As a single, Vattica’s latest, titled “Gasoline,” checks all the boxes of a great rock song; emotive, ambitious, atmospheric, catchy, infectious… it basically does it all. The song is a testament to the burgeoning talents and abilities of Alexander Millar, the Los Angeles-based mastermind behind Vattica. Vattica is Millar’s musical outlet for all that he loves about rock n’ roll, steered by an affection for the heavy guitar era of the 1990s and the anthemic pop songs of today.
Millar’s approach to music is very much in tune with queer activism and Alex’s work as a part of Good Trouble Makers, the anti-racist artist group that works internationally to advance its anti-discrimination agenda. “Gasoline” is Vattica’s first new single since the release of the 2020 debut EP, Believe.
It’s always interesting to learn more about the background and motivation behind great music, so Millar himself joins us today for a Stereo Six session in which he lays out six songs that very much had an effect on him when composing “Gasoline.”
“When I was writing my new song ‘Gasoline’ I was influenced by a variety of sources, some musical and some non-musical, like activists, spiritual teachers, and books. For a list of non-musical influences you can head over to my website.
Here is what I was listening to while writing ‘Gasoline…’”
1. REL and Artemis Delta – “Night City” (2020, Lakeshore Records)
“I was playing a lot of Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76 because, as the powers that be seem gleefully determined to push our world headlong into a dystopia, it was comforting to be able to play in dystopian worlds that I actually had some measure of control over.
“‘Night City’ is a beautifully melancholy and yet strangely hopeful track that’s perfect for cruising through the chaos of Cyberpunk 2077 or the streets of downtown LA. So, you know, basically the same thing.”
2. Fever 333 – “We’re Coming In” (2020, Roadrunner Records)
“Fever 333 is one of my favorite ‘new’ bands. I put ‘new’ in quotes because anytime any of us find out about a new artist that artist has been around a long time before gaining any kind of prominence in the industry.
“Made An America is their latest album and it was written in direct response to the George Floyd protests during the summer of 2020. When we made it into 2021 and Biden got elected, a lot of my fellow white folks dropped the faux activism they were doing. Listening to Fever 333, a Black-fronted band that is all about direct activism, is a good reminder that this work was going on before us white folks all thought it was ‘trendy,’ and continues to need to be done, with or without us. Engaging in anti-racist activism is not only a necessity for our world to survive, but a privilege if you’re white, and it’s important to remember to listen to Black activists and other leaders in that community. What are they asking for? What can we do to help, while also de-centering ourselves as white folks?”
3. Linkin Park – “Battle Symphony” (2017, Warner Records)
“In my opinion, Linkin Park is a totally underrated band that gets written off as ‘oh the nu-metal guys.’ If you look at their discography, they’re a band that continued to push themselves and evolve with each record, and this track is a really hopeful pop anthem that I feel really got slept on by most people.
“I know there was backlash by some of their hardcore fans accusing them of ‘selling out,’ and I think that’s just such a silly thing to say in response to an artist continuing to evolve and develop their craft. Wanting an artist to stay exactly the same is childish, and also detrimental to the artist because that’s how we all become dated.
“‘Battle Symphony’ is a perfect track for walking or jogging or riding or sitting during the magic hour before dusk.”
4. The Goo Goo Dolls – “Miracle Pill” (2019, Warner Records)
“The Goo Goo Dolls are another example of a band that’s known for one sound and continues to evolve. I had just successfully gotten out of my record contract, found new members to play with and lined up a bunch of shows when the pandemic hit, which understandably caused the people I was playing with to leave for one reason or another.
“That stall in momentum was actually a blessing in disguise (not the pandemic, the momentum stall) because it forced me to reevaluate who I wanted to be as an artist, and my sound has changed considerably since then.
“Now I’m writing, performing, recording and producing everything on my own. While all that was going on I found ‘Miracle Pill,’ which really spoke to how I was feeling and is just such a good song in general.”
5. Lilli Lewis, Lady A, Arnae Batson, Vienna Carroll, Angelique Francis, Kim Richards – “A Healing Inside” (2021, Louisiana Red Hot Records, Elysium House Music)
“This is such a beautiful song. I found out about Lilli Lewis through Lady A who, if you don’t know, is NOT the racist country band Lady Antebellum, but actually the original artist to go by the Lady A name. Lady A’s story is pretty incredible, I did a TikTok on it that you can watch, and a lot of other folks have covered her story but basically during the summer of 2020, Lady Antebellum decided to do the bare minimum and change their dumb racist name. The only problem is there was already another artist using the name that they wanted to change it to. Lady A is a Black blues artist who’s been performing under that name for over 20 years; ‘longer than they’ve been alive,’ as I’ve heard her say.
Lady Antebellum chose to change their name to her name anyway, and then sued her when she resisted. Smash cut to Lilli Lewis putting her album out and Lady A is a guest artist on this track; Lady Antebellum complained to Spotify that ‘their name’ shouldn’t be on this album and Spotify pulled the whole album. Not just that song, the whole album. So if you’re keeping score that not just one, but TWO Black artists that Lady Antebellum has directly tried to suppress. Spotify has since restored the album but should never have pulled it in the first place.”
6. Freddie Mercury – “Time Waits For No One” (2019 Dave Clark International, Universal International Music BV)
“I mean, you can’t go wrong with Freddie Mercury! This is such a poignant and cathartic song, made especially so by the fact that it’s just the piano and Freddie’s raw vocals. It inspired me to focus more on emotion rather than ‘perfect’ technique in my singing style, especially when recording, and you can hear that reflected both in ‘Gasoline,’ and my previous single ‘Broken Glass.’”