R&B, or do you pretty much think that you will do metal no matter what?
AB: No, I’ve never had the thought. When I was younger, I really wanted to be an R&B singer. I even had like, a little girl group. But, it didn’t resonate with me because, I mean, I never really knew about love, and that’s what they’re always singing about- love and things like that. I cannot relate to it, you know? In school, I had a hard time. I was bullied. You know, teenage angst, and all that stuff. I felt, and I still feel, like I resonate more with this genre of music. It’s raw, and it’s intense. It’s not beautiful all of the time, but it’s truthful and it’s honest. I think that’s what I admire most about the genre. It’s not something that has to be dolled up to show the world. You just show the world who you really are. That’s how I feel about the genre. I never once thought about going back to R&B music. I mean, you can find some of the influences when I sing, of course. That’ll always be my roots.
RMS: Yeah, you definitely have a voice that is very diverse. Listening to the EP, you have a song like “Out of Body,” which is a slower song. That could almost be like, a Top 40 song. And then, you have the other songs that are just brutally intense. You are so gifted, vocally, that you can do almost anything you want. When did you realize that you had this gift of being able to sing?
AB: You know, I’ve always wanted to sing, ever since I was little. Like, ever since I could remember, I was always singing. You know, my brother told me, and my mom is like, “Oh my gosh, you sing everything! A commercial comes on, you sing it.” I just always had the love for singing, which is weird because, I’m really, by nature, a shy person. I try to avoid the limelight as much as possible. But, something in me has always wanted to be an entertainer. I had to move myself out of my comfort zone, and get out there and be something. I guess I’ve always wanted that.
RMS: Can you tell me about the current Straight Line Stitch band members, and how you came about hooking up with these guys?
AB: Well, we have since decided, just releasing the EP and stuff; it is well-known that we have had a revolving door of members. The members of this band, we have decided, are just myself- I’ve been with the band since 2004- Jason White, who’s been in the band since 2006, he plays guitar; he was bass player, and he moved over to guitar. And Darren McClelland. He is our bass player; he’s been with us for two years. Those are the permanent members of Straight Line Stitch. We decided that we are not announcing any new members until they can actually be with us, tour with us, live the tour life through good and bad. Our fault was to always just announce a new member and not really try them out. “Oh yeah, this is the new member of Straight Line Stitch.” And then, either they can’t handle the road, or they’re not making enough money, or whatever the issue would be. Then, they would be gone, and we were left explaining why this member took off, and all this stuff. So, we decided that, in our best interest that, the members that we have now, which is the three of us- just me, Darren, and Jason. But, we do have fill-ins that we’re working in to see how it goes.
RMS: As far as life on the road, I saw something that was kind of eye opening on your Facebook page. It showed a picture of you sleeping in a van in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. Is that something that you have to do a lot? Do you find yourselves having to pull over and sleep in a parking lot, or was that a one-time thing?
AB: No, we do that often. I mean, don’t get me wrong, sometimes we stay with friends, and we can get a hotel. But, money is scarce out here, so you’re trying to save every dollar that you make. You know, you’ve got gas and other expenses, so you try to save money as much as possible, and the best way is to sleep in Wal-Mart parking lots. We shower at truck stops. You know, I didn’t put that up for people to look and be like, “Oh, I feel bad for them.” No, I put it up because people can see what we do. A lot of people think that it’s very glamorous on the road, that we’re in this huge bus and that we stay at these four star hotels, or that we’re eating good all the time. I put it up there just so that people know. Not so much for sympathy, or whatever, but just so people know. We’re not crying about our situation, we make the best of it. This is something that we want to do. We love what we do. You know, Wal-Mart’s not so bad. It’s 24 hours, there’s a bathroom. We go in there and look around to kill time, and they have food in there, so that’s a plus. It’s just a little bit of insight for people on band life, I guess you call it.
RMS: Yeah, I’ve been following music for a long time; I’ve never realized that bands sometimes go through that. I had the impression that it certainly was like busses and nice hotels. But, I guess that’s rock ‘n’ roll nowadays, pretty much.
AB: It is rock ‘n’ roll (laughs).
RMS: I want to discuss the new EP that’s coming out on the 30th of this month (June), ‘Transparency.’ I was wondering if you could go through each song, and just briefly tell me what inspired it, and give us a little insight into the track, please. We’ll start with the first song, “Out of Shadows.”
AB: “Out of Shadows” is just an atmospheric-type instrumental that leads directly into “Dark Matter.” It kind of just sets the tone for “Dark Matter.” “Dark Matter” is about, pretty much, escaping darkness. That’s what it’s about- trying to escape negative feelings, trying to hold on to any small light at all. It’s just about getting out of darkness. That’s what “Dark Matter” is about. I believe the next track… I’m trying to think off of the top of my head.
RMS: “Out of Body” is the next track.
AB: “Out of Body.” That song is about me and my imperfections. I want to be this perfect human being. I want so bad to just be perfect- to not make mistakes, to not hurt people, to not do wrong things- and as much as I want to be that person, I’m not. I don’t know if I ever will be. I’m human; I’m what God made me, and I have to accept it. Yeah, that’s what that song is about. It’s about me trying to accept who I am, flaws and all.
