You can call Alaena the Queen of Darkness, or not, but you should definitely be rocking her music! A delicious blend of Pop sensibilities and unfiltered darkness—t.A.T.u. partying with Marilyn Manson, scary movies viewed beneath rainbows—her juxtaposition of sounds and uncensored honesty marks her as someone who is truly unique. The former keyboardist of Deathcore outfit Winds of Plague, Alana Potocnik, aka Alaena, certainly knows how to rock hard, but can she also bop to Pop? The proof lies in her collection of singles, tracks that range from the dark and grungy “Paranoid” to the raw sexuality of “I Get My Way,” covering nearly everything in between.
With Alaena’s unique spin on infectiousness, something she calls Grunge Pop, being entirely alluring, Cryptic Rock felt compelled to sit down with the talented singer-songwriter to discuss her music, being paranoid, surviving in Los Angeles, and much more.
Cryptic Rock – Many fans know you from your time with Winds of Plague, which is obviously very different from your solo project. What did your time with the band teach you that you take with you into your future projects?
Alaena – One of the most important things I learned from being in my band was how to shower in a bathroom sink when you are traveling from city to city. (Laughs) No, I’m just kidding—but really I did have to learn that! That wasn’t the most important thing, although very vital. (Laughs) The one thing that I feel grateful to have is knowledge: I know what comes next, what to push for and what to strive for, along with how much work it takes to get there. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I definitely still have moments of feeling blind since the transition of genres is very different, but the process internally is very similar.
Cryptic Rock – Knowing what to push for is important, though. So, to ask an admittedly dumb question, what makes you the Queen of Darkness?
Alaena – It was kind of a dumb nickname someone said to me in my Instagram DMs and I was like, “Hmm, I like that.” I am pretty dark when it comes to musical influences and where I naturally draw inspiration from. I feel like compared to some Pop artists out there trying to darken their sounds, I at least have some past credibility I can hold myself to. Also, I cast spells and haunt nightmares.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) You definitely have a background in heavy, dark music that gives you an edge. According to your website, your aim is to twist together this dark, heavy music background with Pop. That’s a delicious goal. So many artists are breaking down genre barriers these days, but how are you going about it?
Alaena – I am just being my natural self. I used to score these mythical, elfy orchestrations and was always obsessed with everything from Danny Elfman to Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir; the dark, twisted sounds kinda just run through my veins. It’s the “making it Pop” that I really try to focus on, without sacrificing who I am as an artist. I love Britney Spears and t.A.T.u., I really pull a lot of my Pop inspo from them.
Cryptic Rock – Oh wow, t.A.T.u. is a name that you sadly do not hear often these days. Great duo! Clearly, much like your music, your influences must be very diverse. Who are some of the artists that inspire you?
Alaena – Marilyn Manson, Britney Spears, No Doubt, Cradle of Filth, Muse, t.A.T.u. To be honest, there are so many artists that inspire a certain part of me, but these are the ones right now that I feel like are on my playlists no matter what.
Cryptic Rock – A very diverse and very worthy line-up right there! To delve deeper into your music, you have quite a few singles currently available, including the brand-new single “Paranoid,” which is a wonderfully catchy foray into dark, grungy Pop – and a perfect example of your music. What should we know about this song, in particular?
Alaena – “Paranoid” was inspired by these terrifying, intrusive images I have had the past couple of years caused by anxiety and OCD. It had made me really distance myself from everyone around me, because I have always been afraid of the triggers. This song is kind of my confession to what’s been going on with me in my head.
Cryptic Rock – The best music is personal music. That said, is it really that scary inside your mind?
Alaena – When it’s bad, it’s bad. I had always thought it was normal to think the way I thought, repetitively playing horrifying situations in my head that never even happened, but talking to people and getting help actually made me realize that it was not. I have since taken action to get myself back to feeling human, which I don’t think I have felt in a very, very, very long time. I’d say I’m 90% there.
Cryptic Rock – Making peace with our inner-demons is often the hardest obstacle we face in life, so good on you! Now besides the intensity of “Paranoid,” you also have fun, in-your-face tracks like “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” the raw sexuality of “I Get My Way,” and pretty much anything and everything in between. These all show an intelligent, sassy woman who enjoys infectious melodies but isn’t going to sing about unicorns and rainbows. What is it about delving deeper lyrically that inspires you in your music?
Alaena – I have a hard time writing about things that aren’t happening in that exact moment, especially as of lately. So when these songs were written they were written in real time about real events happening right then and there. I love these songs, especially “I Get My Way”—nothing better than feeling empowered in a relationship!
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely! And speaking of relationships, “Californihate” seems to suggest that you have a love/hate one with California. How does a Pennsylvania girl find her way in and make peace with the chaos of L.A.?
Alaena – California has definitely chewed me up and spit me out, but I made a house out of that spit! I love being in a place where entertainment thrives, the weather is great, and the shopping is 100 times better than Pittsburgh. I can’t seem to make solid friends here, I hate that I constantly feel judged when I go somewhere, and finding love here… forget about it! I am here for one reason, and that is to make music that I love and push it as far as I can. I find peace knowing that I am doing exactly that and not stopping until I reach the top.
Cryptic Rock – That’s a fiercely positive outlook! Continuing with the idea of pushing it as far as you can, every artist has their dream collaborations and/or tours. What are your hopes for your solo career, in this regard?
Alaena – Marilyn freakin’ Manson. Collab and tour. I would probably cry! Yeah, I’d cry.
Cryptic Rock – That would be amazing to see you each feed off one another’s energy. Absolutely! So, in the quest to reach that goal, you have the Unguilty Pleasures EP in-the-works. When and where can fans get their hands on it?
Alaena – The Unguilty Pleasures EP has been in the making for a bit now. I have been holding on to it until I feel like my fan base reaches a certain point, allowing me to feel ready to put out a body of work. I want as many ears as possible to be able to hear it!
Cryptic Rock – That is understandable and it gives fans something to look forward to. In the meantime, what’s next for Alaena in 2019?
Alaena – New music, music videos, and shows!
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it is going to be a great year for you! As you are clearly a woman with very diverse musical tastes, let’s go for a random, wacky question: if you had to make a 5-song mixtape to fit your mood today, what would you title it and what songs/artists are on it?
Alaena – Oh boy! (Laughs) Today I am in so much pain from TMJ, so “1500 mg Tylenol” is the title. The tracklist is “I Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd, “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M., “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” by My Chemical Romance, “Pain” by Three Days Grace, and “Broken” by Seether featuring Amy Lee.
Cryptic Rock – That’s an amazing playlist full of great, diverse music. To continue with another random question: a young girl is reading this and she wants to be fierce like Alaena. What advice can you offer her for chasing her dreams?
Alaena – Don’t ever give up. Push harder even when you think you have pushed as hard as you can go, because I promise you that little extra inch of pain will boost you miles in the end!
Cryptic Rock – Great advice for anyone of any gender, actually. Last question. At Cryptic Rock, we cover music as well as films, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. Are you a fan of either genre and, if so, what are some of your favorite Horror and/or Sci-Fi films?
Alaena – I am a wimp now and can’t watch scary movies without watching a Disney movie afterward, but I used to love The Blair Witch Project (1999) and House of 1000 Corpses (2003)—so much that I would put it on to fall asleep at night. Times have changed, huh? (Laughs)