Connor McCann “What inspired my piece was thinking about the type of devotion that comes along with taking care of a sick loved one, even when you know that they’re not going to get better and you’re forced to watch them decay into nothing, despite however much effort you might put into stopping it from happening. That feels like the strongest form of devotion to me; trying to ease a loved one’s suffering, even if it costs you a bit of yourself in the process.” -Connor McCann Name
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
What is your current location?
Gerard Way, Eric Powell, Brandon Graham, Michael Deforge, and Sam Ray have had the biggest overall influence on my art and I can always go to one of their various projects if I need a pick me up. I like Harmony Korine films and Cormac McCarthy novels a lot, too. My friends here are also inspiring as hell and seeing their work always pushes me to be better and more ambitious!
Providence, Rhode Island
What materials do you like to work with?
Where are you from?
I’m really into these Japanese brush pens I got at Kinokuniya in New York. I use a light table to draw comics on and it is the best thing ever and speeds up my process tremendously. I like drawing on cheap copy paper, too.
Westport, Connecticut What is your current occupation? I’m a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, studying Printmaking! Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I took a lot of figure drawing classes through out middle school and high school. A few mediocre cartooning classes. I saw a kid jump on top of another student and bite the crap of his neck during a landscape painting class I took in seventh grade. That was wild. I guess landscape painting brings that sort of thing out in people?
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I am always working on comics, all of which will be posted on my website over the next few months. There are other comics and books I am working on with other people, but aren’t far enough along to say anything about yet! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Lemon Meringue Die, Porches, Toro y Moi, Coma Cinema, Julia Brown, Kissing Fractures, Sin Kitty, Earl Sweatshirt and Tom Waits are always on regular rotation while I work. I pretty much always have headphones on, though.
Where do you like to work?
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
Ideally, somewhere quiet and without clutter. When Iâ€™m at home, I find myself working on the kitchen table a lot of the time because my room is suffocatingly full of books, comics and records. It gets to be way too distracting! At school, I just work wherever
Drawing Cat-Dog at daycare while waiting for my mom to pick me up. I am still proud of that Cat-Dog. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I just want to make great comics that connect with a lot of people.
Where To Find Them Websites: connorcomics.com Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @1_800_PSYCHIC_HOTLINE (Instagram)
Logan Fitzpatrick “Being truly devoted to a friendship means letting the other person lick the egg beaters. It’s a simple gesture, but it’s really impressive when someone acts as a host and makes it a priority to accommodate everyone above themselves. Unrelated: remember that TV show where the bully got turned into a dog and had to do 100 good deeds to become a human again? That was wild.” -Logan Fitzpatrick Name
What materials do you like to work with?
I go back and forth between painting with acrylic & doing ink drawings with digital color. Although I enjoy painting, it’s usually meticulous & planned. So, compiling things digitally can be really exciting and experimental with minimal consequences thanks to command Z. Like, you could scan a dead bug at 800dpi, put a pink gradient over it, and paste it all over a bunch of scribbles you drew. You can do literally anything.
Age 25 What is your current location? Brooklyn, NY Where are you from? Buffalo, NY What is your current occupation? Graphic design during the day & illustration any other time :~) Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?
I feel like this kind of attitude is resonating all over other areas of culture as well. Like for instance, popular music in the 90’s was a really calculated thing where you had a traditional voice and a structured song with a good hook. In 2016, a number one song can be someone’s voice sped up and reversed over a stapler noise or something. There’s no rules & anything goes. It’s pretty liberating. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
I have a BFA from Pratt Institute
I’m about to start some paintings for a show upstate & I’m working on some zine stuff with my buddies in the TXTBooks publishing imprint.
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
My parents, Dr. Seuss, Matt Groening, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Calvin & Hobbes, Matisse, Maira Kalman, Mr. Show with Bob & David, Julian Casablancas, Yoshitomo Nara, Barry McGee, Kim Gordon, Misaki Kawai, Willem De Kooning, George Condo, Sylvia Plath, David Sedaris, Kanye.
Lemuria, Speedy Ortiz, Charly Bliss, Sonic Youth, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Bully, Talking Heads, Thelonius Monk, My Bloody Valentine, The Ramones, Descendents, Blink-182, The Cure, Dave Brubeck, Potty Mouth, Painted Zeros, Charli XCX, the guitar solo from My Sharona, anything with DJ Mustard.
Where do you like to work? I work in the corner of my living room. Singing karaoke along with whatever’s playing helps me draw better so I’ll probably never be able to work in a shared space. I know Nicki’s “Monster” verse though. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? The cover of “The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show” by blink-182 was the first thing that inspired me to try to do illustration as a career. I also made zillions of comics when I was younger and I would put them into binders with those plastic sleeves. I remember one
Where To Find Them Websites: loganfitzpatrick.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @logan_fitzpatrick (Instagram)
that depicted a bunch of dogs in a fancy restaurant & it was so upscale that there were dogs in the bathroom peeing on the side of a stretch limousine. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Over the summer, I got to lend some visuals to an organization that fights youth homelessness as well as the GenderProud campaign for transgender advocacy. I’d like to do more things in that vein. It’s cool when the opportunity presents itself for drawing to be used as a tool for something that assists a movement, albeit in a small way. Also, I’m hoping they’ll let me design the VMA Moonman someday.
Anja Salonen “‘Self-Portrait’ (2015) was made for my first solo show “Future Bodies” at ‘At it Stands’ in Los Angeles. The painting is part of a series of self-portraits I’ve made where I digitally warp an image of my own body, in this piece in a prayer position, and paint it floating over a detached background. Here the background is an airbrushed acrylic pattern, with masked off squares that appear to protrude from the canvas. The painting warps surface depth as well as the form of the figure. ” -Anja Salonen Name Anja Salonen Age 22 What is your current location? Los Angeles.
spired by comic book illustration, stock imagery, advertisements, etc. What materials do you like to work with? I work mainly in painting and installation. In my paintings I primarily use oils, but sometimes incorporate airbrushed acrylic or cell vinyl paint. With installations materials vary greatly, but I find myself drawn to foam, fabrics, fur, vinyl plastics -- all very tactile materials.
Where are you from?
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
I was born in Los Angeles but my parents are Finnish and Welsh and I lived in Europe for four years.
I’m currently working on my second solo show entitled ‘Second Skin’ which opens April 2nd at Lei Min Space in Los Angeles.
What is your current occupation?
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
I’m currently a student at CalArts
All kinds -- varies from John Maus to Pharmakon to Steve Reich... I listen to podcasts also
Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I was a painting major at RISD and transferred to Calarts last year to finish my BFA in fine art. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Other artists inspire my work the most, especially Dana Schutz, Nicole Eisenman, Laura Owens, Gladys Nillson... I’m also in-
Where do you like to work? I recently moved into a new studio down the street from my house, which is where I do all of my painting. I have a small studio space at CalArts as well that I use for installation work. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I drew and painted a lot as a child -- but a memory that stands
out is during a weekly art lesson when my teacher showed us Kazimir Malevich’s black square paintings... when I went to make my own painting I scrapped my usual bunnies and rainbows, painted the entire piece of paper blue and declared it done. It was a revelation. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I used to think that art that was psychological in nature could somehow unite artist and viewer, or create some sense of
Where To Find Them Websites: www.anjasalonen.com Contact: email@example.com Donate: @anjasalonen
shared humanity... I believe that artists feel the sensation of isolation perhaps more keenly than others, thrive off of it and suffer from it. For me, making art is a mode of communication, but now I feel that I cannot assume that the viewer will relate to the psychology of my work. I’m simply putting my thoughts/ ideas/experiences/emotions into imagery because I have to, and making no assumptions of how they will be read. Once the work is made, it belongs to the viewer.
ADAM DE SOUZA
Adam De Souza “I thought about devotion as a form of escapism and how devotion to a single thing means you’re neglecting other aspects of your life.” -Adam De Souza
What is your current location?
and I think a lot of my favourite artists, no matter the medium, do that. I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of the things that I do in my work I picked up from the things that inspired me the most as a kid; a lot of silver age comics, manga, Tex Avery cartoons, and 1950’s illustrated books. Some of my favourite artists are Thomas Herpich, Eleanor Davis, Akira Toriyama, Bendik Kaltenborn, Taiyo Matsumoto, The Provensons, and Miyazaki. I do read quite a bit and I’ve been currently really enjoying the works of Ursula Le Guin.
I currently live above a baby stroller shop in downtown Toronto.
What materials do you like to work with?
Where are you from?
I am at my most comfortable when I’m sketching with various brushes/ink-pens in my sketchbook. When working on a piece I usually use whatever medium will give me the texture and colour I’m going for; I have a desk full of supplies for every occasion. Most all my illustrations end up being touched up digitally and I love adding collage elements to my pieces.
Name Adam De Souza and Kumerish anywhere on the internet. Age twenty-something
I was born and raised on the west coast in a beachside town outside of Vancouver. What is your current occupation? Student by morning, barista by day, and illustrator by night! Though I would like to primarily consider myself an illustrator/ comic dude. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’m currently studying Illustration at OCADu and prior to that I completed a Fine Arts diploma back home in Vancouver. Having already had a decent amount of schooling I feel like it’s weird to say this but I do feel like there is always an aspect of being self taught in an artist since style is such a personal venture. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I really get lost in an honest story. I admire thoughtful storytelling
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Currently, I am about 5 minutes away from finishing an illustration for a business magazine from here in Toronto but asides from that I’ve been working on a short-comic with writer Mikael Lopez called Apices which may be published in an anthology. I have a lot of personal comics that I’m itching to get to too but between homework and Apices they’ll have to wait! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? It really depends on what I’m working on. I find myself listening to a lot of classic jazz or more ambient tunes while planning out a piece. Once everything’s all structurally sound though I usually put on whatever I’m feeling at the time. I listen to a ton of pod-
casts but when I’ve listened to all the recent episodes I’ve been putting on a lot of Pavement and Built to Spill. I’ve also gotten really into Chance the Rapper. Where do you like to work? I really like getting out of the apartment and sketching at coffee shops. There’s always so much going on around you in a busy shop; people talking, wearing cool clothes, being jerks…Always fuel for the sketchbook. I’m pretty shy about sketching in public though so there has to be enough room between each table so that I don’t feel like someones watching me draw over my shoulder. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I was around three years old and sketching with my dad at the
Where To Find Them Websites: http://kumerish.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @kumerish (Instagram)
kitchen table. I remember that he made me a cardboard portfolio that I’d tuck all my art into and hide under the couch. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Illustration is all about communication so I hope my work says something or makes people feel in a way that only the visual arts can, or at the very least, intrigues. All of the art I’ve greatly admired has always made me feel involved; like I’m a part of the world that the illustration or story has taken place in. I would like to one day make people feel how I did when I got lost in my favourite stories. When you finish a great story you leave it feeling like you have learned or broadened your thought…ideally I’d love to have people leave my work feeling that way.
Iurhi Peña “Growth is defined by so many things, and growing doesn’t necessarily mean that something else is over — just that something new has begun and that can be good or bad. But it’s probably both if you really think hard enough about it. And sure, maybe things have changed, but I think we’ve just grown.” -Iurhi Peña Name
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
I’m really inspired by girls and women in my community who organize things, I like Spanish-speaking girls that do cool stuff like comics or have punk bands. I like bad mexican films from the 70’s and 80’s and Technicolor. I really like the daily lameness of my city, I guess I get inspired by it more than I recognize. It’s really fun to laugh at the aspirational attitude that permeates our art scene when we’re actually admist a terrible economic and political crisis with lots and lots of violence. Sometimes I get mad, but most of the time it makes me snort audibly.
Where are you from?
What materials do you like to work with?
I like ink above any other materials, but right now I’m into watercolors and I like to mix all of that with digital stuff.
Age 26 What is your current location?
What is your current occupation? I’m an illustrator for various media and am into self-publishing too. I’m also teaching drawing at a highschool at the moment. It’s one the of the weirdest but otherwise coolest experiences I’ve ever had. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I got my bachelors degree in Visual Arts. But most of what I do now is kinda self-taught, my area of expertise at first was sculpture, installation and intaglio printing. But I don’t really do that anymore. When I got into self-publishing and illustration, I had to learn many skills by myself that I could have gotten in other majors* (Our college systems are different but you get the idea).
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m working on the cover for a compilation a friend is making, it’s gonna have lots of bands I’m a huge fan of! I’m working with a friend from Spain in a project called Autoeditoras where we aim to give some visibility to women, trans women and queer people who self-publish or people who publish small projects with feminist themes in Mexico and Latin América. I’m also trying to be more constant with my zine Vómito Y Rabia which gives me many headaches even though it’s a very loved project. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I like to work to “música movida” which kina means “music that makes you dance or makes you active” (it has a weird translation). But since that can be anything really, to me it means
listening to some cumbias, 90’s techno (I love 90’s techno!), CharlyXCX and everything 80’s (Old Madonna is fine but more like Fandango (the mexican all-girl pop group), gothic stuff, rock urbano, etc). There’s a lot of music to listen to! Where do you like to work? I like to work alone at home beacuse I can’t concentrate when people is around. It makes me crazy. I’ve also found that if I work when there’s people around I finish my work more quickly :( What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I remember waiting for my mom to get out of work, and since there wasn’t a lot to do I used to entertain myself reading and drawing my own stories, sometimes I couldn’t come up with cool stories so I made minibooks with only illustrations in them
Where To Find Them Websites: http://iurhipena.tumblr.com/ Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @urhi (Instagram)
and lines that were supposed to look like text. I did “stories” about frogs and mice getting married and stuff like that. I used to think that writing about marriage was sort of a taboo thing like porn beacuse it was something only older people did. (lol) What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I don’t know, I’d like to be the kind of artist that would have inspired me when I was just starting this whole art thing. I also want to be the kind of person who never stops doing stuff and gets good at it because they can’t do anything else well. But more than that I’d like to add up to the art and work women have been doing here in Mexico, in the circumstances we have now. I don’t think I’m properly conveying what I mean. But yeah, that.
Adam Giroux “A lot of my recent work has been revolving around the concept of restrictions for the purpose of self-improvement. This piece specifically deals with the protective mechanisms which dedicated individuals will fruitlessly surround themselves with to reach their goals. It simultaneously addresses the vulnerability that comes with wearing our façades in difficult times. While some of the symbolism is more explicit, much of the piece utilizes personal metaphors to represent my own experience in devotion to my craft.” -Adam Giroux
Where are you from?
jarring imagery to convey a theme, while still being impactful from a storytelling and emotional perspective. In a very different way, Harmony Korine is one of the most inspiring artists I’ve witnessed who manages to capture that same depth in an extremely organic way. “Gummo” changed my life. I also have a strong appreciation for the work of Gaspar Noé, György Pálfi, Jean Pierre Jeunet, and far too many more to list. In terms of inspiring individuals, I really respect what Elon Musk is doing in the world and how he is doing it. To accomplish so many seemingly-impossible tasks for the purpose of essentially saving the planet and the life on it, it’s not only impressive, but important. David Choe is someone I also find endlessly inspiring in his attitudes toward work and art.
Windsor, Ontario. Across the river from Detroit.
What materials do you like to work with?
What is your current occupation?
I primarily work with Oil on wood, but I’ve been experimenting quite a bit lately. From techniques like working with taped sections of paintings to the surfaces themselves. I’ve been secretly experimenting with aluminum and vellum frequently lately. In a few pieces, I’ve tried to work with the piece as an object - in some cases drilling holes through the panel to reveal a gold-leaf surface on a layer below. These mechanics are both interesting as technical challenges and as different communication methods to the viewer.
Name Adam Giroux Age 23 What is your current location? London, Ontario, Canada
Full-time artist by night, Director of Development at a digital marketing agency called Arcane during the day. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I try to be autodidactic whenever possible. I am self-taught in art aside from high school art classes. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
I’ve always been a massive fan of surrealist directors and film in general. The work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, ‘El Topo’ in particular, has had a big impact on me in the use of symbolism and
I’m currently working on a few small pieces to allow myself to experiment a bit more. I’m also planning out some large-scale pieces for an upcoming two-person show in the fall (details
aren’t confirmed yet). Some things may be coming up before then as well. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? In the music world, I tend to enjoy musicians who carve a path for themselves and manage to sound unique: Fol Chen, Cex, Between The Buried And Me, Boards of Canada, Necrophagist, Tyler the Creator, Unkle, St. Vincent, and (quite notably) Die Antwoord. I’m not a big fan of music acting as white noise. I want it to contribute to the narrative whenever possible. While working, I’ll also frequently listen to podcasts and audiobooks so I can feel like I’m multitasking a bit more. I’m currently listening to ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoyevsky and the popular ’Serial’ podcast. ‘Artist Decoded’ is a fantastic art podcast as well. Where do you like to work? I like variety whenever possible, but I do have my studio where I
Where To Find Them Websites: adamgiroux.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @adamgirouxart (Instagram)
do most of my work. It’s above an art gallery here in London. It’s a big space with a lot of natural light. It’s above a busy downtown street so I get to hear and see a lot of interesting people. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Sitting with my grandmother drawing pictures as she did. She’s still an immensely creative person in every part of her life. Pockets of my family were extremely creative so I always found outlets for transferring ideas into imagery. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? In many ways, painting allows thoughts and emotions which would otherwise stay in my head to exist the real world. Each painting is a very personal experience for me, but I do appreciate when others can take something away from it. That being said, I don’t know that there is an end to it; the means itself is purpose enough.
Sunny Betz “I’ve recently been thinking about memory and objects - this piece is about how the two are tied together, and what it means to assign value and emotion to objects or things. I decided to try out using ink wash to color this piece, along with the markers and pens I usually use!” -Sunny Betz Name
cheap markers, crayons, colored pencils...
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
What is your current location?
I have several pieces coming out in Rookie in the next few months, and I’m working on a comic that will try to visually represent the struggle of learning gendered languages while being trans/nonbinary.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
Where are you from?
I usually listen to mellow stuff, like Sufjan Stevens, Youth Lagoon, or Carole King.
Westchester, New York What is your current occupation? I’m a student, but I also write for Rookiemag on the side! Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’m now starting to take classes in the arts, but previously have mainly taught myself. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? ‘m a huge fan of Chris Ware and Joan Didion, as well as films like Grey Gardens, Gummo, and the podcast The Memory Palace! What materials do you like to work with?
Where do you like to work? Curled up in a ball on my bed! What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I have a drawing on my wall that I made when I was six: it’s a bird flying over a daisy, and it warms my heart when I look at it and think about who I used to be. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I’ve recently been thinking about memory and objects - this piece is about how the two are tied together, and what it means to assign value and emotion to objects or things. I’m hoping to explore queerness and fragmented memory much more with my future stuff.
Usually the same things I created art with in my childhood:
Where To Find Them Websites: http://www.rookiemag.com/author/sunny/ Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @pattyhearstvevo (Twitter)
Abby McMillen “Outward affection and devotion made possible by the devotion to oneself and the death of needless insecurity.” -Abby McMillen Name
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
What is your current location?
I’ve made it habit to give myself personal projects so I don’t get too bogged down by the noise of life that I neglect art. I’m slogging slowly through a series of alienesque feminist teens right now.
Los Angeles, CA
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
Where are you from?
Always, although I also love podcasts while I work. Lately it’s been a lot of old school punk, shoegaze, and 90’s alt rock. Wolf Alice is my go-to band when I don’t want to listen to anything else.
Denver CO by way of Seattle WA What is your current occupation? Tattoo Apprentice, Freelance Illustrator, Barista Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Graduated with a BA in Illustration/ New Pictures from Seattle Pacific University What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? This list could go on infinitely, so I’ll pare it down to the basics: the majority of my inspiration is derived directly from the people close to me who I interact with the most. Each person has eternal creative catalysts within them. What materials do you like to work with?
Where do you like to work? On floors. Most of my painting occurs lying down. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Sitting on my kitchen floor making macaroni and construction paper collages, getting a bloody nose, and thinking the result was so much better than what I’d even pictured. I must’ve been about 4 years old. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? To make the unconventional beautiful, surprising, and intriguing; to show people something they’ve never seen before but can find a piece of themselves within.
