Sei Hexe are a four piece from Portland, Oregon who are finally making waves in the underground music scene after years of playing shows. After several shifts in their lineup, the current incarnation (Alessandra: guitar, Amelia: vocals, Julie: drums, Melissa: guitar) seems the most solidified and ready to conquer.
What exactly does Sei Hexe mean?
Julie: It means to be a witch in German.
How did Sei Hexe start? Wasn’t everyone in the original line-up already in other bands? Tell us about the “Crazy Cat Lady” house.
Julie: Sei Hexe started in the basement of the OG crazy cat house where Katherine, Melissa and I lived together. Yeah, we all had other bands going on at the same time. Melissa is still currently in Order of the Gash. Katherine and I had played in Massive Meat Spilt together but went through some lineup changes. I guess it was just a way for Katherine and I to continue playing music together. Massive Meat Split was the beginnings of Transient, which I was very active in when Sei Hexe started. I think Sei Hexe officially started after we were smoking weed and jamming in our basement.
Melissa: Yup. Sei Hexe started out as a “roommate band.” I think I was in four bands at this time. Cull, Sick Sick Sister, Order of the Gash, and Sei Hexe. The Crazy Cat Lady house was originally the house we all rented on Killingsworth street in Northeast Portland. A very tiny house with four cats and three humans… sometimes a basement dweller as well. We ate way too much tofurkey and bread that we had gotten for free. Sometimes we had house shows.
Julie, I was stunned when you left Transient (as a guitar player) and decided to focus on drumming instead. What sparked this decision?
Julie: I have actually always wanted to play drums and had messed around with them on and off for some years. It wasn’t really a sudden decision to leave Transient and just focus on playing drums. It just came to a point where I was hindering the band, so I decided to leave. Since Sei Hexe was already a band while I was in Transient, I just continued playing drums.
Can you tell us about your “famous” drum teacher?
Oh yeah, I had three whole kick-ass drum lessons with Spit Stix, the drummer from Fear. I should have taken way more lessons but I am the type of person that just tries to figure things out on my own.
Alessandra, when were you approached to join on second guitar?
Alessandra: I’m pretty sure I was never actually asked to join Sei Hexe; it was more like I bullied my way in. Julie and I knew each other from working at CD Baby and I had a total friend crush on her and Melissa from seeing them play in all of their other bands (Cull, Transient, Order of the Gash, etc.) and when I found out that Ruthie had left Sei Hexe I asked if I could give it a shot. I had been playing guitar since I was about 11 but had never found anyone who I wanted to play music with, or was interested in playing the same kinds of music that I was into, and Sei Hexe just seemed like a great fit.
Is there a difference between you and Melissa’s guitar sound/style? Who decides what parts to play?
Alessandra: I’d definitely say that there is a difference in the style and sound of my guitar versus Melissa. Since we don’t have bass in the band, I try to compensate with my guitar tone by going for the more bassy/low end sounds and I think Melissa tends to go for the higher, more shreddy-sounding tones. I think that also reflects our tastes somewhat, since Melissa tends to be drawn towards more thrashy/death metal style stuff, but I tend to lean more towards the slower, sludgier stuff.
A few of you have been in other bands before with guys (Cull, Transient, Order of the Gash). Is it more comfortable being in an all girl band, or is it something that you even think about?
Julie: I guess I only think about it when we are talking about boobs and periods. Though, I have always talked about that stuff in my other bands, too.
Melissa: I think we mostly just joke about it. We crack jokes all the time about how we should start a band blog and post “today at band practice” updates that sound dirty/titillating but really when it was actually happening we were just being dorks. Also, I’ve always felt comfortable talking about anything and everything with the guys that I have been in bands with. I would never be in a band with dude bro assholes. So I’ve always felt the same way whether I’m playing in a band with all females or one with guys in it.
Amelia: Yeah, I don’t think the kind of guys we tend to hang out with are capable of making us feel uncomfortable.
Do you think Portland has more female musicians than other towns? I was told Portland is more accepting and encouraging in this way, instead of the same old male-dominated scenes in other cities.
