VMP Rising is our series where we partner with up-and-coming artists to press their music to vinyl and highlight artists we think are going to be the Next Big Thing. Today, we’re featuring two EPs from vōx This Body and I Am Not A God, featured respectively on sides A and B of our vinyl release.
vōx is not just a moniker that the artist drapes across her, like her elaborate and deliciously campy costumes that grace her music videos and stage performances. Rather, vōx, pronounced “wokes,” is both an armor and a vehicle for the Los Angeles-based singer.
Though she previously performed under her given name, she donned vōx as a way to express her ideas and vulnerabilities without baggage.
“The things that I've been able to manifest through vōx, they can be really surprising,” vōx said. “It's been really powerful.”
The power is clearly evident in This Body, a dreamy five-track EP that solidifies vōx as an electric force to be reckoned with. Her voice, with its gorgeous, spectral tone, glides over the trance-inducing instrumentals with ease and grace. Though sonically ominous and eerie at times, This Body ultimately uplifts us into the sublime, that beautiful feeling of otherworldliness.
In addition to her guise as vōx, she is also able to deploy her strength in This Body and her other works by reclaiming the Christian imagery that saturated her childhood. The cover of 2019’s EP, I Am Not A God, for example, is a recreation of her church confirmation. Yet instead of a modest, white dress, she is clad in a sheer, red garment and thigh-high, emerald boots with stiletto heels.
“I think it is a way to take back my power in those situations where I had felt really powerless or shamed.”
Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, vōx attended a Lutheran church each Sunday with her mother and surrounded herself with a circle of religious friends, though she realizes these relationships were ultimately surface-level.
“I didn't share that I was making music or my struggles with anxiety and depression,” she said. “I never shared any of that with my friends at that time.”
Music, rather than religion, became her savior.
A self-described moody teen, she turned to songwriting as a way to unleash her emotions, especially as she grappled with living in an emotionally repressed household.
“Even into my mid-20s, [music] was my main form of figuring out how I was feeling because I still wasn't even able to process what was going on.”
Because sticking around in a small town that didn’t boast a single venue or recording studio would be a deadend, vōx headed west after college to launch her career as a musician.
“There wasn't any room for changing who you are as a person or having growth,” she said. And for vōx, change is vital and a key theme of This Body, the majority of which she wrote in fall 2019. In “Too Much, Give Up,” she asks a poignant question: “Am I changing enough if I can still remember who I am?” Perhaps an impossible question at that.
“There's always a fear that I'm not growing fast enough or that I'm not reaching a level of growth that I want to be at at this time in my life, but I'm never going to stop,” she said. “There isn't really an ‘enough.’”
The concepts of fear, shame and self-worth (and lack thereof) are easy to spot throughout each of vōx’s discography, including this one, but *This Body *exudes more self-assuredness than ever before. At the same time, the EP also embraces self-awareness, even when it’s difficult, like in “I Hid In Him,” which explores if it’s possible to become too close to the one you love.
Similarly, “How Do I Connect To The Spirits?” is a timely contemplation of family history and sins, down to the cellular level. Though she peppers the soft song with a series of queries, vōx concludes the track with the confident repetition of “It isn’t enough / It isn’t enough yet.”
But it’s not the questions that stand out on her third EP as vōx. It’s the mantra-like affirmations that warmly beckon the listener in and coax them into believing the words she coos. In “Be Bigger,” vōx punctuates the lines, “Look at the space I deserve / Look at the body I deserve / And it deserves me,” in a deft, staccato fashion, leaving no space for doubts to wriggle in, try as they might.
The singer has also noticed this internal shift, both within and beyond her world of artistic expression.
“I've been able to understand what I'm feeling, aside from songwriting, and now I can make more conscious choices about the stories that I want to tell through my music.”
Still, though, vōx is torn about releasing her songs in the middle of a societal upheaval, as protests sparked by police brutality and racism continue across the country, in addition to the global pandemic.
“Part of me feels like, ‘What's the point? There's so many more important things that we need to talk about,’” she said. “But, art is always the thing that has comforted me, so, on the other hand, if I can make people feel at peace with their anxieties, then it's all worthwhile.”
Taylor Ysteboe is a journalist helping lead the digital and audience strategy at The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. Her writing has appeared in Billboard, Noisey, The Hard Times, Paste Magazine and She Shreds.