Pen & ink, gouache, watercolor, anything I can get my hands on
Where To Find Them Websites: www.asmillustration.weebly.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @abigailswallow (Instagram)
Justin Gordon “The piece I submitted is an excerpt titled “The Flowers Know You”, I made it during February, 2016 with brush and ink and then filled it in with colour using a computer.” -Justin Gordon Name Justin Gordon Age 22 What is your current location? Montreal, Quebec, Canada What is your current occupation? I work as a printmaker (screenprint/serigraph), draw pictures and make small press art books and narrative comics mostly, and wash dishes on wednesday nights. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I would say partially self taught and very well mentored and exposed to great art by people outside of the institutionalized learning system. I don’t at all “jive” with formal art school and don’t attend but to claim to be self taught wouldn’t really acknowledge how much I learn from other artists and print shop groups and publications. I’m just learning as I go and keeping my eyes open, having many sips of coffee and not going to school. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Marc Bell became a good friend and a great mentor while we were living down the street from each other for quite few years in Guelph, Ontario and he inspired me immeasurably. Colour Code Printing in Toronto is a well of great printed material, Se-
bastian from the Swimmer’s Group (Publisher) has been putting out great books and being super generous with their time. Billy Mavreas at Monastiraki boutique in Montreal is a great friend and inspiring fixture. There’s a lot of people and makers out there who make being an artist really worthwhile, I think I could write a large volume on who I’m inspired by and why I feel gratitude towards them and their causes and ideas. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Recently (this week, Feb 26 or so) I finished two small press books, one titled “The Flowers Know You” that will be self published and printed by Colour Code, and “Home Recording” that Swimmer’s Group (Toronto) will be publishing. In Home Recording there’s a great section of collaborative pieces with Booger Brie. Coming up I’m going on a small book tour from Ontario to Newfoundland, putting up paintings and installing works, as well as I’d like to finish recording the book on tape that I sort of dropped priority on a few weeks ago. Going to draw a lot of pictures and start to live more and process and think things through less I think, more feelings and action 2016. Where do you like to work? My bedroom, It’s where all my plants and cassettes are. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I remember learning how to draw motorcycles from the “how to draw” series books at age 6, and kept drawing comics and weird situations ever since. I think that was the year I started to dress myself and demanded that I walk to school alone, without supervision since 1997 as they say.
Where To Find Them Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @tindrums (Instagram)
Tremé Céré “This piece is about devoting time and work to my own memories and experiences. I have recently been working with ideas of processing difficult times through drawing. The sources for this image are a collection of photographs I took and have found of El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico. I travelled there when I was 15 and I had my first experience in a tropical rainforest, and it was absolutely beautiful. Being in the rainforest was a completely spiritual experience for me; while in it I felt completely surrounded by warmth, and it seemed to go on forever. With this piece I try to challenge the memories I have of being there, with who I am now by leaving some areas blank.” -Tremé Céré Name
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Oh, so many things, I’m often inspired by other work I see, and new discoveries. I’m also often inspired by my parents, who are both artists, and my other family members, as well as pop culture. I’m in the middle of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, and it’s wonderful.
What is your current location?
What materials do you like to work with?
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I work mainly with graphite pencil on Japanese paper, sometimes with watercolor, and more recently I have been getting really into ceramics and slip casting.
Where are you from? Cambridge, Massachusetts What is your current occupation? I’m a student at Concordia University, and in the summer a fulltime nanny/babysitter. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have always drawn and made art since I was very little and decided to pursue art in University too, I’m in my last year of my bachelors.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m working on a very large drawing I’m really excited about, kind of the second in a series including this piece, as well as a site-specific ceramic installation, both for school. I’m also working with my friend Emilie on a video performance piece that will be shown at a group/collaborative print media exhibition this spring in Val David, Quebec. Is there music you like to listen to while working? Yes, it changes all the time but recently it has been a strange mix of mostly Frank Ocean, Fetty Wap, Drake and Future’s mixtape, Sia and the Smiths.
Where do you like to work?
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I like to draw standing up, at my studio.
Through my work I hope to process feelings of growing up, selfdoubt, identity and relationships. I hope my work both speaks to my own emotions but also relates to other peoples. I hope to make things that people enjoy looking at and interacting with.
What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I remember being taught how to cut a star out of paper when I was in preschool and being overwhelmingly excited about it!
Where To Find Them Websites: http://cargocollective.com/trememanningcere Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @vindeiseltreme (Instagram)
Anna White “I like to create dreamy images that explore themes of youth and female friendship. I strive to create a world within my art that straddles the conscious and subconscious. This piece plays with the concept of devotion in terms of friendship—the kind of adolescent, sleepovers and makeovers best friends forever type of devotion.” -Anna White
palettes, Vivian Fu’s intimate portraits, and Hellen Jo’s depictions of girl gangs. Patti Smith is another source of inspiration for me—I’ve been reading her novels, and her total commitment to her art is something I strive to emulate. In general, I’m also constantly inspired by my friends and the people around me—I feel as though I’m surrounded by so many amazing people creating beautiful things.
What is your current location?
What materials do you like to work with?
I generally work with a mixture of digital and physical mediums. I usually start by drawing the outlines by hand and then digitally coloring my images with Photoshop. When not coloring digitally, I use Faber Castel markers.
Name Anna White Age
Where are you from? Seattle, Washington What is your current occupation? I’m currently a student at Northwestern University. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? A combination of both. I’ve taken a few art classes in high school and in college, which have helped me learn more about specific techniques and the digital programs that I use, but most of the stylistics of my art have just been developed through years of constantly making art. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Artistically, I’m very inspired by artists such as Hellen Jo, Hobbes Ginsberg, & Vivian Fu. I love Hobbes Ginsberg’s strong color
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m a contributor for ROOKIE magazine, so lately I have been working on a lot of comics and illustrations for them! I also play in a couple of bands, Hardly Boys and Middle School, and have recently started doing design work for a new tape label, Soft Power Records. I’ve also been working on creating animated videos. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Yes! It changes frequently, but recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Girlpool, Mothers, Diet Cig and Mitski. Where do you like to work? I work primarily in my room. I like to draw on the floor, there’s
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
At this point, Iâ€™m not completely certain all that I would like to accomplish with my work. All I am sure of is that I would like to make art that is beautiful and that people can connect to on a personal level. I want to make art that has an impact on people.
I remember when I was in preschool, I would spend hours and hours building elaborate fairy houses and decorating them. I wanted to create a world for my fairies to live in. I feel like these concepts of world creation are still present in my work today.
Where To Find Them Websites: vimeo.com/annaclairewhite Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @annaclairewhite (Instagram)
Michelle Macinsky “Devotion is my favorite Beach House album. I put it on for the ‘dreamy vibes’ and have specific memories of listening to it with different people. In a way, I am devoted to the album. When sketching with this theme in mind, I thought about what it means to be devoted and the ways I act it out. Dogs are loyal and I am always in awe of their spirit and ability to love, pretty much unconditionally. I also thought about the care that I give to my plants. I watch them grow, pay attention to their needs, and send them positive energy.” -Michelle Macinsky Name
What materials do you like to work with?
Mechanical pencils, colored pencils, VHS.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
25 What is your current location? Philadelphia, PA Where are you from? Morrisville, PA Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I went to Tyler School of Art for Art Education. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I value my friends and am always inspired by their energy and drive. I also pay a lot of attention to spaces and forms within. I usually take photos of details with my iPhone of shapes, interiors, plants, and anything else that resonates with me. I do this with films too, especially older films that incorporate tech imagery, like David Cronenberg’s Videodrome or Gus Van Sant’s To Die For.
I am currently collaborating with Justine Kelley on a fruit-inspired zine. It includes anything and everything fruit. A few other projects are in progress, which includes a short video that documents interiors and how aesthetics and memory play into decision making. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Currently a lot of Orange Juice. I’m either listening to music or have a TV show playing in the background. Where do you like to work? My bedroom is conveniently divided into two spaces by a wall. I use the extra room like a studio. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I was a “fashion designer” in elementary school. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I spend a lot of time observing moments, details, and phrases that appeal to me. I collect those instances so that I can preserve them, either in the form that they are or as a new entity.
Where To Find Them Websites: www.macinskycomputer.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @mmacinsky (Instagram)
FORGE. ISSUE 6: SERENDIPITY
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Robert Tilden is at a stage in his life that should seem very familiar to any artist on the cusp of
making the best work they’ve ever made before. Robert has been playing music in Los Angeles, in various projects and arrangements, but he’s at a clear point of no return as he anticipates the release of his first proper LP under a new moniker, BOYO. Although he has made an effort to abandon the music and perspective of his formative years, much of the effort, patience, and craftsmanship developed over that time is inescapable. I met Robert, while he was briefly in New York during an East Coast tour with his long time friends Cleo and Harmony from Girlpool. After asking him about what he was currently working on, he sent me several rough pieces of the puzzle that would become his new album Control.
What’s refreshing about BOYO is the clarity and precision of Robert’s writing. Although Control
is filled with themes of insidiousness and competing perspectives, Robert’s song writing is nothing short of confident. The complexity of Robert’s music doesn’t come out very directly, which is part of the genius of it. Every congruent aspect of Robert is hidden within layers of the albums instrumentation and themes. In fact, the whole album is more thematically consistent than anything I’ve heard by someone his age, and it only became obvious the more times I listened to the Control. It’s hard to say how much Robert has grown in the processes of making Control. But it’s clear he has extended himself a cross a variety of different shades of his current perspective, both emotionally and musically, creating a multitude of different Roberts, not unlike the album’s cover art.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Santa Monica, California and still live in the basement of my parents house. Are you formally trained at all in music, or are you primarily self taught? My older brother and my dad both showed me a lot of chords on the guitar, and then I’d just play along to all of their CD’s and started to learn by ear. I had some pretty cool music teachers later on in high school, and quite a few strange and creepy ones as well. That’s how it goes. When did you start writing and recording your own music? I wrote and recorded my first song when I was nine. My mom had a portable tape recorder that she would let me use. I had just learned what metaphors were, and it was a song about losing your guitar picks, but I think it was also supposed to be a metaphor for losing a loved one or something. I don’t think I understood the concept well enough for it to make sense.
How did you start recording music on the computer, and how did you discover Bandcamp? My best friend when I was a kid lived down the street from me, and he had a younger brother who dabbled in playing guitar and messing around on garageband. When I was like eleven, I still had this weird, spammy PC laptop from my uncle that I would lug around. I would record acoustic songs on my mom’s cassette player, so I’d never been able to double-track and use loops or anything. My friend actually started hating me because I’d come over and go right upstairs to his brother’s computer and record while he was in the basement playing video games with all the neighborhood kids… This all sounds silly and idyllic and very “Stand By Me,” which I guess it sort of was. Anyway, his brother was cool with it, so I just messed around on his computer till I got a Mac for school. I discovered Bandcamp when I wanted to put up this “chillwavey” EP in like 10th grade. It just had a cool layout and made the album feel more real than it was. What made you decide to turn that really private act of recording in your bedroom into making it public by releasing it on the internet? I used to use Bandcamp to release really scrappy demo albums to get shows in L.A. It actually really helped in the beginning, but then I realized its a really cool platform to give all forms of recordings to people, and it feels a little more intimate and curated by whatever artist you’re listening to. What different iterations and projects have you made music as? I was in a bunch of bands throughout middle and high school. I started recording shitty garage-y stuff as “Bobby T. and the Slackers” in 2012 and playing with a shifting lineup of friends. The project changed and morphed every year or so and we scrapped about 3 albums worth of songs by 2014. The ska band “The Slackers” had a janky subpoena served to us after our set opening for Girlpool in San Diego. So after they bullied me for a while I dropped “and The Slackers” and ultimately decided to change it all to BOYO (boy-oh). What was your first experience in the L.A. DIY scene, and what impression did it leave on you? I experienced the Western Massachusetts DIY basement scene before I’d discovered the L.A. equivalent. I had a friend near the Amherst area and he would take me to shows when I’d visit family over there. I feel like its all an extension of the same idea so they don’t feel too different, except L.A. and surrounding areas barely have any basements. Where were some of your first shows that you played as Bobby T. And The Slackers? This gnarly, musty warehouse in South Central called “Gnarnia,” a bunch of other strange anonymous warehouses, The Smell, and Pehrspace. Were there at lot of other people your age around you that were making music on there own as well? Was there a any motivation to start playing shows and taking music seriously from the other people in the scene? There were definitely people older than me that intimidated me who I looked up to that played crazy shows and made a bunch of interesting records. But it felt more like finding a forum and
FORGE. ISSUE 6: SERENDIPITY
a place to share things where it felt comfortable and accepted. What was your first experience playing a show? I can’t remember, probably one of the school concerts where I would always chose to sing Beatles covers and then immediately regret agreeing to play and would want to completely bail out of anxiety. I used to take performing so seriously but the more that dissipated the more I’ve felt comfortable playing for people.
What role has The Smell played for you and a lot of the other musicians in the LA DIY scene? It was where I would see a lot of shows and where we played our first shows and met a lot of the people that I still call good friends. I haven’t gone to The Smell in a little while but it holds a lot of sentimentality for me and a bunch of other people. You studied at Cal Arts for a bit right? What was that experience like, and why did you decide to leave? I hate to be a cynic and an ass, but I just felt static and uninspired, I could be a me-thing that I projected onto the college experience but I felt like I had stopped manically making things in the way I had been since I was 12 or 13, so I kind of had to reassess and rebuild after that and regain some wonder. Why do you think leaving school, or deciding not to go, has become such a strong reality for a lot of people your age right now? Its easy to become disillusioned when you sink money into this weird self-investment that you feel has to pay off to justify draining your own money, and your parents savings, if any. It takes a lot of weird, dark, self-reflective revelations to realize your place in college and its ultimate effect, if you decide there’s any… For me at least — take this all with a grain of salt — I have a very narrow-minded view of that whole experience.
How did you meet Reed Kanter, and when did you start working with Danger Collective Records? I met him through our friend Lizzie who was taking photos of us being silly and wandering around town. He had just started Danger after these small labels that had a strange monopoly on a certain sliver of bands and venues disappeared after sketchy business deals and shiftiness. He was so against all that and wanted to do something genuine and cool and is definitely succeeding.
What was the process like making your new album? A lot more songwriting done beforehand than usual, and trying to capture the best version of that song. Sitting at my computer for a long time piecing things together and having Ruben come over and bang out drum takes almost always in the first try. He’s wild. What methods did you use to record it? Was it different at all from your previous releases? Not really. It was recorded in the same basement I’ve recorded in since I was 14, I’ve just gotten used to the room and how to manipulate it so it doesn’t sound too amateurish and homespun, though that’ll always inevitably be an element of it when you record yourself in your house. I only have two mics so I try to make the best out of the way they sound and double things a lot. I’ve always admired the tape purist people to a certain extent but recording on your computer is instant and cheap. How did the writing process for the new album take place? Were most of the songs written all at once, or did a lot of time pass inbetween when you wrote each song? A good chunk of them were written while I was bussing tables at a restaurant. I came up with a lot of the melodies and ideas doing monotonous, brainless tasks and then secretly hum them into my phone in the bathroom. I got caught once and it sucked. Later on, after leaving school, I revisited those songs and redid stuff and added to them and wrote a few more I felt existed in the same world. It feels like a lot of Control is about processing the same sort of feelings of heartbreak with several different attitudes. In some places it feels very genuine, in some places it feels more sarcastic, etc… Do you feel like this records was about working through a lot of those feelings? My mom’s into astrology and always tries to show me how much of a gemini I am. I’ve never been big on it or bought it really. But I’ve always vacillated between wanting to be really vulnerable and genuine, to being cryptic and sarcastic and more mysterious whenever I’ve drawn or written or sang anything. That’s where the gemini idea stuck with me. I think “Control” is working through problems through that lens. How do you feel your sound has “matured” over the past year or so? Are there things you’re hoping to explore with your new music, that you never really tried to with your older recordings? I’ve always listened to all sorts of stuff but I think I broadened what I let into my songs production wise, rhythm wise, or melodically, rather than having these strict unbreakable rules for myself. I still have some weird rules for stuff not to do when I’m making things, but they’re… top secret… Who are some of your favorite contemporary musicians that you’ve played with in the past? My buds David and Ellington have a project called French Negative who are incredible. My friend Doug has a band called Arjuna Genome who have a really good new record coming out soon. Slow Hollows have really good songs and are really sweet people. And of corse,
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Girlpool is the bees knees. You recently went on a tour with Girlpool right? How long have you known Harmony and Cleo, and what was that experience like? I’ve known them for 6 or 7 years through school and playing shows. We’ve always taken care of each other. They took me on tour with them, opening doing solo sets, and it was rad exploring the south with two people I love hanging with and have so much respect for as songwriters and overall people. How different was it playing shows on the east coast vs playing shows in LA? Its hard to divide it up as a coast thing. Boston and New York were completely different, equally cool times. It all felt good. What do you think keeps people from putting out their work? I hesitate to speak for anyone else, but when I don’t put something out its because I’m more unsure about it than I am stoked on it, its all about having a healthy ratio. Do you worry about how your work is perceived by others? To an extent, yeah. Its like a devil and angel on your shoulders, except one of them is saying “do exactly what you want and follow your every whim” and another one says “is this too Beatles-y? Is this annoying? Is this derivative.” But ultimately the first voice takes over, because I’m always trying to make music that a hypothetical “other me” would listen to. Are there any projects you would like to embark on that you don’t have the time or money for at the moment? I’ve written a couple screenplays and have a couple of treatments I would turn into new scripts, but writing songs is so much more fulfilling and instantly gratifying that its hard for me to justify sitting down and writing scripts when most of my time is spent writing and mixing, two things I’m consistently stoked on. It would be cool to make a short film with music though, Kanye style…or Animal Collective style. It would probably be pretentious if I did it so I’ll probably stick to making songs in my basement.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Ryan Sands wants nothing more than just to spend time with his friends and share with them what he’s currently
obsessed with. Somehow he has found a way to do exactly that, despite having a full time job at Google and spending most moments of his free time running his own small press, Youth In Decline. That desire has remained pretty consistent thoughout each of Ryan’s curatorial projects, from starting an early scanlation blog after college with a friend from high school (Same Hat!), to now running Youth In Decline out of his apartment his wife, Jane. Although Ryan has little technical training in art, he specializes in having an astounding level of enthusiasm that stems from his youth, growing up in a small town in Michigan, cherishing every artifact that meant communicating with a world outside of his own. Ryan’s spirit is very much exemplified by his desire to fully understand the things he’s excited about, so much so that he’s willing to cross the line between being an onlooker and being immersed in the community. His teenage excitement about manga led him to living in Japan for a while and studying the language well enough to translate Japanese comics online, and his adoration for zine culture and his friends making comics led him to organizing several of his own jam-zines and eventually starting his own publisher.
I first discovered Youth in Decline through their Frontier series, after buying a copy of Sam Alden’s book in the series
(#5) on one of my first trips to Desert Island in Brooklyn. I didn’t know the artist and I didn’t know the publisher, but it was very affordable and it had stunning work within it, so immediately bought it, along with Hellen Jo’s Frontier as well. Ryan thinks very hard about how to elicit this meaningful reaction in people who are coming across the work he’s putting out for the first time. Ryan filters through everything that the young indie comics scene has to offer, so that you don’t have to. He creates a place for both underexposed and well-established cartoonists to purely make something they want to make, and getting the chance to work alongside his friend and sharing their work with the world, is enough reward for the sacrifice.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I grew up in Monroe Michigan. It’s a small little town. I live in San Francisco, California now. Did you study art at all when you were younger? What role did art play during your adolescence? No! I didn’t study art at college. I didn’t really study art at all. But I was in a small town, and I was really obsessed with comics. Anime was a big part of it. I was in high school in the late 90s, so that was a big deal. I was just a fairly small town middle class kid. I didn’t have a ton of spending money for art or comics or anything. But I did have a couple friends, like my friend Evan Hayden who I started the Same Hat! blog with, he — I don’t know how it was allowed — but he would get anything he wanted from any comic shop ever. So basically I would just go over to his house and read all of his comics. There were a bunch of big media mega stores that don’t exist anymore. There was this one called Media Play and it was the size of a Walmart and all they sold was books and comics. It was like the dawn of Borders and Barnes & Noble. I would just go there and read everything and touch everything. I don’t really have any background in art. I was just in a
small town, in the pre-internet age, and just obsessed over comics, books, print — anything I could get my hands on. Was there any sort of a “sub-cultural” scene in the town that you were growing up while you were in high school? Yeah… I lived near a few college towns. My high school was like 2200 kids. I knew I was going to leave — that was the focus of a lot of stuff. I did a lot of extracurricular activities to get out of there. Nearby was Ann Arbor, which is where University of Michigan is, so there were a few head shop, indie comic shops there. I didn’t really learn about indie comics until the end of high school or college, but that was where I would go every couple of months to buy Bone by Jeff Smith. That was like my favorite comic — it’s still one of my favorite comics — and it was being serialized, so I was reading the small issues of that. I was also reading a lot of the early Viz Manga stuff. Counter culture or indie culture was like a place you had to go. You literally had to drive there, and then spend whatever money you could collect, and then com back. Ann Arbor was where I also went to shows. I took college classes when I was in high school around the U of M
area and at another small college there. I had a college ID even though I was in high school, so I would use that to get into shows. But you couldn’t like buy booze with it — and I was like straight edge at the time any, which is also embarrassing. I had a college ID from being really studious I guess, but I would go to the place where the cool stuff was and I would like try to talk my way through stuff or get stuff for free. There was a Tower Records, which was where zine culture was there. I don’t know if Cometbus was coming up, but Maximum Rocknroll was there. Then the other big one for me was Giant Robot. So basically once a month I would go there and try and get the new Giant Robot magazine and the new Bone comic. It was like a field trip, haha! And then you would just bring it home and obsess over it for weeks and weeks, cause it was like the one thing you could afford, and the one piece of it that you got. I had dial up internet at home, but it was just for email. It was really slow and shitty.
