There’s something beguiling and mysterious about vōx, not least of all being her name (which is pronounced “wokes,” by the by). The Minnesota-born, LA-based songstress creates haunting images of rebirth, love, loss, and longing. Her unusual production and emotive vocals sparked an instant curiosity within me, so I invited her into my garden in Brooklyn for a chat.
vōx will perform live for Annie O’s Standard East music series at 7pm on Monday October 2nd (that’s tonight!).
Michelle Rose: Your name is pronounced “Wokes”?
vōx: It’s Latin for “voice.”
Beautiful. How did you decide to choose that name?
I was making this project around when there were other females with one word, strong, gender-neutral project names. Lorde had just come out, Banks had just come out. I knew that those were things I wanted in a name. I also have it tattooed on me, so I think that was part of it. I probably looked down and was like “What about that?”
I love this tattoo. What is this that?
This is by a friend of mine from L.A. named Buckley. She is a visual artist and she had a birthday party with a tattoo parlor there.
It looks like a woman embodying a cello.
I play the cello.
You play the cello?
Yes. I like that tattoo.
So your songs are deeply personal, and they explore themes of rebirth, lost love longing, and personal growth. What was your core inspiration behind this EP that you just released?
The core inspiration was the story of becoming vōx. “I Was Born” is about rebirth. So I was exploring some of those different feelings that go along with rebirth—like the anxiety and the isolation.
What is your favorite season?
My favorite season is winter.
When did you record the majority of this EP? It’s kind of why I asked. I feel like there’s all the different colors and seasons and feelings.
It’s hard because LA has no seasons so I can’t be like “It was snowing when we started!” But I think we would’ve started recording in the late summer.
LA is its own season.
Yeah the season of LA.
Your Instagram is very captivating, it’s how I discovered your music. Are you a visual artist too?
Yeah, definitely. I almost always get involved in the styling and the creative direction for photo shoots that I do. And I had never done any of that with other projects, so that’s super new for me. It’s one of my favorite aspects of what I get to do with vōx.
That was my next question, do you have different artists you collaborate with?
It’s usually a collaboration between me and the photographer. Every once in awhile I’ll have a shoot—like when I did the i-D shoot, the photographer brought in a stylist. That’s always really fun, because I can be like “I wanna wear Molly Goddard” and I can actually wear Molly Goddard. The styling is really fun for me, because I love fashion and I don’t want to play it safe.
What’s your musical background? Did you grow up singing in a choir? There are lots of vocal layers. Lots of harmonies are going on with minimalist production that I really appreciate.
My musical background is mostly in piano. My parents put me in lessons when I was really young and I hated it. I fought it for many years, but I eventually found a teacher that encouraged my songwriting. I was probably, like 11 or 12. Instead of practicing I would just make up my own songs. She really encouraged that. That was one of my first “Maybe I should pursue this” moments.
What were your musical influences as a child?
As a child? Disney soundtracks?
What was your number one? I loved Mulan.
I don’t even remember anymore. It was probably like Lion King or Pocahontas or something.
Nature. So who would you say are your contemporary influences right now?
Mostly hip-hop, or things that are very lyrically focused. I love Kendrick Lamar. I love Solange. I love people that take a lot of care in their songwriting and their craft. On the other side of it, I love super interesting production. I love Mura Masa and other electronic artists. Doing stuff where you’re like “What just happened sonically?”
Also, not to steer away from influences, how did you decide to incorporate religious imagery within your musical identity?
I grew up going to church and all the things that went along with that. I feel like the religious imagery came into my work very naturally. When I had to think about it, I realized that I never really felt included in the church growing up. I felt like an outsider, not welcome. I think that me infiltrating it through my art is kind of like me taking control over those feelings, and being like “I do belong here. I can belong here.”
Have you seen the movie mother! ?
No, is it good?
Is it terrifying?
The imagery of the shrines that you have on your Instagram. A lot of them were reminiscent to the film, so I wanted to know if you’ve seen the movie. I would see the movie and decide how you feel about it. I’m not gonna give it away. No spoiler alerts coming from me. But in terms of stylistic—yeah, there’s definitely perceptions shifts. Just watch it. Maybe watch it at home so you can fast-forward when it gets really scary.
I’m really looking forward to your show at The Standard. What’s your live setup like?
I am solo.
Do you play the keyboards too?
I play the keyboard for a couple of songs. But I love being free to move around. So I’ll trigger things but I don’t stay attached to my instrument for most of the set. Usually I’m free to do whatever I want.
What was your first New York show?
I played in a church called Jan Hus, it was magic.