Alterity - "Pop Music For Vampires" - Stereo Stickman

Alterity “Pop Music For Vampires”

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After reviewing and reveling in their latest album Afterlifeintrigue got the better of us. We were blessed with the opportunity to interview the band’s founder, Drearia, to find out more about how all of this came to be and what their hopes are for the future. Here’s the conversation in full. 

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Hi Drearia, thank you for your time with this. Afterlife is a superb album, congratulations on the release. Just to give a little background – how would you describe Alterity?

I think the best way to describe Alterity at this very moment in as few words as possible is Pop music for vampires. I’ve said “Alterity is a Goth band”, people have said “it’s synthrock”, “it’s Synthwave”, “it’s New Wave”, and these comments are all valid. However, I think Spectrum Pulse put it best when he compared tracks like Alone in the Woods and The Looks That Kill to Pat Benatar and compared Without You to Gaga’s work on A Star Is Born. No matter how much of an edge the sound has and no matter how much of a gothic touch Alterity has, there is no denying the Pop hooks, the catchy riffs in the guitars and synths, and the structure that gives way to a Pop song.

What were some early musical favourites of yours that perhaps helped pave the way for your style now as an artist?

My Dad played a lot of 80’s New Wave gems, he had this compilation that had tracks like Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, Spandau Ballet’s To Cut A Long Story Short and Talk Talk’s It’s My Life that defined my taste for this type of music now. I even looked back recently, and it even had some tracks like Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill and especially Killing Joke’s Love Like Blood that now are even more defining of my taste. When I played guitar in high school, I also was really into Steve Vai, Prince, and Danzig, three hidden influences in Alterity and Drearia works that might not be super apparent but are very important to both.

What does the album Afterlife mean to you?

Afterlife is a new chapter for me as an artist and what defines myself. I will most likely be able to get into this later, but Afterlife establishing myself closer to what I want to do felt the most important. Admittedly, with Afterlife I didn’t really know what I was doing as much until the end, I just had a blanket vision of a lot of records I loved and wanted to bring all these ideas together. You can hear some of them throughout, tracks like The Weeknd’s Starboy, 45 Grave’s Partytime, and Breton’s Got Well Soon, but then albums like the Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland, The Cure’s Pornography, and Cold Cave’s Cherish the Light Years. Working on this record allowed me to see where this all was going, and I am thankful for everyone involved, especially Sandra Bullet and Maverick, for helping me get closer to where I am right now.

In what sort of setting do you imagine people would generally get the best experience out of the collection – and why?

Let me tell you, you can find it right on the art of Afterlife. The art of Afterlife and the aesthetic of Alterity as a whole is inspired by a local club in my area, the Leland City Club, which is the main Goth outing in Michigan. A lot of the designs on the walls, the environment, all of that really affects how I portray Alterity. I really wanted to bring that to what I knew was most likely an audience that had never heard any of the music that was played on those nights, and so I think having it played there would probably be the best of a way to experience it. This especially goes for tracks like Alone in the Woods, where that bass-line and drum machine is built for the dance-floor, but most fit for the Goth clubs.

Where did Alterity begin, and how would you say the sound has evolved over time?

This is going to be confusing, bear with me here. Alterity began as a solo project, just me, making EDM. I had connections to a promo group so a remix I had picked up a decent amount of traction, but then after that remix I had wanted to try some new things, head in a darker direction as that was what I decided was the best direction for me. However, their interests conflicted with mine, and so I left out of frustration and reconciled with Skveezy for the new Alterity that you hear in Afterlife. I was working with Sandra already, so she became a big part of the record, and I think those two things were a key part of the sound you get on Afterlife. Now that Skveezy is gone, I have spent so much time with Sandra and now Maverick, a lot of that dynamic has now allowed me to expand my sound further. I’ve really pushed to really experiment with different sounds while keeping a basic foundation, and I think that will really show on the next record, Alterwave.

What made you choose the name Alterity?

I am probably going to be clowned for this, but when I first created the name Alterity, I did not know it already was a word. I used it to bring together the words “Alternate Reality”, in reference to my anonymous status but then also a reference to Alternative music and culture, something I was identifying with at the time. (An association that would eventually lean me towards Goth music) When I discovered the word alterity and its meaning, I immediately decided that it was even more of a perfect fit for what I was doing. For the standards of festival EDM, I had a very abnormal blend of sounds and aesthetic at the time, so I identified with it.

How does a new track generally begin?