That led to you then studying Japanese and starting to do translations, right?
The late 90s was obviously a important period for Manga and Anime becoming more accessible by an American audience for the first time. What initially drew you to that work, and when did you start to get really invested in it?
You brought up a really interesting point that unlike today where so much Japanese art is really easy to find and access, at the time Anime and Manga still felt very exciting and something you had to seek out. Do you think that’s part of the reason why it was something you became more interested in consuming and learning more about?
I think for anybody who is into science fiction and comics who is my age — I’m 33 — or younger, Anime and Manga was a part of what you grew up with. Another thing about my small town is that it was an auto town basically. They had this exchange program that they did, and basically they would send five kids from my town and five kids from this town in Japan and they’d do a swap. It was like a sister city exchange program becasue there was a break pad factory in my town that also had a subsidiary or something in Japan. So I got to go. I had never been out of the country ever. I had been around with my mom — I had been to Yellowstone and stuff like that, but I had never left the country. It wasn’t even a possibility. Then I got to do this thing, and they just sent us to this rural part of Japan for like three weeks. Even as a rural town, it was like the craziest place I had ever been. In effect it was a really normal town. But it was my first experience as an other in another place, and it just blew my mind. I got really into comics after that. I did that thing where I spent all of the money I had at the corner store and brought all of these comics. It’s weird to think about it now, when you can buy pretty much anything you want on the internet. It’s kind of strange how we treated these comics that were literally throwaway corner store comics as these messianic objects — like “Oh my God!!!” Then we would show it to everyone at our high school like it was some crazy totem haha. But yeah, that was when I first went to Japan.
I never planned to study Japanese at all. I was more of a math and science person in high school. I did math competitions and engineering competitions. When I came out to college I thought I was going to be either an epidemiologist or a computer scientist, but I wasn’t that good at it. The only classes I really liked were political science classes and Japanese language classes. I mostly kept up the language becasue I wanted to read comics and I wanted to talk to my friends that I had met as an exchange student. But by the end of my sophomore year I had enough credits that I had already almost fulfilled the major. So I did that and economics. It was the only subject that I had really enjoyed without having to convince myself that it was a useful skill. So I just kind of fell into it that way.
Yes in the sense that, anything that felt secretive or “yours” was very helpful in a pre-Facebook world of defining yourself. I mean, I guess it’s still like that now. But it very clearly felt like it was defining your interests and personality based on the stuff that you read and buy. This was also during the middle-wave of LiveJournal culture. For your LiveJournal profile you had to pick your interests and there was a limit on the number of tags you could pick. So, you know, you would try to fit every show or Anime that you were into into the same rubric. I have the same relationship to Kraftwerk and science fiction novels from the late 60s that I do with Manga — it all feels like the same kind of thing to me in that it was a thing that I thought no one else knew about. It became like a kind of embarrassing brick in the building that was my personality at the time. I was talking to someone else about this and I was like “Do you remember that thing where, if you met someone online and you found out they had the same interests as you, you thought that that meant they were probably like you, or that you would like them?” Then at some point, that wasn’t true. I remember feeling like, if I met someone on Facebook and they liked the same movies as me, that didn’t mean shit anymore, because everybody has heard of every movie at this point. I mean, I met my best friend in high school becasue I had an Akira t-shirt and he had an Akira patch on his bag, and I was literally like “Hey! You’ve heard of that movie, we should be friends.” And I was right, we were friends! We became really good friends. Whereas now if I saw some idiot with an Akira t-shirt, I probably don’t want to talk to him. Maybe I do. But the conspicuous consump-
tion of cool media — it means nothing now that everyone has access to everything now, which is a good thing for actually getting to know people. But it was a very easy short hand. So yeah… Philip K. Dick novels, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, and like… I don’t know, Maison Ikkoku. If you liked any of those things I probably wanted to date you in my small town hahaha. Now it doesn’t mean as much, but it was very helpful short hand at the time. How did your experience at college impact you? What was it like to finally move out of your small town? Umm… I was really happy, haha! But when I got to college I wasn’t actually into comics that much. I guess the one thing I did in college that actually has anything to do with the stuff I do now is that I did start writing for the school paper. I hadn’t really done that before. I liked comics and zines and books, but I don’t think I had made a zine ever. I would just show up, and they would give me free tickets to concerts so I could write about them. It was chill — it was really nice. So yeah, I worked at the school paper, and with a friend of mine and we became the arts and entertainment editors together. The good thing was, no body cared about that part of the newspaper. It was the college newspaper, but it came out once a week and it was this crappy little throw away. In our heads we were very — not subversive but like “ Oh man! We snuck all of these jokes in!” and like “What! There’s a Brian Eno reference!?! Oh my God!!” But no one was reading it. Nobody cared, haha. But it was my first time having that
experience of being solely, with my coeditor, responsible for a thing that came out. Also, someone else payed for it and printed it, regardless of the fact that literally most students just threw it in the garbage… always. It was still just a strong feeling to see something you made a couple days before in print everywhere. That was a cool experience. I learned how to do InDesign also. It was a lot of really practical things, and after that I realized “Oh, if you just have a piece of paper with your stuff on it, it could become a really easy calling card.” After I had written a few movie reviews and interviews, I could send those to other people and be like “Look! I make stuff!” It’s like a self perpetuating myth that you’re a creator who does stuff. Then by the time you’ve done it for a while everyone is like “Oh, he does that thing.” So it kind of works out in a cool way. Zines are the same way. You make a zine, and then you make another zine, and then after two or three, you are part of the scene — just becasue you didn’t stop doing it. Like, you have 10 issues of your thing (FORGE.) out now… you make a magazine now! Where as, after the first one, we’re like “Oh okay yeah… Cool.” I know this guy who use to work at Reprodukt, which is like the Fantagraphics/Drawn & Quarterly type place in Germany. They’re a really great publishing house, and I got to know him through work. He said “The most important thing about any zine is that a second issue comes out. It doesn’t even matter what it is. To do two is a much bigger achievement than one good issue.”
“With that same friend, Evan Hayden, we started a blog (samehat.com) and we were just doing fan-translations. It was like; I wanted to make something, and I didn’t want to lose all of my Japanese”
“So it really felt like, in my head, what we were doing was like a zine even though it was not our content. But it was like we were just talking to our other weird indie comics friends. ” When did you get good enough at Japanese that you could speak and understand it fluently? How did you start doing Japanese translations? When I was in college, I lived in Japan for a while. Basically any opportunity I had to get to go for free, I took advantage of. For my junior year I lived in Kyoto and Osaka for eight months all together. I took classes, I road around on my bike, and then I had an internship. I wasn’t really doing anything with comics or zines, but I was just living there and reading comics as a part of my daily life. Then when I got back I graduated, and the first job I got had nothing to do with Japanese at all. I was actually deciding between getting this publishing tech job, that I ended up having for a long time, or I was going to go teach english in Japan. I’m so glad I didn’t go, cause I’m happy with the trajectory and how things ended up. But I did feel this feeling of “Oh, I just got this degree in Japanese language and literature, and I’m not using it at all.” I became totally fine with that a couple years after college, haha. But right after college I was like “What the hell! I’m not using this for anything!” So with that same friend, Evan Hayden, we started a blog (samehat.com) and we were just doing fan-translations. It was like; I wanted to make something, and I didn’t want to lose all of my Japanese. So that’s why that started. It was just a little thing for us, but then it kind of caught people’s attention and then sort of took off. We were focusing on comics that were
never licensed, were never going to get licensed, and would never could out. There wasn’t like a professional scanlation scene that I was aware of at the time. Maybe it started, but not quite yet. So it really felt like, in my head, what we were doing was like a zine even though it was not our content. But it was like we were just talking to our other weird indie comics friends. That’s incredible! What were the logistics of doing early scanlations like that? Were you just scanning foreign comics, and then putting helvetica over the speech bubbles? For some of the first ones we did we didn’t do any lettering at all. It was like we were annotating it. it was really just like a fan translation. Then later, Evan would re-letter them. So yeah, it was like comic sans or something like that haha. Then we would just toss them up on our site. We did that for a couple years. I got to meet a lot of early internet friends through that site. It was as much about doing something worthwhile with “a skill” as it was about communicating. In the same way that like “Oh that person had an Akira patch! They’re my friend!” anyone who was into that stuff sort of gravitated towards the site becasue there wasn’t a lot of people who were doing that. That’s how I met Michael DeForge originally. I think that’s how I met Jillian Tamaki. Because they were into the same comics or artists, we would just talk in the comments or
things like that. It was really lo-fi. I’ve lost a lot of the files actually, but a lot of is still up on the site. For you as a person and a publisher, a lot of your function is in putting labor and force into making a platform for something that you want to see in the world to exist. At what point did you realize you wanted to take it upon yourself to put work that you were excited about, in front of other people? Hmm, that’s interesting. I think while you were talking I was thinking about how one thread that has sort of changed but is common is the “enthusiast” drive, or something haha. My background and interest definitely stems out of being a fan of things — not Fandom in the capital F contemporary sense. A lot of the early stuff we were doing with fan translations was literally “We like this stuff! The only thing we can bring to it is that I have a website and I can translate it.” It’s a form of communication, using other people’s work to sort of reach out and share with other people. With a lot of the publishing stuff too — My first zines were half me wanting to make something and half just being enthusiastic about whatever the thing was. I never did comics, and I never wanted to be a cartoonist. I never had that impulse and I knew I wasn’t good at it. I drew for a while, but I never… wanted to be like Sean “Puffy” Combs. I’ve made that joke before to Michael (DeForge) and Jillian (Tamaki) haha. Like the person who sneaks their own comics into the zine, and it’s like the weakest page. I’ve done that, but I don’t really have that impulse. It’s really easy to be enthusiastic about other people’s work. It’s easier to talk about other people’s work than your own work. It’s easy to raise money for other people. It’s about you, becasue it’s about your taste and It’s about you wanting to communicate to other people. But really it’s about spreading the work about other people’s stuff. The earliest earliest stuff I ever did was group zines. I did this zine called Electric Ant #1, and it was a little overly ambitious becasue it was perfectbound, it had a color cover, and it had color inserts. It lost money, haha. It was very expensive and self indulgent in a way, but really what it was was creating a frame work to get all of my friends together in one “place.” By making it a print book, it enshrines the time and the friendships in one thing. It was a really good excuse to learn all of the production stuff, and also become closer friends with everybody. Everybody that I’m friends with now that I started out working with, I met in those really early jam zines together. That’s how I met Mickey Zacchilli, that’s how I met Michael, that’s how I met Lisa Hanawalt. It was literally like “Come do this dumb thing with us!” When you make a zine you’ve got to email them a million times, becasue people don’t do shit on time, or you have lots of thoughts, or you negotiate your taste level by having your friends tell you that you can’t do it the way you want to do it. It’s like a community building exercise, and you also learn a lot about yourself. And now, it just so happens that a
lot of the people I became friends with through that are really good. It’s crazy! It’s like if you went to high school with some dummy and now he’s like a doctor or like the president and you’re like “What the fuck…” It’s really amazing that you’ve been able to turn a lot of these small online collaborations into meaningful friendships! How have you gone about developing those online work relationships, into mutually beneficial friendships, and then ultimately creating a scene of contemporaries where you’re friends started becoming familiar with each other? Well publishing someone is a weird roundabout way of becoming actual friends with them. I’m publishing people I don’t already know now for the first time. I do pay them — it’s not as much as they deserve but it’s not nothing. I distribute their work, I take on the responsibility of the visibility of that work, and my job is to make sure as many people as possible read it. So it’s not really like the relationship you would have with your friend. Anne Koyama is one of my best friends. Like everybody, I really adore her. When I was starting out she was cool enough to actually set aside structured time to talk to me about doing this — like publishing as a paying self sustaining business, as opposed to a fan endeavor. Youth In Decline marks the change over from fan/friend endeavor to publisher, whatever that means. She was basically like “Don’t work with assholes.” And it’s true! I think most of it is practical. You spend a lot of time with the work. You have to promote it for a long time. Just to make a book happen — there’s no situation where they just send you the files, you only know them online, and that’s it. It’s a relationship. You’re like part of the family for real. I will say, with the earliest stuff I ever did, it was with people I knew in person. I think it’s totally the wrong approach to start a thing and then approach someone that’s on the other side of the world that you know on tumblr and just say “I want to publish your stuff.” Because, unless you have deep pockets, or something really special, what you’re providing is not something super different than what they could do by self publishing. When ever anybody asks about starting out, or what they should do for publishing, I think you should really focus on focus. The easiest thing to focus on is what’s local. It doesn’t even have to be physically where you are. It can be your friends, your scene, or your band. The people who are into the thing that you’re into, whether it’s a fandom or just Philadelphia, or your college — that’s the key thing to bring to start with. Then over time, your taste and all of that becomes an extension of what’s “local” about you. But that’s the thing I would start with. For me, I started doing comics and zines in San Fransisco and — I don’t know how it happened, I just got lucky but my crew, my local farm team, was: Hellen Jo, who was my roommate in college’s friend’s friend. I learned how to play Magic
The Gathering against her when we were 21. My other buddy was Derek Yu, who was doing comics and games at the time, and now he’s an award winning game designer. He did this game called Spelunky that’s insane. My friend Evan, who I mentioned before. Calvin Wong was part of the local scene. Then there were other people who I wouldn’t say are close friends now, but we definitely came up together and collaborated on stuff, like Jason Shiga. Angie Wang came into our orbit because — I think she literally needed a couch to crash on. So I’m very luck in the sense that these people all happen to be fucking amazing creators, but they were just my stupid dumb friends first. There were a lot of friends in that team who didn’t go on to keep making comics. They became a lawyer or a dad or whatever. But that was how it all started, and we all just came up together. I think if you’re just open to meeting people and being friendly, it doesn’t have to be some big transition from fan to… person, haha. Or like scene member, or respectable publisher or whatever. It just happens over time. I think the key thing is just repetition. Jillian talked about this in another interview I heard — or maybe just when we were talking — but with SPX (Small Press Expo) or any of these “big” comics shows, you just have to show up, not be an asshole, contribute, and most importantly, keep coming. It doesn’t have to be a physical thing — cause a lot of people can’t fly to bethesda in September or whatever reason— but “showing up” and not being an asshole all applies to the internet. It just sort of happens over time. I think it’s really just that you stick around, and you don’t burn bridges. Then cool things happen… maybe. How did you start working for Google, and what role has that job functioned for you as a publisher? I started 10 days after I graduated. I’ve changed jobs a few times but I’ve worked for the same company for 11 years. I didn’t have a big plan for it, I just didn’t have any money. I think I borrowed enough money to pay for my security deposit of $800 or whatever from my mom. But otherwise I had about $800 maybe that I had saved up, so I had to work right away. I mean, I was very lucky in many senses, so I wasn’t like “Oh I have to work!!” I don’t want to over dramatize my background. But I got really lucky, I got in the door early, and I just stuck around. What role has the job functioned for me? It subsidizes everything I do. Looking back it’s a really clear relationship model that works for me. But I didn’t know it was going to work out. It’s that thing where the job keeps my life happening, hahaha. Then my free time is when I do all of this other stuff. I think about it a lot. Sometime it’s a very healthy tension, and sometimes it’s very unhealthy. They are kind of in perpetual orbit around each other. For me, in really practical terms, I was able to save enough money that I could do dumb stuff that I wanted to do, within reason, without hav-
ing to do a Kickstarter or be super accountable to someone else. The other thing is, when it is time, I’m able to pay contributors upfront, rather than after the fact. So that’s the main function. It’s behind me making everything possible. Like, I can buy a ticket to TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival). I don’t take that shit for granted. It’s really a nice thing. I’m also just really protective of my free time. It’s not that dramatic but, for all of the books we did, I took a day off from work, or I did it at night, or on the weekend. That’s not to be too proud of myself, but that’s just the very oppositional relationship between my free time and my work life. So I don’t really work on stuff that I’m not into. I don’t have time to do stuff I don’t want to do. The other big part is that, the main thing I worked on for about five years was Google Books when it first started. My job was to basically talk to publishers and authors and try to get them to digitize their books. They didn’t know it, but they were secretly sending me on what would become fact finding missions for starting my own publishing thing. I would go and I would have to wear a suit and do tech demos at a booth. It was really awkward. But then on my lunch breaks I would go and talk to all of the comics publishers. No one cares about them at these big book trade shows comparatively, so you could just roll in in a suit with a badge — I mean, you look like an idiot — but you’d have a suit and a badge that said you work at Google, and people would talk to you. I got to meet a lot of people who later became friends or collaborators. I met Last Gasp there, and that’s how I actually got to do my first print translation book. I would meet these random artists who just got pulled into these big trade shows, like Adrian Tomine was there and I was like “Hiiii!” hahaha. There was like no line to meet him at this show becasue everyone was in line to meet the guy who wrote… The Da Vinci Code or whatever, haha. All of the comics people would be over in their own little ally, and I would meet people and go from there. So a lot of friendships and relationships and initial “How does this work?” stuff happened. I figured out a lot of that just on my lunch breaks and through contacts I made through Google. So it doesn’t have no effect on it. Right now I definitely have “my job” and then “my other job” which is Youth In Decline. And then a little bit of time for other stuff. But not much. How did you first conceive Youth In Decline? Were there different iteration of it before it was formalized with that name? Where there other publishers you took inspiration from when you started it? There weren’t really any iterations of it before I named it and announced it. But I will say that there was sort of a transition from these sort of group and fan zines to more of what became actual publishing. I think the main ones were the books I did with Michael. We did the series called Thinkness which was basically erotic comics by either up and coming people or well known, established people who were either friends of ours or people who we reached
“I think the Frontier series is still the main thing about it. The idea with the series was every three months I put something out.” out to and said yes. I think that was the first time I made something that wasn’t “One person does one page.” that felt more like a mix-tape. I still feel really fondly about that kind of zine, but it definitely feels young to me. I think with Thickness it was like more themed, more streamlined, and less creators with more pages. We didn’t pay much, but we did pay people. We ran it kind of like — not like a busi-
ness — but an endeavor that we really wanted to reach as many people as possible. I learned a lot. I learned a lot from Michael, and I learned a lot from having to account for the money to have to take care of that book. I printed the whole thing myself on a risograph that I got from my friend David Murray who runs this t-shirt company called SEIBEI. I realized at the end of it that, I was going to do
another thing after that, but I wasn’t sure what it was going to be. It’s weird to publish other people’s work under something that is primarily identified with yourself, so I wanted to have one same that was all the random stuff I wanted to do so that it was under one thing. Then — I didn’t do a good job of this — but I wanted to be a little more invisible too. It’s still just me with my stapler in my apartment — and now with my wife Jane’s (Sands) help. I wanted it to have a thing that could be more flexible. It could kind of be anything I wanted to do, like a t-shirt. or a translation, or someone else’s book, or a jam zine — whatever it ended up being — but formalized under one house and only do things that would roll up to the mission statement. I mean it’s really small. We have a stack of books now — we’ve put out, I think, 15 titles total. But I’m still figuring shit out. Koyama Press was the main one I looked at. I don’t think of them as a small publisher in terms of their impact, but it’s mostly run by a small team. It was just Annie (Koyama) at first, and then other people that she hired and worked with. I thought that it’s really impressive how much they get done with such a small team. And then of course there are all of the “bigger” indie publishers that you just aspire to meet their book standards and distribution. Anything I see, I’m trying to steal or copy, and do it my own way. Those were the initial inspirations. I didn’t know how long it would last. I’m still doing it, but there was a real possibility that I would be like “I got a url and a Twitter!” and put out one book and realize “Oh shit… I can’t do it.” or I ran out of money or it didn’t work. But now it’s really easy becasue instead of having all of my free time be super scattered, I put all of my effort into this one thing and try to build it and let it be as sustainable as possible. I stopped doing a lot of the side stuff. I don’t translate — I mean, I lost a lot of my Japanese skills too, so I wasn’t good at it — but I don’t translate stuff anymore, and I don’t print stuff for other people anymore. Everything goes into Youth In Decline to try to make it reach as many people as possible. Did you have a specific goal in starting Youth In Decline? Has that changed at all since you started publishing books? I probably should have had like a mission statement, haha. I did not have one. I still don’t. I still don’t know what it is. I mean, I think the Frontier series is still the main thing about it. The idea with the series was every three months I put something out. I think the one thing I was really confident I could potentially bring to the table is that, just through my actual job, through reading a lot, and through my group of friends, there is a network of artists who are either just for the first time about to be in print — like make the “big leap” from the internet to print — and I have the means to hopefully make that first book interesting or memorable. Then I also just want to have a weird
outlet for my friends who already had publishers, already had jobs, already had things they were doing, to still just capture that early feeling of; you’re with your friends, you have a thing you want to do and then you just make it happen within a couple weeks. It takes fucking forever for a book to come out! If you’re doing it correctly, you have to get an ISPN, you print it over seas, you have to do the marketing. All of that stuff has a really good benefit for the actual reach of those bigger books, but I know from friends who are authors and cartoonists that, with a lot of the books that come out that they tour and promote, they finished the book like 14 months before or longer. Let alone, if you’re like a novelist, you finished the book in like 2010, then it comes out in 2014, then you tour it in 2015, and then you still have to talk about it in 2016. So I was hoping with the Frontier series, for folks like Jillian Tamaki, or Eleanor Davis, or Sam Alden; if you have an idea that you want to play with or you want to do something stupid and expensive with the production, I’m hoping that the Frontier series can be an interesting outlet. The whole idea with Youth In Decline and Frontier is that it’s like a record label or something. They both should benefit each other. What I mean by that is; the people who want to find out about cool stuff will come and read the series becasue hopefully the taste level is good and there’s cool stuff happening. Then, for the people who come to just read Michael’s stuff or Emily Caroll’s stuff, hopefully it’ll go both ways. The friends of the new cartoonists will get to see cool stories by these other cartoonists, and then the people who just come for the bigger names will get exposes to the younger cartoonists. I think that’s like the whole idea of the whole thing. It’s a weird mix. I’m like “How the fuck did I get to do a comic by Jillian Tamaki along side somebody who’s never been published ever?” And hopefully that tension and that interplay is exciting for readers. It keeps me really excited. For a couple of the Frontier books the story got finished eleven days before it came out. That’s not good, haha. Don’t do it that way. But some of them have really come under the wire. And it’s not becasue people were bad with deadlines — although it sometimes is — it’s more just like that has more energy to it. It’s like “This is the shit that I was thinking about right now.” and then a month later it came out. That feels cool when you can pull that off. How many steps are there between finding an artist you want to work with and the book coming out? Do you do any editing for the books in the process? It’s kind of different between the books and Frontier. For Frontier we do the subscription which makes it so that we can pay everybody right away. It makes it so that I know it will sustain itself. It also creates that thing where, if you buy it becasue Emily Caroll did an issue, you also get exposed to Becca Tobin. That is a key part of why we do the subscription. Because of that though, I know who I’m going to have for the whole year, and I try to chal-
lenge myself to create a year roster that sort of plays off of itself. Some of the artists know a year in advance that they’re going to do it, and others have like three months. I definitely stagger people, and ask them depending on how much time they think they’ll need and what the book is going to become. For the actual print books, there is no deadline for them at this point. We self distribute everything to shops so we don’t have a distributor or anyone breathing down our neck, which is bad becasue it doesn’t keep us on super tight deadlines, but it’s good becasue when the book comes out its done the way we want it to be done. Depending on the book or the artist it’s different. For some of the artists, they want a lot of discussion. That’s a part of the value of it I guess. For a book like Sex Coven, I wasn’t editorially involved in anyway, but it was a conversation with feed back and sketches and thumbnails. Same with Emily Caroll’s book. Some of the others as well. There actually has been an editorial process of sorts and a back and forth. With some other people like Michael, I’ll just open my email one morning and there’s 32 finished pages — which is incredible. I kind of leave it up to the
artist how much feed back they want to do. But I will say it’s definitely a conversation. When I’m working on a book with someone we’re talking constantly. Even like, “What color is the inside cover going to be? How do you want me to print the book? Is it risograph or is it offset?” I like to make it as easy as possible for the artist to get it done in a way that doesn’t stress them out, but also try to make it like a really cool snap shot of the time and place that it is. I’m so geeked about the books that are coming up. Kelly Kwang is doing one. She’s from Toronto. I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet. It’s not going to be a narrative comic. She has these characters that she draws all of the time, and she did a trading card mini about them. It’s going to be whatever the hell we want it to be, and I’m kind of excited to not know. I’m not sure what Richie (Pope) is doing, but I’m pretty sure his are going to be more like narrative comics. Then for the last book of the year, we’re doing one with Rebecca Sugar which is like… crazy! I’m so excited… cause now I get to talk to her and we can become friends, haha! Okay, you know what. Only publish people if you want to be friends with them. You asked — yeah, that’s what it is, hahaha.