Melissa: I’m probably biased because I’ve lived in Portland my whole life. But I feel like there is a more open, accepting atmosphere for ladies to be involved with the music scene. I feel like it is something this town has worked on. I think it helped that there was a history of feminism and Riot Grrrl in this town as well as nearby Olympia. It just seems like people have been more encouraging of anyone who wants to pick up any instrument and create music—even if they aren’t the best at it at first. When I’ve played out of town shows I would sometimes find myself to be the only lady there, which was lame as hell. But in Portland a lot of rad ladies come out to shows and play in bands. It’s a great feeling.
Amelia: Even though Portland is better than other cities about including or encouraging women to be active in the music scene, I still find myself a little annoyed when people see us live and say things like, “I didn’t know girls could do that!” It’s not just men that give these sort of backhanded compliments—women have also shown surprise, which is disappointing to a certain degree. But then every once in a while you get a younger girl who probably has always wanted to be in a band, but never had the guts to try it out for whatever reason, who is inspired by seeing other women out there.
Decibel magazine just listed the top 30 greatest extreme vocalists of all time, but only two women were chosen. What do you think about this?
Julie: It’s pretty weak sauce!
Melissa: I hate reading any “top greatest list” because it’s usually written by dudes who are biased and they don’t even bother to think about including women. It sucks because women tend to be written out of music history even though we’ve been a part of it from the get go.
Amelia: I haven’t seen this list. I know I’m going to get a lot of shit for this, but most times I really dislike female vocals in extreme music. If I were to make my own list, there probably would be more men than women, which is a little sad.
Amelia, this is your first band. How did you react when asked to join?
Amelia: From what I remember, I was just asked to come over and hang out at a practice. I was familiar with Sei Hexe’s songs but didn’t know the vocal patterns at all. They gave me a mic and I just screamed along with no rhythm or structure; it was awful. But apparently they heard some potential there, because they asked me if I wanted to do it again. I was really excited, I felt like a much-less ripped Henry Rollins in a push-up bra getting asked to join Black Flag. I got an instrumental CD with the songs they wanted me to learn and write new lyrics for, then spent what felt like weeks practicing vocals in the basement at my old house, much to my roommates’ amusement and/or dismay. I remember being louder without a mic than the house P.A., blaring the CD and feeling super embarrassed about it for some reason.
Were you nervous as hell at your first show? What do you do to get over that?
Amelia: My first show wasn’t as nerve-racking as it probably should have been. From the first show to the last we’ve played, I’ve had the same method: I just drink until I’m on autopilot. I don’t recommend it for everyone, though. But for me, if I’m not overthinking it, I tend to do better. I kind of use the David Yow method, you know, “lubrication.” Not too much, not too little. I’m sure there have been shows where my vocals suffered a little here and there, but I’d rather forget a couple words than be paralyzed by anxiety. I deal enough with crippling anxiety in my day-to-day life that if I’m doing something that’s supposed to be fun, I’m not going to let my defective brain ruin it for me, even if it means a little self-abuse and delusion.
Does your voice ever go out from being abused?
I never really lose my voice. I mean, if I am screaming for two hours straight I get that rough and throaty trucker lady voice going on, but it never just disappears altogether. I can tell when I’m getting tired because my voice will crack a little… not go out, but just not follow my orders to a T. Not that it ever does, I guess. I feel like maybe this isn’t even my voice at all, but there’s some pissed off little gnome living in my esophagus that I accidentally inhaled at some point, and he’s just really, really mad at me for not taking better care of my acid reflux.
What are some of your favorite shows to play: house shows or club shows?
Julie: I like the energy of house shows but the drink tickets at club shows.
Alessandra: It’s hard to say, since each show is different and it has a lot to do with what bands we’re playing with, but there is a certain energy about house shows that is hard to get in a club. Portland doesn’t have a lot of all ages venues, so house shows are mostly the only places that kids can see bands. Because of that you get a lot of the younger kids that have way more energy than us grandmas.
Amelia: We’ve played at least one house show that I would have rather been home smoking weed with my cats for, but most of them were pretty awesome. The energy is usually a little better at houses, assuming everyone isn’t sitting outside on the lawn during the bands or operating on punk time. Kids sometimes get really excited because usually they have never seen/heard of us before and they think it’s really cool to see a bunch of chicks just getting gnarly. But it all depends on who we are playing with, really. Bars are fine, I like drink tickets and everything, but it seems like it gets somewhat stale, with a lot of the same 20 people or so coming to every show and politely sitting through the set. I don’t know what else I’m expecting, though. I guess as long as I don’t have to stand on a stage, I’m happy. Big shows are not my thing. What you gain in good sound or lighting you lose in not being able to interact with the audience on a more personal and possibly more uncomfortable level. I don’t want people to look at me, I want them to feel me. [Beavis and Butthead laugh] No, seriously. I want them to feel my hot breath on their faces.
