Written by Eva Barragan
Photography by Lauren DeLuca
As artists, we heal our wounds by pouring ourselves into our craft. We use the heartache as fuel for inspiration. We create record after record, story after story, film after film, about the one who got away until we’ve exhausted the narrative to the point where we have no choice but to move forward, with both our art and our love lives. When I read Milosh describe his divorce with Alexa Nikolas as a “slow-motion explosion of a break-up,” and he wrote the first single on his newest album Blood to commemorate it. I set out on a search for Nikolas to discover what it must feel like to live every day knowing that the man you once vowed “forever” with released a single about your lost love and titled it, “Waste.”
As it turns out this is a story Nikolas has desired to tell for some time now. The love she shared with Milosh is much more complicated than I anticipated. It’s interlaced with passion, commitment, the concept of soulmates, the ripples one single decision can have on an individual's life and ultimately, the wisdom gained from it all. As Nikolas and I speak over the phone on a night that feels serendipitously chosen, I quickly realize her story is one I will carry with me for lifetimes. “Take me back to the beginning,” I ask her, “how did you fall in love?” She giggles, exhales an “oh man,” and instantly, I know I’m in for a wild ride.
“It felt like the longest journey of my life,” Nikolas tells me, as she recounts the acid trip that led her to discover Milosh’s music. She was a mere 16-year-old at the time and traveling with her then boyfriend who advised her to take six tabs of acid for her very first “trip.”She remembers being in a cornfield when the LSD kicked in and being drawn to a tree that seemed miles away. “When I finally arrive at the tree it starts to speak to me telepathically,” she says as she laughs hysterically knowing perfectly well how wild this all sounds. “ As the tree was telling me how we’re all connected to each other, I saw this vision of myself standing in a vomit colored room, on my wedding day and I was standing across a man with green eyes. I had no clue why I was seeing this, but in that instant, I heard in the distance the most beautiful song. Every hair on my body stood up. I stood there in complete awe.” When Nikolas realizes the music is coming from her then-boyfriend's boombox she asks, ‘who is this?’ “Milosh. Mike Milosh,” he responded. “I immediately begin uttering, ‘I’m going to marry this man," she recalls. "Whoever this is, I’m going to marry him.’”
Fast forward two years and Nikolas is hopping off a plane in Berlin to meet Milosh for the very first time. “After my acid trip, or actually during it, I looked Milosh up and decided to send him a message,” she explains. “The message read 'Hi my name is Alexa. I like your music. If you’re ever in Los Angeles, I’d love to see you play.' Two minutes later he responds ‘what’s your phone number’ and within a minute of responding I get a call from him.” Milosh and Nikolas stayed on the line for four hours that evening and decided to remain pen pals. Over the course of two years they sustained a purely online connection discussing everything from music to art, film, culture, anything and everything that inspired them. When Nikolas turned 18, the two decided to meet in person. They shared what Nikolas calls a “magically weird” week together in Berlin, where Milosh lived at the time, and there was no turning back after that. A few months later, Milosh began traveling back and forth from Berlin to Los Angeles to record his masterpiece of an album, Woman until finally making the permanent move here to be with Nikolas indefinitely.
“I can tell you what every single song on that album is about because he wrote it to describe our experience together. He wrote it about me,” Nikolas declares. “The album is called Woman because I was still a young girl. The song “Woman” was a foreshadowing of the woman I was going to become.”
From the moment Milosh decided to call LA home, he and Nikolas spent every waking moment together. “We were no longer two separate souls engaging with one another. The second we met, we truly became one,” she explains. They spent their days making love, becoming insanely inspired by the openness they were sharing with one another, making music, and reveling in the beauty of their partnership. After almost a year of living together, Milosh asked Nikolas what her acid trip had predicted all along, “will you marry me?”
“As I heard the words come out of his mouth that cornfield and that tree instantly flashed before my eyes” she recalls, filled with exhilaration. “Before even saying yes I had to tell him the vision I saw that led me here.”
Milosh listened to Nikola’s vision in complete wonder and thought it was the most magical thing he’d ever heard, Nikolas recalls. They started planning for their wedding and decided they didn't want anything lavish. “It didn't feel like us, so instead we made an appointment to get married at city hall,” Nikolas tells me. “My mom and my best friend were our two witnesses.” When they stepped into the room where the ceremony would be performed, Nikolas and Milosh stood completely still as they realized vomit colored walls surrounded them. “I think that was the surest we both were about any decision we’ve ever made. It was obvious. This is exactly where we we’re meant to be.”
For the first two years of their marriage Milosh and Nikolas danced to the beat of the same drum, but at the start of their third year together, Nikolas grew desperate for a chance to discover life on her own.
“At first I thought it was going to be this temporary feeling,” she tells me. “I kept thinking, I’m going to feel this now but it's going to change. It has to change. This is just something we have to go through. Milosh is my soulmate.” As time went on, however, Nikolas realized this space wasn't just necessary because she desired it, it was necessary because she deserved it for her age. “Our age gap became very real to me. We’re 17 years apart. I met him at 18, I got married at 19, and my adult formative years were spent beside him, and I was being molded through his world. Since he was so much older than me, he had so many life lessons and experiences that I started to feel like they were my own but they weren't. I started to feel envious that he had all of this knowledge and I thought, ‘no if you were able to have time by yourself to grow into this human that I love than I should be able to have time by myself and grow into my own.’” Nikolas admits she began to resent Milosh for something she willingly chose to be a part of.