“I also just want to have a weird outlet for my friends who already had publishers, already had jobs, already had things they were doing, to still just capture that early feeling of; you’re with your friends, you have a thing you want to do and then you just make it happen within a couple weeks.”
“If you’re lucky enough to go to a show, that can be a really exciting turing point.” But she’s really busy. A lot of people are really busy, but she’s like REALLY busy. I’ve known her for a while through friends of friends and I’m just a huge huge fan of her work. But a lot of the people who do TV shows don’t end up doing comics, even though they’re really talented cartoonists. Rebecca is an amazing cartoonist. She’s only had a few of her early things published, but she’s done a lot more than that. So the conversation with her about her book was “Let’s make a thing that you have to do, that will force you to make comics.” because she wants to do comics, she’s just busy. In that case, the only value I’m really bringing to it is — I mean she doesn’t need help from me — but the value I’m bringing is “I will bring this thing to life and give you a frame work on which you can turn your doodles and your poems and thoughts into a book. Then at the end of it, we’ll jump in and lay it out together and encapsulate all of that work.” It’s like a weird incentive for some of these people. It’s just like “Hey man. You have eleven months to make a comic or I’m going to yell at you.” Deadlines are the only reason that anything gets done. Every zine I’ve ever done was becasue there was a con happening, and I knew if you show up to the thing and you don’t have anything to share, it doesn’t feel good. What’s that saying… carrots and sticks? I don’t know, haha. That’s the editorial process! Fear! Deadlines! And incentives?!
Are deadlines especially frustrating when you’re working with so many of your friends? I’ve never had anyone miss a deadline yet. But I will also say, especially with people who are friends of mine, I just give them fake deadlines, hahaha. After meeting Michael DeForge through the comments on your scanlation site, how did the two of you start working together? What were some of the earliest things you collaborated on? Yeah, we just met online a long time ago. I didn’t know that he was like 10 at the time, haha. No I’m just joking. We were just in the same world online with LiveJournal and Hideshi Hino and Junji Ito horror comics. We were kind of all circulating each other at the same time — Hellen Jo and Mickey (Zacchilli) were online too. I think the first time we ever worked together, was when I did an issue of Electric Ant. It was really stupid — I asked everybody who I knew or liked if they would do a page for it, and he just say “Yeah.” We just started emailing after that, and thats how we became friends. If you’re lucky enough to go to a show, that can be a really exciting turing point. I went by myself without a table to
“Rest in peace Mall Nation…” one of the first TCAFs in the library. I don’t know what year it was, and I’m going to date myself if I try to remember. But that was the first TCAF where I met Anne Koyama. That was the first TCAF where I met Michael DeForge. I met the Wowee Zonk crew, which was Ginette Lapalme, Chris Kuzma, and Patrick Kyle. Actually, that was the first weekend they met each other too. So I literally just went by myself. I knew Michael and I knew Chris Kuzma becasue they had each done a page for a zine of mine, so I gave them copies of it. I really wanted them to want to hang out with me, but I wasn’t sure if they would. I remember I went back and was like “Oh the show’s over. What’s everybody doing?” and they were like “Oh we’re going to dinner.” and everybody separated and I was by myself. I was like “Oh no…” and I went back to my hotel room and I was going to drink alone. I texted my girlfriend at the time “Oh, nobody likes me. I gave everybody my zines and they said ‘Cool’ and that was it.” Then later that night Michael texted me and was like “Hey we’re going to this art school party.” and then we just went and drank whisky in a basement while some band played. That was just how it started. Then it’s just repetition with all of your comic friends. I think the main thing is just that you have to find time, not at a show, when you’re not hung over or cranky or busy trying to make money to cover your hotel room. Now, finally, there’s opportunities to hang out outside of a show. But at first you just hang out at shows pretty much.
I think we were just into the same stuff. The first collaboration we ever did was this Lady Gaga fan zine (Prison For Bitches). We asked Michael Kupperman, Lala Albert, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Johnny Ryan — we just asked all of these random people to do it, and people did stuff for us. I remember on that trip, I flew out to TCAF early just to work on the book, so we spent a whole day together stapling stuff. That was kind of how it all started. That’s how a lot of good friendships start… with staplers trying to make a thing happen. More recently you two were working on a project for television together called Mall Nation that never ended up seeing the light of day. What was that project, and what prevented it from coming into fruition? Rest in peace Mall Nation… I like talking about it becasue I was really excited about it. But then, I was having lunch with Dash Shaw who’s an old friend of mine, and he was like “Oh yeah, It’s not cool to talk about your TV projects that didn’t happen.” I was like “Uh-oh…” Then he was like “Yeah, a lot of people have had TV projects, and it’s considered unchill to talk about the show. You just have to make another show.” I was like “I don’t think I’ll ever have another show… This is my only thing I can talk about.” So apologies to Dash and everyone who’s cool. I’m not cool. That sounds worse then I meant it, haha.
“It was one of those things where you spend a little too much time thinking about how amazing it will be, and then when it doesn’t happen you get really bummed out.” It came up as an idea becasue we were talking about something to work on that wasn’t Thinkness, and then got drunk at a karaoke box after MoCCA I think. I think I just said “Hey, we should do a TV show.” and then Michael said “Yeah.” Then the next day there was a google doc with all of these ideas in it. The original idea for it was a comic that Michael was planning. It was like 1 of 20 ideas that Michael either turned into something else or hasn’t done yet. I think a lot of it was that, he was really interested in cliques and we were both really into Drifting Classroom. So we had this idea for a kind of violent thing that was with kids in a mall. Then we sort of turned it into a premiss for a kids show. I never thought it would turn into a thing but we actually ended up pitching it to Cartoon Network and they optioned it. So we basically spent a year secretly working on this thing. The end result was a storyboard for a pilot, a bunch of characters, and a bunch of outlines. Then we pitched it, and some people liked it, but I think the main dude did not like it. He’s pretty smart. I think he green-lit Breaking Bad and Mad Men. So I was like “Awe. I’m sad cause now I don’t get to move to LA and hire all of my friends to make a show with one of my best friends.” It was a really good learning experience. I don’t think we’ll ever do another thing. We still have all of the original ideas and characters, so I keep hoping that
a game designer will ask us for all of it, and then turn it into a Double Dragon II or River City Ransom style game, and we won’t have to be involved. I don’t know if that’s fun for a game designer, but that’s what I hope happens. So many of our friends have moved to LA now and work in TV shows. It definitely an exciting idea becasue you would get to hire all of your buddies. We had this idea where Sophia Foster-Dimino would do all of the layouts for the mall. We had a long, really ridiculous list. We wanted Willow Smith to do one of the character’s voices. It was one of those things where you spend a little too much time thinking about how amazing it will be, and then when it doesn’t happen you get really bummed out. It was a really good excuse to work really closely on something with Michael for a year. I actually found out about Sophia Foster-Dimio’s work through Youth In Decline! How did you first find her work? Sophia Foster-Dimino’s stuff is… she’s incredible. She’s next level. And we haven’t even seen what she’s capable of yet — like a long narrative or more from her. She’s probably cringing that I’m talking this way about her stuff, haha. There’s just this thing when you see somebody ag-
gressively getting better. I think that’s the most exciting thing. They don’t even have to be that good — whatever that means — at the moment. But when you see somebody who’s really aggressively challenging themselves to improve, it’s really obvious. It’s awesome. You’re like “Oh shit!” and you’ll email the links to people and freak out about them. It’s weird to talk about her that way. This happens a lot. My favorite cartoonists aren’t my favorite cartoonists because I know them personally. But literally, in my top ten all time favorite cartoonists, three or four of them are actually good friends of mine. So it’s weird to talk about them that way. I actually met Sophia when she was in high school and I was in college. We met online becasue the Same Hat! blog I was running had a comics contest, and she won the contest. There was like no money involved, haha. 10 or 30 people submitted stuff, and her’s was the coolest, so we published it in Electric Ant. The next time around I asked her to do another thing. I’ve never published a big book of Sophia’s stuff, but basically anytime Sophia wants to do anything, we’re like “Yeah, let’s do it!” We met becasue she moved out to California after school, and then started working in the area. I don’t even know how it happened. We just became buddies. I do remember buying her her first drink on her 21st birthday at her birthday party. But like no one showed up because her stupid ex-boyfriend didn’t plan it right, so it was me, her ex-boyfriend, and Sophia. It was like a weird older brother sort of awkward situation. I think I just try to keep an eye out for people who are pushing themselves really hard. I have very little to do with the success of anybody you’re talking about, except for the minor value that I just try to make it easy for them to make a thing. Whether it’s that I can throw a little money at it or a little bit of my time or whatever it is. But these people are going to become the person they’re going to become, regardless of if I’m involved. What direction do you see independent comics going in the future? In talking about sustainability and accessibility, what do you think is still important about print and having publishers, or what do you think is less necessary about having either? I’m not sure if it will still be important. I haven’t thought about it that much — even for myself. I think in terms of the sustainability of what I’m doing right now, it’s gotten better over time and now it’s self sustaining. The subscription model, I think, is really obvious. It’s not new in any way. But if you’re focusing on physical objects where it doesn’t just come to you or your device — you still have to go to one of the stores we work with or go to our site — the subscription model is a very interesting way to make the person still feel very invested in it. So I think that part of it has allowed it to keep running. I think as long as I have the free time, it could keep running for many many
years in the form that it is now. I’m starting to think about the limits of the reach with the current model though. You just see stuff sometimes where —like Buzzfeed will have a list that has excerpts from like Nick Sumida’s comics or something. You look at it and think tens of thousands of people maybe saw it, or maybe more. That is really exciting and cool, but also, what did it mean to the person who read it? It’s weird too because I spend all of my time on physical objects and then I work at Youtube, so I’m aware that focusing only on print objects is really missing out on a whole part of the conversation. The one thing I do know is that the print experience is really meaningful. That’s still the piece of the digital side of it that’s not meaningful in the same way, or at least in a way that excites me. I have talked to friends about doing really dumb digital things just to do a new thing. Michael and I were talking about doing a Snapchat comic where it — I mean, it’s very Michael, haha — it just disappears everyday. Panel by panel or page by page, you could experience it that way. There’s a lot of things that are interesting, like VR (Virtual Reality) comics. I know people who’ve made like digital experiences for Oculus and other things that are coming out soon. But they’re just a couple steps away from where my heart is in it. But I do think that something has to change for the reach to grow beyond where we’re at. The reach of where our print books are getting has doubled every year since I started, but I sometime wonder if we’re just talking to the same people. Cartoonists talking to other cartoonists talking to fans of cartooning. One questions is “Could we reach other people?” and I think we could. But then “How important is it to reach those other people?” It’s kind of like our little tribe, you know? I think you’re responsibility changes when you become a publisher becasue you need to make money for the people you’re publishing and you need to make sure that it’s read by as many people as possible. And then for me, the reason I do it is becasue I want the “content consumption experience” to be as meaningful as possible. That’s kind of why we do goods too. It’s all part of the same thing. It’s suppose to be a meaningful relationship. The one thing that’s for sure is that; there are a lot of people doing amazing stuff. Taking stuff that they’re doing, where ever they are or online, putting it into a book is the easiest way to say “This is worth looking at later.” If I can do that then that part alone, isn’t enough, but it’s pretty cool. What stuff do you have planned for 2016? There’s a bunch of Frontiers coming. Kelly Kwang is doing the next one, then Richie Pope, and then Rabecca Sugar. Those’ll keep me on schedule for the rest of the year. Each one comes out at one of the big shows — so TCAF, SPX, and then I think at CALA. We’re putting out another paperback. It’s called Dream Tube and it’s by a cartoonist and illustrator from Brooklyn named Rebekka Dunlap. I just saw her shit at SPX. I bought it cause I
“I think you’re responsibility changes when you become a publisher becasue you need to make money for the people you’re publishing and you need to make sure that it’s read by as many people as possible. And then for me, the reason I do it is becasue I want the ‘content consumption experience’ to be as meaningful as possible.” thought it was cool, went back to my hotel room and read it that night, and the next day I was like “Will you do a book with me?” Two minis are collected in the book and she did a whole new science fiction story called Colony. It’s like 115 pages with a really nice blue on cream paper. Later this year we’re doing another collection of Rav by Mickey Zacchilli. It’s like Harry Potter; each one keeps getting longer. The next one is over 400 pages. It’s huge. I’ll have to announce that now that I’m telling you. We’re also doing a book with a cartoonist named F. Choo from Australia. She’s doing this book called Wax Paper that’s kind of like an Octavia-Butler-post-apocalyptic-comingof-age-travel-stroy. And then we’re going to do a collection of Thickness finally. It has about 50 pages of new stuff. That one’s like my baby, so I’ve been really slow to put it out. But we’re planning to have it be hard cover with original posters and stuff. It’s going to be a big deal. I’ve got to get the money together to print it, but that’s going to come out later this year too. I also try to leave room for random stuff like; if Mickey wants to do Lovers Only #2 or maybe we’ll do a couple shirts. There needs to be a little bit of room in the budget and schedule for random stuff that I think is cool. It should be an exciting year. I’m stoked!
Are there any projects you would like to embark on, that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? That’s a good question. I want… to do… a Snapchat comic, haha. I want to do more books, but for all of the books that we do, I need to be able to promote them properly. There’s always like 15 books that I don’t physically have time for. At the size we’re at, where it’s not a full time gig, I just want to treat the books we do put out really carefully and be really thoughtful about them. Anything that’s super weird format wise is really enticing for me, but you can only waste so much money on that. We were talking about doing one all on leather. Immediately you’re like “That’s horrible, and un-chill for animals.” We wouldn’t actually do that, but any dumb idea is pretty exciting to me. I’m hoping to do the Snapchat comic. I’m hoping to do a comic printed on a tear-away-daily calendar. A comic printed only on transparency, that you have to assemble yourself. There’s a lot of really stupid ideas, but… we’ll see. I’m happy with the amount of work I’ve bit off for myself, haha.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
The effortless and naive style of Brie Moreno’s comics is very uncharacteristic of the patience and craft of the 21 year old
artist herself. Brie’s desire to personify her feelings and sense of humor is part of what led her to the format of zines, while growing up in Ottawa. Then after moving to Toronto to attend Ontario College of Art and Design, she combined that personification of her ideas with narrative, and began making comics. Over time Brie has cultivated her primitive style of drawing and her fascination with still life, creating a very tightened visual language that’s deceivingly simple on the surface.
Brie’s ability to shroud herself within the ambiguous charters and attitude of her comics, is largely where their charm
comes from. Brie is not concerned with trying to create a universal narrative with very specific protagonists, and is more interested in creating very personal narratives with more universally identifiable protagonists. She has become one of the most consistently recognizable cartoonists at her age, and is improving at an alarming rate. Rarely do you get to feel like you’re in the presence of an artist who’s work is so contemporary, that it wouldn’t have existed the way that it does, without the circumstances of the world it was born in. But Brie Moreno is very clearly one of those artists.
