t ier ra wha ck Crack Magazine | Issue 101
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Crack Magazine Was Made Using
As I’m sure you don’t need telling, we are living in an age of distractions. An infinite backdrop of them, all wrestling for our attention. (As I write this my blank phone screen is trying to seduce me, my timeline practically begging to be refreshed.) And it’s a culture that feeds off our insatiable cravings for newness. Yet in all this sensory abundance, it’s still rare you’ll find that one thing which actually feels new. Something you just can’t tear your eyes away from.
Erika de Casier Do My Thing Tyler, The Creator I THINK Steve Lacy In Lust We Trust Clairo Bags Flying Lotus Andromeda Tierra Whack Hungry Hippo Kim Petras All I Do Is Cry Surfbort Saturday Night Helm Capital Crisis (New City Loop) Deena Abdelwahed, Ital Tek Ababab - Ital Tek Remix Deadboy It Did Not Feel Right Empress Of I Don’t Even Smoke Weed CHAI N.E.O. JPEGMAFIA Baby I’m Bleeding Big Joanie New Year Talking Heads Girlfriend Is Better
Last year, Tierra Whack achieved that effect. Taking over timelines with her inventive debut album, the Philadelphia rapper showed the world what she could do in just 15 minutes. Critics interpreted it as a comment on our struggling attention spans, each song oneminute-long to fit the length of an Instagram video. As we meet her in London for our cover story, Whack admittedly has trouble concentrating on the task at hand. She reflects on her journey to cult status with a fizzing, skittish energy that’s matched in her music.
This month called for some newness, after looking back at Crack Magazine’s journey for our previous 100th issue. Tierra Whack feels like the perfect artist to mark our new chapter with, and across the issue our regular features get a touch up and we spotlight new artists forging their own unique path. We hope there’s something in these pages that snatches your attention, if only for a short while.
Tierra Whack shot exclusively for Crack Magazine by Nwaka Okparaeke in London, April 2019
Anna Tehabsim, Editor
Recommended O ur g ui d e to wh at's goi n g on i n y ou r c i ty Chaka Khan Brockwell Park 9 June
Cass McCombs EartH 6 June Sacred Ground Festival HVOB, Axel Boman, Perel Brüssow, Germany 12-14 July Just two hours by car from Berlin, Sacred Ground Festival heads into its fifth year with another accomplished line-up of live acts and DJs. Curated, as ever, by Ry X and Frank Wiedemann of Howling fame, the festival’s beautifully designed stages are set to feature the likes of Curses and Perel in their lesser-spotted live guises, as well as a special collaboration between Wiedemann and Mathew Jonson. DJ sets from renowned selectors such as Axel Boman and DJ Tennis will keep things moving, while a dedicated ambient area will provide some R&R space should you need it.
Girlpool Moth Club 8 July
Batu fabric 7 June
Love International Ben UFO, Josey Rebelle, Shanti Celeste b2b Saoirse Tisno, Croatia 3-10 July If ever there was a festival that tethered the joy of a peaceful beach holiday with the thrill of a week-long rave, this would be it. As Garden Festival handed seamlessly over to Love International in 2016, the upbeat, sun-loving curation continued to improve, with this year’s edition being no exception. Headed up by current powerhouses such as Peggy Gou, Leon Vynehall and Paranoid London, the line-up is fully stacked wherever you look. Live set from the apparently ageless Rephlex legend DMX Krew? Go on then. Reigning Essential Mix champion HAAi? Let’s have it. Chapter 10 Gay Pleasure Cruise? Count us in. End the week with our Crack Magazine after-party at Barbarellas, where Call Super and Shanti Celeste see us off into the sunset.
Hideout Festival Special Request, Flava D, Mall Grab Zrce Beach, Croatia 1-5 July Now in its ninth year, Hideout Festival returns to Croatia’s renowned Zrce Beach for five days and nights of partying in pools, on boats, at secret beach raves and on-site for some of the event’s biggest acts. This year brings live performances from the likes of Special Request, the alias of electronic stalwart Paul Woolford, lo-fi house dude Mall Grab and south London’s finest, Flava D. For a brief excursion away from the sesh, you can take in the surrounding mountainous beauty of Pag Island. Hideout truly has it all.
Bilbao BBK Live Thom Yorke, Octo Octa, Rosalía Bilbao, Spain 11-13 July Nestled in the slopes of Mount Cobetas in a complex built specifically for the festival, Bilbao BBK Live is an undoubted staple of the European festival calendar. Its booking policy has seen it win numerous awards, and this year’s edition welcomes sets from titans Thom Yorke, The Strokes and Liam Gallagher, while the likes of Moxie, John Talabot and Courtesy tear it up in the Basoa area for the night crew. Crack Magazine is delighted to be a part of this year’s proceedings, our stage featuring firm magazine favourites Omar Souleyman, Princess Nokia and Yaeji, with a surprise or two thrown in for good measure. Join us for a shakedown in the Basque sun.
Bikini Kill O2 Academy Brixton 10/11 June
Joe Armon-Jones XOYO 7 June
Laurel Halo The Pickle Factory 28 June Although you can usually find her kicking around in Berlin, Michigan DJ and producer Laurel Halo is touching down in London for a session at Hackney’s cosy haunt the Pickle Factory. Invited by current resident Leif, the DJ-Kicks star is keeping her firm grip on the zeitgeist with her genre-twisting takes on all things electronic. From searing techno to shimmering house to dark, bass-heavy beats, you can count on her sets to hit the spot.
Lee "Scratch" Perry XOYO 14 June
Fleetwood Mac Wembley Stadium 16/18 June
Jayda G XOYO 14 June
033 Metz Studio 9294 28 June
Halcyon Veil Showcase The Glove That Fits 29 June
Flow Festival Cardi B, The Cure, Erykah Badu Helsinki, Finland 9-11 August
Nick Cave Barbican Centre 19 June
This year Helsinki’s Flow Festival, set in a historic power plant in the Finnish capital, has knocked it out of the park by bringing the new queen of rap herself. Cardi B tops a stacked bill that also features EBM legends Nitzer Ebb, psych giants Tame Impala and a b2b from Lena Willikens and Vladimir Ivkovic. While much of the live programme is yet to be revealed, the flagship performance is a collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor and Jlin performed at the Finnish National Opera’s Almi Hall. See you down the front with the rest of the Bardi Gang.
Kindness Oslo Hackney 14 June
Jeff Goldblum O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire 1 July
Janelle Monáe SSE Arena 2 July
Monticule Festival Blawan, Rabih Beaini, Courtesy Domaine de Gayfié, France 19-23 June Taking place in the idyllic Domaine de Gayfié residence deep in Southwest France, Monticule Festival has grown from a selfdescribed “slightly oversized home party with Funktion Ones” into, well... that still seems to be the case. Diving into its fifth year, there’s definitely a few more artists than that inaugural edition, but the home party vibe remains. Blawan, Courtesy, and Zenker Brothers will be providing some high-quality tonkers while Gilb’R and Jan Schulte will be working on the wiggier side of electronic music. Somewhere in the middle sits the BFDM crew outta Paris, featuring Simo Cell, Judaah, Oko DJ and The Pilotwings. Oh, and there’s a pool – it doesn’t get better than this.
Erykah Badu O2 Arena 9 June
Eris Drew The Pickle Factory 29 June
Black Midi EartH 18 June
Kindness, the name of Adam Bainbridge’s solo project, couldn’t be more apt. The Peterborough-born singer and producer is a ray of soft light, their music seamlessly gliding across slinky funk, R&B and left-of-centre pop. Since the release of their last album Otherness back in 2014, they have racked up writing and production credits for longtime friend and collaborator Blood Orange, as well as touring the world with Robyn. With new music on the horizon in 2019, we recommend bringing a friend to this show – it’s going to get emotional.
Floating Points fabric 7 July
Machine Woman Somerset House 8 June
Concrete Lates: Danny L Harle Southbank Centre 28 June Having benefited from some breathing space away from the hype, the hate and the takes, the influence of the PC Music label is clearer than ever today. It’s felt across all manner of wonky, winkingly synthetic pop, from Charli XCX to Madonna, and even the most discerning clubbers have been embracing more absurdity in the rave. One of the label’s key stablemates, Danny L Harle, has also proved to be more than a fad, as a maestro of manufactured music that favours the comically intense adrenaline rush of hardcore. For this edition of Harlecore (get it?), he invites Poland's WIXAPOL, the aptly named Sentimental Rave, and “America's 200bpm cowboy”, LIL TEXAS. Don’t get left behind in the club scene’s continued embrace of giddy, willful silliness.
Nova Batida Four Tet, Octavian, Jayda G Lisbon, Portugal 13-15 September Taking place across two venues on the Lisbon harbourside, Nova Batida promises three days of cultured variety in the heart of Portugal’s picturesque capital city. Headline sets from Four Tet, Friendly Fires and Octavian will provide the right rhythms to get your body moving, and if it’s something rougher and tougher you’re after, Special Request, Daniel Avery and Lisbon’s own DJ Marfox will have you screwfacing before you know it. When you’re inevitably zapped of energy, take some time off with surf lessons, yoga sessions, museum tours and workshops.
The music of Texan producer Rabit sits comfortably alongside the ethos of producers like Lotic or Arca. With his Halcyon Veil label, he doesn’t so much acknowledge the zeitgeist as skulk around it, hood up and angry. For this label showcase, Rabit links with kindred spirit IVVVO, the Portuguese artist who also has a hand in chewing up the landscape of electronic music and spitting out abrasive, post-rave interpretations. Brace yourself.