Do you ever get heckled by obnoxious people in the crowd? Have you gotten better about dealing with such stupidity?
Julie: I think Amelia heckles the crowd more than we get heckled.
Alessandra: I’ve never personally experienced any real heckling or other stupidity from crowds, but I think Portland is pretty lucky to have a good community of people who come out to support heavier music.
Melissa: I can’t recall any time that Sei Hexe got heckled. I agree that Amelia heckles more than anyone else, which is just one reason why it rules to have her in the band.
What influences the subject matter of the lyrics?
Amelia: The lyrics tend to reflect a tiny portion of whatever’s bothering me at the time they’re being written, but in time become less specific and more abstract. It’s mostly the kind of stuff a paranoid schizophrenic would experience if they ate MDMA and were left in an isolation tank: you know, warm and fuzzy, but… unsettling and chaotic. Some common themes include fear of rejection, the frustration and terror of being laughed at and humiliated by someone you love, the anguish associated with caring about someone more than they care for you, or the overcoming of abusive relationships. The song “Looking At Pictures of Female Bodybuilders” is about poor father/daughter relationships. I guess you wouldn’t always be able to tell by reading the lyrics, but I am heavily influenced by interpersonal issues (not always my own) and that bleeds into it.
It’s obvious y’all are obsessed with cats, even naming some songs after your own cats. Can you explain the hot dog image on your Bandcamp page or the female body builders on your cassette?
Melissa: Well, Amelia text messaged me late one night saying she somehow accidently added a picture of a hot dog to Sei Hexe’s Bandcamp page and couldn’t figure out how to fix it. So I “fixed” it. Along the same line of “duct it or fuck it,” I just added pictures of cats to it and voilà. Fixed. It made me laugh anyways. The female body builders is Amelia’s fetish. But I encourage it.
Amelia: Yeah, I am pretty sure I was up manic one night, entertaining myself on the internet, and the hot dog just seemed like it should go there. Melissa just made it better. I’m sure if we had a more “metal” or “serious” looking Bandcamp or whatever it might be for the best, but as long as nobody else (in the band) complains, I’m all for the jokey. As far as female bodybuilders go, it’s something I’ve been obsessed with for a little while now, for several reasons. I’ve personally used veganism as a cover for anorexia as a teenager, and as an adult I have gone through phases of compulsive eating, sometimes in my sleep, which combined with little physical activity has resulted in severe weight gain over the years. Then we have the female bodybuilders, some of whom suffer from muscle dysmorphia and are just this whole new alien world to me. I wonder about the psychology of these women, what drew them in. I wonder what the difference between us really is. This might be TMI, but I’m also really obsessed with large clits. I have subjected many of my friends to bodybuilder porn… but it’s not a sexual thing for me. I just like to look. If you check YouTube there are a lot of documentaries and such about female bodybuilders. It’s super fascinating. I recommend the Women & Steroids documentary, “HELL ON EARTH.” It includes a line we used as a sample for the song, “I’m just another thing, I’m just another different type of woman.” I still love listening to just that sentence.
Why did you only make 25 cassettes?
Amelia: I think the reasoning behind only doing 25 tapes was to make it so we could still use those songs for something else at a later date, but I also just wanted to have something super limited that people can sell on eBay if we all die in a plane crash on our way to and from New Orleans. I mean, if we sell them for $5, they can probably get about $8. If one of us survives the crash and is horribly disfigured, that might drive it up to $10.
When weed becomes legal in Oregon, which one of you will be first in line to buy some?
Julie: My guess will be Alessandra. I already smoke a ton and won’t need to hit that line up.
Amelia: Yeah, I’ll already be too stoned to put on pants.
Sei Hexe plays Gasa Gasa on May 24th with Short Leash and Knight. For more info (and hot dogs and cats), check out seihexe.bandcamp.com