Alex Avritch, the woman who performs as Hellcat Bloom, said her roots as a songwriter can be traced back to her earliest memories. “When I was very young, my aunts and uncles circled around me,” she said. “They gave me a plastic baby mic and encouraged me to sing. It was impactful.
“Today, I sing at my desk, I sing at work, I sing cooking dinner. You name it and I’m singing. I love music, but it’s the lyrics that capture my attention. Lyrics feed the soul, because it’s someone speaking to you and connecting with you. There’s something about someone telling you how they feel, point blank, that makes you feel like you’ve been seen. That’s what I hope to do with my songs,” said Avritch.
“When I was a teenager, I loved punk and rock, but never felt truly represented by my favorite artists. Being a mixed-race woman artist—my mother’s Cherokee, Chactaw and African American, my dad is Polish and Romanian—I hope to do my best to pull up as many seats to the table as I can. I want to give more visibility to brown women in indie rock.”
The recently released debut album by Hellcat Bloom, Semi Sweet, lives up to its title, with songs that delve into the incompatible emotions one confronts at the end of an intimate relationship. The songs have a late night, jazzy feel: part dream pop, part indie rock, slightly ethereal, but with a lyrical edge.
“Valley Eyes” opens with comped electric guitar chords and an R&B rhythm provided by hand claps and a drum loop. Ambient keyboards support Avritch as she whispers a half spoken, half sung lyric, describing her unsatisfying search for romance in the bars of the San Fernando valley. “I come from a poetry background and like painting my images with poetry, then adding music to them. That’s what contributes to my unique sound,” she explained.
“We didn’t have an album in mind, but after we finished two and a half songs, we realized we were in the middle of making a full record. Arrica is an incredible musician, so it was easy to bring my ideas to our sessions and have her bring them to life with music. The music and lyrics came naturally, and the whole song would fall together pretty seamlessly. She’ll be on guitar and I’ll start singing and we’ll be freestyling lyrics and figuring out rhythms together. It’s a very symbiotic, creative relationship. After a couple of weeks, we had this amazing collection of songs that we co-produced.”
Avritch, Rose and her band met at several studios, in Oakland and Los Angeles, to record the songs. Midway through the process, the COVID lockdown happened. “I did an internship at Different Fur studio in San Francisco,” Avritch said. “After hours, I was able to play around in the studio and sing and experiment. I enjoyed production, but I wasn’t thinking about making my own record until Arrica and I started working together.
“We recorded in Oakland, socially distanced. We cut the bass and drum tracks at Comp-ny Studio in LA. Everyone was socially distanced and masked, and we got tested frequently. Back in Oakland, I sang in an isolation booth, but the minute I was done, I had my mask back on. It was wild. You’re not in the same room, but you can Frankenstein all the parts together in the mix and get a beautiful finished product.
“When I was young, I wanted to be a singer, but I put it aside to go to school and start working, so to be able to bring that part of me back to life was rewarding and challenging. There’s a lot about the music industry that I didn’t know before starting this project—the business of music, paying for studio time, setting up your music on streaming platforms and getting licenses for the music, especially a cover song. It was a whirlwind of a learning experience.
“We’re all multi-faceted. I can be a full time anything-I-want-to-be. I’d like to make music a big part of my life, including songwriting and performing. I want to be an entrepreneur as well. I’m starting my own company and want to realize all these dreams at once. I believe everything’s possible, so why hold back?”