Los Angeles indie rock group Arden and the Wolves don’t take the occult as a loose concept. To group founder Arden Leigh, music is an opportunity to express her truth and practice the magical arts at the same time.
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where are you located now?
I began the band a few years ago back in New York when I was hanging out in the rock scene there – I was in the crowd that was at Webster Hall, 3 of Cups, Skinny’s, and The Box every week. I was inspired to start my own band because most of my friends and the people I was dating had bands too. I’d been singing my whole life but I didn’t have any experience with audio production, so I began working with some producers who helped me understand what went into recording and we made a couple EPs. When I moved to LA I started the project up again and brought on some fellow LA musicians to play live with, and that’s when I started taking it seriously as more than just a hobby.
Photo Credit Aaron Mann
Who are you as an artist?
I’m essentially a dark fairy tale heroine who has grown to understand the nature of magick, to believe in the power of narrative, and to embrace shamanic practices within the context of the rock music genre with the intention of delivering healing and inviting the collective to return to universal love. You could say it took me a while to get there, and it did, but the journey was necessary as we can only show the way down a path we’ve traveled ourselves. So it’s impossible for me to describe who I am as an artist without referencing the work I’ve done to shed the social programming we all grow up with that seeks to distract us from how powerful we are. We all experience hurts and dangers growing up – whether from parents, teachers, bullies, crushes – that make us feel smaller, that keep us from fully expressing ourselves out of fear. I went in deep and I healed myself of everything keeping me out of alignment with my truth; I excavated my core wound. It’s my intention to share everything I’ve learned so that those who wish to can replicate my results. Sometimes I share those things in lengthy posts or videos, because I’m an author and a coach as well, but in a song I only have five minutes to deliver a message, so my lyrics need to be tight and are often layered with multiple meanings (sometimes without my knowledge until long after they’re written, which is how spirit works) because I’m packing them with so many codes. On the other hand however, song utilizes the energy of music in a way that written or spoken word doesn’t, in a way that can inject an emotion straight into your bloodstream. Words work on a mind level, but music works on a bodily level. Did you know that the bpm of a song can affect our heart rates, and – if we surrender to it, allow ourselves to move, dance, feel – lead us into states of altered consciousness? So music and lyric working together in tandem is extremely powerful, which is no shock to any music fan who claims that the work of an artist saved their lives or rescued them from a dark time. Frankly as a songwriter I am far more talented within the lyric/mind sphere than the music/body sphere, but that’s why I’m grateful to work with such talented musicians and producers who help me bring the musical arrangements to life.
Photo Credit Aaron Mann
How did this project form and how many years has it been alive?
I birthed the baby version of the band with our first EP at the end of 2012, aptly titled Break Me In because I had no idea what I was doing. I would say the birth of myself as an artist taking her work seriously happened in April 2017 when a shaman channeled the Archangel Michael for me and told me to sing. (I can tell you more about this if you want, I realize that’s a bizarre bomb to drop in an interview.
What inspires your songwriting?
Definitely events in my life that I’m processing and having feelings around. Music for me is the result of a sort of emotional boiling point; I need that spark of inspiration to begin. What changed in my songwriting in the last two years was that I realized my lyrical creations had the power to shape my reality, whether by reinforcing what was already happening or by altering it. This is actually a pretty common tenet of chaos magick – the idea of a hypersigil (a term coined by my mentor writer/magician Grant Morrison) being a work of art that creates a microcosm of reality that can be manipulated by its author to affect real-life events. So I started getting really mindful about what I was creating, and I realized that if I was going to write about grief or pain or heartache then it was my job also to heal it and transmute it. Otherwise I would be stuck making bad decisions to write songs about forever and justifying it in the name of rock and roll, and that was not a fate I wanted for myself.
Where was your best live performance and what do you remember about it?
Our most recent one for sure was our best. We keep getting better and better. We played Bar Sinister in Hollywood to celebrate my birthday and the release of the EP.
Your new independent 5 song EP ‘Who Can You Trust’ came out February 9th, 2018. What was the experience during the writing and recording process?
