She Sings, She Dances, She Saves Kids Lives … Get To Know Masha Alexis Masha Alexis and The Fam Grace The Madame Siam Stage And Prep For A Busy 2019
HOLLYWOOD, CA- On November 3rd, 2018, Blurred Culture and no season was able to host Masha Alexis and The Fam on the Madame Siam stage in Hollywood. We were able to catch up with the band’s front-woman, Masha Alexis, after the performance, and got to learn a little bit about her and where she and her band are coming from. Masha is a woman of many talents, and she jokes that she calls herself a superwoman at times with the way she manages her busy schedule, but a singer and dancer who save kids lives? That’s a superwoman in my book.
With plans to release a handful of new tracks throughout the year, hopefully culminating in the release of a full length album by year’s end, get to know Masha Alexi and The Fam!
Give me a little background about you and how you got into music.
Oh, my. I’ll give you the shortish answer. I grew up in Baltimore. I’m Russian. My father came to the U.S. when I was about four years old. I did what all good Russian girls do; I studied classical music. Piano when I was 4. Singing in choirs and operatically when I was 7. I was also trained in classical dance. Modern and ballet. It’s interesting, because I sang forever in choirs and musical theatre and all that stuff, but I actually got picked up by a dance company and I danced professionally for that company for about 5 years. It was amazing, but I didn’t really do anything with music at all. They ate, slept, breathed dance. I started to realize that I wasn’t happy. I had this dream job, and this dream life … I was in Chicago at the time, and I wasn’t happy. So, I started playing around with music a little. I got a vocal coach here and there … and I was getting happier and happier. While I was still dancing, I started doing back-up work. I sang for everything from a heavy metal album to a pop girl group. Then about a year and a half ago, with some pushing and shoving from a mentor and my vocal coach, I said, “You know what? I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna go solo.” So, I did what was supposed to be a solo EP, and a very good friend who plays bass said, “You’re putting a band together. Can I be in your band?” At first I said, “No, I’m not starting a band,” but lo and behold he became my bass player, and we got a guitarist, and now it’s developed into what you got to see at Madame Siam. It’s definitely not a solo project anymore, even though I front the group. It’s taken on a life of its own, and I love it. I love everything about it, but I really quickly realized that with this endeavor, I’m not going to be planning how this works. The universe has a plan, and I just need to follow it. Because every time I try to do something else, the universe seems to [steer me in a different direction].
When did you head out to Sunny California from Chicago?
I moved to L.A. 5 years ago. I’ve lived all over.
Did you move to L.A. for music?
No. Actually, when I moved to L.A. I was still focused on dancing. Singing at that point was still just a hobby. My choreographer had gotten a lifetime achievement award and retired, and I needed a new gig. After I married my husband, we got to talking and I said, “Well, we’ve been in Chicago for so long, you pick a city.” And he actually picked L.A. because he’s an actor, and I came and I started right away dancing. I was resident choreographer for a girl group for a year, and it was actually working with that girl group that they needed a bunch of backup vocals and also vocals in Russian, which was really funny because I could do both … and in the middle of the producer Anthony Marinelli living room, we set up a vocal mic and I just started laying down vocals. It then became less and less of a hobby, and more and more of a career from that day.
Are you now a full time musician, or do you still dance?
I still have a day-job, but I’m working on it. I’m getting closer to becoming a full-time musician, but I’m not going to lie, I’m still struggling and scrapping and doing what I gotta do to get there.
What’s your day job?
My husband and I founded a charity that arranges life-saving spinal surgery for children in East Africa.
It’s my super power. Make music all day, and save kids all night. I had actually gone to Tanzania the first time to do arts and education, and I was going to do music and dance with street youth. You realize really quickly that if kids can’t eat, they don’t care about art. It makes a lot of sense when you are there, but from the States, it never would have been considered. So my program fell apart 7 days after my arrival in Africa, and I had a multi-month ticket until I was coming home, and I was thinking, “Oh, shoot. I’ve got to come up with something else to do while I’m here.” So I started to do what was my job here which was exercise programs for women with chronic health conditions, and this one woman came up to me and asked me to look at her grandson’s back. It was obvious. This poor kid was paralyzed 5 out of 7 days of the week, and he actually had tuberculosis in his spine. Very by accident … I didn’t promise this woman anything … I asked if I could take a couple pictures, and I sent emails to every website I could find about kids and surgery, and fast forward, I got his surgery donated by the Chief of Surgery from Hospital for Special Surgery HSS in New York City. That was our first patient.
That’s amazing. Did that inspire you to keep on doing it?
We actually had enough money left over from the first surgery, and I felt kind of guilty having that money sitting in a bank account because people had donated it. We had enough money. We’ll do one more patient. And that’d be it. Then it’s over. Now we get 450 phone calls a week.
You must be one hell of a sales person.
I didn’t mean to sell it to anybody! A social worker for the case that I had done started to share it. They don’t have technology and electricity the way we do here, so word of mouth is REALLY powerful, and everybody heard about this, and thousand of kids in the country have this life threatening spinal condition. That day, we got 16 kids from that list. 8 were analyzed and agreed to get surgery. I called a friend in the U.S. and said, “We need a charity. Here’s the name I want. Reserve it for me, and get me a lawyer. I’ll be back in a month.”
What’s the name of the charity?
Let’s get back to the music. When you’re creating the music, is it a collaborative effort with “the Fam”?
It depends on the song. I kind of start things up, but it really depends. Our latest song, “Baby’s Gone”, the single we played at Madame Siam, was brought to me by my guitarist. He had written it and had been playing with it for a while, and he thought it’d be good for the band. When I heard it, there was a part of it that was really amazing, but I thought it needed just a little bit of work […] so we worked together on that one. Sometimes, we just jam. We pick some chords and move from there. Most of the lyrics are written by me. Some are written by my guitarist.
How would you describe your music today and do see your sound evolving?
That’s interesting that you ask. I describe our music as indie rock with a heavy soul and blues base. You kinda take Regina Spektor and Nina Simone and some Metric and you slam it all together. What I think is really important about us is that we really emphasize organic instruments, and seeing what we can do with our instruments. We’re all highly trained musicians with classical backgrounds. Our drummer has a masters in drumming and percussion from UCLA. Things like that. So, what we’re doing now is we’re really getting creative in the studio. We actually have a new song coming out in March, and we’re really trying to get creative with stretching out talents. All of us have these little things in our back pockets, and how can we bring all of that into the room and make these songs tell a beautiful story. Music always has to evolve, otherwise it dies. As we continue to play together, I’m going to get better tomorrow than I am today. And three weeks from now, I’ll be better than I was a week from now. If you’re not continuing to grow as an artist, I think you’ve kind of missed the point of doing this. You can never be perfect in art. There’s always some new way to get better. It always has to keep growing.
Striving for perfection but never being satisfied.
It’s the curse and the blessing of all good art