Arts & Culture

A Chat With Dita Vox of Thee Emergency

By Jonathan Cunningham March 4, 2010

It's Women's History Month which gives me a great excuse to interview one of my favorite female musicians.

This week, I'm catching up with Dita Vox, the lead singer of Seattle's DIY garage rock band Thee Emergency (who are playing at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard tonight.) You might have seen her face plastered on the front of the MTV $5 Cover: Seattle poster recently. She's a knock out all right—that's why she's on the poster, I guess—but more, thanks to her soul-piercing voice and almost trance-inducing stage presence, she's unlike any other rock singer in town.

So, some folks might not know that you drive a really bad ass car. What type of car do you have?

It's a 1968 Ford LTD. I’ve had it for 8 or 9 years.

Does your car (featured in the $5 Cover poster) have a name?

Bertha (laughs). She’s awesome. It’s a great car. It’s definitely a staple in my life. My car probably gets around 10 miles per gallon now. But I’m getting new exhausts put on next week so hopefully we can get that up to 12 or 13. That would be awesome.

Are you from Seattle born and raised?

Umm, I grew up in South King County, and we'll leave it at that. Not in Seattle. I briefly lived in Texas for a year. Back in 1989 me and my mom lived there, but yeah, I’ve basically lived here my whole life.

What's in store for Thee Emergency in 2010?

Lots of music making. We are currently in the process of putting a vinyl record out. It’s in the process of manufacturing right now. It’s a weird country psychadelic record that we recorded like 2 years ago, and we’re just getting  round to putting it out. I’m curious to see how people react to it. It’s not our signature sound but it's fun. We hope to put that out in April. And we’re also recording our new rock record…and hoping to put that out on vinyl at the end of the year.

Why vinyl?

That’s the rock and roll way. This is our first time doing this.  We’re all super audiophiles, we love vinyl and music, so we're really excited. We've put a lot of time and effort into this vinyl project like creating the art for the sleeve and everything. I’m really pumped. We’re putting this out ourselves with the help of a private party. We’re going to get 500 records pressed up and see how it goes. We’re hoping to ride the wave of free promo from MTV and get as far as we can.

Are you pressing up CDs as well?

We’re not going to manufacture CDs yet. We’re going to put drop cards in the sleeve of each record so you can have a code for digital downloads, and you can buy it online, but we like the novelty of having it on vinyl. It feels like a limited edition situation. Were excited to see how far we can take it.

Does the band ever get upset that you end up receiving most of the attention in the group?

No not at all. I’m like the delegate. They’re sending me out into the world to get us more love and publicity. They like to stay behind closed doors and help make music and I take care of the silly business. They like it. They always told me, they knew that I was going to be the one to have more photos taken, etc. We’re all of one mind. I’m just the mouth.

How did you end up in the band in the first place?

I happened to be at the right place at the right time. Adam our bass player just had a band he was in break up and Matt had a band break up too. One of the guys knew that I could sing, so they asked me to jam with them. So we all got in a room one day and it worked. We knew right away.

If you couldn’t be doing rock, what type of music would you be making?

I’d love to make a record in every genre. Classic soul, blues, or even jazzy stuff. And if not that, I’d totally do music theater or Broadway. I’m a huge fan of musicals and all things Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Wow. Alright, well what are your top three favorite musicals then?

It's hard to choose. I'd have to say Cats number one, Oklahoma number two, and even though I’ve never seen it, the songs from Porgy and Bess are so gorgeous and fantastic that I'll say Porgy and Bess.

Really, Oklahoma?

Dude. There are some really awesome songs in there. It’s really good. And the dancing is outstanding.

What rock singers do you look up to, male or female?

When I started out I was like, who do I want to sing like? I wasn’t thinking about gender. I always liked Robert Plant, and Joe Cocker and really expressive singers like that. Especially the style of rock-blues that they play. Joe Cocker has so much personality in every song that he sings. And Prince for his ability to just write a pop song.

Are there any black women singers that you look up to?

As for female and black, there’s a lot. Erykah Badu comes to mind. She’s so poetic in all of her verses. But ya know, the whole gender thing... that doesn’t even come into play. Not for me. It’s just, I don’t identify with any one ethnic culture or another. That’s just not part of my personality. It’s not a huge thing for me. I don’t identify as a black rock singer. I just identify as a singer with my bandmates. We’re totally family and they're my brothers….it’s not a factor.

What advice would you have for any young person out there looking to start a rock band?

Accumulate all of the gear while you still live with your parents! If you’re young and your parents can buy you gear as a hobby, get all the gear that you can. Microphones are important and expensive. I would honestly say get gear through your parents and just go for it.

How did you come up with the name Dita Vox?

Ummm. I just like the sound of it. I kind of took it from a couple of artists that I really like. Dita is Madonna’s character's name in her sex book. And Bono used to go by Bono Vox. So I put it all together and figured it would mean 'sexy voice' or something?

Do you plan to do any touring this year?

When we first started, we wanted to be on tour like six months out of the year but it’s a lot harder doing everything ourselves. We don’t have a booker, or a manager, or an agent. But our plan is to maybe do some short 7 day tours down to LA or wherever as soon as it's possible. We’re the only band on the show at the Tractor that aren’t going to SXSW, but we're happy to give them a good sendoff.

Thee Emergency plays with Dyme Def, Pearly Gate Music, Grynch, and THEESatisfaction at the Tractor Tavern tonight. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 8 p.m.
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