Interview with Sweet Love Under Tyranny

photo of artist sweet love under tyranny posing on a pillar in flowing skirt & mid drift top

As we tilt past the autumn equinox, & fully submerge into the seasons ruled by night

Freeform Portland DJ [Shan] St. J0NES [host of bi-weekly show Matriarch] gets acquainted with Portland’s Cold Wave Sensualist artist Sweet Love Under Tyranny [S.L.U.T.]

Alessandra, [visionary, producer, & performer] of solo project S.L.U.T. sits down with us to share her favorites, advice, & insight into her history, that led to establishing herself as a musician in the Portland Metro Area.

[S:] How long have you been in Portland? Are you from Portland?

[A:] I’ve been here 7 years, via New York, but I’m originally from Boston.

[S:] When, & how did you become a musician?

[A:] I consider myself as much an “artist” as a musician, & have studied various artforms pretty seriously throughout the years as far back as I can remember. My musicianship probably stems most directly from my having grown up in a pretty traditional Russian ballet school, where I was imprinted somatically with phrasing, pacing, & a sense of showmanship.

[S:] What majorly influences your music pieces?

Hmm, Love. Sex. Birth. Death. The Feminine forces. Nature. A deep desire for the fall of Patriarchy. The Divine. Fire.

[S:] Is there an ambiance to your music?

[A:] Yes. It’s a siren song designed to seduce, & destroy. I believe the oceanic quality, while subtle, is a thread. It’s all a bit, well.. celestial.

[S:] Can you describe the progression of how you came to the sound you perform today?

[A:] Well, when it became clear around puberty that I wasn’t going to be able to continue to pursue my dream of becoming a professional ballerina, I pivoted to other forms of performance, initially playing drums, & singing in bands. 

I was really always more of a performer in the grand tradition of the showgirl, & was drawn to atypical voices, like that of Stevie Nicks, Nico, Nina Hagen… 

We had this cool goth tenant living upstairs in the house I grew up in who had cherry red teased out hair, & wore all black velvet, & had tapestries on her ceiling, & red light bulbs in her lamps, & smelled like Patchouli, & the whole thing. When she moved out, she bestowed me with a collection of her tapes. It was a box of New Order, Depeche Mode, & The The, & The Cure, & all of this sick 80’s goth and new romantic stuff, with handwritten playlists…I still have a lot of them. It really turned me on, & seeded my musical flavor.

[S:] Wow, she almost sounds like someone who exists in a music video, or some sort of exceptionally cool character in a 90’s film, & you were neighbors… that’s almost, I want to say.. lucky in a way, growing up, you can only hope for this sort of exposure to alt. culture before you really get to go out, full force, on your own. I won’t say I’m jealous, but… [laughs] continue.

[A:] I had a taste for all things glam, & was innately drawn to the romance world of the nightclub. So when I moved to New York, I began working in nightlife, & did a fair amount of performing. I had my band Sphinx [gothic space rock concept group] & was going through a phase where I was obsessed with the band Death. I was also going out, & seeing the Brooklyn band Attake play a lot, & had The Plasmatics on heavy rotation, l & I really wanted to sort out how to scream.

I remember going out with a male friend who was a punk from the 70’s UK scene, & lamenting about how I couldn’t scream, & he goes, “Well darling, maybe you just aren’t angry enough,”

– & I was like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I AM F*CKING FURIOUS!” I think that really put a fire up my ass, because I found my scream. 

[S:] Good for you, seriously.

[A:] So from then on, we would get put on all of these metal bills.. But [co-collaborator] (Mz.) Neon was producing all of the music at that point, & we were really into juxtaposing seemingly disparate genres
– you have to remember, this is before Instagram, which has genre-bent everything now-
we would do things like write an acid house song, but then I’d be doing black metal style vocals over it, & then the next song would be a full industrial track about S&M, & the one after that a glam ballad about the fall of man, & then a d-beat song, & these metal heads who took themselves seriously as hell just fully did not know what to do with us..

There was an irreverence there, but I found myself doing some pretty solid writing.. almost hymn-like, lyrically.. sometimes limericks.. & it was a really formative time for exploring the perimeters of my voice, & style.

The next big leap in my musical evolution really came when I decided to learn Ableton, & become a proficient producer in my own right. I’m actually a bit of a luddite, & a technology-phobe. I like things that are based in the senses and a level of tactility, & I really resisted technology until it was so painful not to be able to create my own work that something broke, & I just got disciplined, & honed my skills.

In terms of this project [S.L.U.T.] it feels like a culmination of a lot of elements I’ve been consistent in developing for a long time. I expected it to be more industrial initially, but the more I sit down to write, the more central the keyboard is becoming in my process, so the tracks are turning out heavily melodic, & informed by typical pop song structures, which I think is a comfortable, & palatable vehicle for them, because content wise, the work is quite mystical, & might otherwise be more challenging for my audience to digest. 