Daddy Yankee O2 Arena 22 June
Words: Nathan Ma
Santi isn’t afraid of his feelings. He’s most comfortable making music from well within his head, in fact. When the Nigeria-based artist writes, he volleys between memories and moments past, readily namechecking love, death and teenage heroes as inspiration when we chat about his genre-defying music over the phone. On his debut album Mandy & The Jungle, however, he’s not putting his own emotions front and centre. “I want you to feel,” he insists instead.
In recent years, Santi has garnered attention as one of the forebears of Lagos’ nascent Alté scene, a growing community of artists who have found their way to global audiences through their unique expression of African culture. But part of Santi’s success is his patience. He spent three years fine-tuning Mandy & The Jungle. The result is a coming-of-age album covering ground between Santi’s years spent studying in Dubai up through the tumultuous turns of his 20s.
On the record, moods blend together, fading in and out of focus like figures in a foggy mirror. He brings up his song RX-64, which was inspired by Mike, Og and Lu, a late-90s Cartoon Network series about an 11-yearold girl who is stranded on a tropical island. “That whole world has been in my head,” he explains. The track starts with a quietly contemplative guitar motif before giving way to a dancehall beat that carries the same sense of melancholy across its marimbas and 808 claps. More than anything, Santi’s music captures a wistful mood, a lesson he learned from indie musicians. “Santigold, Vampire Weekend... Owl City, funnily enough,” he rattles off before clocking my surprise at the latter addition. “That guy did so much for me, man, he has no idea.” During the entirety of our phone call, there’s a quiet hum of synths coming from his side of the line. He tells me his producers (and roommates) are downstairs working on a new project. I get the sense it’s similar to what Santi saw in the celestial synth soundscapes of Adam Young’s mid-noughties electronic pop project, Owl City: “It’s that whole thing of creating a safe space where people can hear your music and dream. You hear Fireflies and it just makes you feel like you can dream.”
Sounds Like: Music for sad bois to wine to
Mandy & The Jungle is out now via Monster Boy
Soundtrack For: Throwing your windows open File Next To: File Next To: GAIKA, Jhene Aiko Our Favourite Song: Rapid Fire
Where to Find Him: soundcloud.com/santinosounds
Pl an et Wha ck With a 15-minute album, Tierra Whack showed the world what she can do. Now sheâ€™s building on her strange, skittish universe.
Words: Shannon Mahanty Photography: Nwaka Okparaeke Styling: Yuki Haze
“W h a c k W o rl d m a y b e d i ff e r e nt o r w e i r d o r u n o r t h o d ox. B ut it g ot y o u r att e nt i o n, r ight? ”
I’m in the back of a black SUV, and I’m here to interview Tierra Whack, but if I thought I was the only one doing the questioning today, I’m clearly mistaken. She eyes me suspiciously. After asking what my favourite songs on Whack World are – the innovative debut album she dropped last year – her face breaks into a grin, and she decides she’s glad I haven’t brought notes into the car after all. Most interviews, she says, feel like therapy sessions, and having arrived in London from Berlin for just three days, she has more to come. After her Crack Magazine cover shoot, she’ll do a whistle stop tour of UK radio stations to record radio drops; quick, jovial messages greeting their audiences. “I hate doing them because I just feel so awkward, so weird,” she explains, gazing out of the vehicle’s tinted windows. “I did one yesterday and I just felt like a robot… so I did it in a robot voice,” she says, imitating her robotic delivery with a wry smile. Magazine cover interviews and radio sound bites are something Whack will have to get used to. Although the 23-year-old Philadelphia MC has been on the circuit since she was 14, the release of her first album last year catapulted her to dizzying new heights. Whack World is like nothing before it. A 15-minute audiovisual album split into one-minute tracks, each one with its own accompanying visual. Opening with Black Nails, Whack sits in a nail bar getting a manicure. It’s all millennial pink and unicorn nail extensions until the same saccharine salon becomes the backdrop to Bugs Life; insects start crawling around the wall behind her while Whack – her face now shockingly bruised and distorted – slurs explosive lines through swollen lips, like “Probably would of blew overnight if I was white.”
With its release last autumn, the album cemented Whack’s status as one of hip-hop’s most promising new talents. In just 15 minutes, we see as many sides to the Philadelphia native, from the glossy, high heel-wearing Whack of Hungry Hippo, to the childlike iteration in Pet Cemetery. In the latter, she walks through a graveyard singing, “I kissed my dog/ I miss my dog/ I kissed my dog (all dogs go to Heaven)” over a surprisingly cheerful piano, while animal puppets pop out between the headstones. Critics have interpreted her vignettes as a comment on Instagram (the limit of a video on the platform is 60 seconds), but to Tierra, the format was simply a way of allowing her imagination to run freeflow.
she’ll burst into song, at other moments she’ll speak as if in character, adopting strange, cartoon-like voices.
“I just had so much music and I kept making new ideas; do I want to go this way? Do I want to go this way? And then I was like, you know what, let me just make them all the same width and figure out how to put it out all at once because... it just makes sense to me. It may be different or weird or unorthodox to certain people...” she looks at me straight in the eye. “But it got your attention, right?” She has a point. From robot voices to 15-minute-long albums, Tierra Whack is weird. Not weird in a contrived, trying-to-be-noticed way, but weird in her wilful creativity.
When the pair were driving around Philadelphia one day – Tierra was 14 – they noticed a crowd of men, one holding a big camera. “We were like, what's going on? The only time you see a camera in the hood it’s [the news] reporting somebody getting shot or killed or something. Mom was like, ‘wait, they're rapping, you should get out and rap, do some of your stuff.’ I'm like, ‘no, mom’ but then she circles the block and makes me get out... I don't argue with my mom.”
As she flicks through her phone trying to find one of her favourite DMX videos to show me, I ask if she gets distracted easily. Her manager scoffs knowingly from the front passenger seat: “Yeah, she does.” Whack leans forward and cackles over his shoulder. “Hey!” she yells in his ear, “I wish I had a window to shut you out of here...” The distraction doesn’t bother her. “If I can’t concentrate I go indoor skydiving or go-karting or to the arcade, or I get on my iPad and watch cartoons,” she shrugs. Meeting her in person, the absurdity of Whack World makes perfect sense. Her mind moves at a thousand miles a minute. At points
Though still in her early 20s, Whack’s break happened when she was just a teenager. The rapper grew up with a largely absent father, but describes her mum as her best friend and credits her with instilling her early love of hip-hop. Whack grew up with her two siblings listening to Jay-Z, DMX, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes and Philadelphia legend Beanie Sigel. “Growing up there was a lot of crazy stuff going on, but I still had a good childhood,” she says. “My mom kept moving us up to better and better neighbourhoods. She did her job, she's the best mom yet.”
As instructed, Whack got out of the car and approached the group who were shooting for We Run the Streets, a Philadelphia based hip-hop collective who filmed aspiring artists and release compilations on SoundCloud and YouTube. Whack introduced herself under her teenager rap moniker Dizzle Dizz and started spitting with them. In her freestyle, she raps with sharp wit and astonishing precision. The men surrounding her watch in awe, taken aback by her skill. The collective uploaded it to their YouTube channel, and by that same evening it had already garnered 6,000 views (today it’s on over 50,000).
“Where are your notes? You don’t have notes…”
“I’m u p a n d d o w n a l l the t ime try ing t o c at ch a v ib e. I w r it e ab o ut t h i n g s I g o t h r o u gh, m y f r i e n d s, p e o pl e I d o n't k n o w, p e o pl e I d o n ot l ik e. L i f e, d e at h, e v e r yt h i n g.” Her viral moment marked a huge turning point. Not long before that point, she describes herself as a shy child. Growing up, Whack adored Dr. Seuss, and spent as much time as she could getting lost in the world of Matilda and Barney and Friends. She grows animated when she talks about these shows. “As a kid I wanted to be as close as I could to the TV, I don’t know what it was but I just gravitated towards certain things.” Cartoons are a huge part of Whack’s artistry. After years of absorbing these fantastical worlds, she’s now highly adept at creating her own. During the cover shoot, she crawls around the floor contorting her face from an unnervingly wide-eyed smile to a bitter screwface. Inspired by years of watching children's TV and refusing to ever give it up in adulthood, Whack embodies different characters with a natural tenacity. At school, she says her other love was writing poetry. A young Tierra Whack would regularly fill notebooks cover to cover. For a homework assignment where the class had to write their own pieces, she memorised her poem and performed it to the class in a way that won her the respect of her teacher and fellow students alike. “I didn’t need the paper, I was performing it, almost rapping it, so after that I was like, let me put this to a beat: I’m a rapper now.”
