It takes two
Zachary James and Alexandra Lee make great music — together and apart
By Chris Baker 07/07/2011
Childhood dreams can seem idealistic, even naive, through the more weathered lens of adulthood. The adolescent make-believe of hair-brush microphones, tennis-racket guitars, and thousands of cheering stuffed-animal fans, more often than not gives way to far more tangible and much less risky pursuits. For a rare few, however, these blissful visions of stardom act not as simple juvenile delusions but as intuitive glimpses of things to come.
When a 5-year-old Alexandra Lee picked up her first classical violin, few could have pictured the journey that would see her tromping her way through the L.A. punk scene and test-driving a handful of various sonic incarnations en route to becoming the gritty, soulful and sultry songstress she is today. It was in that same scene that she would meet a kindred spirit in Zachary James. Although James had also cut his musical teeth in a more conventional manner, taking an interest in classical guitar as a middle school student, it hadn’t taken long for him to trade in the hollow bodies and nylon strings of tradition for the wire and wood of rock and roll. As teenagers, the two played in separate bands, eventually losing touch in the ebb and flow of an ever-changing industry. “We didn’t start hanging out again until three or four years ago,” says Alexandra. “I needed a bass player and Zach started filling in.” James would eventually move from bass to guitar and become a full-fledged member of Alexandra and the Starlight Band while continuing to play and sing for his other project, The Thunder Boys. When that effort morphed into a more solo-focused endeavor, Alexandra returned the favor, sharing vocal duties in Zachary James and the All Seeing Eyes.
Harkening back to an era when the fun-loving, soul-stirring and even heart-breaking emotion of a song was adorned, but never overshadowed, by glittering sheer scarves and rhinestone-encrusted guitars, both bands serve as a dramatic departure from their punk rock predecessors. And though cut from the same cloth, each has been woven into its own unique retro design. James’ raw brand of rock and roll evokes images of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and even a hint of Alice Cooper. His onstage bombast is matched only by his obvious song-writing prowess, raw guitar mastery, and in-your-face style. Alexandra, while clinging to her no-holds-barred rock and roll roots as well, leans toward a more soul-influenced style. Her emotional lyrics and heartfelt vocals fit hand-in-sequined glove with the likes of Tina Turner and Joss Stone, placing her among the current music industry best.
Although Zachary now splits much of his time between opening for hip-hop juggernaut Lil Wayne as the guitarist for Porcelain Black, his love for The All Seeing Eyes, as well as playing more intimate venues, is still very much intact. “I had as much fun playing Zoey’s a month ago as I do in the huge arenas,” James says. Not to be outdone, Alexandra is also working overtime, putting the final spit-shine on her yet-untitled album, for which she employed the talents of a plethora of industry greats, including Grammy-winning producer Bob Cuterella (Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Michael Jackson, Slash, Madonna) and composer Lou Forestieri, who has lent his skills to such talent as Tori Amos and Lena Horne.
Zachary will be on Late Show with David Letterman in mid-July with Porcelain Black. The band will again open for Lil Wayne beginning in September. Zachary James and the All Seeing Eyes have their sights set on releasing an album and following it up with a mini-tour upon his return. Alexandra is looking at a late summer/early fall release for her upcoming album. Both bands will be playing the Bombay Bar and Grill in Ventura on Friday, July 8. For more information, check out www.zacharyjamesband.com and www.alexandraband.com.