Alice Genese (of Gut Bank, Sexpod and Psychic TV) unveils latest project, Ov Stars

alice genese interview

NICK KIEFER

Pony and Alice Genese of Ov Stars.

Singer-songwriter and bassist Alice Genese, originally from Hoboken and now based in Ocean Grove, has been playing music for decades in powerful and eclectic bands, including Gut Bank, Sexpod and Psychic TV. Now, together with singer-songwriter-pianist Pony (Shaune Pony Heath), she has formed Ov Stars.

The group, whose name represents an alternate spelling for “Of Stars,” will release its debut album, Tuesdays, on April 23. The ethereal and haunting five-song EP — produced, engineered and mixed by Jeff Berner, also of Psychic TV, at Studio G Brooklyn — will be available as a download and on streaming platforms, and on limited edition colored vinyl later in the year.

The album is musically rich with intimate lyrics. Berner performs on it, as do John Weingarten (Psychic TV, Naam), Randy Schrager (Jesse Malin, Scissor Sisters, Psychic TV) and Richard Salino (Psychic TV).

Ov Stars will perform acoustic versions of songs from Tuesdays (the album name came from their months of meeting on Tuesdays to write) as well as other material, at Transparent Clinch Gallery in Asbury Park, April 24 at 4 p.m. “We write in my living room on guitar, so it will be an intimate glimpse into how we’ve been working over the past four years,” Genese said.

Genese and Pony will also perform separate sets; Genese’s will include songs from her 2014 solo album, Sticks and Bones. Her son Jesse Nahem, who had played bass on the album, tragically died shortly after the EP’s completion in 2013.

Alice Genese with her late son, Jesse.

Tuesdays “was born out of lives lived, love, love lost, loss, grief and trauma,” Genese said, adding that “Pony and I write together — fully, together, music and lyrics. We sit together and throw ideas back and forth.”

Genese and Pony were introduced to each other by Genese’s brother Leo and their friendship grew into a musical partnership. Pony embraced music as a youngster in South Africa, singing in choirs and then as a solo singer. At 23, he moved to New York, and then to Asbury Park.

“A kinship was established way before our writing partnership started,” said Pony. “We were introduced and immediately recognized something that we were drawn to on some level inside of each other. After a while of being friends and talking about trying to write together, we finally did and there was an already built-in sense of trust and the ability to completely be vulnerable during the process.”

He said he and Genese “write in very different styles but we very organically found a way to find both of our voices swimming together in the same stream.”

The strongest song on the album, the title track (listen below), has a transcendent sound, with a melody that lingers long after the song ends. Genese’s voice has a gorgeous, raspy quality as she sings:

The water runs deep, over my head
The river runs wide, I’m not scared
Ask me why you never knew my name
Well, ask me why you never said my name
I don’t know where we are
I do know we are born ov stars …

“Deer Eyes” has a hypnotic beat that draws me into the meditative lyrics, which are both soothing and provocative. Pony sings elegantly and emotionally:

I wash my hands in innocence
But the water still runs red
I thought we were fine because there were fires in our bed
You said that I never cared but the water still runs red
They say it takes two to dance
But we ended up burning up

Genese and Heath sing about the end of a relationship in “The Crying Time,” and their pain is palpable. They sing intriguingly about someone who “only comes to me when she needs me/But I’ve played this game 100 times before/It’s not cold outside, but I’m freezing/You let winter in when you walked out the door.”

DREW WEIDEMANN

The late Genesis P-Orridge, front, and Psychic TV, featuring Alice Genese, in 2017.

Genese, who joined the psychedelic rock band Psychic TV in 2003, spoke fondly about her nearly two decades as a bass player and co-writer for group, which was fronted by the late singer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. The band disbanded in 2020 when P-Orridge died.

P-Orridge co-founded Psychic TV in 1981 after his industrial-noise band Throbbing Gristle dissolved. Blending rock with spoken word, abstract noises and driving bass, P-Orridge challenged binary systems, including gender, that divide us in inauthentic and inequitable ways. (Ov Stars’ intentional misspelling of “of stars” is a kind of homage to P-Orridge, who spelled “of” and other words unconventionally.)

Just as many of us experienced loss during the pandemic, Genese did, too, and I asked her if songwriting and playing music carried her through.

“I was grieving the loss of Genesis and another dear friend just as lockdown began,” she said. “Genesis dropped her body on March 14, 2020. It was a bizarre way to begin what has been over a two-year journey. There has been a lot of loss of loved ones during this time for me personally and for Pony as well.” (Listen below to Genese’s evocative, delicate song “Funeral Boots” released in February as part of a tribute compilation album for P-Orridge titled Not in My Future: A Tribute to Genesis Breyer P-Orridge).

“I feel that seeing Pony weekly on Tuesdays really helped to keep me level,” she said. “I had something to look forward to doing every week. I feel like I had it easier than my friends who live in NYC, or Hudson County. I had this beautiful ocean and boardwalk I could walk to every day, and it felt very open and cathartic. It was during the pandemic that I decided we should record some of our songs. So yes, I guess that is what got me through.”

Genese emphasized the impact of performing with Psychic TV for nearly two decades. She said the band “became a family for me, a chosen family,” adding that “I have traveled across the U.S. and all over the world (with the band). It was an amazing experience. One I will never forget.

“Genesis Breyer P-Orridge was an incredible human being and had obviously already had a long and historic career prior to my joining in 2003. I loved her very much and miss her.”

She describes a poignant memory while on tour in Saint Petersburg, Russia. “One of my most touching memories was during a tour stop in Russia,” she said, “I looked out into the audience and there were all of these older Russian men in tears. They never thought they would get to see Psychic TV and they were moved to tears by it. I had to turn my back a few times during that set just to hold it together.