She can’t remember much of her early material, but says her poems and freestyles were “crazy, weird but always had honesty behind them. I was doing what rappers do,” she explains. “I was just bragging about the things I
liked, but as a child I liked bananas and strawberries.” Having found her calling, Whack developed a newfound confidence at school. “I was the class clown,” she declares proudly. She began performing regularly at poetry slams and open mic nights around the city, growing in confidence and ability. In 2012, she moved with her family to Atlanta for her last year of high school, and by her return to Philadelphia three years later, she’d dropped the Dizzle Dizz moniker in favour of her real name. Back on home territory, she continued to write and began releasing music on SoundCloud as Tierra Whack. These early uploads showcased her ability to experiment with genre, and her penchant for comedy (case in point: 2017’s Saggy Tits, a funny and frustrated tirade about a particularly useless partner). As important as humour is to Whack World, in all its absurdity her debut album still manages to encompass surprisingly emotional moments. Four Wings is one of Whack World’s standout tracks, which Whack wrote about her friend, rapper Hulitho, who was shot and killed in 2016. “Endless nights I cried when Hulitho died,” she raps over a melancholic beat. “My city needs me I promised I wouldn't fail 'em/ If you love somebody I promise that you should tell 'em.” The idea, she says, came to her in the studio late one night when she was thinking about her friend and her city. “In late night Philly, you go to the Chinese store, and you get four wings. That was [where we were] the last time I was with him.” Was it a difficult song for her to write? “Yeah, I guess, but you know, I grew up in the projects; it’s rough, it’s the hood. I lost a lot of people so it almost becomes the norm. Life is just as common as death, so it's just... it is what it is.” Her response is
to always represent her city and the people around her. “I'm in London and you're asking me a question about my Philly friend. That's cool,” she says. “I'm living for him.” In the studio, Whack likens herself to a rollercoaster. “I’m up and down all the time trying to catch a vibe. I write about things I go through, my friends, people I don't know, people I do not like, life, death, everything.” I ask her what’s next, but Whack says she doesn’t think about the future. That said, her plan – or lack of – seems to be working. In the releases that have followed Whack World, the Philadelphia MC continues to showcase her dexterity as an artist, though she’s now working with full-length tracks. Only Child, her first single since the album, is a loaded takedown of an ex. It starts with almost childlike delivery before Whack launches into a more venomous rap: “Spiteful and malicious/ Hope that other chick got syphilis,” she snarls. The 23-year-old musician already has Coachella performances and a Grammy Award nomination under her belt. She’s been co-signed by zeitgeist-defining artists like Erykah Badu, Solange, A$AP Rocky and André 3000, and her show at London’s Village Underground in June, fittingly sold out in just 60 seconds. Tierra Whack doesn’t need goals. “I just live each day,” she explains. “I could die right now, right after I see you. Then this would be my last ever interview... hey, do you like my socks?” Tierra Whack’s latest single Unemployed is out now via Interscope
Big Joanie are taking up space MUSIC
Words: Niloufar Haidari Photography: Ekua King
The London band talk representation and blazing your own path in punk
046 Steph Phillips
“All of our songs are about black women, and in that way that is activism, because it's putting across a point of view that's rarely heard” MUSIC
Like anyone worth their salt in the history of punk, being antiestablishment and anti-authoritarian is at the heart of what Big Joanie are all about. Their name comes from the Caribbean phrasing of ‘acting big,’ combined with lead singer and guitarist Steph Phillips’ mum’s name. It’s a reference to both a strong and confident black woman, and to black culture in general, in a way not often seen in the punk scene. The band was born in 2013 after Steph saw an advert for First Timers, a DIY event that helps jumpstart new bands where at least one member is from a marginalised background. She posted a callout on Facebook announcing that she was looking to start a black punk band, and found Chardine and original bassist Kiera Coward-Deyell, who would eventually move to Glasgow and be replaced by Estella Adeyeri. Despite only having released their debut album Sistahs last year, the trio are experiencing a career trajectory many bands would happily sacrifice a member for. The album was released on Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s The Daydream Library Series label after he saw them supporting Dutch punk band The Ex and asked where he could buy the songs. Over its 11 tracks, the trio explore themes of sisterhood, friendship, community and resilience – things that they prioritise in their music and everyday lives. This June, they will be supporting seminal feminist punk band Bikini Kill at their two European shows at Brixton Academy.
Although Big Joanie are described, and indeed identify, as a black feminist punk band, the politics of their music is often implied rather than explicit. “I think people sometimes take our stance as black feminist punks a little too seriously,” Steph laughs, refilling her cup of tea. “The idea wasn't necessarily to write every song to be a black feminist anthem. It was to be proud of our identity and allow that to flow naturally through the songs. Things that are part of our lives – because we are black women all day, every day – will seep in and come through.” Sometimes, there will be a literal interpretation of their politics. Steph cites Crooked Room from their 2016 EP of the same name as an example. The track is inspired by Melissa Harris Perry’s lecture about how being a black woman in white society is like trying to find your vertical in a room where everything is crooked. Then there’s Token, a tongue-in-cheek track about white people who have one black friend and think that excuses them from
engaging in racist behaviour. Nonetheless, their music and existence are political in the sense that everything is. “The personal is political, and always will be,” continues Steph. “All of our songs are about black women, and in that way that is activism, because it's putting across a point of view that's rarely heard, and rarely listened to, by the majority in this country. To put forward an album that is honest to the realities of what's going on for black British women today, I think is activism in itself.” The three women are all involved in activism outside of their music too. Estella spends her free time working with Girls Rock London, an initiative that helps young girls to learn instruments and start bands. “Music has always been such a constant theme in my life and so it feels natural to be helping other people experience the same thing,” Estella tells me. “I have so many friends who talk about how when they're growing up their male friends were given a guitar or a drum kit for Christmas, and we're just not getting those things. We're not given that starting point.” Chardine, for her part, is currently focused on work around racism in the LGBTQ+ community, and has recently also started getting involved with projects around diversity and representation in the arts. And both Steph and Estella are involved in running Decolonise Fest, a yearly DIY event celebrating punks of colour that was birthed from another of Steph’s seemingly magical Facebook statuses. This June will see the third iteration of the festival, which aims to “celebrate punk bands around at the moment but also to celebrate the past,” explains Steph. “To remember that there have been so many different people that have already done this, and we're not necessarily doing anything new or original just by being here.”
Big Joanie are vocal about the erroneousness of the discourse that has seen punk and alternative music coded as historically white, despite the existence of people of colour in its history from the beginning. “If you look at the 70s punk movement, everyone there was listening to reggae, the DJs were black… there were black people in the crowds and in the bands,” Steph continues. “But when it comes the time we want to archive it, the people that are doing the archiving are all white, middle-class men. So then it becomes the fact that The Sex Pistols or The Clash are remembered more than The Slits and X-Ray Spex.”
Musically, they describe themselves as “like The Ronettes filtered through 80s DIY and riot grrrl with a sprinkling of dashikis.” Their sound is a unique blend of their own creativity and the influences each member brings to the table: anything from My Chemical Romance to PJ Harvey and The Distillers to Fugazi and The Jesus and Mary Chain. “You wanna sound like your own thing, like Big Joanie, but I'm also glad that people are like, ‘there's a bit of Throwing Muses in there, there's a bit of Jesus and Mary Chain’, because that's the stuff we listen to,” says Chardine, whilst we huddle together around a small round table in a cafe near Estella’s home in north London. “I don't want people to – because we're an all black woman band – put us in a different part of history when we're part of a trajectory of rock music.”
The history of rock music is full of people of colour, but stereotypes around certain genres of music being tied to particular races remain. “It’s almost a sort of false self-identity of what you should like as a black person,” muses Chardine, picking at a sticky cinnamon bun. “Most Caribbean people will tell you that on a Sunday it’s mostly country music that people are listening to when they’re doing their cleaning and cooking. And then you start to realise that Beenie Man used to do country covers! Back in the Caribbean people are comfortable with liking all those different types of things, but when we are in a white majority country suddenly it’s like this is what you are supposed to listen to, and that’s what white people do.” “Punk has always been about rebellion but also being able to be involved in culture and having a place within it,” adds Steph. “I always felt before I just had to consume it, but once I found punk it was so freeing to know that you could be involved in it and create your own place in the world.” Decolonise Fest takes place 29–30 June at DIY Space for London
“For me, it's always about not being normative, in whatever sense that is,” says drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone when I ask what punk means to her. “I'm not really interested in a mixedrace royal baby or whatever. That's assimilation into something that we should not be assimilating into. I think having a kind of punk rock mentality just makes you question these things.”
Time is ticking for Words: Tasbeeh Herwees Photography: Baariks Photography assistant: Bratty Malone Styling: Polina Gourin
The politically provocative rapper wants to make an impact
MUSIC & CULTURE
“That’s just a countdown to the end of the world,” he says, laughing, taking a hit off his bowl, an accessory he only puts down once he’s burned all his weed, only then to switch it out for his vape pen. Is it really? I ask. “There’s no telling. It could be something you didn’t even expect. But I’m very excited to show you this very weird, disappointing thing.” Why do you think it’s gonna be disappointing? “You know when you just look at something and you’re like, ‘This is ass’? That’s what I do every day when I look at it, you feel me?” he says, taking another hit. “I just have to be honest with the people, you know? So they don’t get their expectations up for whatever it is, but it’s gonna terrible. Really bad.”
It’s unclear whether he’s being coy or whether he’s truly faithless about his own talent. The 30-year-old rapper from Brooklyn, born Barrington Hendricks, has already set a career precedent for releasing expansive yet laser-focused music. His last studio album Veteran, released in 2018, was warmly received by fans and music press alike, amassing beaming reviews and appearing on most end-of-year lists. Since leaving Japan, where he was living on a military stay, in 2015, Hendricks has experienced a steady upward trajectory, much of it due to the internet, a medium that has heavily influenced his aesthetic and artistic sensibilities. Like the internet – specifically social media – JPEGMAFIA’s music is intensely frenzied, his beats propelled by a sense of urgency, and his lyrics a near-constant, cacophonic barrage that refuses to let you take a breather. “I really do embrace the internet in a way that I think not even just rappers but people in general don’t,” he says. “That’s why I put this mouse click on my face. I wanted to pay tribute to the internet in some way.” It’s a small face tattoo; a computer cursor that sits right on his left cheekbone, pointing towards his left eye. He got it last year, once positive reviews of Veteran began rolling in. The politically provocative album
was certainly primed for the Internet. JPEGMAFIA is a natural and persistent troll. Veteran included lines like “I need all my bitches the same colour as Drake,” and famously included a song called I Can’t Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies. I mention it because on the same day of our interview, Morrissey’s name was trending on Twitter. He had come under fire for wearing a pin supporting the Islamophobic ‘For Britain’ movement on the Jimmy Fallon show. “I was about to say something about that,” he admits. “[But] I don’t even see a point. If it took a pin for people to finally realise that, I don’t know what to tell them. I been said it. I made a song about it.” A veteran of the Iraq War, Hendricks wrote much of his early music while stationed in Iraq, Kuwait, Germany and Japan, among other places. The experience was “very dark,” he explains. Music provided an escape from the day-to-day brutality of military
For the past few months, JPEGMAFIA has been posting a countdown on his Instagram, but he won’t say to what. Every few weeks, he posts a photo tagged with a new percentage. Back in March, it was at 35 percent. His most recent post – on May 15, at the time this was written – is at 52 percent. His fans, in the comments, speculate about its significance but he refuses to indulge any of them, or me.
