At the onset of 2014, Alex Hattick made a new year’s pact with her roommate Nancy Woo. The 26-year-old Long Beach musician and Nancy, a poet, challenged each other to create something new every week, and at the end of every month they'd host a creative salon to share their month’s work, inviting their friends to do the same.
Last October, after crossing paths with Alex at the Viento y Agua open mic, I attended my first salon. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of their Halloween-decored living room, I listened to haikus, songs, short stories and poems. A few brought in drawings, ceramics and even home-brewed beer. I saw that the two hosts had created a rare intimate setting where everyone felt compelled to share something.
“I was being exposed to all this new talent and the secret talents that people don’t share with people,” Alex says. “It really opened my eyes to how much is going on around me and how much talent is right under my nose.”
Alex, who plays music as Hellgal, gigs around town pretty regularly nowadays in spite of her full-time day job as a social worker. It wasn’t always so, she explains. She used to be painfully shy about sharing her music before the salons, and she could empathize with those of her friends who have similar proclivities.
“I never get to hear their things because they’re shy too,” she says, laughing.
The Long Beach Music Collective, which she formed last December, creates an avenue for these musicians, some of whom have several completed albums they’ve never shared outside their tight-knit support group. This Sunday, LBMC, which releases seasonal compilation mixes, is following up its holiday and Valentine’s Day CDs (“Santa-mental” and “Pizza My Heart”) with a summer release titled “Anything’s Popsicle.” It features 13 original songs by eight musicians, varying in style but tied together by a resonant summer groove. Local artists Debbie Cho and Amanda Abrego designed the cover and CD art.
“Having a loose theme is nice because people have different perceptions of the same thing and they get to share it through their music,” she explains. “It adds a cool dynamic to the album too.”
Alex, who grew up listening to the likes of Le Tigre, Siouxie and the Banshees and The Smiths, believes LBMC also showcases an underrepresented strain of music in Long Beach: a pop-oriented, experimental sound. That is, after all, the wheelhouse of Hellgal, whose ’50s-inspired songwriting is catapulted by operatic vocal loops.
The La Crescenta native didn’t begin writing her own music until moving out to Cal State Long Beach for college. She studied psychology and later earned her master's in Social Work. She brought with her an old Casio knockoff keyboard she’d found in her parents’ garage.
“It had these goofy, stupid beats — like those ’80s beats that sound really cheesy,” she says. “I started playing with that and it was so cute. I loved all the sounds it made."
She says she’s planning to release Hellgal’s first EP this winter. As for the Long Beach Music Collective, the spontaneous launch of this project is taking form as her aspirations reach beyond the confines of her comfort zone. After a release for Halloween, Alex plans to dramatically increase the number of copies for distribution and put out an open call for other local musicians interested in participating.
“My ultimate dream would be to turn this into something where I have the ability to record people and have a space to do it,” she explains.
The release show starts at 4 p.m. Sunday at Fourth Street Vine and will feature local musicians Hellgal, Astrolazer, Crooked Squares, Fernando Gallegos and Sean Blake, with copies of “Anything’s Popsicle" and other merchandise available. “Anything’s Popsicle” also will be available for purchase at Fingerprints Music and online at longbeachmusiccollective.bandcamp.com.
“That’s the biggest thing for me and for the Long Beach Music Collective,” Alex says. “It’s to have a reason to create.”