Latest posts by Amber Johnson (see all)
- Women’s History Spotlight: Marie Curie
Rebel, Physicist, Pioneer- March 26, 2016
- Women’s History Month Spotlight: J.K Rowling
"Light can be found even in the darkest of times"- March 24, 2016
- Taraji P. Henson to Portray Human Computer Katherine Johnson in New Film
Henson’s performance will mark one of the few representations of black female scientists in film.- February 20, 2016
Combining the rhythm of tribal music, the serenity of folk, the edge of rock, and the power of soul, St. Beauty defies the restrictions of genre, engineering their own distinctive sound. Born and bred in Atlanta, the band’s minimalist approach tells stories of life and love.
The duo featuring lead vocalist Alex Belle (22) and guitarist/back-up singer Isis (23) met four years ago working retail in vintage clothing store, Poor Little Rich Girl—no surprise considering their killer style, an ode to a more wholesome time of flower children and rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles.
The girls found a connection through music after trading favorite songs on iTunes. When the boutique started hosting showcases, Alex knew she wanted to perform. “Isis offered to play guitar and she came up with some chords–some really dope chords–and we ended up performing it and we got great feedback, and we just started meeting up after that show and just vibing with each other and we decided to become a band.”
Their name, which means “the pure beauty in everyone”, was taken from a song Isis wrote, inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “Bird of Beauty”.
“Beauty is compassion,” Isis explains, “It’s being loving; you can see the beauty in somebody in how they treat people…what people think are “flaws”, [others] are not going to realize they’re there if someone is truly being genuine, or nice, or happy. So there’s not a written definition of what beauty is.”
“Yeah,” Alex chimes in, “you can find beauty in everything, every single thing. Some people call things they don’t understand ugly…everyone has a different mindset of what beauty is, but I think beauty– you [can] find it within anything on earth.”
Alex can’t remember a time when she wasn’t singing. She’s been doing it her whole life.
“I remember back in sixth grade. I [sang] Fallin’ by Alicia Keys in my class and everybody was calling me Alicia Keys,” she laughs.
Talent appears to run in the family. “My Dad was a producer, he also sang, my mom sang, my sister sang. My brother was an artist, he painted, he drew, and I grew up around that. I feel like I represent my family now because I pulled from all of them.”
Isis recalls waking up one day with a sudden desire for a guitar. She has no idea what came over her, but it is clear through St. Beauty’s haunting melodies that linger on past the last note, that Isis was destined to have a guitar in her hands. She attributes her love of singing to a connection with church.
“I guess I grew up in church. My mother sings in church, she’s always singing, my great-grandmother sings, my stepdad plays in the church also, so I’ve just always been around that. My dad had a record store so he would send me tapes and stuff like that, just randomly – that’s what always kept the wheels churning for music. But I was always shy, so I never did anything out in the public until I met Alex.”
The group recently released their first music video, “Going Nowhere”, directed by Lacey Duke. Taking place in the 70’s with the girls sporting natural hair, the story follows three carefree couples taking a road-trip in their hippie van. Throughout the video they each exchange a strand of red thread.
“It’s about faith… there is always somebody in your life that you know you are always going to be with; you may feel like that person is your soul-mate. So the Red String Theory is [that] there are two people on both ends, and this string of fate holds them together, ties them together, so no matter what happens in life they are always going to be on the other end, and be together eventually. It’s a love story,” Alex explains.
The lyrics, both simple and moving, touch on a deep love that we all hope to find.
I asked the girls what songs moved them to tears.
“This may be weird,” Isis laughs, “but there is a Tame Impala song called ‘Cause I’m a Man.’ It made me sad because it was like, ‘I’m a man, woman and that’s how I act.’ I don’t know, that excuse, it’s just sad, the fact that people are like, ‘I act this way because I am a man’… it’s true but it’s sad, the nature of people, the way they use certain things as an excuse… and at that time I think I was mad at somebody, mad at a guy and like ‘Oooooh’,” Isis emphasizes.
“There have been so many songs that I cried to,” Alex adds, “but the last song I cried to was ‘Broken Hearted Girl’ by Beyoncé.”
With music so close to their hearts, neither Alex nor Isis can imagine a future without it.
“Urban planning,” Isis says dispassionately, “I probably would have done that but I don’t know, I wasn’t really that passionate about that, so maybe a dentist. I don’t know.”
It’s clear St. Beauty chose the right path and that they are already on their way to jump-starting a lengthy career. The duo recently finished a tour with Moonchild and headliner, The Internet.
“It was a lot of fun. I can’t even remember everything, but good times,” Isis chuckles.
However, life as musicians has never been effortless.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy–none of this is going to be easy. We don’t really hold expectations. We are just riding the waves of this journey and just progressing and growing and seeing where it takes us,” says Alex.
Luckily, the band is not alone on their journey. The girls were taken under the wing of the Electric Lady herself, Janelle Monáe, and her Wondaland Arts Society; a powerhouse that has been producing an eclectic and talented line-up including Jidenna (Classic Man), and up-and-comers Deep Cotton and Roman GianArthur. As peers and mentees, St. Beauty has benefited from the collective’s experiences and insight into producing and the music industry.
“Have a plan, be very strategic, you have to know every detail of who you are, whatever holes; you have to be able to fill every hole. They’re going to try to make things how they want it or how they see it,” Alex recalls about the group’s best advice.
Last August the Wondaland team marched the streets of Philadelphia armed with music in a protest against police brutality. Half gospel, half cry for justice, Wondaland’s collaborative song “Hell You Talmbout” calls on the public to say the names of police brutality victims.
“That was an amazing experience,” Isis remembers, “It was our first time going out into the communities and actually seeing the families talk about this. Now we’ve been able to see things on video, and I think many people have only really heard it on songs or just on the news, but when you can actually see footage of this and see it happen so many times–there is no way you can be silent.”
“I didn’t understand,” Isis continues, “I would not have understood if I was not actually seeing people face-to-face… so I think when people can feel the emotions they can see and get more of a real human experience … I have a little brother, she, has a young nephew,” Isis says gesturing to Alex, “We have people in our family where we are like, ‘Wow, if this happened to that person, if that was their name, I couldn’t imagine.’ So I think it was important and a great learning experience.”
Their involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement is just one facet of their overall goal to heal and inspire through their music. They want to make music their audience “can relate to, feel good [to], vibe to, feel free when they listen to it, music that just makes them want to stretch their arms out and just be themselves and be free,” Alex says, lifting her arms into the air.
St. Beauty is currently working on a body of music that will be released later this year, so be on the lookout! You can buy their hit song “Going Nowhere” on iTunes as part of their collaborative album “Wondaland Presents: The Eephus”.