“I get the same feeling watching the news that I get when I log into Instagram. It’s like the same fuckery gland is satisfied”
life, and helped him comprehend a different kind of future for himself. It was in Japan where he joined a group called Ghostpop. Their mixtape garnered a sizeable audience online, his fans still searching for copies. He began pursuing a solo career when he returned to the US to live in Baltimore, and then New York, and now Los Angeles.
That actually sounds kind of relaxing, I respond. I don’t know what that says about me.
But his music remains highly conscious of the political milieu. On Real Nega, the second track on Veteran, he raps, “Alt-right want war, well that's fine then/ Bitch n***** in the way, well, that's common/ White boys getting mad ‘cause of my content/ Y'all brave on the web, keep it in the comments.” Another track is called DD Form 214, which is the title for the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty for US service members. He’s an avid observer of US politics and news, and regards the spectacle with an air of sardonic amusement.
No, absolutely not. I hope I die at like, 75. I think that’s the sweet spot.
“I get the same feeling watching the news that I get when I log into Instagram, go on Instagram Live and see people cursing somebody out. It’s like the same fuckery gland is satisfied,” he laughs. “All them n***** just be yelling at each other like ‘blah blah blah’, just talking over each other, and it’s funny ‘cause it looks exactly like rappers on Instagram Live.” Much as Veteran finds joy in provocation, there are also moments of deep introspection and vulnerability. An interlude called Dayum in which JPEGMAFIA just chants “Damn” over and over again across a stripped back instrumental, feels particularly melancholic. It’s a reflection of his “headspace” he says. He’s been thinking about death a lot lately. “At one point, I never imagined I’d live past 18. Then I didn’t think I’d live past 21. 30 seemed impossible. So now that I’m almost 30, I guess I’m like, damn, what if I don’t get shot or something?” he muses solemnly. “I’m just gonna wither away. I just think about it every now and then. I’m gonna wither away and be nothing.”
“It’s just weird to think if you don’t die early, how will you die? Do you die of natural causes? What if we live to be like 200? Would you be OK with that? ‘Cause then your body would be decrepit, right?”
“I wanna live as long as I can as long as I’m healthy and shit, but if I’m old and decrepit and I can’t make music and I can’t hear…” he reflects, still hitting the vape. “If I’ve made a body of work and done enough in my life to where some kid a hundred years from now can say ‘I remember JPEGMAFIA,’ that’d be enough for me.” JPEGMAFIA appears at Field Day, London on 8 June
SURFBORT WANT TO MOVE YOU
ART & CULTURE
The riotous Brooklyn-based punk band are captivating audiences with their impassioned fury
058 Dani Miller
“I feel beautiful not fitting into a perfect box”
Words: Robin Murray Photography: Wanda Martin Styling: Lucy Isobel Bonner
The band have touched down at the seaside for the festival, Europe’s key showcase event for new music, the place where reputations are made. Right now, though, Dani is in the mood to reflect. “I’ve been learning a lot about the world,” she shrugs, her hand pulling her hair into unruly shapes. “I’ve just grown so much with the band and fully become myself, what I’ve always wanted to be. And not hold anything back.” Miller and the band certainly do have conviction. Surfbort’s punk-edged 2018 debut album Friendship Music is a machine gun volley of two-minute shards of sound that pummel you into a giddy mess while flicking two fingers to authority. But it wasn’t always like this. The band was formed as a joke, almost by accident. Idly chatting to a friend one day about four years ago, Miller heard there was a spot available on a bill for someone’s birthday party, so she booked it for her band. The only issue was she didn’t have a band. So she formed one on the spot, phoning up a ragtag crew of veterans from New York’s underground punk scene, before picking a name that references both a Beyoncé lyric (Drunk
in Love) and a bath-based sex position. She laughs at the memory of it all, then shrugs. “It started as a joke because you don’t really know what you’re capable of doing,” she insists. “But it stopped being a joke after the first show. That was the joke, making something out of nothing. And then I realised I can do anything I want.” Miller laughs, shakes her head, then picks her words carefully: “This is me standing up on a table and shouting to the people in power: 'we’re not OK with this'.” Arriving at a point where she desperately needed to communicate, Surfbort was the ramrod that bulldozed the barriers around her. As a teen Miller experimented with hard drugs. Looking back now, she sees her drug use as a means of manifesting some of the negative emotions she couldn’t quite express. She didn’t know it then, but it was an act of psychic revolt against the darker, authoritarian forces swirling around her. “Look,” she sighs, then pauses for what seems like forever. “You feel very alone sometimes. The news, the media and with these horrible people in charge of our government… the system is fucked up. Everyone knows. All that, those pressures, is what drives people insane, gets you into hardcore drugs, and makes you feel helpless.” She may have come through the other side, but Miller isn’t about to lose her empathy for those who feel similarly
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lost. “I’m not fully against drugs, or [saying] you have to be happy all the time. Depression is real. I want to help people come out of the very desperate times because I’ve totally been there.” Playing shows whenever they could, Surfbort found a connection, an unlikely alliance of punks and outsiders at DIY all-age shows across New York. They racked up shows at venues like Brooklyn’s Sunnyvale or South Street Seaport or Brooklyn Steel, where they first linked with kindred spirits The Growlers. In short, venues that welcome crowds from all corners of society. “Growing up is fucking hard,” Miller grimaces. “I remember being little and not having a place at school due to bullies and being a freak, but
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Surfbort’s Dani Miller is the epitome of calm. When we meet in her hotel room in Brighton, a long way from her home in New York, she’s serene, almost dazed. Outside seagulls are pecking at discarded chip trays, a rare burst of south coast sun dappling the lines of people moving from venue to venue at The Great Escape.
Coat: Adam Jones Boots: Discount Universe
063 Glasses: Gucci Jumper: ICEBERG Leggings: Fabian Kis-Juhasz
Show by show Surfbort found their audience and sound. Punk-aligned noise channelled through barbed pop songs, it’s a guitar squall, a hardcore drum blitz, all powered by Miller’s lyrics. Her words are scorching. Dope escapes the nightmare world of addiction where “bodies bleed”, ACAB is a cry of disgust at a brutal, authoritarian police force (“They lock us up/ They have no right”), while Sunshine blazes a paranoid warning that “the government is gonna make you pay.” “[The music] is a reaction to the world,” she explains. “Letting other people know they’re not alone inside all this crazy shit that’s happening. We’re here, dancing next to you, fighting for you, and against the evil people with you.” People are catching on. Their following includes Julian Casablancas, who saw one of their shows after a friend played him their noise rock squall. Inviting Miller out to dinner, they spent the evening drinking wine, sharing passions and hates, before The Strokes frontman left with the promise to release Surfbort’s debut album Friendship Music on his Cult Records imprint. “We met up and fell in love automatically,” she smiles. “It’s such a crazy relief, because he just let Surfbort be Surfbort.” A copy of the album found its way to Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele. After hearing it, Michele made the band – and Dani in particular – the centre of the iconic brand’s pre-fall 2019 campaign, with a spectacular shoot in Sicily’s Selinunte Archaeological Park, dominated by the lavish classical beauty of the Temple of Hera.
“I feel beautiful and sexy just dressing the way I want and not fitting into a perfect box,” she says. “And it’s the same with Surfbort. We have pretty music, but in our own way. It’s choppy and fucked up but it’s still beautiful.” Surfbort are already looking at their next step, getting back in the studio to work on new ideas, new songs. “We’re always evolving and growing, I’m always trying to learn,” she says. All this creativity stems from the band’s egalitarian dynamic, something that has allowed Miller's own artistic confidence to blossom. “Everyone is so respectful to each other,” she smiles. “They’ve lived such a gnarly life that the sound they create is so solid, and just… real.” Dani Miller remains the dynamic presence at the centre of it all. A few hours ago Surfbort were still on the road. In a few hours’ time Surfbort will demolish yet another venue, with their chaotic, sweat-drenched live show. Onstage she’s electric, a writhing mesh of screaming vocals and mangled limbs, hurling herself into the pit, tearing down those inhibitions with broken nails and a heart that cares. Letting out feelings is key to what Surfbort do – it’s something she knew, explicitly, right from that very first show. “This is way bigger than myself,” she says. “It’s about creating spaces that everyone in the community can be involved in, have fun, and also be themselves. It’s empathy for other humans, lifting people up.” She picks at her long, sharpened nails one more time, then says: “The more love we give each other, even in the pit, the better off shit is.” Surfbort appear at Le Guess Who?, Utrecht, on 7 November
finding someone outside of school, or a show or venue to go to is super important to figure yourself out and feel welcome.”
