There are a lot of elements that go into being an incendiary frontman and lead singer. You’ve gotta have charisma, command of an audience, and boatloads of confidence on stage. Alexander Millar (that’s Millar with a hard “ar”) has all three. As the lead singer, songwriter and lyricist for VATTICA, a powerhouse alt-rock band tearing through the City of Angels and beyond, Millar is unafraid to leave it all on the stage — including embracing his bisexuality.
I recently caught up with the deep-voiced lead singer, where we chatted about not only queerness, but Star Trek theories, the history of VATTICA, and imaginary power bands.
JENNIE ROBERSON: How did you come to identify as bi?
Alexander Millar: I knew I wasn’t straight my whole life, obviously, but I actually hadn’t come to identify that way until I met my partner, Kai Hazelwood. Because she helped me understand that bi doesn’t mean literally 50/50. To be bi, one could be any percentage.
So for a long time, I didn’t know what I was, exactly, and didn’t think I could claim that actual community. Basically she educated me, she helped me understand it a lot more. So after I realized I was part of that camp, then I came out because I was able to classify that area of myself, finally. That was only a year ago.
How did your band, VATTICA, come to accept that when you came out to them?
AM: Well, the current band is made up of people… that have been playing with me since I’ve been out, so they didn’t have a problem with it, obviously. Previous members, the one who had been there [the] longest, my longtime friend — it didn’t bother him at all. Generally, musicians and artists tend to be accepting of people, anyway, so it’s rare that I’ve had any uncomfortable pushback from that community.
How has it been being out as a bi artist?
AM: It’s been great. I mean, I haven’t honestly noticed a huge amount of difference, except that I’m able to have other opportunities to play that I didn’t have before… [at] specific bi-themed events.
Such as the Unicorn PARTy?
AM: Yeah, the Unicorn PARTy that Good Trouble Makers just had. [And] we did a youth pride show early in June for Pride month. [Now I’m] able to include an aspect of myself in my art and performance that I didn’t necessarily directly incorporate before.
How do you see yourself as a musician, and how does being bi fold into that?
AM: Well, one of the ways it folds in is that with my lyric-writing, I’ve always thought lyrics should be written from a non-gendered point of view, so that it’s accessible to as many people as possible. And I’ve been doing that for a long time, but it makes even more sense to me now. If you write a song and all the pronouns are “she/her”, then it limits your audience to the people who can really identify with having an attraction for that specifically, as opposed to using pronouns like “you” or “they”. Writing in first person really lets your music be accessible to everyone.
Anything you’d like people to know that isn’t part of your public persona?
AM: I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, and I’m really excited about the Star Trek Picard show that’s coming out soon.
I am, too. I have a running theory Worf’s son, Alexander, might grow up and reveal he’s queer. How do you think the whole Klingon universe — or at least Worf — would deal with that identity coming into their lives?
AM: Well, it depends on who the character is being written by, right? Because if you’re talking about the way the character [Worf] was written in the 90s, he would have had to struggle with that — especially since he’s got this super hetero vibe about him.
But you could make the argument that everyone in the Star Trek universe is bisexual, or even omnisexual, because you have so many different species. So in actuality, your sexuality could be irrelevant. And it would be about just who the person is inside.
Dax who is Trill, etc.
AM: Exactly. So I think Worf’s primary concern would be: “Is Alexander conducting himself with honor?” Not “Who is he sleeping with?”
Fair point. Any of your songs that are specifically a bi leaning? You talk about your lyrics, but are there any particular songs that have that kind of leaning?
AM: …That are about a bi issue specifically?
Or that could be easily construed into being a bi+ anthem.
AM: Our song “We Survive” is definitely a song about the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming odds, and that could easily be interpreted to include any marginalized community. It’s a big stadium anthem song, and the phrase “we survive” is the chorus, so that could definitely be applicable to many communities.
Kind of a queer version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”?
AM: Yeah, sure! [laughs]
Tell me about VATTICA and how it came into being.
AM: VATTICA officially started when myself and the original drummer moved to L.A. We’d been best friends since… God, for 13 years or something. And been in bands together before, [and] played music all our lives. When we moved to L.A., we put an ad on Craigslist and found this bass player from Connecticut.