The two-year time frame I spent writing and recording this album has been the most magical, psychedelic experience of my life, leading me down a path of transformation that I couldn’t possibly have anticipated at its outset. In the practice of magick, we believe that it is our word that shapes our reality. The word “abracadabra,” or avra kedavra, roughly translates to “I create that which I speak.” Our breath, our voice, is an extension of our will, and nowhere is this truer than in song. With song we add the energy of rhyme, and of melody, harmony, and tone. Those of you who have ever felt soothed playing a sad song alone in your room or energized blasting a dance hit on the way to a party will understand the power of music to transmute energy. Music is an injection of emotion. Pairing it with carefully crafted text can bring about change in reality, and often does. So while it wasn’t originally my intention to record this work as part of my spiritual practice, it should not have surprised me when I saw it begin to stir great change within me and then saw that change similarly reverberate in the world around me. I saw the collective begin to address its own long-repressed trauma roughly a year after I began to address my own. I finally grieved the pain I had long been toughing out, and I began to see others do the same. So many of us put our foot down, stopped hiding our truth, and started demanding better for ourselves and our fellow humans. I am far from the only one on this wave, but I am certain of my role in it and that I am here, like everyone else, to play my part by bringing my unique gifts to the story. It just happens that my most powerful healing modality is rock music. It turns out that medicine songs can come in any genre. As a magick practitioner, I should have known that it would have been foolish to have written an album titled Who Can You Trust and not expect that it would teach me discernment through emotional self-mastery, boundary-setting, and resensitization of all the faculties that I had long burned out in the acquired toughness of survival mode. This EP, as it turns out, is a magickal working designed to impart healing, discernment, justice, transformation, necessary grieving, and ultimately wholeness and return to universal love to anyone who wishes to use it intentionally for those aims. I’ve included some spells and rituals in the booklet in order to assist with those intentions, but my hope is that it weaves healing into the collective organically. Lord knows we need it. CLICK PIC BELOW
Interesting choice in covering The Ramones song ‘Poison Heart’, what was the reason to do so?
I began covering it back in NYC years ago when I was invited to sing at an all-girl Ramones tribute night at the Delancey. I chose it because it was so much more melodic and lyrical than most other Ramones songs, and I fell in love with it. It fit into the narrative of the EP as its low point – a post-traumatic nihilism filled with so much despair I couldn’t even be bothered to write my own song about suicidal ideation. The fact that it ended up being so applicable to 2018 culture and politics – especially the #MeToo movement, but really all the tragedies and systemic injustice we are fighting against – was in my opinion a result of my going through the same mass trauma healing that is being brought up for so many others. Some journalists have said that the album was written as a response to #MeToo, and I see where they’re going with that, but really the whole thing was written by July 2017, and the #MeToo hashtag first arose in October. The album was then released in February. If anyone out there has the means to help me produce an entire EP in under four months while still paying my rent, I would happily accept their assistance! But right now I’m the sole investor in the project which means I alone am responsible for its output, and there’s only so much density I can move in four months’ time. So the relevance of Poison Heart and the album’s narrative in general was just a symptom of being in tune with the current so as to be on that same zeitgeist. It was definitely a trippy moment when I saw how it all fit together – even the title and the cover art, which was shot over two years ago. The first night I listened back to all the songs in order I was like, holy shit I think I just made #MeToo: the album. As a magician you have to understand how vertiginous it is to see all the work you’ve been doing on yourself mirrored in the world around you on a roughly 6-month delay, almost as if I were a voodoo doll for the collective feminine, and everything that got brought up to heal my own abuse and sexual assault trauma got brought up on a societal level too. Of course I’m not trying to take credit for the movement, that would be ridiculous – I’m just here on the wave playing my one part like the other brave women and men on it. It definitely is weird thinking you’re just creating a very personal songwriting project and then seeing the subject material become far more culturally topical than you could have ever predicted just as it’s about to be released. I hope the songs serve as a balm for anyone going through the same thing right now. I hope by the end they know in their hearts that healing is possible.
Oh I have no idea what I’m doing, if we’re being honest, other than following my heart. I’d like to tour. I’d like to invite my music fans to check out my magick classes and I’d like to invite my magick students to check out my music. I think it would be cool to continue performing and also teach more, and lead retreats. I’ve had a dream recently of one day co-facilitating a spiritual retreat for songwriters/musicians that assists with their writing/recording a song during the program with the mentorship of both magicians and producers. Yoga in the mornings, magick and music lectures in the afternoons, meditation and rituals in the evenings, and personalized mentorship throughout in bringing a musical creation to life – everyone leaves the experience taking home a fully produced song. I think that would be an amazing experience that I’d love to bring to the world. Like Brakebills meets Interlochen. In the meantime you can check out my magick webinars and other such things at sacredsirens.com.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Thank god it exists. I’ve always been drawn to a Gothic fairy tale aesthetic, and I’m grateful for all the corners of the world that continue to reflect that back to me. (Dark Beauty Music photo shoot by Azalea Jeanette below. Pictured with MXMS)