In their music videos, CHAI resemble a group of superheroes, like a guitarplaying version of the Powerpuff Girls. Meeting them at a London studio for Crack Magazine’s photoshoot, I tell them as much. “I want to fly!” says Yuuki, the bass player, about her supposed superpowers. “We often all have similar dreams, in which we’re all flying,” she muses. Whether they have superhuman abilities or not, CHAI exude an electrifying energy, on and offstage. The four-piece from Japan is composed of twins Mana (vocals and keyboard) and Kana (guitar), and friends Yuna (drums) and Yuuki (bass). Together they are an extremely cheerful dance punk powerhouse, preaching self-love through their guiding philosophy: Neo-Kawaii. “'Kawaii' [cute, in Japanese] is often a very narrow definition. On TV you only see a certain type of cute, like models and idols,” explains Yuna, sat on a leather couch drinking tea while the others get ready. “But everyone can be kawaii in their own way. That’s what we want to promote.”
The Neo-Kawaii ethos is woven through CHAI’s entire creative process, but the music video for N.E.O., from the girls’ debut album PINK, is perhaps the easiest introduction to it. It starts with a burst of fuchsia and Mana’s high-pitched vocals in all-caps on screen as she affirms: “YOU ARE SO CUTE, NICE FACE, C’MON, YEAH!” The video goes on to show details not often brought attention to – hairy chests, freckled faces, pudgy bellies.
What really drives the message home is the genuineness in which it is delivered and lived by the four girls in front of me. For CHAI, none of this is a marketing device or a disingenuous way to be perceived as “accepting”. It’s a philosophy they are living, creating and learning, both as a group and as individuals. “First, you look at yourself in the mirror and say that you’re cute, and that you approve of yourself the way you are,” declares Kana when I ask about her own process of self-acceptance. “But then also it’s important to tell other people positive things. We give each other compliments and encourage each other all the time.” Almost as if on cue, Mana and Yuna walk out of the makeup room with wefts of hair swirled around their faces, hearts drawn on their cheeks and disco balls dangling from their ears. As soon as they spot them, Kana and Yuuki shout “cool!” and “so cute!” from our interview couch, sending the pair a supportive thumbs up. CHAI’s hard-to-miss image – a hyper-saturated, playful and almost cartoon-like take on girlhood – is as carefully curated by the group as their philosophy, with Yuuki at the helm illustrating their website and album covers. Today at the studio they are happy to wear what’s on offer, throwing on frilled neon dresses and metallic silver skirts, taking selfies with CHAI painted across their faces. But onstage the four-piece always rock up in matching pink outfits. The concept was initially inspired by Devo’s kitsch aesthetic, but the choice to wear them
Words: Biju Belinky Photography: Jackson Bowley Photography Assistant: Patrick Dowse Styling: Valeria Chrampani Hair: Federico Ghezzi at Saint Luke MUA: Charlie Murray
at every show goes deeper than that. “Pink is a colour that is often thought as only suitable for little girls,” says Mana, sighing. “We want to change the image of pink, to show that pink can be very cool and fashionable, not just cute.” Their first album was named after the shade, followed by the latest, PUNK, which the band describes as “the future” of CHAI – a portrait of the band they want to be. It’s cheerful electronic rock, where swirling synths meet an undoubtedly punk rock bass and Mana’s punchy vocals. When asked if they enjoy any punk groups specifically, the band laugh. They tell me the title was chosen due to the similarity of the words, rather than a specific interest in the genre. Instead, they cite the likes of Brazilian group Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS), tUnE-yArDs and Justice as their musical inspirations. “We like music we can dance to,” explain Kana and Yuuki animatedly. “It’s about the feeling. Not about being cool.” CHAI’s music is a reminder that the universal experience of girlhood is not about needing to be “cool”. To them it’s about learning to love yourself as you are. For that, CHAI are the coolest girls around. PUNK is out now via Burger Records
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PARADISE LOST | MANCHESTER COLLECTIVE
ONE OF THE MOST ENIGMATIC, DISRUPTIVE, AND EXCITING CREATIVE DUOS OF THEIR GENERATION, VESSEL AND SINGH HAVE CREATED A LARGE SCALE ORIGINAL WORK FOR MANCHESTER COLLECTIVE, A MAGNUM OPUS THAT DRAWS TOGETHER FRACTURED AND DISPARATE MUSIC FROM THEIR RESPECTIVE WORLDS.
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07 JUNE - MOZIMA FUNDRAISER WITH YOUR HELP, WE HOPE TO RAISE MONEY TO SUPPORT COMMUNITIES IN THE REGIONS IN MOZAMBIQUE, ZIMBABWE AND MALAWI AFFECTED BY THE RECENT CYCLONES. DANCE TO THE ACOUSTIC REGGAE FROM PAX NINDI, ANNA MUDEKA, ORQUESTA AND YUNG AFRIKA PYONEERS.
18 JUNE - PARADISE LOST + DANIEL ELMS ISLANDIA MANCHESTER COLLECTIVE’S 2018/19 SEASON, HERE, THE SACRED MEETS THE PROFANE, THE ACOUSTIC CLASHES WITH THE ELECTRONIC, AND SOME OF THE EARLIEST CLASSICAL MUSIC EVER WRITTEN IS DRAGGED, KICKING AND SCREAMING, INTO THE 21ST CENTURY.
21 JUNE - WAH WAH 45S WITH RON BASEJAM (CRAZY P) HIGHLY 'THOUGHT OF' AND 'SOUGHT AFTER' ECLECTIC RECORD LABEL WAH WAH 45S RETURN TO BRING YOU A NIGHT OF THE ABSOLUTE FINEST IN DISCO, HOUSE AND AND BROKEN BEAT WITH CRAZY P DJ RON BASEJAM.
28 JUNE - MAIN SQUEEZE WITH TEDDY, CHRIS P CUTS AND BOBAFATT MAIN SQUEEZE RETURN TO BLOCK A FOR ANOTHER MONTHLY SESSION OF HIP-HOP, BEATS AND BASS, THIS TIME UP ON LEVEL ONE. JOINING RESIDENT BOBAFATT THIS MONTH ARE TWO INCREDIBLE SELECTORS, #JUSTCALLMETEDDY & CHRIS P CUTS.
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The Click: Alexis Taylor
In his own words, the Hot Chip frontman remembers the moment it all changed for him, courtesy of Royal Trux’s wild noise rock.
I was absolutely incredulous at what I then heard. The blend of extreme overdrive and massively compressed sounds, the huge choruses and hooks, at times indecipherable and densesounding lyrics, at others banal phrases repeated over and again, the best guitar playing on any record, touches of There’s a Riot Goin’ On, funk etc… I was gobsmacked. Joe [Goddard] and I went to Brighton to see them play at The Cybar. We saw them eating spinach salads and healthylooking wraps in the cafe above the venue, and sounding very polite – not injecting heroin and causing the trouble the music press would continually
reference as their only pastime throughout their career. There was an underwhelming support band playing, and then they came on. Founding members Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema were joined by Dave Pajo (Slint, Papa M) on bass, Ryan Murphy of Drag City (their label) on tambourine and backing vocals, and Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta, Queens of the Stone Age) on drums. It was definitely the best band I have ever seen live. They played one hour straight, no encore, but every moment of it made me excited to be alive, witnessing this perfectly wild but taut band at the height of its powers. Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema seemed equally ready to fall
into each other and argue as they were to join forces, sing in unison and deliver their crazed but brilliant message. I took influence from this band in many – perhaps confused – ways from that point onwards. They really set the bar for what I thought a band could be like live. Hot Chip never really sounded like Royal Trux, but the joy of repetition in Over and Over is as much to do with their spirit as anything ‘carnal’ (to quote Run Shaker Life, the song they opened that set with). They changed it all for me. A Bath Full of Ecstasy is due 21 June via Domino Records
In 1998 noise rock band Royal Trux released Accelerator. I read a fantastic and very well-written, persuasive review of it in the NME whilst studying in the school library. I’d never heard their music but took a chance on the album as the description really sold it to me.
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A DF Concerts presentation by arrangement with 13 Artists SUBJECT TO LICENCE
Tyler, the Creator IGOR Columbia
Tyler, the Creator revels in continually defying expectations. “Don’t go into this expecting a rap album,” he wrote about IGOR before its release. “Don’t go into this expecting any album.” IGOR is, indeed, an album. But it’s also something different, perhaps his finest record yet, as he continues his evolutionary arc from frenzied Odd Future firebrand to lovelorn, confessional artist. Throughout that evolution, however, his vision has remained razor sharp. So here, though Solange, Pharrell, Kanye and even slowthai contribute, Tyler never loses sight of his goal. IGOR begins with the heady rush of infatuation to the reluctant acceptance of falling out of love, cocooned in a warm crackle that runs throughout the songs, as Tyler disentangles the feelings towards a lover who can't reciprocate them. From the droning synth that begins the album on IGOR'S THEME to the stuttering, dusty beauty of A BOY IS A GUN, and onto the brilliant sunrise bleariness of GONE, GONE / THANK YOU, ideas come into focus slowly like dreams, until you’re suddenly immersed in his world. Tyler continues to shed layer after layer, revealing more of himself. On IGOR, Tyler is at his most vulnerable and heartfelt, and it suits him perfectly. ! Danny Wright
Hot Chip A Bath Full of Ecstasy Domino Hot Chip have always dealt in heartstring-tugging club music, halcyonic records made for pining over your ex in a rave. For their first album since 2015’s Why Make Sense?, A Bath Full of Ecstasy is all the better for not straying far from that territory, another gem from one of synth pop’s most solid acts. Judging the album by its cover, created by Turner Prizewinning artist Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge, you’d be forgiven for thinking A Bath Full of Ecstasy was either a psychedelic self-help book or a motivational fridge magnet for eccentric parents. It’s nothing of the sort. Clear Blue Skies is Hot Chip by way of ELO, a near seven-minute long dreamscape that could be the unofficial score to a chamberinduced natural high. Positive, the album’s blissful peak, gargles with glitching guitars and Vangelis-like resonance. “I only want to be an echo of your beauty,” sings Alexis Taylor on Echo, his characteristically high-pitched vocal still defying time given the band are now firmly middle-aged. In fact, the whole LP is a melancholic ode to existential dread: a dedication to dancing when you’re too old to stay out past 2am, or the bliss of waking up on a Sunday not regretting the night before. !
