The refrain of “HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!” Tres Leches frontwoman Alaia D’Alessandro shouts during the chorus of “What Are You Doing?” -- augmented in the background by fellow members Ulises Mariscal and Zander Yates are partly the kind you’d hear in a good number of pop-leaning rock songs and partly the kind you’d hear someone shouting in a parking garage after discovering someone is trying to steal their car. Given the context of the Seattle trio’s newest single, that vocal effect is certainly by design.
D’Alessandro sings of cities made of glass “that has a good chance of breaking” and disappearing health care benefits over the song’s swinging rock and roll, of finding work in coal mines and the mysterious forces of big business and big government working in dark corners with equally dark plots. The video for the song finds Mariscal and Yates taking turns pushing D’Alessandro around Seattle in a QFC shopping cart, in a variety of locales including but certainly not limited to the Amazon Spheres. Much like the song itself, the visual which accompanies it ensconces a powerful message in the Trojan Horse of a fun time.
“What Are You Doing” shifts from the aforementioned swing, along through the melodic (and, as mentioned, slightly confrontational) chorus, and through a dreamy, harmonious outro -- a call to resist systemic oppression crouched within the bold and bright boundaries of a deliciously catchy rock song.
D’Alessandro offers a little background on “What Are You Doing?”:
The song is a warning to the people not to be a victim of the fallacies of microcosms. We (anyone without bags of money and/or with a conscience) will replicate unconsciously what we see in mainstream political and social institutions. Don’t fall for it.
None of us are really into these systems and we challenge them in our own communities but only hurt ourselves when we copy systems like punishment (the criminal institution) and division (the political system). Human beings are capable of amazing things one of my personal favorites being compassion. You can disagree and even not want to be around a person and still have compassion for them. That’s not to say not to protect yourself or even to take the path of least resistance.
Just to try and think about what might have happened to that person to make them that way. It’s still on them to own their wrongs and not on you to fix them or support them but knowing there was once the possibility for compassion in this being, it’ll help you in the long run. Maybe not with them, maybe with the people on whom they’ve abused their influence, maybe it’ll just help you.
A lot of people practice compassion everyday and if there’s no compassion in your situation, you have this beautiful super power to create it from within yourself. Compassion has survived natural selection and it’s a very powerful tool."
Tres Leches play Upstream Music Fest at Sunday, June 3rd at 8:00pm at Central Saloon.
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Mi...