RMS: “Face of God” is next.
AB: “Face of God” is me going to God, and asking Him to please not turn His face from us. We- me- I know I have messed up. I’ve done many things wrong. But, I’m still here. I’m still trying every day to get it right, and just going to God and saying, “Please, get me out of this hell, because it’s been hell, but I’m still here. Please don’t forget that I’m still here.”
AB: “Wilderness.” I kind of liken that to like, a “Hansel and Gretel,” kind of, you know? It’s about being lost; losing support from those you thought you’d never lose support from, and being devastated by that. But, eventually finding the breadcrumbs that will lead me out of the wilderness.
RMS: And the last track is “Human Bondage.”
AB: “Human Bondage” is about the bondages of forgiveness. I want so bad for people to forgive me. I feel like I’ve been this terrible person, and I’ve done so many things. I’m fighting so hard to just make things right. I just probably have to acknowledge the fact that people are going to be people. Everybody has their own ways. Some forgive, some won’t. That’s just how people are. That song is about letting go trying to get forgiveness from people who don’t want to forgive me, but trying to seek forgiveness for myself, and actually move on and carry on with my life.
RMS: I appreciate the insight into those songs. My next question is- Being a female in a metal band- I’m assuming you get a lot of guys that hit on you. How do you handle that?
AB: You know, to be honest, I’ve never had to deal with it. I think it’s because I don’t portray myself… I don’t play that card. I’m a black female singing metal. I don’t use it as a crutch. I guess, when people meet me, or they meet the band, they know right off the bat that our main goal is to kick butt on stage and to really make sure that our music is at the forefront of that. People know that the band was not built around a pretty face. It has nothing to do with that at all. I think I would encounter that if we were a different band. Maybe if I was more about my image and I dressed more sexy, but I’ve never run up against that, because that’s never been my gimmick. I’ve never tried to make it to be, “It’s Alexis in the Straight Line Stitch.” It’s Straight Line Stitch as a band, not just me being a female up there singing metal.
RMS: You guys are currently on a major tour now.
AB: Yes, we’re on “The Civil Unrest Tour” with Ill Nino and like, ten other bands that are just awesome. Everybody sounds different. It’s not just a tour with all of the same kind of bands. Every band is diverse, and it’s awesome. Everybody is super nice. It’s “The Civil Unrest Tour,” and we’re on this tour until the end of June, and that’s when we break and in July we go on a headlining run. So, yeah!
RMS: That’s awesome. So, in July you’re going to be doing some headlining shows?
RMS: Are you going to be doing all of the United States, or just parts of the United States?
AB: You know, I have yet to see an itinerary. But, as we speak, I think it’s being put together, because I don’t even think we’ll be off the road in July. I think we’ll be on the road until August. But, it will be across the states.
RMS: How popular is Straight Line Stitch overseas? A lot of metal bands do really well over there.
AB: We played “Download” in the UK a couple years back, and then went back over and did a support round with Lacuna Coil. It was good; they really took to us. Also, you know, we’ve been promoting the new EP over there and we’ve gotten stellar reviews, and they want us to come back over. So, I would like to think that our fan base overseas is pretty darn good. So, we’re definitely fighting to get back over there.
RMS: That’s awesome. Were you approached, at all, to play any of the festivals in the United States, like “Rockstar Mayhem,” or anything like that this year?
AB: We weren’t approached this year, but we have played “Rockstar Mayhem” festival; we did that a couple years ago. It was a lot of fun. It was so much fun. Haven’t been approached yet, but you never know. I don’t close the door to any possibilities.
RMS: When you go out on your headlining tour, are you guys going to be bringing out anybody else, or are you just going to be headlining, and locals are going to be supporting? Or is that still being worked out right now?
AB: That’s still being worked out. I think we’re going out with another band.
RMS: Ok, the final question is- what do you think the biggest misconception of Straight Line Stitch is, that people might have?
AB: The biggest misconception… People might think, like I said earlier, that, since we’ve had so many members, we’re this monster band that just chews everybody up and spits them out. But, that’s so not true. There’s so many factors that go into it, and it’s not all bad, which is what people might right off the bat assume. We’re actually a really nice band. We’re nice people. We care about people. We love our fans, and we love what we do. We’re not trying to hurt anybody, and we don’t think that we’re better than anybody. The biggest misconception is that people really don’t know us, you know? If they did, I’m sure that they would like us, because we’re kind of hard not to. We’re good people.
RMS: Ok, that’s awesome! I really do appreciate your time. I love the EP. I’m hoping that I can get you guys to come to Buffalo, NY, somehow; even if I have to book it myself. I really believe in the band, and I’ll do anything I can to help get the word out.
AB: Oh, thank you! That means so much.
RMS: No problem. Thanks, again, for your time. Best of luck to you, and be careful in those Wal-Mart parking lots.
AB: (Laughs) Thank you, Thomas!
For more on Straight Line Stitch, please click here.
Very special thanks to Shauna O'Donnell for setting up this interview. And also, the incredible Dana Kaiser for transcribing it!