At first glance, Alecia “Mixi” Demner presents a paradox. On the one hand, as the singer for hard rock outfit Stitched Up Heart, Mixi is known for writing songs with heavy themes and wailing her vocals over crunching riffs. But on the other hand, Mixi has a bubbly and radiant personality, particularly when she’s talking about the kittens she’s raised.

It all starts to make sense when you consider the songs on Stitched Up Heart’s new album, “Darkness.” Much like the yin and yang, Mixi’s lyrics show there is duality to our lives. You can’t have a triumph without a struggle, and it’s the latter part that Mixi addresses on one of the album’s singles, “Warrior.”

“With ‘Warrior,’ we had written it as a super strong, ‘I can do anything’ song, and it just didn’t grab me,” Mixi explains. “It didn’t feel authentic to me if the song was just about strength, because I hadn’t learned anything about strength until I’d been through stuff. We realize how strong we can be after we’ve overcome some of the scariest things in our life.”

After going back and rewriting the verses, the song ended up being exactly what Mixi was going for—an authentic tribute to soldiers. By confronting the PTSD that affects so many who serve, the song is much more powerful than just another flag-waving, feel-good anthem.

Throughout its 10 tracks, “Darkness” isn’t afraid to go to some incredibly bleak places. But that doesn’t mean it wallows in misery. “There are a lot of introspective lyrics looking into our deepest, darkest secrets,” Mixi explains, “bringing those thoughts to life and trying to connect with people as deep as I possibly could. With every single song we wrote, I would meditate beforehand and really just try to reach the darkest parts of the soul, bring it to light, and turn it into a more hopeful, positive message.”

Before getting ready to go into the studio to record a follow-up to 2016’s “Never Alone,” Stitched Up Heart wrote 70 songs. Seventy. Just looking at that number can be staggering—it wouldn’t be surprising if the band felt overwhelmed. But, as Mixi explains, it was all part of the process.

“We threw a lot of paint in every direction to try to go out of our comfort zone and create something that was unique, as unique as we possibly could,” Mixi says. “We could have easily done the same record as “Never Alone” and just made an extension of that, but we really wanted to try to push the envelope and push ourselves as artists.”

Photo by Curtis Noble

Photo by Curtis Noble

There are definite parallels between Stitched Up Heart’s songwriting process and Mixi’s own tattoo collection history. As you look at her now, you see a beautiful collection of well-done tattoos covering her body, but it took a lot of throwing paint to get where it is today. Mixi got her first tattoo at the age of 16, not in a shop, but at a tattoo party thrown by some older friends. Given the experience, it’s a tribute to her resiliency that she ever got another one.

“The first tattoo I got was a tramp stamp, of course. Excellent,” Mixi laughs. “I was so nervous that I took an entire handle of Captain Morgan—there was probably about two or three inches left at the bottom of it—and I chugged the whole thing before I sat down. Then when I sat down, the guy started on it and he was like, ‘You’re bleeding way too much, you gotta stop.’ Then I just threw up and passed out.”

When she woke up in the morning, Mixi had a partial diamond inked onto her lower back, miles away from the finished tattoo she had imagined. The tattoo was supposed to be something out of a Lisa Frank notebook. “I had drawn this thing in art class,” Mixi says. “It’s a whale tail and it has waves and butterfly wings and all that cheesy stuff you draw when you’re a 16-year-old girl.”

Intent on having her tattoo finished, Mixi soon learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes, if you walk into the right tattoo shop with a very wrong tattoo, they don’t bother asking for your ID. And her journey had begun.

To say that Mixi is an animal lover is quite possibly the understatement of the century. Naturally, her tattoo collection reflects this. Some of her tattoos include a unicorn (mythical animals count!), a lion, a tiger, and soon she will be adding a wolf.

“My dad got his very first tattoo last year and he’s in his 60s,” Mixi says. “He never thought he was going to get a tattoo. I took him on this rock cruise called Shiprock, it was his first time listening to super-heavy bands and he fell in love with it, and he immersed himself in the rock community. He had bought these temporary, stick-on sleeve tattoos from the ship and he loved the way they look. So he decided he wanted to get a half sleeve.

“So my dad sat for 10 hours and got a half sleeve of a wolf on his arm,” Mixi continues. “I’m planning to get my next one on the back of my leg, a matching wolf tattoo so I can always think of him. And he’s a guy who never, ever thought he’d ever get tattooed.”

Like so all the rest of us, Mixi has been trying to make the best out of lockdown. All that time at home has given her the opportunity to pursue one of her great passions—fostering kittens.

After making the decision to become sober over five years ago, Mixi was looking for things to occupy her time. She stumbled across a kitten bottle-feeding class and decided it sounded super fun and random. Shortly thereafter she found herself at a kitten shower, like a baby shower but way cuter.

“At the kitten shower they were like, ‘Oh, you already trained how to bottle feed? Do you want to foster one of these babies?’” Mixi says. “I ended up with, like, this tiny little black-and-white kitten, I think he was two weeks old. I named him Oreo.”

Oreo was the first of 33 kittens to be fostered by the singer. She has also fostered one puppy, but the experience was, to put it delicately, very messy. Once each kitten is ready, she passes them back to Kitten Rescue L.A. to handle their adoption. “I can only say goodbye once,” Mixi says. “It’s the hardest thing to do when you’ve grown this tiny baby that thinks you’re its mom. But I have to say goodbye at a certain point, otherwise I would have 33 cats by now.”

Mixi never would have found the deep love she has for each foster kitten if she hadn’t ever sunk to a point where she needed to get sober. Once again, showing that even in our darkest moments, there is a light to be found.