Usually what happened with Afterlife when it was me and Skveezy was we would build a few things and go from the ground up and develop the instrumental. Usually we would start with a guitar groove, a drum loop, something like that to attach to. We would then send it to Sandra, she would add in her guitar parts and vocals, Skveezy would mix and master it (Admittedly I am terrible with mixing and mastering), then it would be done. Given how much better the new Alterity tracks are, I’m not sure I like this as much. Usually when I do Alterity tracks nowadays, I’ll start with the bass-line or something on strings. I really want to evoke a type of darkness that I feel comes from these types of sounds naturally when you play those darker melodies. That’s why for me personally, synths are more used for atmospheres, the drums are often loud, and the bass and guitar are at the forefront of course next to the vocals. It will reflect on the Alterwave material, Sandra really pushed the bass out as I will soon be able to emphasize on, and the guitars are much more present in the mix than they were in the first half of Afterlife.

Have you ever had any difficulty regarding creative disagreements when collaborating, and if so – how do you over come that?

This depends on the person involved, honestly, but it can get ugly and define a record one way or another. It should be noted though that for anyone trying to work up a collaborative project, there must be chemistry involved, and that’s why Skveezy is out. The two of us clashed in style, resulting in multiple disagreements on Afterlife. For example, on Fright Night Part III, I wanted the guitars to be much louder in the mix, but he oddly felt he couldn’t turn it up any more.

Sometimes though these types of challenges can provide a different type of perspective or a different type of sound. For instance, on the new track coming on the 11th, Damage, Sandra sent the drum and bass foundation based on the demo I had, and I didn’t like how the bass was so low and not quite powerful, so then she came up with this bass sound that distorted the bass guitar into oblivion and I was all about it. It really becomes finding what the issue is in the disagreement and finding what can make the track overall better, and in the end finding a solution one way or another. A functional collaborative project depends on everybody being all in it together and at their best, otherwise as a whole it falls apart.

With this being a digital band, what are the chances of catching a live performance, and what might that involve?

It’s very hard to say, but I’d say what that would first require would be a stable lineup altogether. Skveezy is gone from Alterity and in is LiQ, but there is a lack of anybody else. Things like guitar, bass, and of course vocals would need to be covered. We could do a DJ set sort of thing, but I’m not sure if that type of market would want to hear us play Goth and Industrial music. There are ways we could do it, but it would take a lot of work and honestly Alterity would have to be bigger for it to even be worth it.

In the age of social media, why is it important to you to maintain a level of anonymity?

It depends on the artist, really. I have seen some artists use that image of themselves to be transparent with their audience and connect with them on some level. However, for me, I like being a walking enigma. It comes with the aesthetic of Alterity and Drearia, I think it would be hard to do it otherwise honestly.

Going back to Spectrum Pulse, he mentioned this idea of having a distance between himself and his audience, and I feel the same. This is why everyone at my work who knows who I am either is no longer working there or wouldn’t bother looking me up. I would not want them to associate me with the more…… shocking image I present myself with. None of my family knows either except my sister, let alone any of them knowing I am bisexual. If I ever NEED to bring it up I will, but if I don’t have to then I won’t bother.

What advice could you give to solo artists who want to find and connect with like-minded musicians and make great music?

I would say just get yourself out there and interact with other musicians. Sometimes even just putting you are looking for people to work with is a fantastic start. That’s how I found LiQ, I put up an offer of looking for new Alterity members after I booted out Skveezy and eventually it reached out to LiQ and he was down. We talked for a while and eventually it became apparent that we needed to start working together. I’m sure you’ll be able to find your equivalent too.

In what ways does the music you release as Drearia differ from that of Alterity?

A lot of the work released as Drearia is very unfiltered. The Alterity music goes through a lot of polish, Sandra puts my guitar and bass riffs to real guitar and bass, Maverick does her thing with the vocals, and the mix is a lot tighter. However, with Drearia, you have this very scattershot sound that is frantic, abrasive, and unrefined. There are a lot of unique traits, whether it be the samples, the abuse of chorus, reverb, and distortion, or the VST guitar solos, that you won’t fine in almost anything else. At the very least, you probably won’t find them together.

Drearia works also tend to take a lot of the weird influences that bring together the Alterity music and almost breaks them down if you will. Blood Red flirts with various Metal genres and 90’s Darkwave, whereas the coming Revival brings in the weird electronic influences like Witch House while also being more direct than ever of my epic trailer and horror music influences. A lot of these things you would hear in Alterity music, but in more subtle ways, whereas in Drearia it all kinda is there, exploring these ideas to apply them into the next Alterity album. In other words, if you hear something in a Drearia album, you can expect to hear it in some way in Alterity in the future.

Are there any other genres you might be tempted to toy around with in the future?

I could make a list of these, honestly. For one, I’d like to dive deeper into Industrial and at least try some of that music and/or EBM. I’m starting to get into acts like Aesthetic Perfection and Psyclon Nine, and I would like to try something like what they are doing, though of course with a lot of my own touches. I also would like to explore Witch House just a bit more, I feel I could have more to offer it, maybe even do a full project exploring that sound. I used to produce Hip Hop as well, I did a few tracks with Mind Over MattR a while back and wouldn’t mind doing that again.

If you as an artist were to share just one song with someone, to introduce your work, which would you choose – and why?