Jamila Woods LEGACY! LEGACY! Jagjaguwar Perhaps best known for Blk Girl Soldier, Jamila Woods’ jazzy neo-soul debut album shook the table in the strident political times when it was released. Her sophomore album LEGACY! LEGACY! picks up where 2016's Heavn left off. Woods is an accomplished poet and scholar outside of her work as a musician, and LEGACY! LEGACY!, an album based around 12 of Woods’ own heroes, sees her as an archaeologist of the writing of others. BALDWIN directly considers aggressive gentrification and police brutality alongside the quieter, everyday forms of casual racism and anti-blackness. OCTAVIA paces around the colonial canon (“Don’t ever let a textbook scare you”), while on BETTY, Woods confronts the fragility of male gatekeepers, asking, “What is it with you independent men?” without hesitation. Her voice is as smooth as smoke as she slips between singing, rapping and reciting her lyrics like poetry. Under the glossy veneer of the album’s finessed production is an empathetic, critical and deeply thoughtful exploration of race, gender, blackness and the artists who paved the way for Woods herself. !
Special Request VORTEX Houndstooth
slowthai Nothing Great About Britain Method Records Buoyed by that cheeky, gold-plated grin, boundary-pushing stage antics and his self-appointed title of “Brexit Bandit”, slowthai has quickly established himself as a figurehead for a new chapter of Broken Britain. His debut album, the knowingly-titled Nothing Great About Britain, succinctly captures the mental state of that fractured nation, and the fizzing energy of an exasperated youth. Britain’s been fucked for quite some time now, of course. What might feel like present day issues when you flick on the news – xenophobia, isolationism, class inequality – have been plaguing the country for decades. But slowthai's fidgety flow is a perfect match for the incessant pace and headspinning unpredictability that defines the present-day UK, the opening title-track name-checking everything from Buckfast to the Thames, The Prodigy to mild curry. It’s that itchiness which defines the record, an uncomfortable feeling laying heavy on each track. Hammer synths punctuate the Skepta-featuring Inglorious, and the two-toned contrast of Toaster finds Ibiza chillout production providing backing to slowthai’s frosty attitude towards “the feds”. Nothing Great About Britain is perpetually on edge, not unlike the nation’s collective feeling today. slowthai’s true talent lies in his ability to take those intimate details and apply them to bigger topics, without ever feeling preachy or overtly political. Northampton’s Child, the record’s autobiographical closer, lays out that mantra. Reeling off childhood memories so specific they reportedly made slowthai’s mum cry when she first heard the track, his upbringing presents the rapper as a working class hero for a new era. From calling the Queen a “cunt” before the first track’s even up, to detailing the minutiae of young council estate life, slowthai’s debut album proves him a treasonous treasure – truly one of the country’s last great assets. !
Paul Woolford is a generous man. If it wasn’t already apparent from his mission to throw as many free shows for hard-up fans as possible, or set up labels as pressure-free incubators of talent, the release of four albums in 2019 should underscore the point. VORTEX is a natural extension of how his Special Request alias has satiated dancers’ need for speed in the 2010s. It synergises his strong points of breakbeat barnstormers and house epics, with room for bleep, electro and even gabber in there, too. Memory Lake is one of the best earworms, a curdled ripper in the vein of 2AM/ FM’s Poison Dart or Clark’s Butterfly Prowler. Then there’s Vortex 150, whose canny use of dynamics recall Metalheadz OG Peshay – a lesson in how to careen at speed without inducing motion sickness. That being said, from Levitation onward is a rocket ride that accelerates song by song to a mind-melting 220 BPM. There is an element of piss-taking to this fireworks-exploding finale, but as a finger in the eye to the po-faced, it’s spectacularly good. They don’t call him the Angel of the North for nothing. !
07 Producer Tom Schofield’s move to Berlin has gone well, it seems. Ways of Seeing, his third LP as Konx-om-Pax, sounds like the product of a good mood. Making a big point of departing from the esoteric character of previous releases, Ways of Seeing instead offers a straightforward, technobrushed experience which few, if any, will find offensive. It’s odd, frankly. In the studio, Schofield has repeatedly proven himself a keen experimentalist, a nerd for sound art and an adventurous sampler. That he’s now delivering music that wouldn’t be completely out of place in a pub garden shouldn’t be a total surprise. 2017’s Cascada gave us a hint, and he’s never shied away from the sunshine so to speak, but his taste for the weird and unruly had a curious appeal, and that’s largely absent here. That said, Ways of Seeing is far from mild-mannered. There’s enough rowdiness in these tracks that means they won’t be mistaken for any fresh-outthe-office, tie-loosening type of ‘feel-good’ techno. They could be vignettes, rich with Berlin’s club moods. Salule Acid’s slow burn bristles nicely with a tantalising, sundown energy, while Paris 5am’s birdsong, delicately layered over sunken chords, is the opposite: a sunrise in a smoking area. The distant synths of Earthly Delights have that ethereal, late-night big room quality, but I’m for Real is the true highlight, a joyous, uptempo basement jam with vocals from former Glasgow compatriot Nightwave. Ways of Seeing isn’t groundbreaking work, but there’s enough to enjoy here. !
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib Bandana Madlib Invazion/RCA Records The idea of a hookup between Freddie Gibbs and Madlib raised more than a few eyebrows ahead of their first crossover record in 2014. Both were favourites in their own right with critics and aficionados, and both had flirted only sporadically with the mainstream. As far as common ground went, that was about it. After all, Gibbs was a no-nonsense street rapper from hardscrabble, small town Indiana. Madlib’s production, meanwhile, usually reflected the sunny climes of his native Los Angeles, as well as his fascination with making off-kilter beats out of obscure samples. Still, Piñata was an unlikely success, not least because it felt as if both men allowed themselves to be pulled into the other’s creative stream. Gibbs’ raw, uncompromising lyrics became more reflective, while Madlib gravitated towards gritty, boom-bap backing. There’s a similar spirit of genuine collaboration in evidence on Bandana, defined by the same sort of giddy stylistic back-and-forth that, at its best, is a thrill. The two flip the switch between moody aggression on Massage Seats to hazy West Coast throwback mode with Palmolive. The latter is a standout that doesn’t just feature Killer Mike and Pusha T, but challenges them to match Gibbs and Madlib. They both rise to it. At 16 tracks, it occasionally feels a touch too indulgent, but that’s easily forgiven when you wonder how many more records of this quality we might get if more of hip-hop’s key figures were as open-minded as these two. !
Steve Lacy Apollo XXI 3QTR
Flying Lotus Flamagra Warp Records
Lust for Youth Self-titled Sacred Bones
Sarah Davachi Pale Bloom Superior Viaduct Sarah Davachi has done the impossible: she's recorded something even more subtle and sublime than 2018 LP Gave in Rest. Latest offering Pale Bloom sees the Canadian multi-instrumentalist hit dizzying new heights. A haunting and immediately timeless work of minimalism, the album sees Davachi returning to the instrument of her youth – the piano – with stunning results. A game of two halves, Pale Bloom kicks off with Davachi treating us to a three-part suite which combines ambient with a startling use of voice, a rich baritone which tumbles out of the stereo. The second side of the LP is given over to the 21-minute piece If it Pleased Me to Appear to you Wrapped in This Drapery, a deep evocation of the sort of loneliness that's best soundtracked by her spiritual sound. While it’s every bit as infused with the churchy drones of her previous work, Pale Bloom sees Davachi crystallise her style. Here, she has made another incredible late-night listening experience for those of us with a penchant for music that refuses to follow trend. Long may she reign. !
Bold, bright and genre-defying, Lust for Youth’s new self-titled release feels more tethered to real life, in all its vivid complexity, than anything the synth pop outfit have put out before. Now six albums in, angst is no longer the prevalent feeling in the Copenhagen duo's work, and the strict aesthetic rules of their minimal wave beginnings have been cast aside. Vocalist Hannes Norrvide almost seems done with introspection altogether. With the deliberate detachment of a Bret Easton Ellis protagonist, his gaze is now fixed at the world around him. There’s a sense he’s taking an inventory of the people in his life and the directions they are moving in (New Balance Point, Insignificant and By No Means are all savage kiss-offs) and current events such as climate change are cast as a backdrop to personal narratives. This rich texture is there in songcraft too. Multiinstrumentalist Malthe Fischer’s subtle layers of synth and guitar evoke pangs of reflection on the passage of time, while providing the propulsive momentum that helps make the record as fearless and memorable as it is. For a band that has been steadily moving in this direction, this album is their most fearless and sure-footed leap forward. !
