Tarotviews is a new interview series I’ve concocted that fuses a traditional Q&A with a three-card tarot reading. I’ll use my deck of Motherpeace tarot cards to delve into the artist’s past, present, and future, and allow the cards to guide our conversation.
First up is vōx, the ethereal being who descended like a fallen angel upon the Los Angeles music scene last year, swiftly converting our jaded opinions about local artists with her rare authenticity and hypnotizing sound.
I begin all of my tarot readings by asking my subject to think of a question, or if they prefer a general life reading, to let their thoughts roam. I let them choose whether to share their inquiry with me, or keep it to themselves and allow me to pull all of my insight from the cards.
vōx chose to share hers, confiding that she wondered whether her music career was on the right trajectory, and if there was anything she should change about her current approach.
I was first introduced to vōx, née Sarah Winters, through our mutual friend Def Sound after his performance at AstroSounds, the underground concert/interview series I used to throw downtown.
It was always a little bit chaotic producing AstroSounds, so my initial memory of vōx is vague, but Def Sound followed up via email, and no sooner had I opened her SoundCloud profile was I hooked. I booked her immediately for the following month, and her performance did not disappoint. vōx’s music is sensual and strange; her voice wavers effortlessly from delicate soprano to commanding alto notes, with jarring piano and groovy bass lines that seduce and haunt you.
Her stage performance brings it full circle, telling a story that begins with her veiled and hunched, a crown atop her head. Over the course of the performance she slowly sheds her veil and places her crown on a regal column. The choreography is stark in its simplicity, and you watch as she breaks free from a blinding homogeneity, long manicured nails clawing at her pale slip dress, then delicately pulling the white veil from her eyes. Unashamed, vulnerable, she stands facing the audience barefoot, alone.
Unsurprisingly, vōx puts a lot of thought into the themes and symbolism of her onstage persona.
The stage persona is an extension of the character who is singing the songs, so I think that’s why it happened quite naturally. The visual elements are an aesthetic that very much interests me. I like the ideas it might put in an audience’s mind–white to show purity, the column to signify strength, the crown to symbolize authority and greatness.
Solitude is a theme that runs through vōx’s music, something that became familiar to her as a child growing up in a town of 10,000 in Minnesota. It explains why she pulled the Chariot as the card to represent her past. In my Motherpeace book, the Chariot’s chapter is titled “Winning One’s Own Way;” it represents independence, the ability to accomplish tasks on the physical plane. The card depicts the goddess warrior Athene, who guides a chariot led by winged goats, and holds a double-headed axe in her active right hand, an almost-scepter that represents being balanced in power, ruler of her universe. The Egyptian Sky-Goddess Lut stretches like a canopy behind the Charioteer, providing protection and connecting her to the soft and mystical parts of her personality.
Based on what I knew, it seemed to represent a maturation and a journey through loneliness and depression to produce art that is soul-centered and relatable.
Although she took piano lessons off and on as a child, it was a while before vōx recognized her poetry as song lyrics or heard songs on the radio and imagined that as a possibility for herself.
I was songwriting naturally before I knew it was something I could pursue. It was when I started listening to Saddle Creek Records as a teenager. Their artists were so real and human to me. It was the first time I heard music like that. It made me believe I could do it too.
How fitting that she would choose vōx (pronounced wokes), the Latin word for voice, as her stage name. By the time she arrived in Los Angeles, she was eager to use it.
A confident tweet to KCRW DJ Valida led to a profile on KCRW’s website, regular plays on their station and more than a few live bookings. Now the two musicians are friends, and when I met vōx for our interview, she was one week out from her her first headlining show at the Bootleg Theater, where Valida was scheduled to DJ in between acts.
vōx admits she’s been blessed to have her music championed by goodhearted people who truly believe in her work, which is reflected in the 10 of Cups, the card that represents her present. The card depicts a community of people with their arms raised in gratitude and joy after receiving a plentiful harvest. It represents the success of people coming together for a common cause. It affirms her current path, and reassures her that there are no snakes in her midst.
I find it impressive, given her enigmatic personality, that she’s managed to avoid the vultures in the music industry, and wonder what her squad goal secrets are.
There are always going to be those people. But if you build a team around yourself of people whose opinions you trust, hopefully they can help you ward that off at least a little.
I attended her headlining show with a few friends, and was just as bewitched as the first time I saw her. A machine hummed behind her, producing bubbles that framed her face in iridescence before bursting in the crowd. It was my first time seeing her perform her new cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “i,” which she produced with long-time collaborator Dylan Brady and quickly went viral after landing in Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlist.
“I love myself,” her statement reverberated through the venue, unapologetic and true. Just as I’ve always felt empowered in my Blackness when the lyrics were spoken by Kendrick, when vōx sang them I felt them pierce me in a similar way, thought about all the ways our society encourages women to feel small, and what an accomplishment it is to love yourself in spite of it all. Who could blame her for wanting to cry it out?
After the show I congratulated vōx and signed her guest book. Stumped over what to write, I could only think of, “You’re Peter Pan!” which was as well as I could articulate the way she’d mesmerized us with whimsy onstage.
Though she’s been lucky to work with many talented producers, vōx looks forward to taking the lead on future projects. Interesting she’d have that instinct, since the 3 of Swords, which she pulled as her future card, cautions that a clash of egos may be eminent. The card art shows three costumed women frozen in a tense yet rhythmic posture with their swords poised to strike. It could be related to different aspects of the personality conflicting with each other, but since the rest of her spread is so balanced and positive, I interpreted it as an outside force, most likely those vultures she’s managed to avoid thus far.
There is one artist she’d make an exception for though.
Kendrick! Kendrick Lamar is my dream collaboration. I would cover his entire album if I could. It would take me like three years, but I’d do it.
It took her six months to rework “i”, so it makes sense she’d prefer to spend that time creating new work instead.
As for what she predicts for her own future, vōx is hopeful.
I’d like to release the first vōx EP, another music video, and go on tour before the end of the year.
Ambitious, but I’d expect no less from this wunderkind who has risen so gracefully to the top of Los Angeles’ indie music scene in such a short time.
Currently she’s taking a bit of a break to travel and work on new music, but her next performance is scheduled for Thursday, July 28th, when she’ll take the stage with Alina Bea, VUM, and Elohim at The Echo in Los Angeles. Tickets can be purchased here.
It’s clear from the cards vōx chose that she had been laying the groundwork for this path for a very long time. While it’s true that she has encountered some good fortune, much of it is simply hard work coming to fruition. My only caution was in regards to the 3 of Swords, and to be mindful of the people she allows in her circle. Still, the future is flexible and ever-changing, and what appears to be a looming figure in the distance could reveal itself to be harmless as we draw nearer. As long as she remains committed to her craft and holds fast to the authenticity that sets her apart, vōx’s talents will take her far beyond any future I could predict for her.
Featured photo: Kelle Ramsey