HELLCAT BLOOM, the pseudonym of Oakland-based singer-songwriter Alex Avritch, is set to release her seven-song debut EP SEMI-SWEET August 19 on pOprOck Records. The EP was previewed by the single and video for the laid-back, nostalgic heartbreak of the first track “Malibu.” Watch the “Malibu” video here and listen to the song here.
There are many songs with “Malibu” in the title, what was the inspiration for your song?
I like to think there are so many songs named after the city because Malibu holds a certain magical quality that breeds endless inspiration. Especially for someone who grew up in the valley. It was the backdrop of so many formative moments growing up. More specifically, the moments I fell in love.
As for what inspired my particular Malibu, it’s heartbreak. It’s about how you never think something or someone so precious to you can let you down or break your heart, and how deeply it hurts when they do. This person, much like Malibu, had an irresistible quality about them that was intoxicating. So much so that it was easy to look past the cracks in the facade. This song is all about taking off the rose-colored glasses and realizing it was time to say goodbye to this “place” I had called home for so long.
The artsy, multi-colored clip invokes the beach theme in a less obvious fashion. What was the creative reason behind this?
Though the song is lyrically built around a Malibu beach backdrop, we really wanted the visuals to embody the emotions behind the motif. Much like waves, love and loss can feel both turbulent and absolutely still. The video will switch from a wash of overlapping, psychedelic patterns to ethereal hues in the matter of seconds. This uncertainty of what’s to come next, while remaining at the forefront of heartache, is what Malibu is all about.
You’re shown in split, multi-screen and swirling images throughout the clip–what inspired this?
A lot of the visuals for this video were inspired by the retro use of split screen to capture simultaneous states of being as well as psychedelic imagery to convey the vivid spaces one finds themself in while going through various stages of heartbreak. In a single moment, you’re sifting through the pieces of sadness, anger, relief etc. That feeling of fragmentation was an extremely important piece of the story.
SEMI-SWEET’s seven songs were written alongside collaborator Arrica Rose; it was recorded at Comp-ny in Los Angeles (Be Hussey engineering) and O2 and The Tree House in Oakland (Arrica Rose engineering). It was mixed and mastered by Dan Garcia at Radio Hill Santa Monica. HELLCAT BLOOM features Alex Avritch on vocals and songwriting duties; producer/co-writer Arrica Rose rhythm guitars, backing vocals, synths, and loops; Marc Thomas on lead guitars; Mark W. Lynn on bass; and Ryan Brown on drums and percussion.
The tracks on HELLCAT BLOOM’s elegantly crafted debut EP pull in elements from 60s girl groups, 90s indie-rock, and modern-day electropop, all wrapped up in a sheen of analog warmth. While the sound is ambitious and confident in its scope, it draws listeners close with the intimacy of lo-fi bedroom folk. Always at the forefront are nuanced lyrics that express the complicated emotions of a passionate love affair as it comes apart at the seams, captured in clever retorts and evocative scenes. Eclectic yet cohesive, melancholy yet carefree, bitter and sweet, the EP is an expression of worlds and sounds gently colliding—from the indie rock anthem “Love Is Strange,” to the sultry, noir slow burner, “Valley Eyes.” The EP is anchored by HELLCAT BLOOM’s lilting vocals that belie the lyrics’ harsh honesty. As every breakup contains both roses and thorns, even the darkest songs are dressed up sweetly in ethereal synths and hypnotic loops, paired with live drums and dreamy guitars.
HELLCAT BLOOM’s creative output revels in the dichotomy that’s true of most romantic relationships, art, and life itself. “I like to say we’re all multi-faceted human beings, and we aren’t just one thing, within a single moment, day, or year,” HELLCAT BLOOM says. “This music is a little bit old school, a little bit new, a nod to this, a nod to that. It’s almost like it’s built from all these perfect fragments of myself and Arrica that came together in this salty but sweet goodness that is the project.”
In the end, HELLCAT BLOOM knew when the project was fully realized, not because of a particular sonic moment or song, but because of the beautiful-but-complex whole. Always, with every lyric, every note, she’s aiming not just to entice listeners, but to move them. If it sounds like HELLCAT BLOOM is asking herself the big questions about art and life, she is. Not only because of her need to express herself through her music, but because of her desire to grow into an artist who can, in turn, be an inspiration for the next generation “It’s important to me in all facets of my life to carve a path for other creators of color, who want to be in the tech space, in the makeup space, in music,” she says. “While finding my own way, I want to make sure I’m doing my part to bring up as many seats at the table as I possibly can.”