Interviews

The Silk War: The Power of Standing Up Even When Misunderstood

The Silk War is a female-fronted, five-piece band consisting of Alexandra Blair (singer/lyricist), James Mullen, (guitar/songwriter/producer), Angelo Miliano (keyboards), Josh O’Guinn (bass), and Andrew Mega (drums).

And they have a lot to say. Loudly.

Their music can best be described as a modge-podge assembly of rock, colored with production akin to the pop-punk, emo, alternative AND electronic movements. Their upcoming debut album, “Come Evening” exemplifies all of these genres amid its 11-tracks, but also provides a deep insight to the band’s love of New York City, the arts within it, and more. The 11-songs confront a wide range of issues from anti-bullying, gun control, and more.

Alexandra and James (who produced the entire album) joined Soundigest to talk about their influences, goals, and the process behind this debut album.

How did you each get involved in music? What’s your story?

Alexandra: For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with a stutter, a characteristic of mine that tends to shake the hands of those I meet before I have the chance to introduce who I really am. From a very young age, I struggled with how to communicate with others on a very basic level. My stutter arrests my thoughts and takes them away from me before I can even get the chance to explain anything. When I began to sing I realized everything went away. I could communicate with those around me and express myself. That’s all I’ve ever really wanted. Writing music and lyrics allow me to speak to others without hesitation or shame.

James: When I was 14-years-old I went to a hardcore show (Breakdown and Outburst) at the University of Connecticut, and it completely changed my life. The power and energy of it made me realize at that very moment that that was what I wanted to do. Immediately after I formed one of my first bands, and from there I got into engineering and production. I loved both sides of the glass.

What is your approach to creating music as a band? Does it start with an idea that contextualizes, or with sound? What about when it comes to production?

Alexandra: Everything really begins with James, either by composing a chord progression, a drumbeat, guitar lick, etc. I write lyrics incessantly, however, these daily lyrics seem like daily exercises composed in preparation for the music that we create. Once he has a musical idea, I write the lyrics first based off of the feeling and sounds. The melody comes afterwards. In that way, James and I become very in sync. I usually start off by regurgitating verse and/or outro lyrics. We basically always write our choruses last, mostly because it takes me a little more time to find beauty in simplicity. I love to rant, so this is always a bit difficult for me.

In terms of production, this is where the bulk of our time is spent. We are studio rats, so we spend hours in the studio perfecting and tweaking synth sounds, guitar sounds, etc.

Since Come Evening is your debut album, I’m interested in knowing what your approach was in creating the album. How did the creative process play out? What track came first, and what came last?

Alexandra: We wanted to write an album that took the listener through a night in New York City. The album has since developed from there, taking twists and turns through heartbreak, through childhood, as though you are explaining your life to a stranger at 5am; both of you sharing all that you have and then never seeing each other again. It is a work of triumph, but it is also a work of mourning and of loss, so it was never an easy process.

James: Alexandra and I wrote the bare bones to “Blue Hour” the first day that we met each other. We then went on to write songs such as “Little Souls” and “My Familiar.” Songs such as “Lark Mirror,” “Second Age” and “Sylvia” were musical ideas that I had had in my head for years that needed lyrics and melody, which is where Alexandra came in. “Barcelona” and “Slender Slander” were the last songs that we wrote for the album, and we chose both of these songs as singles to distinguish where our sound is going and how it has developed.

It seems like you’ve woven together a lot of different themes into this album. Can you tell us more about what you were aiming for and what you wanted to highlight particularly in your music?

Alexandra: To us, each song takes on a world of its own, however, there is this overarching, all-encompassing idea of tragedy and darkness that is impossible to avoid. We explore the vulnerability that comes with self-actualization, the power of standing up even when misunderstood, to be wild and eloquent and sane enough to realize that to be different is a path both natural and chosen.

There is always a sense of melancholy, of self-doubt. When paired with cinematic sounds, it allows the listener to feel as though they are not only watching their lives take place, but they have the right to free will, to choose where they want to be, who they surround themselves with, and, most importantly, what they need to say. We went out of our way to cover a lot of different musical ideas and lyrical highways so as not to get pigeon-holed into one sound or idea.

Do you have any memorable moments from when you were making this album that you want to share?

Alexandra: The orchestration of “Blue Hour” in particular was probably one of the most strenuous processes we have ever been through as a band. The lyrics, melody, and chord progression were all written the first day James and I met, however, the production of the song was redone about 15 times (change in BPM, different guitar sounds, different intros, etc.). Once we came across the idea of writing a song that mimics driving down a barren highway, we were able to truly master how to explain what staying up all night (or writing an album for that matter) really feels like.

It is as though you are running on auto-pilot surrounded by sparks and the only weapons in hand are whatever you have experienced or felt before to guide you through it. There were a lot of bad moments between all of us because living in darkness and writing about it brings up a lot of vulnerability and anger. We have been to the depths of despair and back, and so as a band we have become that much closer and that much stronger.

What was the timeline like for creating this album? Did it happen over the pandemic, and if so, how did that change how you made music together as a band?

James: Our record was mostly done before the pandemic hit, however it completely uprooted our plans on how to finish it and how to release it. The release was deeply affected by it. We were forced into a complete stop just as we were really building momentum at shows in Brooklyn and Manhattan. During the pandemic, we began to write for the first time without the ability to test it out live first. We always tweaked our songs based off of how it affected a New York audience, so we really had to turn the mirror on ourselves and trust the recording studio and its subsequent bubble. It helped us grow a lot as songwriters.

What do you want listeners to take away from this album? What is the message or messages you’ve tried to share in your music?

Alexandra: The absolute veil of solitude that is the pandemic has resulted in a massive rise in mental health issues, or rather, the realization that with or without a pandemic. We are all lost because we are all alone. The pandemic has just shed light on these universal, suppressed feelings of doubt and that is really what we care to write about the most; the darkest and innermost part of the self. No one cares more about you than you do because no one can speak for you except you.

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