Flying Lotus’ breakthrough album, Los Angeles, heralded the raucous arrival of the LA Beat scene in the mid-00s. His bumping, psychedelic bass music was steeped in history but sounded thrillingly new. With a sound forged from jazz, hip-hop, electronica and the hazy swirl of West Coast psychedelia, his aesthetic has slowly percolated into the groundwater through his much-loved Brainfeeder label, and his signature production sound is instantly recognisable. His latest album, Flamagra, is a mesmerising blend of shuffling rhythms and melodies, featuring an impressive carousel of guests waiting patiently for their turn on the mic. Occasionally, previous FlyLo albums have lost their focus in a flurry of ideas. That’s not the case here. Riding on currents of liquid funk, tracks like Heroes in a Half Shell and Takashi are closest to his signature playful template. Anderson .Paak’s contribution elevates More to a soaring, dreamy standout, while George Clinton’s smoky vocals seep through Burning Down the House. David Lynch croaks a weary warning on Fire Is Coming, and Tierra Whack rhymes over playful Madlib tropes on Yellow Belly, before Solange’s sombre, soulful ‘hallelujahs’ (and a gentle tribute to his friend Mac Miller) wind down the album's fiery convulsions. FlyLo’s restless creative vision has been defined and redefined over 15 years, but on Flamagra he has created perhaps the most complete, joyous, and technicolor rendering of it yet. !
Steve Lacy’s brief-yet-meteoric career path has all the makings of a legend. Barely 21 years old, the guitarist, singer and producer has made a name for himself as a member of the neoR&B group The Internet, selfreleased scores of acclaimed demos, and even bagged a Grammy for his production work on Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 album DAMN. And all this before the release of his debut album, a kaleidoscopic, pillowy daydream called Apollo XXI, perhaps his strongest statement as an artist yet. The songs on Apollo drift through movements and suites, shifting gears constantly, buoyed by Lacy’s honeyed production and voracious appetite for 70s guitar hooks and rubbery basslines. Prince comparisons should be blasphemous, but Playground plays like I Wanna Be Your Lover’s stoner cousin. Love 2 Fast (another Purple One reference?), with its pleading lyric of “Fuck! Why is falling in love so hard?” recreates the exact feel of throwing your blankets over your head and indulging in your most delicious bout of youthful angst. Last year, Lacy came out as bisexual, and Like Me is his account of that revelation, beginning with the line “Hello/ This is about me/ And what I am.” That could be the manifesto for this entire album – not only Lacy’s sexual identity, but his sound, his aesthetic, his influences. It would be a powerful debut for any young musician, but for someone as hyped as Lacy, it’s a bullseye that hints at many moments of magic to come. !
Konx-om-Pax Ways of Seeing Planet Mu
Untitled A collective of prodigious UK artists interpret Basquiat’s wild genius
When you think of Jean-Michel Basquiat, what immediately comes to mind? His stark and stunning paintings, rudimentary in practice but deep in soulful expression? Perhaps it’s the fact that he was the first artist to take street art into the high-flying gallery world, cementing his status as a generation-defining visionary when he was still in his early 20s. Or maybe you simply imagine the man himself, holding his thousand-yard stare from under a crown of dreadlocks, silent intensity bursting from his wiry frame.
Lex Armor, and vocalist Ego Ella May, wherein Armor and May’s slack and breezy vocals crash up against spiky breakbeats and wavering bass. “It don’t matter what they call me/ You focus on my blackness/ How my hair stands up to the blue,” sings May, painting a stark picture of Basquiat’s ethos against the urban backgrounds he inhabited.
What I’m getting at is, how do you translate Basquiat’s genius, which was so fleeting, so fragile and so influential, into a completely different medium? How could anyone ever speak in his place? Untitled, a new compilation of rising British rappers, singers, producers and musicians attempts this very feat, imbuing seven tracks with the kind of murky pathos and vibrant colour for which Basquiat himself became legendary. The result is an arresting, if not always clear-cut, collection of songs that are more successful at capturing the essence of Basquiat when forgoing literal interpretations for more theoretical, more conceptual takes.
The album takes a tonal left turn during Lord Tusk and Roxanne Tataei’s Know Ways. Easily a highlight of Untitled, it’s an abstract slice of post-punk that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at the iconic Mudd Club, the birthplace of the New York no wave scene that Basquiat had been such an integral part of. With a distorted bassline that oozes the same dark tones as bands like DNA and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, it’s a calculated nod to the downtown art scene of the 80s, and Tataei’s banshee wails land somewhere between Lydia Lunch and Róisín Murphy. Know Ways sounds as if Tusk and Tatei are trying to reel in a runaway piece of heavy machinery – noisy, dark and dangerous. It’s the album’s most interesting interpretation of Basquiat’s work; the track gives you a slightly sick feeling, as ominous as paint dripping down dark alley walls.
A collaboration between UK underground music platform Lonely Table, DJ and producer Anja Ngozi, and The Vinyl Factory, these aren’t simply a bunch of art-scene-obsessed musos attempting to grasp at Basquiat’s coattails. From the very first track, it’s clear that everyone involved has done their research. Opener Legend is a three-way mind-meld between producer Wu-Lu, rapper
The album only stumbles when it takes its subject a little too literally. London spoken word/hip-hop duo =CoN+KwAke=’s Same Ol Samo, referring to the graffiti tag that Basquiat founded early in his career, just feels slightly laboured, lacking that extra layer of interpretation that makes most of Untitled more than just another tribute compilation. In contrast, Kojey Radical’s collaboration with
saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, No Gangsta, pays subtle homage to Basquiat’s Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage, using Hutchings’ sax and clarinet to invoke a distant island breeze.
Various Artists Untitled Lonely Table / Vinyl Factory
It’s this kind of eclecticism that makes Untitled a true reflection of the spirit of Basquiat, and why, even with its limited runtime, it warrants multiple listens. While explicitly drawing inspiration from a prodigal artist, Untitled doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to encompass their entire life’s work into seven songs – instead, it relies on the art, lives and experiences of some of the UK’s most promising underground voices to pick up where he left off.
Words: Cameron Cook
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Speaking In Tongues Talking Heads’ sophomore album tightened their grip on alternative America’s zeitgeist Words: Gabriel Szatan Original release date: 11 June, 1983 Label: Sire Records
What do you do after a 10? Your last album was so mercurial it exists totally in its own bracket, scaling a mountain entirely of its own making. You’re not just in line with the sound of the era – you are the era. When it came to Talking Heads in the wake of Remain In Light, they waited patiently at the peak, but nobody came up after them. So they sent down a second shout, just to be sure. Speaking In Tongues is not the greatest Talking Heads record. But it is the one that strengthened their position, a bridge that fittingly crossed over. From 1977 to 1980, they had been at the eye of a New York storm, adroitly synergising the mutations of punk, post-punk, no wave, electro, hip-hop and funk. From 1985 to 1988, they mellowed out and wound down.
Speaking In Tongues scratched the paranoid itch of their first juncture with a cleaner, poppier second act. Without it, the image of Talking Heads we accept as truth today – unquestionable Hall of Famers, with attendant Big Suits and Kermit the Frog covers – would likely not exist. It’s eminently possible they would be an XTC or an ESG: cult heroes, but not quite intergenerational household names. Time has smoothened their trajectory, but Remain In Light actually underperformed, a critical darling with singles that failed to catch alight. So they took a breather. David Byrne carried on his fourth-world explorations with Eno on My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, Tina Weymouth fronted Tom Tom Club and Chris Frantz laid down drums for Kurtis Blow.
Shorn of tracks of genuine terror (Air) or bleakness (Listening Wind) that the band could pull off, it’s a more homogenous front-to-back listen, but a more widely permutable one. For a modern equivalent, think of Arcade Fire circa Reflektor: the defining big-league indie weirdos of the day shoot for radio dominance (Reflektor), sneak a timeless fan favourite into the very backend (Afterlife) and generally consolidate gains. A moment to stop and smell the roses, even if the competition gets a chance to overtake. Crucially, Tongues set the stage for one of the greatest sets of all time. Stop Making Sense, arriving as a film and live LP the following spring, put faces to the names churning out these earworms. It also had the misfortune of one-upping Tongues, to an extent. Girlfriend Is Better, whose flatulent bassline and quicksilver fretwork go from great to explosive in concert,
suffers on playback. Same too with the loved-up This Must Be The Place – though arguably Talking Heads’ greatest song, it’s still hard to not feel a mite crestfallen when the studio version doesn’t end with synchronised coos and rapturous applause. Together, though, Stop Making Sense and Speaking in Tongues worked as an immensely effective two-pronged attack on the hearts and minds of mid-80s America. In January ‘83, the average person on any street outside the Tri-state area would have struggled to pick Byrne out of a line-up. By January ‘85, their infamy – and their legacy – was a lock. From there, the band retreated from the avant-garde. There were memorable singles to come but they embraced the ‘new wave’ tag too handily. Once you could pin down these Flippy Floppy Slippery People, they were no longer untouchable. Speaking In Tongues, where they fastened back together after time apart, was their last landmark album before a slow ungluing. Viewing it today as less of an isolated statement, but part of a wider arc, is a reminder of Talking Heads' unshakable position as one of the greatest bands ever. How nice we get to share the same space for a lifetime or two.
When Speaking in Tongues landed in July of 1983, it brought career-best sales and chart placings. Burning Down the House still remains their only top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Once In A Lifetime only charted five years after release. Musically, it tied together everything the group had done up to that point. The sensory circuit-jamming on Fear Of Music and Remain In Light is largely gone: guitar riffs and synth runs are as good as ever, but are given time to stretch their legs. Drums clatter about without a bevy of counter-rhythms fighting for space. Byrne, ever the glutton, only chews through one vocal hook at a time. The parts, once loose and jittery, are bolted into place for casual listeners to locate.