I would say with the context of all of Alterity’s coming work and currently released tracks in mind, Alone in The Woods would probably be the best introduction. The horror aspects and the focus on the bass that defines the new Alterity works are all there, and the massive drums, big guitars, and haunting vocals of the current Alterity stuff is all right there as well. It’s catchy enough to be accessible, but dark enough to match the band’s blackest tendencies that will define us going forward.

Who or what currently inspires you in the art and music world?

I could go on about many talents in this vein. Where do I start? How about rook and her duo Black Dresses? They have this fantastic way of taking that Ke$ha era bratty Pop music and making it a walking nightmare of everything wrong with the world right now that has inspired me to take a much harsher route with the Drearia solo stuff. I’ve gone neck deep into the underground and discovering all kinds of music, it also helps that I moderate a Discord server with Jaylyn Snow that has introduced me to a lot of talent I otherwise would have never heard. ZXSP, Levinsky, DREDDD, and Doctor Snik are among some of those. In my digging beyond, discovering acts like Midnight Configuration, Bragolin, The Black Queen, and Trench Run has all helped me expand my sound to the grave beyond.

My growing interest in horror films is also another thing that has been a big influence as well, revisiting films like The Omen and Fright Night but also digging into films like Night of the Demons and Jennifer’s Body I might have missed. That last one should be noted as a big inspiration for some of the lyrical content in some of Alterity’s coming music.

What are your hopes and plans creatively over the coming months and years?

I have LOTS planned over the course of 2019. I will start with the closest releases coming around the corner.

  • December 11th will see the release of the Alterity single Damage with Jaylyn Snow alongside the music video that will premiere 12AM EST on that day. A follow-up single, Too Far Gone, will be released on January 11th, but receive a radio premiere on DJ Dark Dave’s show on Radio Dark Tunnel before the end of the year.
  • January 25th will be the release date of LiQ’s album Awake While I’d Rather Be Asleep. LiQ is the newest member of Alterity, and I believe this album is a great example of why I welcomed him along.
  • On my 24th birthday on February 15th, you can expect the Drearia solo outing 24, which is sort of the culmination of both Blood Red and Revival with an even more experimental touch.
  • For Alterity, two projects have already been announced, Alterwave and Neon Monsters, Alterwave most likely coming out in late February or mid-March. We intended this to be a short 7 track record, but it probably will be a full 10 track release because we are enjoying working on it so much, we shall see in the end honestly. In comparison to Afterlife, Alterwave will be taking a much more Rock heavy sound, with a bigger focus on real instruments and even some horror undertones while still being a fun record.
  • Neon Monsters will be the first Alterity album with LiQ and most likely drop by the end of the year. This is going to be the darkest Alterity yet, with the lyrics and the pacing inspired a lot by horror films and even taking the soundtrack of these films into account with LiQ’s bizarre atmospherics and unique production to compliment what we already have to offer.
  • While I don’t know when it will come out, I have a side project called Sorry for Staying with rappers Mind Over MattR and parr alongside music critic Marko Nilmar of And Justice for Reviews working on new material. I can’t say much more than that.

If you could sit down to lunch with absolutely anyone, past or present – who would you invite, and what would you ask them about?

This might not seem like the most immediate choice at first, but to me there is nobody I would rather sit down with than Iggy Pop. I definitely would ask him about some of his progression through his career, namely his time as Iggy & The Stooges around the time Raw Power was being worked on and all of those bizarre tracks that keep resurfacing into various compilations. (Which have always fascinated me) I probably would also ask how he got through all the crazy things I have heard him describe in interviews, he really seems like the kind of artist where an autobiography could only do good. I would read that book many times over, I feel like there is a lot I could learn and perhaps even relate to on some ends considering my crazy history with the industry as well, or even as to where he is at now.

Is there anything else we should know?

I guess I will simply end this with two things.

  1. A friendly reminder that Alterity isn’t just about me. Alterity is really everyone involved, whether it’s LiQ who is officially a part of Alterity, or whether it’s people I work very close with on this music like Sandra Bullet, Maverick, Hollie Thubron, George Galanos. I feel they all deserve the same appreciation. I get it all the time with people tagging Drearia on Twitter when talking about Alterity and it gets frustrating, though I sort of get it.
  2. If you are just getting into Goth music through Alterity, I’d recommend doing some digging into it. The Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland, The Cure’s Pornography, and The Gothic Sounds of Nightbreed Vol. 1 are three great places to start if you are just entering in through Afterlife. If you want more synths, The Frozen Autumn’s Emotional Screening Device is a good way to expand further. If you want more guitars, Rosetta Stone’s Adrenaline is your next step. I hope at least someone if not a few people dive into the scene further and perhaps dig into the parts of the scene that inspired me to make this record.

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Download the album via Bandcamp. Find & follow Alterity on Instagram.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Musician & writer with an MA in Songwriting.