It’s a heavy dose of Earth worship, & Feminism when you strip the content down to its most consistent themes, but a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

portrait photo of artist sweet love under tyranny wearing leather jacket with studded shoulder accents
portrait photograph, Sweet Love Under Tyranny, 2022

[S:] What is the most fulfilling part of producing your creative vision?

[A:] Performance is the most fulfilling part of the equation for me. Connecting with an audience makes it real.

[S:] Are your live performances multimedia based?

[A:] Often, yes. I make Super 8 Films, & hand paint them, & sometimes incorporate them into my live shows. I’m also fairly body based, & love a costume, so it’s a performance experience, to be sure. 

What I’d really like to gain some control over for my shows is LIGHTING. Lighting is half the battle in life. Lighting, lighting, lighting. It’s rough out there.

[S:] Preach.

[S:]  Is there any piece of music equipment you stand by?

[A:] I really love the Gaia SH-01. I love the DX-7 too, but it weighs about 500 pounds, & is just a beast to gig with. That little Gaia is light as a feather, & the controls are all visible so it’s an extremely straightforward synth that you can get some great sounds out of.

I’m here for “Availabilism” though. Have you heard Kembra (Pfaler) talk about that? “Availabilism.“ It’s about using what’s around you. The right gear is great, but if you don’t have it, don’t let that be the thing that stops you.

[S:] [I] Love Kembra, & that whole concept, Availabilism, it truly opens doors before you’re so knowledgeable, or at first, you can become overwhelmed with so many options out there, at least for me, & rewiring the idea of value in correspondence to the idea of ‘quality,’ & how that’s applied to music

[S:] Do you have side projects?

[A:] Yes, I sing in a brand new doomy deathrock quad of guitar, cello, & drums (& vox). It’s called Blood Moon, & it’s heavy, but gorgeous.

[S:] Are there specific venues you really enjoy booking with?

[A:] Star Theatre has great sound, & feels like a vampire nightclub, so I have to shout them out. The Six under Midnight Society is a good one too. Coffin Club will always hold the number one place in my heart though.

[S:] Do you book house shows, or performances outside established venues?

[A:] I haven’t played a S.L.U.T. house show yet, but I love a house show. Doom Slug for life, baby. & one of my all time favorite shows I ever played was a generator show with [former PDX post punk band] Over in the street in front of Ted Wheeler’s condo during the summer 2020 protests.

{S:] Do you play benefit shows? What causes have you supported with your music?

[A:] Yes. The last [current band] Blood Moon show was a benefit to support a social justice summer camp program, & not a show, but just last week, Lynette of Bestial Mouths released a fantastic compilation she curated of 30 tracks from various artists to benefit Planned Parenthood. 

I’ve got a track on it, & it can be found at

[S:] Would you say you have established a community with other artists in Portland?

[A:] Yes.

[S:] What seems to drive the success of a thriving Portland music scene?

[A:] I find artists to be really supportive of each other here.

[S:] Is there any advice you could lend to other musicians starting out in Portland?

[A:] Trial by fire. I think it’s really about just going for it before you’re “ready”, because performing reveals a lot about one’s music back to you in terms of what works, & what doesn’t, & you just can’t get that feedback without going through the performance process.

[S:] Are there other Portland musicians you play shows with you would like to mention?

[A:] Light Asylum, Lucia Luna, & Crystal Cortez are some of my favorite local solo musicians.

As far as bands go NYX Division, Deathcharge, Gr!ma, Usnea, Fatal State, & the newly arrived via Oakland, Esses, are all up there on my not to be missed list.

[S:] Are there venues you frequent?

[A:] Yes, there are several venues I love in Portland. Coffin Club tops my list, but I also love Mississippi Studios for their sound, & Shanghai Tunnel has been booking a ton of great shows lately. High Water Mark, Blackwater, Kenton Club.

[S:] Who is your favorite music artist?

[A:] That’s a huge, & impossible question, but I think Cocteau Twins came pretty close to perfection… & Light Asylum has the power for the contemporary win.

[S:]What future do you hope for in the Portland music scene?

[A:] I’d love to see a more glam nightclub open here… something that could cater to a new “new romantic” flavor for those of us who like to get swept away in ambiance, & have a sense of the theatrical.

S.L.U.T. will be sharing the stage this Thursday, 10.06.2022 with King Yosef, Trace Amount, & At The Heart Of The World at Mano Oculta [1420 SE Powell Blvd] ALLages [21+ bar access with I.D.] show at 7pm, $15

[Shan] St. J0NES will be in attendance, & releasing a follow up review for this event, published on Freeform Portland Blog.

promotional flyer for king yosef, trace amount, sweet love under tyranny, & at the heart of the world hosted at mano oculta on oct 6th 2022
Promotional Flyer, 2022

You can hear more Sweet Love Under Tyranny by tuning into Matriarch with St. J0NES, airing e/o Tuesday 6-8p PST | 9-11p EST on [90.3 | 98.3 FM] Freeform Portland Community Radio