Where are you from, and where do you live currently? I’m from Ottawa, and I live in Toronto. Are you formally trained at all, or are you primarily self taught? I guess in going to OCAD, that’s when I realized that it really did help. Even though I’m really stubborn, and I want to think that I did it all myself, it’s because I did the classes and did the homework that I eventually got better. I think after taking observational drawing, that’s when I saw my work start to improve. I’d definitely say that school helped. But I think the creative process was more just self taught. Watching movies and just getting into whatever — different magical worlds I found myself in, haha. That was all on my own I guess. Do you remember when you first started drawing as a kid? Well my mom is an elementary school teacher, so she’d have some crafts for me when I was younger, that I would test out or that she would do with me. She also did daycare when I was younger so that she could be with me when I was really small. So we were always doing crafts or going to the library, and that helped. My mom never really gave me that many dolls and toys and stuff — it was all like crafts and art supplies. So that was probably the starting point. I just loved doing crafts. I was crap at drawing but that never stopped me. I got into like ballet and soccer and music, so that slowed down, but I was still always doodling. I just didn’t think it was something I could ever make a career out of so that kind
of discouraged me, cause I wasn’t as good as the other people I saw. Once I got it out of my head that you had to be technically good and you had to draw things true to life to be a “good artist,” thats where I started to experiment more. I didn’t take it that seriously, but it consumed me more without me having to push myself like “You have to sit down and draw!” Has drawing always been your primary form of art? I use to do paper mache crafts when I was younger. That was what I was really into. I got a sewing machine when I was like 14, so I started experimenting more with making my own clothes. I didn’t see it as a form of art, I was kind of just doing it cause I thought it would be like a fun hobby. I think I was more into sculptures, and making things that I could actually hold and use. I was really into Claes Oldenburg when I was younger. His soft sculptures where a huge influence on me. That was probably my primary approach to art making, with sculptures. Then I started doing more drawing. You were telling me you were really into music when you were younger too right? Did you ever make music? No, haha. I mean I really liked practicing guitar and that was really fun for me. My brother had a little acoustic guitar which belonged to my dad that he wasn’t playing, so I just stated practicing it. I don’t know. I just like picking up as many hobbies and seeing what I can do — you know, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” haha. It was cool to see if I was any good at it, and if it really caught on I would stick with it. With music, it was really relaxing and I liked doing it, which opened the door to a lot of musicians
who had a cool visual component. But then I discovered I liked drawing more than I liked playing music. I feel like all of my interested happened in really short spurts over a really short amount of time, if that makes any sense. When I was younger it was all like, Art Attack, Labyrinth, Never Ending Story, and Pete’s Dragon — such a good movie! I liked those movies that incorporated animation and video. So there were all of these things that I was collecting as a young kid, but I didn’t know that they would help form my aesthetic or what I was into when I was older. It wasn’t until high school when I was like “Oh shit! I like all of this stuff. And it kind of all works together.” Do you think a lot of the process of developing the work that you make now, came out of figuring out which aspects you found appealing about the stuff you were into, and then piecing them all together? I don’t really know. I think that the different artists and directors and musicians I was into all had the same sense of style that appealed to me — sort of like this inside joke between everyone. I think with the people and everything I was into, it was all kind of like a puzzle, and everything fit together, and I saw that happen. I guess in making my own work I wanted to see how I could use those influences to make something else out of it.
Whenever I would make something in high school or in university and I wanted it to fit into the style of the other artists and films I was into, which sort of set me back a bit. But It helped in where I am now, cause I can see that I shouldn’t try to copy or fit into that style.. When did you first get into comics? I use to read the comics in the sunday paper. I definitely wouldn’t think of them as a huge influence on where I am now. They didn’t like, make me want to do comics, haha. I read Ghost World in high school and really liked it. But I was more into zines I think, in high school, cause it was more of an approachable medium. I went to Montreal when I was 16, just for like a show, and my friend took me to Monastiraki which is a zine shop. I had never really seen a place that held so many found zines from the 80s and stuff. I was looking at online zines a lot, but in Ottawa there wasn’t much access to the zines from people all around the world. I felt like Monastiraki had this abundance of all of these different artists coming together in one little place. It was really cool, and I picked up a few zines. They were really off and weird. Nonna Zine was one of them, which was this zine about grandmothers and different recipes. I thought it was really weird. Then, in Ottawa I met two friends who were in the comics
“There were all of these things that I was collecting as a young kid, but I didn’t know that they would help form my aesthetic or what I was into when I was older. It wasn’t until high school when I was like ‘Oh shit! I like all of this stuff. And it kind of all works together.”
world, Betty Liang and Saicoink. They’re these really talented comic artists, and I wasn’t really familiar with comics before them, or at least comics by people my own age. I feel like I’m blushing just from bringing them up, hahaha! They took me to a comic shop and — it was a tiny section — but there was an independent comics section where we were looking the most while we were in the shop. I found Julie Doucet, and I picked up My New York Diary. I think that was one of the first comics that — not really even influenced my style — but definitely made me want to tell my own story becasue it was like a diary. I think since it was a female voice it definitely resinated with me more than like Daniel Clowes or Charles Burns. I still love their work so much — I think they’re incredible storytellers and artists. But Julie Doucet’s work was something that really made me feel like I could do it myself. I just felt like her work was something that I wanted to do, or try my hand at to tell my own story, and maybe have someone else relate to it the way that I did to hers. That was probably the starting point. Were you making work at all at the time or were you active on the internet? You mentioned starting to read zines online around then. Yeah it was mostly stuff online. That was about the time that Rookie came out. I was reading a lot of online articles on zine making too. I think at the time I was mostly just posting drawings and stuff I was doing in University, which was sculptures. I didn’t know I was making zines at the time— like I didn’t have the idea that I was doing it right — I was kind of just putting booklets of my drawings together and giving them out at shops in Ottawa. But I didn’t think it was actually a zine until I went to a zine shop or seeing them online and people calling them that. I was like “Oh, I guess that’s what I’m doing.” I didn’t think anything would come of it. I was just kind of doing it, to pass the time and keep myself out of trouble. When you started making zines were they primarily online or physical? Was it validating to discover that other people were making similar work in the same format? It was definitely online for a long time. But the one thing that I could say about Ottawa is that it had a pretty tightknit zine community. There were more writing zines, but it was still a community. There were a few zine-offs — I think this was in 2013 or 2014. It was during my year off, after I left University of Ottawa, and I did a few of those zine-offs they would have seasonally. I made zines more for that then the purpose of selling them online becasue I didn’t really feel like I was making work that I would want to sell at that point. I was just kind of testing the waters. Then I started focusing more and more on my writing. My friend and I did a collab comic, and that was one of the first comics I printed. So that was cool, and I liked how it turned out. I think from making printed work, it kind of
made me want to explore making comics and zines more. They’re nice to hold in your hand, and it’s different from seeing it online. I guess that was 2013… Jeez, I’m so confused as to where I am right now, like “When did I do that???” hahaha. When did you start making work under the name Booger Brie? I remember Booger Brie just started from instagram at first. I use to be tweenageart or something… tweenageriot??? I had a really weird name. I just did it cause it was like a Sonic Youth reference, and I was like “I’m so bad.” haha. I think that was in high school or something. Yeah it was kind of a snowball effect. I just needed an Instagram handle. I didn’t want to use the name of my tumblr, because it was just kind of a name I picked out of nowhere. It just sounded nice, Booger Brie. It was simple and to the point of being slimy, boogery, Brie haha. I felt like it was very me. I didn’t think anything would come of it. I didn’t think it would be a brand — not that I think that I’m a brand haha. But you know, I use it now for everything. I don’t know. My friends call me Booger now. It’s cute… I’m into it. I don’t think I’ll change it. I think the art that I made started to follow into that. I liked playing around with more gross and slimy imagery. How would you describe the aesthetic of your work to someone who’s never seen it before? Oh um… I would say its like… Taking a kindergarden classroom and then putting on a conveyer belt, having it pass through the old lady section at Sears so it gets a little classy, then going further on the conveyer belt, it drops into this ms paint bucket, and then I just throw it on you. I think that’s it. Maybe add some flowers on it. And a spider. That’s probably right. Maybe? Is there specific imagery that you’ve noticed reoccurring in your work? Are there any ideas you seem to go back to a lot? I feel like I always reference Ebay and thrifting a lot. I like found objects that you wouldn’t see come up a lot. I’ll find something that you don’t often see in life, like this one specific bunny stuffed animal and then I’ll put it in my work, and I’ll make it come up a lot so that it sort of contradicts itself in a way. I like working with one off characters, and I’ll use them a lot in a piece, and then I’ll never use them again. I don’t know if there’s much to say about that but I like testing out different imagery, just to see how it works. I think the spider stuck a lot because I just liked the way that it looked. Same with the rose. By accident I would just try out in my work, and then it would just end up being something I thought looked good. I don’t think it’s too much of a symbolic thing.
I feel like the reason why your work feels very contemporary is because it takes all of these different objects and visual cues and recontextualizes them together in a way that really reflects they way that we now take in art and information because of the internet. That’s the thing that’s funny — I think a lot of people think I make up all of the stuff I draw. A lot of it I do — more specifically, all of the characters are made up. But I always use references. I always look at the things I’m putting in my work, and they’re all things that exist in real life. Not all of them, but most of them do. Even the house in the FORGE. shirt! That’s an Erwin Wurm sculpture. I think when you see something that is familiar being changed in a way, or put through a filter, it becomes more interesting, and it becomes more like something you would want to look at and analyze a little more. What was the transition like, going from school in Ottawa to going to school in Toronto? In Ottawa, I was in fine arts. It was more geared towards making work that was sophisticated — something thats ready to be put into an art gallery or something that you wouldn’t want to touch. It seemed like art was very precious. In Ottawa, at the same time, there was the zine community which was more writing based and more “Just do it at the photo copier!” which was really cool, and something that I really liked experimenting with. Moving to Toronto, it was definitely more comics and imaged based in terms of the zines that everyone was putting out at fairs. That too! There were more fairs to go to. Did the Toronto zine community seem like it was in a half way point between art is precious and are is disposable? Yeah! It was interesting becasue it was stuff I would see in galleries, but it was being put into print as a zine or a booklet. I liked that because you could own the art in a way. You could have the sculptures that you had seen, but on paper. You could just flip through them, which is nice. Unless, if you’re super rich and you can just buy the sculptures, then just do that, haha. I liked that part about Toronto. And not all, but a big majority of my favorite comic artists, live here. Just meeting people my age who were doing the same thing, that was a really big thing. Like Kendra (Yee)! I met her and we collaborate a lot. Not so much anymore becasue of school. But we want to still! We’re always doing zine fairs together. As younger artists in Toronto, it’s a nice support system. Everyone has always been really welcoming in Toronto, in the zine and comic community. Not that anyone wasn’t supportive in Ottawa — there just wasn’t a comic community.
Do you actively try to make your work accessible to everyone? Yeah. With most of my work, I try to put a lot of the comics online. I like to work with different online magazines. I do like to keep somethings precious and for prints cause I think that adds more value to my work. Since it’s going to be — hopefully — something I do as a full time career when I’m a little older, I think it’s good to start that now and to put a little bit of value on it. I don’t know. I think it’s not good to give away free work to people. I wouldn’t just print comics and give them away. Even with artists that I like, it’s always a trade or something. Otherwise it just devalues your work, in my opinion. I think it’s good to start now. If I, in my mind, am making work that I’m proud of, I should start selling it. It takes money to make the stuff that I’m doing, so it only makes sense to charge for it. But I know it makes sense, to get my work out there I have to put it online for free. I like seeing my work all together on a website. It almost gives myself more of an idea of where I’m going and what I’m doing. I know if definitely helps other people understand my work a lot more easily when they see it together in one place. So, I don’t have a problem with putting work out there for free. But I do understand that, at the same time, I do sell a lot work to compensate for that. I like to keep something private and just for print. How has Toronto impacted you or your work? I think it’s helped keep me more motivated. I’ll go to these fairs and see all of my favorite artists putting out new work and it really gets the gears going. It makes me excited to make work then. It definitely becomes a charge that goes through me to get as much work done so that I can show more work to my friends and to my peers. I guess I wasn’t really exposed to it as much in Ottawa, so it’s really exciting seeing all of these artists making really cool stuff. To think that I could even be apart of it is, in itself, mind blowing. I feel like I almost have to live up to that and try to do the best that I can and put out work that I’m happy with and that I think other people can relate to. I think that sort of “sameness” or relatable feeling is something that’s really important to me in terms of sharing art. The more I put out, the more I can feel good about myself haha. Or help people even feel good about themselves. How did you start doing shirts with The HYV Shop? Oh yeah! The HYV Shop is an online collective of different musicians and artists. A friend who was already working with them suggested me to The HYV. The dog design was the first one I did. We just tested it out to see how it would do, and people bought them! It sold out of a few sizes, which was really cool, and so we did a reprint of that one. Then they just asked me if I wanted to have my own shop with them, instead of just having a one off T-Shirt. Actually wait, I think I had the shop first and we did the one shirt. The second one was the body builder design, and that
The dog design was the first one I did. We just tested it out to see how it would do, and people bought them!
sold pretty well. Yeah, I’ve just been working with them since February of 2015. It’s been a really great experience and they’ve been nothing but supportive. I get shy and I won’t want to ask “Hey, can I put this out?” But they’ve always been really cool and have been like “Hey, you know if you want to do another design for us…” They’re really great with getting new artists out there and getting their
stuff sold. I like The HYV Shop.
When did you first meet Grant Gronewold (HTML Flowers), and when did you start collaborating on a few things? Yeah, that was just through the internet. I mean, I had
“He asked if I wanted to contribute to Werewolf Jones & Sons by doing the Diesel and Jackson drawing of Owl being killed. So I was like ‘umm, yess.’” been following him for a long time. Since high school or University I think. Then he just followed me one day on tumblr — I think I put a comic online that was making the rounds. Then, I think it was more through Instagram where he just told me he was coming to TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival). I thought that was really cool, so we met and we hung out, and we really hit it off. It’s been like a beautiful friendship since then. I’ve admired his work for so long.
work in that medium. It was called Horse World, and it’s 20-some pages of horse drawings. We want to do that again in the future. Right now I’m working on a zine with Maren Karlson. It’s about dating, haha. It’s going to be risographed as well, and I’m really excited about it, becasue Maren is one of my favorite artists and one of my first art pals. It was cool, finally coming together. If the future, I’m also going to be doing a zine with Grant called Refresh Feed.
He asked if I wanted to contribute to Werewolf Jones & Sons by doing the Diesel and Jackson drawing of Owl being killed. So I was like “umm, yess.” I was trying to play it cool and be like “Oh… Yeah, yeah… Of course.” I was dying inside, it was so cool. He’s always been really supportive of my work, and has shared everything I do online, which has really helped me feel more included in the comics scene, which is nice. Yeah, I love Grant!
How have you approached developing relationships with artists online?
Who are some other artists you’ve collaborated with? Well, I’ve collaborated with Kendra (Yee). She was one of the first artists that I collaborated with, and still collaborate with. I actually haven’t done too much with other artists. Oh my god, if I don’t name them all! Let me think… A lot of people I’ve collaborated with have all just been friends on the internet. With Kendra, we did some drawings back in 2013 together — maybe it was 2014. We did a zine called OK Girls which was for TCAF this past year. Caroline David and I did a horse zine, because we love horses. It was risographed, which is cool becasue I had never seen my
I’m really scared of people. So I learned, you’ve gotta be really relaxed and chill, and just do your thing. Usually there’s just a mutual “Good Job!” and then it grows and becomes something. I don’t think you should try to see it as the number one thing, to make friends. I think more so, just make stuff that you’re happy with and continue to make the work that you’re doing. I don’t know… I’m really bad at making friends — I honestly don’t know how it happened, haha! How do I word this in a way that doesn’t make me sound pathetic… Post your art without thinking that you’re going to make friends or that it’s going to be popular, because honestly, it just happens naturally. If you like someone’s work, and they like yours back, it just becomes this mutual “Maybe one day we could do a thing together!” or “Maybe we could show together!” It happens very naturally. If it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be. And if it’s not meant to
be, then it’s never going to happen and you’re going to die alone… You make really visually impactful and affective work, and it’s really incredible that it’s become so recognizably yours at the age you are! Was there a certain point when you became more comfortable with your work or the way that you make stuff? Did you try to use your lack of experience to your advantage? Thank you! I feel like it was just an accident. But I do realize that there was a point over last summer — just like very recently — where I would make a character and it was easy to recreate the character in another panel. That never really happened that much before. I don’t know what the setting off point was. It might have been TCAF. That was just the first time I had come into contact with so many of my favorite artists. I don’t know. It felt like I maybe harnessed some of the energy. I think I got a rush from that week after TCAF. I remember specifically, that week after TCAF, I was so drained after everything that had happened, so I didn’t draw all week. I was in a weird emotional funk. I didn’t know how to feel. Then right after I felt really charged. I had a comic due for Polyester that following week, and I was just like “I have to make something for that!” That’s when I made Hocean Mellow, and that was one of the first comics where I used these characters with blobby faces and big muscles. I had so much fun doing those and I felt like it was tied with a voice that I felt I hadn’t really read very often. It was like being able to put my journal out on the internet, but mask it with these really funny characters to hide that vulnerability. But yeah, over last summer is when it definitely started to come together. That comic was a really pivotal moment for me. I felt like “Oh, I think I know what I’m doing now, maybe…” When we’ve talked in the past you’ve expressed a lot of different mixed emotions about school. What things do you think you have specifically benefitted from school? Haha, yeah I feel like a month ago I was like “I’m dropping out!!” I realized just having a studio where you can just paint is so important. When ever we have homework assignments to paint at home, it’s so frustrating not having good lighting or the proper space even. I’m very precious with the things in my apartment, so I don’t want to make a complete mess, where as in school, you can be more free to create without worrying about dropping paint on the ground. The studio space is really important. Also having live models come in is something that you really need to take advantage of when you’re in school, becasue it’s not often that you get to have someone pose for 30 minutes or 3 hours.
Hearing feed back from other people, without any censorship. I feel like on the internet people — well… people are cruel — but it doesn’t happen very often where people will reblog something and someone will be like “What the fuck!” Where as in class, people know they have to say things becasue your marked on critique and participation. People will say constructive things that you will need to hear, becasue not everyone is going to tell you that. It’s nice to have that. Though, I don’t even care half the time. What do you think you’ve benefitted from the work you’ve done outside of school? That’s the most fulfilling, for sure. I try not to think about it too much, but it is such a big part of my life. I think with everything I do, I try to make a world where I’m surrounded by art. Even with my room, I guess, I try to make it like a nice sanctuary. I think it’s the same with my art as well. I only want to make things that make me feel good. Or at least, I try to turn any internal sadness and anxiety into something that I can look at and be happy with. Having said that, it can also work in a bad way, becasue if I’m frustrated with a piece it feels terrible. Once I see everything I do in a piece and I’m all happy with it, I can see whatever I’m thinking or whatever is in my head come to life. It’s such a nice, fulfilling feeling that I can’t even express or articulate. I still don’t feel comfortable putting all of my work up, or wearing my own T-Shirts and stuff like that, but that day will come. Where does the sense of humor in your comics come from? I think a lot of it is pity humor or a lot of slapstick stuff. I grew up on Chris Farley films and Wayne’s World, so that’s probably a big influence. I grew up on Saturday Night Live and all of those people. I’ve seen like every single Eddie Murphy film from between 2000 and 2008 probably, in theaters. I don’t know… I know nothing about comedy. A lot of the things that I have in my comics are just conversations that I have with my roommate. I think she’s one of the funniest people that I know and I feel like we play off of each other’s senses of humor a lot of the time. I feel like both of us use humor as a coping mechanism for our mental illnesses. It’s obviously something that I have to include in my art work. I don’t think that I could ever make work that isn’t just a little bit funny. Humor is my filter, and I can make something seem a little more approachable if I put a little bit of a joke on it. How do you approach the writing in your work? That’s always just stream of continuousness. I’ll have a idea that I’ve been playing with a lot, and it’s just about constantly editing it. I don’t think about it too much. I think
“The last thing I want to do is alienate anyone from my comics, becasue I know that I felt alienation growing up.” once I start to over analyze, I’ll either think I’m trying too hard or that I’m trying to be profound. I think I just want the over all essence of my comics to just seem like a diary. I also like playing with poetry in different formats in the way that I lay out the entire design of my work. You shouldn’t overlook the font that you’re working with. I think that in itself is a big part of the comic — it shouldn’t be an afterthought. I use to think of it as an after thought, but now I’m more aware of how it can skew the entire meaning or message of a panel. Now that I’m thinking about it I’m thinking “Huh… I should probably stop using helvetica.” hahaha. But that’s what I use the most. What are the individual steps for making one of your comics? Usually what I’ll do is — I have a set layout that I tend to use with two columns and four panels on one page that I’ve been doing most recently. So I’ll layout my panels first, and then I’ll do the writing. Then I’ll sketch out characters that I want to be in the comic. I don’t exactly put them in the layout right away, but I’ll think of a character that I want to draw, and then I’ll try to put it in the comic. So I do everything kind of separately, but the writing comes first for sure, just so that the pacing makes sense. The last thing you want to do is try to fit everything into the one panel when you know you can break it up into two — or even having three panels worth of content and forcing it to break into another one is the worst, which I’ve done before. Sometime you’ve gotta do it. That how you learn from those mistakes. But yeah, it’s all planned for sure. But not too planned, haha. A good balance.
