The rock singer and Hendersonville native Raphael Morales only recently changed his name to Beaui Roca.
He said never identified with his birth name or easily navigated what he called the minefield of gender expression that came with it. Roca articulates other points of angst in his lyrics for the local rock band Strange Avenues.
“I’m very angry about a lot of things right now,” Roca said. “The first record was very personal and a lot of that content was about me, specifically. I was writing about addiction, depression, kind of like co-dependence and fear of yourself and alcoholism.”
It’s a confusing time for Roca. The band has new music and a rising regional profile, including more than 75,000 Facebook followers, yet it just announced it’s disbanding after a short string of regional shows this month and next. Its next show is Oct. 11 at the Odditorium in West Asheville.
At the same time, Roca is trying to move past a nagging legal and financial burden. This past January, he and another person vandalized several paintings by the Asheville artist Jonas Gerard, both at Gerard’s studio in the River Arts District and at the Asheville Airport. In June, Roca was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $29,000 in restitution.
Legal claims stemming from sexual assault allegations against Gerard have been settled out of court. But Roca’s actions are perhaps the most tangible expression of the undercurrent of public unrest about targeting Gerard.
“Injustice pisses me off and there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about doing something about it,” Roca said, explaining his actions. “The caveat about being an artist or being a creator is sometimes that line doesn’t exist or is at least blurred.”
Trite as it may sound, music has been Roca’s only dependable—not to mention legal—outlet of escape, expression and purpose. From the earliest days with Strange Avenues, in the summer of 2015, Roca has written lyrics almost from a stream of consciousness.
“I was in such a distressed place that it was very easy for me to access feelings I had at the time,” Roca said of the band’s early music. “We would sit in a room and, as a song would be written musically in the studio, I’d pull out a piece of paper and I’d write front to back the whole song without one word erased or lines through anything, and that’s the way the song was.”
The music, itself blends funky, odd-time verses leading, choruses of ascendant major chords and classic guitar shredding.
Before announcing its pending breakup, Strange Avenues had an interesting strategy for its new music. Rather than collect it into an album, the band planned releasing one song per month through the middle of next year.
“I’m trying to be careful not to let what’s connecting them to be what defines them. I’d like the pieces to all be respected as individual work,” Roca said. “We’d like to release songs and talk about what the content’s about and talk about the impact they had on people.”