Nikolas says looking back she wishes her and Milosh would’ve taken a solid year apart for her to discover herself and then for them to come back together. Richer, fuller, and in a state where she could better understand the magnitude of the love transpiring between them. Instead, what ensued was a period that Nikolas refers to as purgatory. "We weren't living in heaven. We weren't living in hell. It's like we were waiting for someone (or each other) to come down and tell us which way we were headed. That limbo state of a relationship can feel so hollow and empty,” she tells me. “We lived in that space for too long.” Milosh was, of course, devastated when Nikolas shared with him she needed time alone. He was in state of disbelief and hoped it was a feeling they could work through together. For the next year of their marriage, they would take increments of time apart then get back together. But as soon as they’d fall into the rhythm of each other, they’d fall right back out because the fact still remained, Nikolas truly desired to grow alone. “I knew taking this space was part of my journey into womanhood. I couldn’t see myself fully becoming a woman next to a man. I needed to do it on my own. I felt like a wife, not a woman. Those are two very different things to me.”
Divorcing Milosh is by far, the most excruciating pain Nikolas has ever endured. “I started to look at the way our love limited me instead of the way it was limitless. All of my friends would stay out until 4am , and I started to wonder ‘What kind of version of myself will I meet if I stay up that late? Who will I become if I allow myself these experiences.’ She tells me the hardest part of her decision was the fact that she and Milosh were madly in love and despite everything, she still believes he was her soulmate. “But we existed in this different place and time, and it wasn't symbiotic anymore,” she tells me, with a heaviness in her voice. “It felt like playing an instrument with the wrong key. A change in vibration. We were this beautiful, life-changing song, but we were playing out of tune.”
Nikolas actually heard Waste during the final year of their marriage. “Milosh wrote that song during one of the periods where we were on a break. It makes me feel guilty every single time I hear it.” She tells me the one song that is impossible for her to listen to is Break Apart, a song Milosh wrote with Bonobo. “That song is exactly what it feels like when you’re breaking up with someone you feel like you’re supposed to be with forever.”
After her relationship with Milosh came to an end, Nickolas embarked on a number of different romantic dynamics but each time, that same urge for self-discovery would submerge. In fact, she was startled by a connection she had with her now business partner Mico. “We met as friends, but we were definitely crossing some intimacy lines, that made me question what we were doing. We admitted our feelings for each other but I was still living with Milosh at the time and I was still just separating and I knew that I needed at least a solid year of figuring myself out. At the same time, it was so hard to separate from whatever connection we were having. I gave into it and sort of just let it happen.” But of course, within 4 or 5 five months of their romantic encounter, Nikolas began feeling that same caged in feeling. “I realized there’s a growth that needs to take place within me first, in order for a proper connection to occur.”
Nikolas tells me that while Milosh’s healing mechanism is creating music, hers came from creating Metanoia. “I came to the conclusion that I was going through the five stages of grief after we divorced and I was wondering how many other people were experiencing this after ending a serious relationship,” she explains. “Metanoia literally means a change in one's way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion. I did do some things in my relationship with Milosh that I would never do now. I have a much better perspective on things.” She poured everything she was feeling into this project and by the end of the experience she had while filming in Iceland, she knew this is exactly what she needs to do after any life event that impacts her on a deep level.
“I need to create art as a way of making sense of it all, and I need to give back to everyone else that has experienced what I did because it's all universal."
Today as I sit across the table from Nikolas in her new Palm Springs home that serves as the setting for our photo shoot, I examine her every gesture. Nikolas is effortless. In every sense of the word. Even when she isn't sure of her answers, she maintains confidence in her unsureness. She holds a knowing that it's okay that she doesn't have all the answers, because what’s the fun in having them all anyway. While our photographer sets up for the day and I listen to Nikolas recount the details of the love story she’s shared with me, one which now feels permanently engraved into my memory, I immediately know I am in the presence of a woman who knows herself.
She confides in me that she revisits memories from her relationship with Milosh all the time. “He made a woman out of me,” she tells me, not giving a fuck if this sounds anti-feminist or not. “Milosh finally letting me go was the catalyst for me really becoming a woman. That experience showed me that we can go through a lot of shit and actually be much more glorious because of it.” She tells me the biggest lesson her dynamic with Milosh has taught her is how important it is to stay connected to the now. “Whenever doubt creeps in for me, in any regard, I try to look at things moment by moment by moment instead of looking so far down the timeline.”
As far as soulmates are concerned, she firmly believes we have multiple soulmates in this life, and Milosh was definitely one of hers. “I think you're also your own soulmate because you're stuck with yourself for life,” she says confidently. “I think you meet different soulmates at different times but then you meet that one person, who changes how you feel about everything. If you’re really truly soulmates you cannot be apart. I don't care what time you need to take for yourself, what excuses you come up with, if you guys have to be junkies together. Be junkies together. You just can't have a life without that other person and when you meet them, there’s no obstacle. And if there is an obstacle, you learn to see them as really fun things to conquer together.”