You often draw really androgynous or simplified characters in your comics. Is ambiguity an important part of your work? Yeah! Even recently when I started doing the muscly bodies, I started to feel like “Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll steer away from this.” just becasue I felt like it wasn’t something that everyone could relate to. I liked the idea of creating these little blobby animal looking creatures, that no one could really be like “That’s me!” At the same time, whatever that person is going through is a relatable thing. The last thing I want to do is alienate anyone from my comics, becasue I know that I felt alienation growing up. Especially with different cartoons I was into, a lot of the time there was never — except for fucking Dora The Explorer hahaha— there was never a lot of diversity. Whenever there was like a three girl squad or whatever, there wasn’t usually like a brown girl. I’m thinking specifically of Powerpuff Girls — that was like my favorite show, can you tell? I was just like “I can’t really relate to them, cause they’re just three little white girls.” But yeah, so the last thing I want to do is alienate anyone, so I feel like by creating these little blobby pieces of shit people can at least relate to them. It’s not like i’m leaving anyone out. Plus, for me at least, I feel like it’s more aesthetically inviting. It’s kind of more like “What the fuck is that thing?” It can even make the whole composition work if it’s just a cool shape rather than a body.
How do you think the internet has changed artist’s understand of ownership of their own work? How do you feel when you see work that’s derivative of your own work or other artists you like? I think posting my own work at a earlier age, helped establish a little following for me. Having all of my work online from a long time ago sort of solidifies the fact that whatever I did at that time that’s maybe “trendy” at some point becomes something that people are inspired by or are starting to make their own work off of. At least I have a point where I can be like “Well at least I did that then.” and I can move forward. I don’t know. I don’t get mad about it. I just think “Well I’ll just make something that they can’t make.” I don’t like calling people out. If I see it happen I can definitely let the artist know, and I’ll let them do with it what they will. But for me personally, if someone wants to copy me, it hurts me. I don’t like it, haha. But it’s like, I can’t go and take the pencil out of their hands. If it’s a direct copy — which has happened before, and people will tell me that they did it and did their own version of it, even though its just a copy — I’m kind of just like “Okay?” I just let them do what they want, and I make my own stuff. I can at least live with the fact that I’m not trying to copy anyone. Earlier you sort of talked about the disposability of your work. Is that part of the reason why you don’t let yourself get hung up about it? Yeah! At first it’s kind of frustrating, becasue it makes it
almost seem like “Oh I guess anyone can just do my art.” But that’s when I started to change my characters up a little more. I stopped doing the very simples faces for a bit, just to get a way and try something new. I’m glad that I got away from that, just becasue it made me realize that I had the ability to kind of take that into my own hands and realize “Oh what you’re doing isn’t just a fluke. You have an idea!” which is kind of cool. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, or if I’d suggest anyone else do the thing I’m doing. If you want to call someone out for copying you, I suggest you do it. But at the same time I’m kind of just an anxious person and I think “Uh, I’d rather not deal with that. I’ll move on and see what I can do.” which in a way, helped me make different characters. It was almost like it’s own exercise for creating new things. But yeah, I wish people didn’t do that though, haha. Have you faced people condescending to you on the basis of your age, gender, or ethnicity within the comics community or on the internet? I don’t think that it’s happened too often. Or maybe I just try not to pay attention to the people who don’t want my art to be in a collective or scene. It’s difficult to say. I feel like within the comics community, you see it more at conventions or fairs. It’s just like a visible thing like “Whoa, why are there so many dude here, and so many white people as well…” I think it’s improving more and more. I feel like a lot of my favorite comic artists are women and people of color — and it’s not as a token, but more like they’re talented and finally people are opening their eyes and are starting to look beyond older contemporary comic artists
“I do everything kind of separately, but the writing comes first for sure, just so that the pacing makes sense.”
as the be all, end all of what’s cool and happening. There are definitely more stories to be heard too with their work, that have never been heard. I definitely don’t really associate with too many people I wouldn’t want to. You know, I wouldn’t submit my work to a collective that I knew was just solely run by male, white artists. I try my best to work with female artists, specifically women of color. I try to collaborate with people who share a similar ideology. Becasue my work is so personal, I wouldn’t want to work with someone would just take it as “Oh theres a token brown artist!” I don’t think that’s ever something I want to associate myself with. It’s a heated topic, but it’s good to talk about. I just try my best to be aware of who I’m working with. I don’t know if I’ve ever received that sort of discrimination, becasue maybe I’m just not looking for the people who are not paying attention to me for that reason. For the most part it’s been fairly accepting. Do you feel as though your work is moving in a specific direction? I just want to make more comics. I don’t know if the comics are going to look any different from what I’m doing now. Hopefully they’ll have a different type of pacing. I want to have more with a certain character, that I haven’t even thought of yet. I just want to make something that no one has ever seen before, but that still has my style attached to it. I love doing sculptures so I wish I could maybe find a way to incorporate that into comics as well. I know Gabriel Corbera was really cool and did those little dolls for Days Longer Than Long Pork Sausages on the inner flaps. I remember seeing that and I thought that was a really cool way to incorporate that. Even using soft sculptures or 3D objects on cover art or inner flaps — just making everything more tangible, but could still be considered a comic is something that would be cool to play with. I want to work on that in the future and maybe work on combining the two. We’ll see what happens. Who are some contemporary artists who’ve had a big impact on your work? I remember seeing this art talk with Misaki Kawai. She does these animal paintings — she also does sculptures and installations — and she has this very child like, youthful approach to making these massive paintings. It’s really hard to describe her work, but it’s had such a huge impact on me becasue she’s able to incorporate a youthful voice with something more sophisticated. I remember from watching her interview, she’s just so much a part of what she’s making. You could tell everything was her. She was a huge influence for me when I was at Ottawa U painting, when I didn’t really know how to use color. She’s very free and will have these big paint splatters all over her work. Her work is precious, but she’s still eager to play with it. In terms of comic artists, Grant and Simon Hanselmann were huge influences on me. A lot of the artists on Domino Books. That was one of the first distros I bought
work off of becasue it was fairly inexpensive so I was able to collect a lot of stuff from a bunch of artists I wasn’t really familiar with like Tara Booth. I think Matthew Thurber had work on there too but I didn’t get his work off of there. I got 1-800-MICE which is one of my favorites. So Good! Such a big influence on me. I wasn’t really familiar with alt comics at that time, especially from people in their 20s. Who are some older artists who’ve had a big impact on your work? Garry Panter is one of my favorites, and is a heavy hitter I guess in the alternative comics and art scenes. Peewee’s Playhouse is one of my favorite shows. I watched an interview with him too and I liked the way he painted a lot. He did a cover of Jimbo that had a lot of these really neon messy paint colors, and the cover for Invasion Of The Elvis Zombies is soooo good! The thing that I like the most about his work is that is seems very naive, but it’s professionally naive, haha. You knew that he knew how to paint, and he could morph that and turn it into something thats super eye catching and weird. I mentioned him before but, Claes Oldenburg was a hug influence on me. The Bedroom Ensemble was this piece that — I think it was the first installation I had ever seen in real life. The thing I liked the most about him was that he was really funny, and he modeled The Bedroom Ensemble off of this Malibu Hotel where every room had a theme. He mushed all of that into this pseudo-functional room where nothing provided any sort of comfort. It was all just for gags. I liked all of that effort put in, just for a joke. It’s funny and it looks good, haha. I’m just a jokester guys. That’s what I want you to take away from this interview, hahaha. Are there any projects you would like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? Printing more comics — that’s definitely something that I don’t have the funds for. But obviously there are publishers willing to help you with that. Getting that out to publishers in itself is a super difficult thing to do. I say it like it’s easy, but it’s not easy. I also want to do soft sculptures, and getting back to do more 3D objects. I wish I could paint more, but I kind of just want to leave that to school. I practice all of my painting in school, but I don’t do too much of it outside of school. I’d like to work with more wearable arts. I do the t-shirts online, but I think I would like to work with more painting on clothes and sewing clothes in a weird way and making patched pants. There are a few other artists online that I see incorporate all of their work on T-shirts, which I really like. I want to do just one offs of t-shirts and pants. Fun stuff like that. Very DIY. Yeah, that’s it for now. Just comics though… I just want to work on that!
DAVE BENTON & MIKE CARIDI
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Although they might not be fully aware of it, by running Double Double whammy, Dave Benton and Mike Caridi have really
shaped a lot of the direction I’ve taken with this magazine and the people I’ve included in it. I moved to New York in the summer of 2014, and before I even left the place I was living before, Double Double Whammy was quickly becoming a really important label to me, through the music they were putting out, and their over all approach to running a label. Double Double Whammy played the role that labels like K Records and Rough Trade played in many people’s lives, shaping my understand that; if you care enough, you can truly do-it-yourself, and make a meaningful impact on the people around you in the process.
What separates Dave and Mike from so many other people in bands releasing their music isn’t their ability or resources.
It’s their fundamental drive to see the music that they care about reach as many people as it deserves to, by using what time, money, and energy they have to propel it forward. What started out as a college assignment, has turned into a fully formed record label where Dave and Mike have now been able to properly support bands the way they would like to. Sitting down and hearing them talk so candidly about what they’ve been doing for almost four years now, only solidified my suspicious about their sincere intentions with the label. Today Double Double Whammy serves as the thread that stitches together a substantial portion of the Brooklyn DIY scene that not only binds the individuals together but also keeps things sustained and preserved, so that it will all still be there tomorrow.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? Mike Caridi: I grew up in Connecticut, outside of New Haven and also outside of Danbury in two separate place. Then I moved to New York. Dave Benton: I’m from Ridgewood, New Jersey, and now I live in Brooklyn, New York. Are either of you formally trained in music, or are you both primarily self taught? Dave: I did a lot of stuff in high school. In band class I played Saxophone, so I was trained on Alto Saxophone. But beyond that, not much training. Mike: I took piano lessons from maybe age 7 to 11 or something. Then I taught myself guitar at the age of 13. What were some of your earliest experiences playing music or making music? Mike: When I was 14 I wrote these really embarrassing songs. It was like a concept piece about this boy and this girl. I performed them twice; once in a market and once at this really weird venue in Danbury, Connecticut to only my dad. Dave: Was it like solo? Mike: Yeah it was solo.
Dave: I never did the solo thing. I guess I got into playing guitar when I was a teenager or whatever. And then I really wanted to play with a band. I never performed alone really, but I had a band in high school that was also really bad, haha. Mike: Yeah first band stuff for me was high school too. Dave. Very embarrassing… I don’t think either of us are going to tell you what the names of those things are probably. I wouldn’t! Mike: The name of my first band was To Kiss Glory. Dave: I’ll refrain because theres definitely still a myspace out there. Both of you guys were in bands prior to starting college, which led to a lot of the music you made in college. When did you start taking the music you were making more seriously? Dave: Well I think we both went to (SUNY) Purchase becasue we wanted to be involved in the music scene there and we were aware of it. Just being there kind of pushed us into this thing. Once we both made the decision to go there, we both knew there was no turning back, or something like that, becasue music is so big there. Mike: I went to Bard College for my freshman year. I played in a band there and played a show with Dave’s old band, and that’s how we both met. The I transferred
to Purchase my sophomore year, mostly just for the music stuff. We started playing music together pretty immediately. How did you both become aware of SUNY Purchase’s music scene, and what was the big draw for students who wanted to play in bands to go there? Dave: For me it was that some people that I knew from high school decided to get there. I was aware of their musical projects and I liked them so that kind of led me there. You knew of Purchase before though right? Mike: Yeah I knew of Purchase. I applied to their conservatory and didn’t get in. Then I went to Bard for a year. I kind of found out about the music going on there after the fact, while I was at Bard. I found out about all of these really cool bands playing there and then I just made the switch. What were the bands you were playing in when you initially started at Purchase? Was that when you were playing in Sirs and Spook Houses respectively? Mike: It was like the beginnings of those. Dave: Yeah. Well I was in Sirs… Mike: And Sports!
Dave: And Sports. Sirs and Sports both played with Mike’s band. Then — I feel like shortly after you switched to Purchase you joined Sirs and I quit Sirs. Then Spook Houses became more of a thing. Mike: And then LVL UP became a thing… Dave: Sort of around the same time. What do you think is unique about Purchase that has allowed so many of these bands to form and then flourish there? How did Purchase impact your ability to do what you guys do now? Dave: That’s a good Q… Um, I think for me personally, it introduced me to the DIY way of going about pursuing a career in music, for lack of a better term. That just kind of informed the way we do things I guess. Just from the community and learning from other people there. Mike: Yeah. Also it was way more accessible there then it was at my first school. There was the thriving community, but then there was also this big student run space called The Stood. That was where we could keep all of our gear, sign up for practices whenever, and there were shows there everyday. It was just very easy and accessible to be doing this, and becasue it was thriving it was so easy to bounce stuff off of other people. There were always new
“It was just very easy and accessible to be doing this, and becasue it was thriving it was so easy to bounce stuff off of other people. There were always new thing coming out so it made you want to do more I guess.”
thing coming out so it made you want to do more I guess.
Mike: Oh! Space Ghost Cowboys
Dave: Yeah. There probably aren’t a lot of other colleges that make it so easy. Not that the administration was like consciously trying to foster this thing. But I feel like they didn’t bother us really that much. They did a little bit with liabilities and stuff like that that would get in the way of letting that stuff happen. But at least most of the time they would stay out of the way and let things sort of thrive.
Dave: Oh yeah, Space Ghost Cowboys. And then Porches. But there were also bands that people at Purchase were really obsessed with, like Nana Grizol or Algernon Cadwallader — people loved that band. People loved Dark Dark Dark. Zola Jesus.
Did it feel like there was any awareness of a scene developing there among the students at Purchase? Who were some of the bands playing there at the time? Mike: I think everybody knew or was aware that there was a cool thing happening. There had been, there was when we were there, and there is stuff happening now. A lot of people go there for their music community, I think. The bands that were really big while we were playing there were Zona Mexicana… Who else was cool there at the time? Dave: Data Dog, which was members of the bands Baked and Leapling. I can’t even remember many… Mike: I don’t remember now either… Dave: Twin Sister
Mike: What were big shows? Mount Eerie came through a few times. Dave: I feel like, just the community being into stuff like that just kind of introduced me to things that I probably wouldn’t have come across. How did LVL UP first start? Mike: Dave was doing Spook Houses and I was doing Sirs at this point. I think it was the summer before junior year — or maybe it was even the winter between the semesters during our sophomore year. Whatever it was, we had both been writing a lot of things by ourselves and sending them to each other becasue we were becoming friends. We had just got back to school and we started this thing that didn’t really have a name yet. We recorded a few songs and got our friend Kyle (Seely), who played drums in Sirs, to play drums just for these recordings. Our friend Ben (Smith) came in and did some vocals and some keyboard stuff. Then me and Dave mostly did the rest of
“We had both been writing a lot of things by ourselves and sending them to each other becasue we were becoming friends. We had just got back to school and we started this thing that didn’t really have a name yet. ”
“There was really no intention of bringing it any further than just making the album. But here we are!” it on our own. Those songs ended up on the first record. Then I think we recorded a bunch of songs together and we were going to do a split cassette with Nick’s (Corbo) solo songs. Dave: We were going to be LVL UP and he was just going to be Nick Corbo or whatever. Mike: Yeah, LVL UP was just us for a while. Dave: But then we were just like “Fuck it! We’ll just make it a full album.” Then we finished a few of Nick’s songs — we jumped on the tracks a little bit and added some
spice, haha. Mike: Our friend Ben was the fifth member and he has a track on the first album (Space Brothers). He sings and plays keys on some of our other tracks on that album. Then, after the record came out we recruited Greg (Rutkin) to play with us. And that was it. We became a band after the fact — like after the album was out. Dave: There was really no intention of bringing it any further than just making the album. But here we are! I think Nick Corbo told me a while ago that your label,
Double Double Whammy, started out as a project for a class, right? How did it go from something you were doing for school to something where you started actually releasing music by you and your friends?
Mike: I don’t know.
Dave: Well I think we called it Double Double Whammy when we put out the Space Brothers cassette. Then we were like “Oh, I think we kind of want to put out our friends music on cassettes.” My major was arts management… which I hate saying. But I was taking a social media class and I made the twitter and I made a bad website with tumblr and just sort of created the internet presence for that class. I used it periodically for some of my classes.
Mike: Just like LVL UP. There’s no reason why we named it that. It’s stupid.
Mike: When it started it was us doing cassettes together. Then in our senior year we had to do a senior project to graduate. That was when I became a little less hands on. Dave took over and did two 7”s. Dave: Yeah I did a few 7”s and wrote about it for my senior project. Then Mike jumped right back in. Mike: We graduated and we started doing more of what we’re doing now. I think Zentropy was our first release back together. Where did the name Double Double Whammy come from? Dave: I really don’t know…
Dave: It was just a stupid thing just like everything else, haha.
Dave: It’s kind of becasue we didn’t care at the time. And now it’s like “Oh yeah, it’s called Double Double Whammy… I bet you think that’s really stupid, mom’s friend.” haha.. Did you have a specific goal with starting the label? Has that changed at all since you released your first few tapes? Dave: I feel like it was just that we wanted to release our friend’s tunes. Curate it a little bit, but mostly just help people out. We didn’t really do that much. It hasn’t really changed that much. Mike: Yeah the mission statement is the same. We just have more resources now. Dave: It feels better to actually support people now. Where there any labels that you tried to model Double Double Whammy after? Dave: Yeah! I think we both really liked Merge and K Re-
“Well I think we called it Double Double Whammy when we put out the Space Brothers cassette. Then we were like ‘Oh, I think we kind of want to put out our friends music on cassettes.’”
“The first big one we ever did which was Frankie Cosmos’ Zentropy. It snowballed and we nearly fell on our faces when that release came out becasue we weren’t ready for that.”
cords. Those were kind of the two that were maybe informing what we were doing.
Mike: Yeah. We read the books, haha. We read the K book and we read the Merge book. How did you start putting out music by bands that weren’t your own? Mike: What was the second cassette we released? Toasted Plastic?
back home friends. It’s been the same thing, just people that we know or are friends with or are semi-associated with. Just the scale of the releases have gotten bigger. Thats the only great difference between then and now. Did you have to deal with people being condescending towards you while you were first starting out? Did it ever feel like you had to overcome a hurdle of getting people to take you seriously? Dave: Everybody goes through that, for sure.
Dave: Yeah! Well we wanted to release that one because they were like kids in high school. I think we both felt that no older people were ever really that cool to us when we were in high school. I don’t know — at least I felt like older people in Ridgewood weren’t that helpful or nice or encouraging. But we wanted to help them out and make their shit good. Just make them feel welcome.
Mike: It never felt directly (condescending). It was more like a slow climb where we did our first couple cassettes and we would email blogs and we started developing relationships with smaller blogs. Then as those writers maybe got better hook-ups or whatever, so did we. Then, maybe we did a release that got more attention, and that would help us with the next one.
Mike: I don’t know what the answer to the question is. I don’t think there was ever like a thing that just made us want to do it. We always just wanted to. We did Space Brothers and then we had this “label” that wasn’t really anything. We both invested like $100 in the beginning and bought blank cassette tapes and borrowed our friend Mike’s cassette duplicator. Then we made the money back I guess, and we were like “Okay lets just do another one.” and we did Toasted Plastic. Then I think we did Hyena, The Act Of Estimating as Worthless — just a bunch of Purchase bands at first. Toasted Plastic were
Dave: I feel like at that point we kind of understood the hurtles a little bit more and didn’t really feel that bogged down. Definitely before that point I remember feeling bummed, or just not knowing what to do, and just feeling frustrated about it. But, by the time we had started the label, we were just like “Whatever! We’re just doing it!” It’s moving along, slowly but surely. Mike: We also learned a lot the first time that we hired a press person, which I think was for LVL UP’s Extra Worlds 7”. That was kind of a learning experience — just seeing
how that worked. We tried to copy that and were doing it ourselves for a while. Dave: Yeah. And then we found people who were actually good at it, haha. How did you, Dave, start working at the DIY venue in Brooklyn, Big Snow? Were you doing that in school or after you graduated? Dave: I got college credit for that. I would just go there once a week to work the door and kind of goof off and just hang out. But I met a lot of people through that. Was that your introduction to what was happening in New York, or were both of you guys aware of what was going on at the time? Dave: We kind of didn’t really ever play in New York. Some friends from Purchase started Big Snow, so I started helping out there becasue I knew them and looked up to them. Then we started playing there a lot. That was like the first spot we started playing. Jordan Michael probably booked out first good New York show there. What was the transition like leaving Purchase and moving to New York City? Did you move there immediately after you finished school? Mike: We both did like six months at home where we both worked a lot. Dave: And them we both moved in together. Mike: We got our first apartment, I think, right in the beginning of 2014. Dave is still in that apartment. I live at DBTS (David Blaine’s The Steakhouse) now. We’ve had many different headquarters for DDW. Four different places now. Dave: Just over the past year alone. Mike: The most current one was at Silent Barn, but now we’re not at Silent Barn anymore. We’ve moved on, haha. 2014 was a really big year for you guys. That was certainly around when I started to discover what you were doing. What were the releases that you put out that year, and what happened as a result of those releases? Mike: Well the main one was the first big one we ever did which was Frankie Cosmos’ Zentropy.