“The power of music is a real thing. I’ve witnessed it often and I never took it for granted. I’m very grateful for all of my experiences.”

Another poignant experience on tour involved breastfeeding her baby. “I became a mother in 1988,” she said. “I remember still having to express milk at a show in Boston and asking the bartender to put the bottles in the refrigerator,” she said.

The Ov Stars project, she said, “was born out of my need to continue to work on music after Genesis’ diagnosis with leukemia. We began writing together in January of 2018 and I needed a place to put my creativity, and having a writing partner in my mind would help to steer the project in a different and less sad direction. Well, at least that was my thought. The first time Pony and I got together, we wrote a sad song and were both in tears. Of course, it was the beginning of a beautiful journey and friendship.”

Genese cultivated her natural talents from a young age, playing flute in school bands. “I grew up in Hoboken, though, so I don’t really think we were band nerds,” she said. “I taught myself some guitar in high school when my mom and her sisters were taking night classes to learn guitar and I went along for the rides. I also studied dance throughout these years.” She said her family goes back five generations in Hoboken.

CAROL GUERIN

The ’80s band, Gut Bank (from left, Tia Palmisano, Alice Genese, Karyn Kuhl and Michael Korman).

She said she always felt connected to the rhythm of bass players, adding that “I began to play bass somewhere around 20. Oddly enough, the first time I played (bass) was with (Hoboken-based artist) Karyn Kuhl and we immediately started a band (Gut Bank). It was just like I magically learned this instrument and was in a band out of the gate.”

“I was there when Alice first picked up a bass and just magically knew how to play kick-ass on it, so I’m not surprised she has since gone on to become a singer and writer of beautiful, emotional songs,” said Kuhl, adding that “She’s a supernatural talent and a true-blue friend/sister/collaborator for life.”

Genese and Kuhl played in Sexpod in the early ’90s. “More van tours, a vinyl single recording, a five-song EP on Go Kart Records and an EP and full-length on Slab Recordings,” she said.

Sometimes sisterhood is magic and empowering and that seems to be the case for Genese and Kuhl. “Karyn and I are still very, very close friends,” Genese said. “She’s the closest thing I have to a sister. Having played with her in different musical entities over two decades was so fulfilling. She is such a talent.”

Genese loves living near the beach and keeps music at the center of her world. Like many musicians, she works at various jobs, but music is her passion.

“I like to be outside,” she said. “I like walking the boardwalk, and dancing with friends whenever I have a chance.”

She has a jewelry company, Love Jesse Designs, named after her son. She makes all of her jewelry by hand with recycled metals and conflict-free gemstones. The company’s website says that “the sounds of the sea and the smell of the salt air inspire me.” She has collections on sale at Foolish Ginger in Asbury Park, as well as Love Locked in Jersey City.

KATRINA DEL MAR

The ’90s band, Sexpod (from left, Alice Genese, Karyn Kuhl and Tia Palmisano).

“I also work at the Stone Pony in the summertime making Jell-O shots and selling merch,” she said. “Really, I do whatever I need to do to stay afloat and always be able to work on music. It’s my priority.”

She moved from Hoboken to Ocean Grove in November 2014. “It was a little over a year since I lost my son,” she said. “I was born and raised in Hoboken. I had raised my son in the apartment I was living in. It just became too difficult for me to stay. Everywhere I looked was a memory. I needed to be near the ocean. I felt it would help to heal my heart.

“After my son dropped his body, I went back in to cut one more track, ‘You Are the Sun,’ as a tribute to him. I released the project on Angry Love Productions on March 25, 2014 which would have been my son’s 26th birthday.”

After Sexpod and before Psychic TV, she played in a band called Candy Ass. “The most exciting part of that was touring as direct support for Pink,” she said, adding “I was replacing their previous bass player between tours so I had to learn all the material super quick and then play in front of huge audiences.

“It was an amazing albeit terrifying experience. It was a two-week tour, and at the time I had a full-time job in the jewelry industry to pay the bills, so I took a vacation. When I came back, my co-worker asked about my vacation. I didn’t tell them I was on tour.”

SARA STADTMILLER

ALICE GENESE

Ov Stars, she said, “is a very different work for me. Genesis from Psychic TV wore a patch on her stage jacket that just read ‘change.’ I feel very strongly about being brave enough to change, to grow, to continue to develop as a musician. This is both freeing and terrifying. Because, somehow, I still want to be validated as a musician, and I want to write music that people will connect to/with.”

She said that in addition to Motown-based artists, she was influenced by the “salsa music and percussion I would hear drifting through my windows at night as a young girl growing up in Hoboken. Bowie was a huge influence, Patti Smith, punk rock, new wave.”

She was schooled at Maxwell’s. “I lived a block away from Maxwell’s and can say I spent most of my late teens and 20s going to see shows,” she said.

While she misses the camaraderie that surrounded Maxwell’s, she loves the music scene of Asbury Park, near her home in Ocean Grove.

“I love that on any given night, I can walk out my door and hear music drifting across from the Stone Pony,” she said, adding “I can walk down the Boardwalk and see music at The Asbury Park Yacht Club or see my favorite local DJ, Foggy Notion (Neil O’Brien), hosting a boardwalk dance party.

“I love that I can go to The Saint, one of the few venues I played at in the ’80s/’90s and recently in 2020 (with an AC/DC cover band), and still just pop in and see amazing bands.

“I love that I can spend an afternoon at the Clinch Gallery and see both touring and local bands. There are so many places to see music around here. It is a community that is very supportive of artists and musicians. As a musician and an artist, I take great solace in this. It feels safe to be creative here.”

For more information, visit Ov Stars’ Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. For streaming links, go to ovstars.hearnow.com or ovstars.bandcamp.com.

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