We played a bunch of shows and wrote a bunch of music, and ended up getting signed by this indie label, and then that label got bought by Sony. Sony paid for us to go record this awesome record that we have now. And in that process… the indie label still controlled our career on a day-to-day basis, but they now had the resources of Sony, which was great, except that the person that was in charge of the indie label [inexplicably] decided to sit on our record.
The problem with that was that we were locked into a four record deal, and they [the indie label] told us not to play shows or promote our music on our own. So we were stuck in this kind of limbo where we had all this drive and energy and fantastic product, but the indie label was just sitting on it with no apparent plan to ever do anything with it. Our producer helped us by recommending a great music lawyer and — long story short — we were able to get out of our contract and take the rights to our music and that record with us.
Over the course of that happening, my drummer decided he wasn’t sure if he wanted to play music at all anymore; it [getting signed] was a very disillusioning process for him. And we had to let our bass player go for, shall we say, creative differences. But I wanted to keep going, so I sort of [had] a revolving collection of people playing with me until settling on the fantastic humans I’m with now.
We’ve released three singles, we have a fourth one coming out in February. We were on the High School Nation Tour this year, and next year we’ll start showcasing again.
Tell me about your most recent single.
AM: I guess our most recent song we did [is] a cover of “When The Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish. We took the song, which is sort of this floaty, ethereal thing, and made an alt-rock version of it and threw a guitar solo in there. It’s really fun.
And then we shot a music video for it where I get covered in black goop, similarly to the way that Billie Eilish does in her video, except we also added the element of interpretive movement choreography, which was done by my partner, Kai. And then some of the people from Good Trouble Makers— our artist collective— star in it.
Speaking of Good Trouble Makers, tell me about your involvement with that group.
AM: Good Trouble Makers are artist-agitators based in Los Angeles and working internationally. Inspired by the words of John Lewis, we are committed to making — making art, making room, making change, making good trouble. Good Trouble Makers do serious work without taking ourselves too seriously. We are a genre-expanding, practice-driven collaborative that is perpetually investigating what anti-racist and queer art-making, devising, teaching, and performing looks like. We celebrate the resiliency, creativity, and audacity of our queer and BIPOC communities; it has ensured our survival and will lead the way to liberation for all.
There’s different things we’re working on at different times, including putting on events. We’ve already done two. One was Nasty Fruit, which was like an evening of various music and drag performances. And then we also did Unicorn PARTy, which I think you were at…?
I couldn’t go because of work.
AM: You weren’t? Why do I have a memory of seeing you there?
I have a lot of twins.
AM: You sent a stunt double.
Yeah, pretty much.
AM: It was awesome. It was an evening of dance and music, and also a craft market.
So for Good Trouble Makers, I do any music stuff they need or any audio production. I also run their social media and do their graphic and web design.
Tell me three of your favorite or most influential queer musicians.
AM: Gosh, there’s so many. Well, the first one has to be Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day — he’s bi, and he’s the whole reason I started playing guitar in the first place. Freddie Mercury, obviously. And third... only three?
You can do more.
AM: Tracy Chapman, David Bowie, Ani DiFranco... Janelle [Monae] is really good. There’s so many musicians that are not straight. Yeah, I’ll go with those.
Dream team bi band you’d love to get together — living or dead. One night only. Go.
AM: One night only... okay. Prince, Billie Joe, Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, and... man, this is hard.
Any bi drummers in there? That’s a lot of guitarists.
AM: Oh yeah, each of them plays multiple instruments, though.
True. They can’t just settle on the one.
AM: Yeah. Bi drummers... I don’t know if Dave Grohl is bi. Not that I know of? He’s an amazing drummer.
He can be an ally drummer.
AM: An ally drummer? I don’t know. Because Prince can play every single instrument. Yeah, I’ll go with that.
AM: Yes. [Does on an old-time radio announcer voice] You can go to officialvattica.com for all your VATTICA needs, and sign up for our email list. We’ve got merchandise, and our social media is @VATTICA.