It kind of felt like everyone involved was really thrown in. The band Frankie Cosmos felt like they were thrown in. We as a label felt like we were thrown in. Dave: No one expected it really. I mean, we had faith in the band and stuff. Mike: Yeah we did it becasue we had faith in the band and we knew it was going to be really awesome. But then it was too much for us to handle. But we kept our heads above water some how, with help from other people. That was like a huge learning experience. The next one we did was Liam Betson’s The Cover of Hunter, and we did a little bit better on that one. Every time we do a little bit better, haha. Dave: We did really good on the latest one with Florist (The Birds Outside Sang). Mike: Oh yeah, Florist went off without a hitch! We nailed that one! Dave: We didn’t really fuck up anything. Even though there were some problems. There’s always problems. Mike: Yeah we’re still learning. 2014 was a huge learning year for us. So was the beginning of 2015. By the end of 2015 we had been feeling a lot more comfortable, and we’ve got a bunch more releases under our belts now. Dave: Yeah we took it slower in 2015. Mike: Oh wait! Then we did Mitski (Bury Me At Makeout Creek) and LVL UP (Hoodwink’d) in 2014 as well. I forgot about that. Dave: And we did a bunch of tapes too. Mike: Yeah 2014 we were just like “Let’s go!” But it was really hard and stressful and discouraging at points. Dave: It’s nice doing less. Mike: Yeah we decided now to do less, but focus more. Dave: It sucks to say no to good stuff, but it’s better for the people involved if we can just really do it well for them. Mike: It felt like we started off 2015 with our biggest focus on the first LP of the year, Eskimeaux’s O.K. But with that LP we focused a lot of time and energy on it. That was like the first one I felt we did a really good job on.
Dave: I feel like after that we were just thrown in!
How did you figure out the financing and production side of starting a label?
Mike: It snowballed and we nearly fell on our faces when that release came out becasue we weren’t ready for that.
Dave: Well we poured a bunch of money in when Zentropy happened.
Mike: A lot more personal money. We both started using our personal credit cards… like a lot… And eventually paid them off. Once we had paid them off, we would do it again for the next thing. It was very bad for our credit. Terrible credit scores. I got denied an apartment because my credit score was so bad, haha. Dave: We can’t get a credit card for the business now. Mike: Yeah once the label became a real LLC they denied us a credit card becasue we fucked our credit so bad. But it doesn’t really matter. It was worth it. The label is kind of more self sustaining now, so we don’t have
to touch our personal credit cards. Now my credit is just fucked, cause I always use my credit card, haha. That seems kind of crazy that, even as you were in your own band and living in New York, you were investing your own money, and fucking up your credit, to put out something you believed in. Dave: Well I don’t think we knew we were going to fuck up out credit, haha. Mike: Yeah haha. We found that out later, and it was too late to go back.
“We started off 2015 with our biggest focus on the first LP of the year, Eskimeaux’s O.K. But with that LP we focused a lot of time and energy on it. That was like the first one I felt we did a really good job on.”
Dave: And we don’t want to do it anymore, I don’t think.
Dave: Where were we?
Mike: Yeah I don’t want to use my credit card anymore. I mean sometimes when we’re in a bind we do. But at this point we know that if one of us puts something on our credit card, the next month we’ll be able to pay it off. It’s not that much of a gamble as it was.
You also started working with a few different labels on split 7”s. How did you start working with Bird Tapes and Exploding In Sound?
Mike: Well we were back home for a lot of it. The way LVL UP works is; most of the songs are structured and written individually. So with my songs, or Dave’s songs, or Nick’s songs, we kind of have an idea of what we want and how the songs go. Then a lot of it gets figured out when we play together at practice or when we’re recording too. Pretty much all of the songs were written and ready to go before we even all knew the songs. I don’t even know how to play all of the songs on that record. None of us know how to play all of the songs on that record. We just never learned them all. But all of us are on every song on the recordings.
Mike: Just from meeting them.
Dave: We just kind of like learned them, then forgot them.
Dave: Through shows in New York.
Mike: Yeah. We learned them, tracked them, crafted them by making interesting noises we can’t replicate live. So we just don’t play those songs. That’s how this record — well no actually, we know all of the songs on this record. We learned all of them. This is the first time we’ve gone into recording an album where we spent a few days together learning every song, making sure that we knew what we wanted. It made recording go so much smoother.
Dave: Yeah I think it mostly comes out of “We did it becasue we’re stupid” haha.
Mike: Yeah exactly. We played a lot of shows with Exploding In Sound bands, and High Pop. Was High Pop our in with Bird Tapes? I don’t know. High Pop are our friends who we went to school with. Dave: They started doing stuff with Bird Tapes. Mike: It was just kind of like, the community is still pretty small. We just knew Dan (Goldin) from Exploding In Sound and Tyler (Gardosh) through that. There was some cross over musically with some bands and stuff, so we started doing releases together. LVL UP always wanted to be on Exploding In Sound. When we were in college we really wanted to be on Exploding In Sound. Dave: Yeah we thought it was really sick. And we still do! What was the process like for making Hoodwink’d? Mike: A lot of recording. It took us three shots to record it. We went up to a studio in Upstate New York for a few days and recorded some stuff. We were recording with our friend Hunter (Davidsohn) who did the Porches and Frankie Cosmos records. It sounded really great, but we decided ultimately that; A) we couldn’t really do it financially and B) it wasn’t exactly the vibe we wanted. So we did it ourselves. We tracked drums ourselves for the whole album. It sounded really bad I think. I can’t remember why. But we were just like “Alright, we’ve got to start for a third time.” So we tracked drums with our friend Ronnie Stone. Then we tracked everything else ourselves at DBTS (David Blaine’s The Steakhouse) and Mike Ditrio, who’s currently recording the new LVL UP LP, mixed it for us. It took a long time. At least a year of recording a re-doing stuff. Was it hard to work on writing the record when you were all living in different places?
After being thrown into a lot of things you weren’t ready for as a label and then getting a lot of attention for what you were putting out, what decisions did you make to try to make everything more sustainable as you grew as a label? Dave: I don’t think we’re really constantly bringing up bands we want to work with like “I want to work with this band! I want to work with this band!” anymore. We only really talk about a few here and there. Then most don’t make it past just mentioning the name or something. Maybe Mike will mention someone one week and I won’t be that into it or something. Then three or four weeks later, I’ll mention someone to Mike and he might not be that into it. But then some we talk about more. Mike: Something thats really important to both of us is bands that play a lot. People that we trust is a really big thing for us. I don’t know if we’ve ever worked with a band that we actually don’t know at this point. That might change sometime soon, but that’s a really scary thing. We want to trust people that we’re investing in, especially since we’re not comfortable financially yet. It’s still a strain when we put out an LP. When we decide on a band it usually makes sense. We both know that a band is playing a lot and we feel like they’re going to work hard. Dave: I also feel like we’re not like other record labels, where we’re not always on the prowl to get “the next band.” Becasue we have so much else going on it would be fucking psychotic for us to want more.
“I also feel like we’re not like other record labels, where we’re not always on the prowl to get “the next band.” Becasue we have so much else going on it would be fucking psychotic for us to want more.” Mike: It’s usually something that we both have some sort of connection with. Maybe it’s like an emotional connection with it. It has to be striking to us in some capacity. Not just what’s going to pop off on Pitchfork, you know?
Mike: We’re friends with everyone we work with. I think we try to be very transparent about everything that we do so that nobody ever feels freaked out.
Is it important to you to maintain a good friendship with the bands you’re working with?
Dave: We want them to know that they can tell us if they’re freaked out before it becomes a problem or something.
Mike: We try.
Mike: We try to talk to everybody. We have a lot of meetings with our bands. We go out and get margaritas and stuff. It’s great fun, haha. It’s like more of a hang out than like a business meeting most of the time. Love it.
Dave: It’s definitely a plus. We have closer relationships with some people. It’s nice, but also it’s not completely necessary. Mike: It’s also hard to start working with your friends in a business sense. It’s just scary. Deciding where you’re going to put your money for their project. Maybe they want us to do something that we don’t really want to do, or viceversa. Dave: Sometimes it’s nicer when it’s more of a working relationship. And I feel like most sort of are.
Dave: Yeah it’s a good thing. Cause we don’t get paid so… we gotta get something good. Mike: Sometimes we’ll treat ourselves to a couple Margaritas, with the bands. Do you guys have a favorite margarita place for business meetings?
Mike: We go to La Lupe. Dave: Yeah we go to La Lupe. That’s probably the most frequented spot. Mike: Skytown is nice. They’ve got some good beer. Got a good veggie burger there. You two also have your respective solo projects, Trace Mountains and The Glow. What do those bands service in your life? Dave: They’re just side things to satisfy a little itch. Mike: It’s suppose to be a stress free, fun thing where we do whatever we feel like. I don’t think either of us really focus that much on them. They’re just fun things to do on the side. This month has been all LVL UP in the studio. This is our main focus really. So those other things are just for when we’re bored or if we have extra songs. Dave: Yeah, I haven’t done that stuff in a while. You’ve done more recently though. It’s really beautiful that you guys have invested so
much of your time, money, and energy into putting out music that you really care about by other bands, even though you’re still working to sustain yourselves as a band living in New York. Has it ever been hard to help other people legitimize what they’re doing, while you’re still trying to do the same for yourselves? Dave: It’s not that stressful. Sometimes it is. I think it pays off. It helps us a lot as we learn a lot from it. It makes you feel good when the work pays off. You definitely get a lot in return. Mike: I think we both go about working on LVL UP, from the label stand point, differently than we would work on Eskimeaux or something. Would you agree with that? I feel like we work on it in a different capacity. Dave: Yeah. We kind of give ourselves perks. Mike: I was feeling like the opposite. I was feeling like we sometimes slack off. Dave: We do slack off, but sometimes we do give ourselves a little bit of a break. Like on financial things, cause it is our money that we’re putting into our label. But we
“Sometimes we’ll treat ourselves to a couple Margaritas, with the bands.”
definitely shark it too. Mike: Yeah. Like an example of that would be; it’s a very confusing thing pressing LVL UP records ourselves since it’s our band with our money which we invested in this other business. The way that we’ll treat taking our records on tour is different then the way we’ll treat other bands taking their records on tour. Doing merch is kind of handled a little differently. It’s a confusing thing. We’ve always been a little confused about how to handle it, but it kind of always works out for us in the end. Then the slacking off aspect that I was saying is like; we let Hoodwink’d go out of press. We were just like “We’d rather spend money on the Florist record than repress Hoodwink’d right now.” Dave: But it kind of sucks for the band to not have our record on tour. Mike: Yeah it does. It sucks but we have to prioritize things. What’s going to be best for the band and what’s going to be best for the label. Sometimes it’s unfair to the band. Dave: But there are pluses too. What advice (or discouragement) would you give to someone who wanted to start a label now? Dave: I think it’s good for bands to start labels. Mike: To learn how to do everything themselves, or something? Dave: Yeah. Or even release their own record — I mean if it’s possible, I know it costs a lot of money. But if it’s possible it’s a good learning experience. I don’t know if anyone should start a record label. That’s debatable, haha. Mike: I think that — going back on what you said on how it’s a good learning experience — it’s definitely a very nice thing when bands that we’re working with know what’s going on or how everything works. It could be frustrating to have to explain that. Dave: It’s always better to know whats going on. Mike: Yeah it’s nice for people to know whats going on or where we’re putting the money or just how everything is going to roll out. It’s useful in that sense. What releases does Double Double Whammy have coming up this year? Mike: We have all of 2016 planned out already. We’ve had it planned since January. I think we’re doing like 10 LPs or something like that. Dave: It’s not going to be that bad.
Mike: Yeah, it’s not going to be too bad. We’re good. One is done, one we have, and two are in production now. That’s already almost half of the year and it’s only February. We’re staying pretty much on top of everything right now. The things that I think would be okay to announce are; Free Cake For Every Creature (Talking Quietly Of Anything With You) which has already been announced, the Eskimeaux EP (Year Of The Rabbit) which just got announced, the new Told Slant LP (Going By)… What else… We’re doing a Yowler (The Offering) reissue. Dave: It’s going to be a vinyl reissue, with a few extra tracks. Mike: We’re doing a LVL UP Space Brother’s reissue which is going to have the demos and B-sides also on vinyl. We’re doing a Hoodwink’d repress. Dave: I think that’s maybe it for now. Mike: Yeah we probably can’t announce anything else yet. Are there any projects you would like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? Dave: There’s definitely stuff that we like where, if in a perfect world we could do it, it would be cool. But I think that we’re doing pretty much everything that we want to do. Mike: Yeah I feel really good about everything we’ve got planned right now. Yeah I don’t know… We’ve passed up on a few cool things. But also, it probably doesn’t really matter. Dave: Those things will do well on their own. They won’t need us. What do you hope to accomplish as a label over all? Dave: I feel like there’s not much of an end goal in mind. Mike: The way that the label has grown has felt pretty organic — except for the one spike when we did the Zentropy LP. But if we just continue our growth in this organic way I would feel really good. We’ve always talked about how it would be really chill to someday have this be our job… cause it’s not our job. We both work a lot, and we’re constantly trying to figure out ways to sustain ourselves finically as individuals. The label is still just a hobby — well not a hobby. It’s like a job but it’s like… an unpaid internship, haha. Dave: Haha, yeah. Mike: We get free records for our work. It’s pretty chill.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Shriya Samavai brings a warmth and genuine curiosity to photography that makes her work very unique among many of
the photographers producing the amount of work she’s producing at her age. Her intentions with photography are aligned with the very fundamental characteristics of the medium; capturing something as it exists. But what makes Shriya’s photographs significant, is the amount of love she has for what she’s shooting, and her desire to contain what makes something meaningful to her in a single frame. Shriya’s upbringing in rural Indiana, though alienating, has created a level of appreciation for everything in her life now, from the most stimulating moments, to the most quiet ones. From her work for Rookie to her work for Vice, Shriya is simply concerned with capturing things as she sees them and making sure everyone has an opportunity to see themselves in the work as well. Shriya’s enthusiasm will allow her work to retain a youthful spirit that will far surpass her contemporaries, and her instincts will lead her to make precisely the things she should be making.
Where are you from and where do you live currently?
When did your initial interest in photography start?
I’m from West Lafayette, Indiana which is like… the worlds smallest town. That’s not true, haha. It’s a small town in Indiana. Now I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
IMy dad was always taking pictures and recording everything on a video camera when my brother and I were young. So I think I just grew up with this idea that “You document things, and this is a thing you do for yourself, posterity, and becasue it’s a nice thing to do.” My dad has so many funny self portraits from when he was in college, where he’s wearing bell-bottoms and posing on a car. I just grew up seeing all of those and I found a connection to documenting things.
Did you go to school for art, or did you have any specific training in art? I didn’t go to school for art. My high school was a really rigorous academic school. We had an art program but it was really small, so I did a lot STEM fields in high school. But I was always doing photo and art projects on the side. Then I came to Columbia University for engineering, and I didn’t like it, so I switched to Art History becasue they don’t have a specific fine arts program. You can study visual arts but I don’t think a lot of — if you’re in New York, you should just go to an art school. Transferring out of the school wasn’t really an option for me, so I just did art history and business. So I have training in Art History, but I don’t have technical photo or art training. What was your experience like at Columbia? I really really liked Columbia! Once I got into the right program, I totally loved it. I think it’s a really romantic school becasue it’s history is amazing. It was founded in 1754, so it’s Pre-Revolutionary War. I think that’s so cool. A lot of my favorite poets and artists went to Columbia. Ben Stein went to Columbia. Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr — the whole Beat thing started at Columbia in the 40s and 50s. I really liked that history. Also it’s really nice to go to school in the city, but have a campus that’s still a closed campus. All of the architecture makes you feel like you’re not necessarily in New York City, but then once you leave campus and you go downtown, you know you’re in New York City. I liked that balance a lot.
The first time I can recall really taking photos was in 5th grade, when I went to this thing called 5th Grade Camp. It was this thing where, for a weekend you go out into the woods with your class and stay in little wooden cabins and go off into the woods and stuff. My parents gave me two disposable cameras for that, and I was just taking pictures of trees and my friends and It was really fun. Then, probably starting in like 7th grade, I asked for a digital point-and-shoot, and I would just take pictures of my back yard or my friends. Then in high school I got my first DSLR, and then it just kind of got really serious from there. How do you think growing up where you grew up in Indiana affected you and your work? How do you think living in New York has affected you and your work? In retrospect I’m very fond of where I grew up becasue it was very boring. It really forced me to be creative and find ways to entertain myself. I couldn’t go to a museum, I couldn’t go to a concert — for fun we went to the corn fields or Walmart. You know, that sounds really hokey when I say it now, but those were the things that we found pleasure in. At the time I knew that it was boring, but I also knew that I had to make what I could with whatever I had around me. Also, now that I live in a metropolitan, I’m
“In retrospect I’m very fond of where I grew up becasue it was very boring. It really forced me to be creative and find ways to entertain myself. I couldn’t go to a museum, I couldn’t go to a concert — for fun we went to the corn fields or Walmart.” never bored and I’m always satisfied. I don’t take any of that for granted. Even just the smallest thing or adventure is so exciting to me and I like that, becasue I don’t want the novelty of New york City to ever wear off for me — or the novelty of anywhere in the world. I think that the relative difference of living in a very small town where there was kind of only one school of thought, to moving to a place like this, it’s like an entirely different world. What made you want to go to school in New York? My parents lived in New York in the 80s, so when I was growing up we would come here for vacation. I remember spending maybe three christmases in the city starting from age twelve. I was always very taken by New York and the architecture, and all of the art, the music, the fashion — it had everything that I wanted. Then, when I was applying to school — I grew up in a university town, so there was a chance I was going to go to that university — but then I got into Columbia and I was like “Game changer! I have to go!” I think, as much as I now love where I grew up, there was just something inside me where I was like “I have to move to a city where there are other people like me, where I can be making art.” I didn’t have a creative community. I had friends, but I didn’t really have enough that I could really relate to on a fundamental level besides just going to high school and getting a slurpee during
lunch. You know what I’m saying? I just felt like I needed so much more than that. The other thing was that, I pretty much grew up on Flickr for photo stuff, and so I had like 30 friends who were all graduating high school the same year as me, and were moving to New York. It was just so perfect. They were all going to art school and I wasn’t, but I was still being apart of that photo community. The week that I moved here I met like 15 people! It was like you immediately have this community of IRL friends who you’ve known since you were 15 on the internet, so you’ve maybe known them for three or four years, but you haven’t met them yet, haha. That was another big factor for me. I just knew that I had people that I could relate to. I can totally relate to everything you’re talking about! I feel like moving to New York at that age is kind of where your life through the internet and your life in person could sort of overlap. What do you think was causing you to have real relationships with people on the internet, and how did that evolve into meeting them and becoming friends in real life? Who were some of those people? Who were some of those people!?! Olivia Bee is actually somebody I followed on Flickr for a really long time. Then
after I moved to New York I messaged her on Tumblr for some reason… Oh! It was becasue I was working at Vice magazine one summer, and her photos were in the photo issue. I messaged her being like “Hey I saw your photos in the photo issue! Looked dope!” and she was like “Hey! I’m coming to New York next month! Can I stay with you?” and I was like “Yes!! Duh!” Then we became friends after that. There was this boy, Kenta Murakami, who I knew from Flickr for a long time. He doesn’t live in New York, but I met him here when he came to visit one time. He’s from Seattle. Eleanor Hardwick, who’s from England. Well, I guess I actually met her in England. Jessie Roth, who I think went to NYU. Sandy Honig, who went to NYU. Metin Fejula, whi I think also went to NYU. There are so many other people! Jackie Grossbard — although I think she goes by Jacqueline Harriet now. I know her pre that name, haha. Also this girl, who I became really good friends with at Columbia, and I found out that we had been Flickr friends for a really long time, but we had just kind of forgotten. This other girl, Esther Jung, I had known from Flickr. There’s this amazing photo duo called Wiissa and it’s a girl and a boy, Vanessa and Wilson, and I knew them
from Flickr, but then Venessa went to Barnard and Wilson went to SVA, I think. I thought they were like 30 years old or something on the internet, and then they came to school and they were both my age like my age and I was like “Oh my god! This is crazy!” They remembered me too because I stared this group on Flickr called Blood Brothers and it was photos of people who were friends of each other together. Wilson was like “I remember Blood Brothers! We added all of our photos to that group!” So there were just so many little connections. Oh! A big one was Mike Bailey-Gates who was somebody I had known from Flickr. He was one of the first people I met when I moved to New York. Him, Jordan Tiberio, Lauren Poor, Tara Violet and I all met — I don’t think school had even started yet. I was just here for orientation, and we had all tumblr messaged each other and set up a hang. There were so many people, it’s crazy! How did you first start making work for Rookie Mag? I started doing stuff for Rookie through Allyssa Yohana, also known as Your Pal Al. We actually met in a really
“I pretty much grew up on Flickr for photo stuff, and so I had like 30 friends who were all graduating high school the same year as me, and were moving to New York. It was just so perfect.”
funny way, and I’d love to tell you this story, just so that you know it. So, I’m a huge Patti Smith fan and so is Allyssa and so is Allyssa’s friend from high school, Jake (Sigl). I went to a Patti Smith reading at the Barns & Nobel book store in Union Square. I think this was during summer 2012, so I had been here for just under a year. I knew Jake from the internet. We weren’t friends, but I had seen his photo stuff, and I think I had followed him on tumblr or something. Then I saw Jake and he was with Allyssa, who I didn’t know at the time, at this reading, and I really wanted to go say “Hi” but I was nervous and didn’t do it. Then the next day I messaged Jake on tumblr and was like “Hey, I think I saw you at the Barns & Nobel Patti Smith thing. Do you want to hang out sometime?” He was like “Oh yeah, awesome! I actually think I saw you too. Would love to hang out.” So then he, Allyssa, and I all
met up. I can’t remember what we did or where it was or anything, but Allyssa and I just really clicked — I think it was over a mutual love of Justin Bieber — and then we just started hanging out a lot. The first time that Allyssa and I hung out solo, she photographed me for a Rookie shoot with Lauren Poor. Then from then on we would just hang out, we would make photos and stuff together, and she kept including me in her photo sets for Rookie. First I was modeling, and then I was shooting with her. After maybe one and a half or two years of that, Tavi emailed me and was like “Hey we really like what you’re doing with Allyssa. Do you want to start making stuff for us regularly?” Then I became a regular contributor. So I owe it all to Al!