Words: Vivian Yeung
ARTWORK BY COKEOAK 2. City of Joy (2016)
Dir: Madeleine Gavin City of Joy is the title of the film and also the name of the leadership group helping women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who have survived violence. A group of local women started this group in 2011 to provide survivors of violence with therapy and life skills to aid them in successfully moving forward with love, life, and work. That many of these women felt ashamed of the violence they suffered was devastating. It was heart-warming to see how they opened up and came alive while living at the City of Joy home and inspiring to see these women find strength and self-confidence through building friendships and shared stories.
which we ask our favourite artists for their cultural recommendations. This can be anything – but music. This month, we catch up with Paula Temple. A producer, DJ and remixer creating high-voltage, corrosive techno, Temple has previously
Radical New Sharing Economy (2017)
Welcome to Downtime: a new series in
3. The Third Industrial Revolution: A
ence”. Having recently released her debut album Edge of Everything, Temple takes a break from her busy tour schedule to let us in on
described her sets as a “post-death experi-
not on the road.
what she watches with her wife when she’s
Dir: Eddy Moretti
This is a VICE documentary that records
Jeremy Rifkin’s lecture outlining his
2011 book The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming
Energy, the Economy, and the World.
After watching the movie Zeitgeist, I have
been particularly interested in a moneyless economy. While Jeremy’s plan for
the third industrial revolution does not
eliminate money, it focuses on moving
from hierarchical to lateral power, thus reducing the focus on greed and competi-
tion. He speaks of reforming the way we
communicate digitally using renewable
electricity, which will lead to economic and environmental changes that we
desperately need in this time of climate
crisis. He is currently working with China
and Germany on ways to revamp their infrastructure as it will take a significant
amount of work, money and planning
to change our current and destructive
system. Every country in the world needs to get on board if we are to prevent the
1. Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (2017)
Dir: Joe Piscatella This is a documentary about Joshua Wong, a teenager who started the umbrella movement in response to the Chinese government’s threat to implement Chinese curricula in Hong Kong schools. My wife and I stumbled across this on Netflix, and it became such an inspiration to me that I decided to name a track on my album, Edge of Everything, after him – it’s called Joshua and Goliath. Joshua was just fifteen when he and a classmate started a student group called ‘Scholarism’ and, due to their tenacity, this small school group grew over the course of just a year into pro-democracy protests of more than 100,000 people. I think what makes this documentary so compelling is the fact that it was kids who had the courage to stand up for what is important for their future. We see this again with Greta
Thunberg and climate change. This gives me real hope for the future that the youth are coming together to challenge the lawmakers and leaders who act only in the best interest of the elite.
extinction of our species on the planet.
This documentary has given me hope that
we are not doomed as a species, but that change needs to happen fast.
Edge of Everything is out now via Noise Manifesto
Empress Of Lorely Rodriguez is a ray of light. Bett
er known as Empress Of, the Hondur an-American singer and producer snatched hearts with her 2015 debut Me, an introspecti ve electropop gem touching on themes of self-acceptance and newfound independen ce. On her latest album Us she took
outward, platforming inclusivity and
munity with her soaring pop mel odies. On the phone, she exudes the warm confidence of someone who’s known you for year s, her belly laugh cackling down the line as she recounts being caught taking selfies, the mus ic that makes her nostalgic and… receivin g a frozen chicken heart for Valentine’s Day .
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? If you’re not gonna worry about it in five years , then why are you worrying about it now? What’s your favourite thing about LA?
The food! You can take a trip around the world
Words: Rachel Grace Almeida
eating in Los Angeles.
Best survival tip for 2019? Wear sunscreen and drink water. Our sun is
How would your friends describe you
in three words?
‘She’s just auntie.’
getting more and more angry because we’re fucking the planet up. Favourite phrase? Kill your fears.
What’s your earliest childhood memory?
Getting lost in a store and feeling like I was
Is there a movement inspiring you righ t now? Visibility of trans people and queer peop le. This is something I don’t feel gets enough visib ility among the many things that are fucked up in this world. I care about a lot of things, especially imm igrant and reproductive rights, but I just want peop le to live their truth and be who they are. It really touc hes me.
What makes you feel nostalgic?
Music! Music is like a photograph, it holds so many
memories. I’ll listen to Tame Impala or Mitsk i and
immediately be transported back to my first tour, driving through the mountains. The weirdest thing someone has caught you
I find it weird when people catch me taking
ies, which is like everyday. It feels intrusive.
It’s like, ‘you’ve just peered into a private moment of my life that I was trying to share with the rest of the internet! God!’
What gets on your nerves?
What’s your go-to recipe to impress a date?
Ceviche. I grew up with my family teaching me how
When I go to a shop and they give me really long receipts with loads of coupons I’m neve r going to use.
to make it so I can really tear it up.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received ?
Is there something that instantly makes you
This is really fucked up, but I once got
a frozen chicken heart for Valentine’s Day from some guy I wasn’t even seeing at college. It wasn’t the best gift, but it made me think, ‘wow, you’re weir d... and cool.’ The best song of all time?
What’s the furthest you’ll go for love?
Once my mom dragged me to Costco [the whol esale store] for Black Friday and it was the worst day of my life. People barging their carts into each other , just
All I Do by Stevie Wonder.
like you see in movies. That’s true love right
What would you want written on your tombstone? Lorely, fun.
If you could give yourself advice 10 years ago,
What’s the wildest party you’ve ever been
OK, this is going to sound like I’m on
walking by and these strangers just invit
their house party, and being an idiot ,
acid. I was ed me into
I went in. There was a tree inside and everyone was clim bing it to get to the second floor. Once you got to the top, the room was a huge glass bubble and the floor was a huge bed, where everyone was just laying down looking up at this glass ceiling.
would it be?
I only just started wearing sunscreen two days
– wear sunscreen. Invest in skincare.
What’s the biggest realisation you’ve had this year? I have a lot of shit I need to work on on myse lf. This year has been a lot about being good to my famil y, good at my craft as a musician, and learning how to
deal with stress. The growth never stops.
Us is out now via Terrible Records
culture As we watch fan communities grow and evolve online, the conversation surrounding the ethics of stanning has become polarised. Here, writer and author Hannah Ewens unpacks why being a hardcore fan isn’t so black and white. For a while I ran a stan Twitter account. I did it anonymously partly out of genuine desire to and partly out of a curiosity to see how much time and energy it took to run as an adult with a full-time job, what it was like to engage with other fans through the guise of being part of their mission. A mission in search of information, updates and connection. People were soft and open; they’d retweet me and occasionally DM me about their problems or to say they’d not been able to meet other fans IRL. During that period, I had fans in the DMs of my personal account telling me my album reviews were wrong and an embarrassment and that I knew nothing about music. And that is putting it mildly. Numerous incidents have recently sparked debates over the morality of stan groups. Fans were part of a backlash against Ariana Grande detractors, K-pop fans defended idols who had committed sexual crimes, Nicki Minaj criticised a writer for a review and stans piled in on the same writer, and when Lizzo questioned the validity of criticism, her stans acted similarly by slating the writer of the review. The scrutiny has been placed on the ethics of stan behaviour. Are stans ruining criticism? Has stan culture gone too far? Are stans toxic? Is it problematic to be a stan? All the Twitter threads and articles that ask these questions have the same stance. Stan culture is painted as something insidious and unknown, a virus. They fail to recognise the context: that rarely is anything within music fan culture entirely new. When I decided to write my book Fangirls: Scenes From Modern Music Culture I had begun to see similarities between what girls were doing in front of me at shows or online and what I had done 10, 15 years previously. Whether it was crying at signing
tables, waiting for hours outside venues, writing fanfiction or cataloguing their favourite artist’s every moment, these patterns have existed as far back as the 50s and 60s. As well as the more joyous stuff – meet and greets, following around artists to their hotels and venues, documenting their work in zines or blogs – the impulses we’re essentially now cordoning off as potentially problematic have always been acted on. Media and musicians have historically thought fans are too much. Empty death threats to those who seem a menace to an artist or fandom have occurred since the birth of fanning. Girlfriends of boyband members were hated or merely irritants, members themselves hated by fans for not giving them what they wanted whether that be the right music or attention. There has been in-fighting between fans of the same artists and inter-fandom feuds. Within fandoms, as within any social groups, there are hierarchies of privilege, rogue racists, homophobes and those whose beliefs do not reflect the majority of the fanbase. What is new, then, to warrant these conversations? Fan behaviours have moved from public spaces to online ones. Networks now are semi-permanent and easier for anyone to join and use. The speed at which interactions happen is more intense than ever; you can tweet in an instant. We now see fans and stans as obstinately present and the anonymous, more colourful or aggressive sides of fan emotions are fully on display. When they act as is deemed inappropriate by people outside of the fanbase, the details are more visible, their behaviours easier to point fingers at en masse.
If we should police stan culture, how do you temper something that’s built inherently into the fibre of not just fandom, but music culture itself? Stan has become shorthand for extreme or dangerous fans, and despite there being very dark sides to fandoms, I don’t think it should be a dirty word. I’ve wondered whether it’s because I so strongly identify as a fan as well as a writer who often works with music, and because my personal and professional passions crossover, that this isn’t black and white to me. If you’ve ever been a fan – experienced the life-changing feeling of being seen and belonging, of feeling part of something bigger than yourself – you’ll be able to remember. You’ll sense there’s more nuance to the conversation than it’s been afforded. Fangirls: Scenes From Modern Music Culture is out 25 July via Quadrille Publishing
Words: Hannah Ewens Illustration: Johanna Burai
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