“I started doing stuff for Rookie through Allyssa Yohana, also known as Your Pal Al.”
“I did a photo shoot inspired by Submarine, and I photographed my friend Fatema (Maswood). She lived in the beautiful apartment on, I think, 106th and West End, and I photographed her spending a day inside all by herself.”
That’s been an amazing community to be a part of, and I’m very thankful to be somebody who was there kind of in the beginning. What were some of the earliest things you did for Rookie, and what have you done over the past few years?
The first shoot I ever did for Rookie is one of my favorites actually. Do you know the movie Submarine? Classic movie! I saw that some time in high school, and I feel like it resonates with anyone when they’re a teenager. Also I’ve been an Arctic Monkeys fan since I was like twelve years old, so to have a full soundtrack by Alex Turner was almost too much for my weak little heart. Even when I watch that movie now, even though I’m not 15 anymore, it’s so moving. I want to move to Wales or whatever and set fireworks off, haha! So I did a photo shoot inspired by that movie, and I photographed my friend Fatema (Maswood). She lived in the beautiful apartment on, I think, 106th and West End, and I photographed her spending a day inside all by herself. It was called All Right Hiding, which is the name of one of the songs from the movie. A majority of the stuff I’ve done for Rookie is all photos, so
I’ve done a lot of photo editorials with a bent on fashion. I’ve done a lot of photo diaries, which is fun becasue it’s just stuff that I’m seeing in the city or wherever I’m going. I’ve done a handful of illustrations for them too. It’s like a fun little experiment becasue I always thought I was really bad at drawing, and then I was like “You know what? I’m going to try this.” and I liked the stuff and they published it. That was really validating, and it made me feel good about my capabilities. Then for a while, before we launched the new website, I was picking the background images for the website. So everyday there would be a new photo, and I did that for maybe six months or something. That was really fun. I liked doing that a lot. Oh! And I do a lot of playlists for them, which I also love doing. I feel like a lot of your work has a very genuine quality to it becasue it’s not so much informed by other photographers work. It’s really special because so much of it is just about capturing something your excited about. Since you didn’t go to study photography, what was visually informing the way that you took photos? I didn’t really know who any photographers were when I started shooting. I knew like Ansel Adams, you know? I think a lot of my work was informed by what was around
me and not work that had been made prior. Even in high school, I didn’t know anything about art history. Art history is such a thing that informs me now, but I didn’t know that it was something you could study. I had no idea that it was a field that existed. I was really informed by other work I was seeing on Flickr. The majority of my work when I first started was 90% self portraiture. There’s just so many photos of me playing these different characters in my back yard, in the basement, and in my bedroom. I look back on them now, and for some of them I really cringe cause some of them are kind of embarrassing, but I’m glad that that was something I made. Everybody goes through that. Movies informed my photos the most out of everything. I remember taking a lot of photos inspired by The Virgin Suicides — which in retrospect is sooo funny to me. But that’s such a teenage movie, and specifically a “teenage girl living in suburbia” movie. I think that movie is set in Michigan, and I was one state south of that. I remember taking a lot of photos with that Sofia Coppola aesthetic in mind. Then, I would say maybe in high school, I started looking at more fashion photography and that started informing it a lot more. I got really into menswear and male models specifically. I really loved Tim Walker and Richard Avedon. Now I would say my work is a lot more informed by William Eggleston, who is one of my all time favorites — a pioneer in color photography. I also worship Allen Ginsberg, and a lot of people don’t know him for his photos becasue he was a beat poet, but his photography was amazing! He was one of those people who just photographed things incessantly. I think that that is really inspiring to me. I also love Garry Winogrand, who was a street photographer from the 1950s maybe. He did all black and white New York City documentary (photography), and he shot in L.A. He shot 35,000 rolls of film or something in his life. I love that intense dedication to photo. That’s something I try to do. I don’t know if I’ll shoot 35,000 rolls in my life, but I like that non-stop thinking about your work and just looking at what’s around you. Over the past five or so years that Rookie has been around, a lot of the artists who worked for them have developed a way of making art that has clearly had a noticeable impact on the way people take photos, illustrate, collage, etc… on the internet. Whether it’s because of similar influences (like The Virgin Suicides) or experiences, there’s definitely a zeitgeist that you have all cultivated, or at least contributed to. Since the work and styles that you guys have created are starting to appear in other young artists work, does that make you want to move away from that now? I feel like that question kind of relates to personal style and what your style is when you’re making art. When you’re young and still developing it, you can’t help but be motivated by and inspired by movies like The Virgin Suicides or Submarine or David Bowie music videos and
stuff like that. The internet is so vast, yet at the same time we all clung to very specific things. So we were all in different parts of the country doing that; gravitating towards certain movies. I was actually looking at a bunch of the editorials I made for Rookie last year, a few days ago, and part of me was like “All of these look the same and I want to do something very different.” So I think everybody takes the same ideas and sort of creates their own thing with it, so theirs this thread that connects all of them. Then after a while, everybody grows out of it. If you look at the work that Eleanor Hardwick, or Olivia Bee, or Allyssa, or Petra Collins were making for Rookie in 2012, and then you look at what they’re doing now, there are similarities, but everyone is growing up and moving past holding on to things that they clutched when they were younger. I’ll still watch The Virgin Suicides, I still love that movie, but I’m not going to do any photo shoots inspired by it anymore. That’s something that, once you hit a certain age you’re like “Okay, I’m going to move on.” In what ways do you feel your work has changed and grown since you started taking photos? After moving to New York, I think I was making a lot of work about “living in New York City” and “going to shows” and “going to bars with a fake ID and running around, staying up late” all of that. Then — I don’t know when it happened — I took a shift that was actually a lot closer to the stuff I was making before I moved here. It was a lot more about quietness. I’ve always gravitated towards photos that don’t have people in them. I hesitate to call it landscape photography becasue it’s not like a mountain or a sunset or whatever, but a majority of the photos that I like that really mean something to me are photos that are devoid of really any human presence. Portraiture is really important to me, and it’s something that I take seriously. But I think that the core of my work is photos that are just of nature, buildings, or like a dog or a cat or something. I love photographing my friends’ pets. I think that that quietness really connects to the surroundings that I had when I was growing up with quiet streets and no cars. You could ride your bike in the middle of the street, you could walk barefoot, you didn’t have to lock your house, you know? We would like, go out into the corn fields at 1 am to look at stars and you wouldn’t have to worry about anybody kidnapping you or anything. Even at 2 am now in the city Im like “Uhhhh. Stay Alert!” That just wasn’t something I had to do growing up, and I think now that I’ve been out of the mid-west for almost five years — which is crazy to think — I’m really feeling a closeness to it and I want to go back to where I’m from and make work about where I’m from. I think a lot of my work now has to do with finding places in the city that don’t look like the city and finding places that look like the mid-west but that are in Manhattan or Queens or Brooklyn. I want to start doing that a little bit more and do series that are taken in and around the city. I went to New Jersey last fall to photograph this girl there and I felt so connected to this random suburb that
one of my friends was living in where I had taken the bus to before. I want to make more work that’s about that; connection back to where I’m from. Since Rookie is a website that is primarily online with contributors that are all in different locations, how have you still been able to create that sense of community and befriend other people working for them? How do you try to still make work that’s personal when that community is so spread out? Okay, I want to address all of these points, haha. The one about making things personal with in the community — One really good thing about Rookie is that the editors are really lax about what you actually make. They just give you so much scope and you get a lot of responsibility which is nice. They’ll give us the theme, then we pitch, and then they accept whatever pitches they like. Then you can really run with it. That’s been really nice becasue I’ve never felt confined by anything or I’ve never felt like “Oh I hope they like this.” or “Is this good enough for them?” That’s been great becasue then it allows the contributors to experiment. Try something different, and take a risk! If it doesn’t end up being the most beautiful perfect thing, then whatever — whether thats a technical position or anything. Especially with what I was saying with my illustrations. I pitched a comic sometime last year, and they liked it, and I made it, and I was like “This isn’t really that great. But i’m making it really earnestly, and I think that that’s what people will really connect to. Then people really liked it. It made me feel great, it made other people feel great, and at the end of the day that’s the point of a community like Rookie; to be able to spread positivity and spread creativity to help other people. So that has been one thing that has been amazing about being part of that community. I’ve also made so many friends. I use to follow Tavi’s blog when I was in high school I guess. Maybe when I was 15 I discovered her. I found her on Flickr and then I followed her blog. The year that I moved to New York she launched Rookie, so it was crazy to all of a sudden be apart of that community and interact with her. She is an amazing person. I feel very lucky that I get to call her a friend now. I also just met so many other amazing people. I think having a community of female identifying and nonbinary people is so nice. There are so many people of color which is really nice. It’s just a very diverse group of people. Every time we would have a Yearbook launch, or any other get together, it was just so warm and whole. You embrace these people who you don’t technically know, but becasue you know their work you know a part of them, so you can have these conversations about work that they’ve made and work that you’ve made. I feel like that community just fosters really amazing deep friendships. I also think one of the reasons why Allyssa and I became so close is because Rookie allowed us to make work together and learn about each other in that way.
I think making friendships through art is really important and my best friend since I met her when I was two years old — we always made art for each other growing up. We would write each other notes and put them in each other’s lockers, and that turned into me photographing her all the time. She’s an amazing illustrator and painter and she would start making drawings for me and paintings. Even today she lives in a different part of the country than I do but we’re constantly swapping art back and forth. I just feel like thats such a nice way to be able to love someone; through making art. What ways has Rookie changed, developed, or grown since you first started contributing? When I first started the group of people that were making art was a little smaller than it is today — a lot smaller. Now there are so many contributors. I think it’s really nice that people who were readers maybe two years ago are now making their own work for the site. I think that’s a really special thing. The other thing that I think is so cool is that, so many of the people who started reading Rookie at the beginning went on to start their own publications, which is awesome. There was like a spike of young people making online zines or printed zines. I guess, maybe in the beginning the aesthetic was very curated and now it’s a lot more open, and there are so many different styles of art happening. Now I see gifs and stuff on the website which is really cool! I think the growth has been organic. It’s gone where we all expected it to go. I hope that there will be more printed publications after Yearbook — whether that’s like a 300 page stack of whatever, or a little tiny book or zine. I think people love being able to hold stuff and have those printed exclusives that you don’t get online. When did you start doing work for Vice, i-D, and Noisey? I started interning for Noisey the summer after my freshman year of college. It happened in a very goofy way. I was studying engineering and I hadn’t written a paper or really anything for a long time becasue I wasn’t taking any liberal arts classes really. On campus we had a “media night” thing where people who worked in media companies came on campus, and I met who would later become my boss at Noisey. I saw him wearing a name tag that said Vice, and Noisey had launched one month before I met him so I didn’t really know what it was yet. So I was like “Hey, you work at Vice! Can I talk to you?” We spoke — and I don’t really even remember what we spoke about — but he told me about Noisey and he told me he was an editor there. I was like “Cool! are you guys hiring?” and he was like “Yeah. Do you have a resume?” and I was like “Yeah!” so I gave him my resume and he took it. As he was walking out he saw my school advisor, and she went up to him and was like “Hey I saw you were talking to that girl. You should hire her.” haha. So I emailed him
“That was one thing that I talked to my dad about a lot in the beginning when I moved here. I would be like ‘Are things happening to me becasue I’m a brown person and they need the token brown person for diversity?’ I feel like that’s just something that you carry with you when you’re a minority.” a week later and was like “Hey, what’s the dealio for this summer?” and he was like “Yeah, do you want to work for me?” I didn’t know what Noisey was, I had never done music journalism before — I grew up playing Classical music and I loved going to concerts and stuff when I was in high school and I was doing that in the city, so it wasn’t totally out of the blue — but I had never written about music. I just kind of got that job with no interview or anything, and I worked there all summer. It was probably the best internship experience I’ve ever had. It was also like the second internship I ever had so it was crazy for it to be so good. There was no grunt work, which was nice. I never had to go get coffee. The only er-
rand I ran was that I had to drop off somebodies passport at the U.N. Thats a crazy thing to let a 19 year old do! But I interviewed a lot of great bands. I got to interview Cody Critcheloe from Ssion, that was really cool. I got to interview this New York band called Skaters, who I love deeply, and I got to photograph them at their show. I got to do little music reviews and write ups and stuff. I had so much responsibility and freedom. I made playlists for them. Then after the internship ended I just continued to work for them. Once I had made a bunch of work for them, I had a portfolio to send to other places, so I started interviewing for i-D Magazine, which is also a part of Vice now. I wrote for Wondering Sound when it was around. I did some stuff for The Wild Magazine. I would kind of
just send my work out and be like “Hey can I interview this person for you?” It was also nice to have writing and photo, because then the publication doesn’t have to send out another person. You can be your own right hand man. So that’s been cool to be involved in both sides. When I was younger I loved to write, and I never did it through school, but I would write poems and really goofy stuff. I wrote a lot of prose and made a lot of collages that had text and image, so to be able to continue to do that in a different way with text as the interview the image being photographing the person. I just love mediums like that. What did you initially like about Vice when you started out as a reader, and what was it like to start working for them? When I was in high school I never read Vice News or anything, I would just look at their photos. They had this network of bloggers who I did photography who I would follow. I was never really reading anything that they were publishing, which is probably for the better when I was that young. Then when I came to New York and met Ben (Shapiro), my editor, on campus and he was wearing the Vice name tag, I recognized Vice but I didn’t know the extent of how big it was. It’s like a media conglomerate, you know what I’m saying? They do everything. They have a record label, they do fashion, music, sports… They have so many little child channels now. They have an EDM channel?! Then they have Broadly, and they have Munchies — it’s huge! When I was there in 2012 they were still in their older offices, but in the past few years they have expanded greatly. They’ve taken over Williamsburg, we all know it, haha. I thought everybody there was really cool. I thought at first that I wasn’t cool enough, and then I was like “You know what… You’re definitely cool enough, it’s fine.” So much of that is just a look, and at the end of the day, if you’re making good work, that’s what’s important. I think that everybody who I was working with at the time was a super hard worker and really motivating. I had two bosses, Ben and Sasha (Hecht), and Sasha was a year older than me and she dropped out of college and then got hired by Noisey and became an editor there. I thought that was so motivating to see someone who was maybe 20 or 21 years old, and was the youngest person being employed by them. I loved that. I love my editor at Vice now as well. Her name is Kim Taylor Bennett. She use to work, I think, for BBC Radio One or something, and now she does stuff for Noisey and at Vice. The other cool thing about Vice is that, everybody I met there was also doing other stuff in other departments. I really liked that you didn’t have to be pigeonholed. At the time, since I was studying industrial engineering, I was only doing that the whole time and I was really afraid that when I graduated it would be like the only thing I could do. To see somebody who was an editor in the music department, that was also going out on shoots and producing other content at the same publication, was really cool. It just gave me hope
that you could do multiple things at any given time. I know a lot of people shit on them, but I had a really good experience with them, so I want people to know. It seems like we’re at a really transitional point with a lot of publications and media companies, where a lot of places are trying to expand or re-adjust what they’re putting out. Being a person of color and wanting to be involved, I know there’s a lot of different feelings that go into becoming apart of it. On one hand you can feel really excited to be apart of it. But on the other hand you can sometime question whether places are just interested in bringing you on on the basis of your ethnicity to just “diversify” their staff and content. Right! Dude! That was one thing that I talked to my dad about a lot in the beginning when I moved here. I would be like “Are things happening to me becasue I’m a brown person and they need the token brown person for diversity?” I feel like that’s just something that you carry with you when you’re a minority. You hope that it’s not true! Even when I got into Columbia, I thought a lot of it was becasue I was a person of color! I was like “Is that why I’m here?” I feel like that’s just something that kind of weighs on you in the back of your head with everything. I feel like I’ve kind of gotten over it now because I have a lot of friends who are non-white. But that’s still like a topic of discussion. I feel like everywhere that I’ve worked so far, the core ethos has sort of been the same. When I started at Noisey I wasn’t really motivated by my brown-ness the way that I am today. One really cool thing about Rookie is that when I started photographing for them my editor Lena was like “Hey, we really want you to find a model who’s a person of color for this shoot.” then from there on out, pretty much every for every editorial I’ve done for them are all people of color, and that is so important to me. Especially with working in the fashion industry, there’s just such a lack of people of color — everything that you see in campaigns, on the runway, or whatever, 95% of the time it’s a white person. Being able to involve myself as a person of color and other models who are people of color, I feel like I’m injecting that into everything, and I’m completely shameless about it becasue it’s so important. One thing that I’ve noticed is that people respond really well to seeing people of color, especially on Rookie, because so many of our readers are non-white and living in small towns that might be mostly white, which is the community that I grew up in. Just to be able to see someone who looks like you — which is, I feel like, something we say all of the time but bares repeating — is so important! Whether it’s skin tone or gender presentation or anything that renders you as an oppressed minority, being able to see people like that who are doing well or are in the public eye is so important. It makes you feel like you can go do that thing, whatever it is. If I had grown up seeing brown people in magazines I feel like I would have felt less ashamed of who I was and I would feel like I wouldn’t have felt embarrassed by my
brown-ness or something. Now I don’t want to do anything but embrace it. So if somebody is against that, I don’t want anything to do with them. I think another duality in working for a company or within an industry now, is knowing when to say yes and when to say no to working for someone who you might have issues with. Is it better to work with in something and challenge it to improve and hold itself to a higher standard? Or is it better to reject that thing entirely and try to build something with better practices from the bottom up? People have to make those decisions all of the time, and I think their generation, economic situation, and ethics all play a role in what they decide. It’s interesting that you said generation. My parents were both born in India and moved here, so my brother and I are the first generation born here. The way that they see being a non-white person living in this country versus the way that my brother and I see it is totally different. For them it’s a lot about assimilating and holding on to your culture, but still just kind of like “Just go about your day.” For me, I’m so much more loud about it. I want to yell about it and I want to educate people about it, and I don’t want to be quiet. I don’t want to listen to neocolonialists, you know what I’m saying? But they grew up under colonialism so their relationship to that is very different. It’s just been so interesting to watch them develop versus me. There are certain things like; where my parents grew up in India, like the United States, it’s a strong patriarchy. I take a lot of issue with that and I’ll make a lot of noise about it, but then they’ll be like “Well we can’t do anything.” and I’ll be like “Well I’m not just going to sit here and watch women be oppressed, becasue ‘that’s the way that it has happened.’” Not to say that my parents aren’t feminists or something, but I feel like they’re sort of at the point where it was just something that they were use to and they didn’t necessarily want to challenge it the way that my generation wants to challenge it. What equipment do you use to take photos? Has that changed at all over time? I have a pretty good balance between film and digital. In high school I mostly shot digital, and then I would shoot on disposable cameras. Then, in 10th grade, my viola teacher’s husband gave me his old film camera. It’s the most beautiful old Nikkormat SLR. He gave me a bunch of lenses and a bunch of film and this beautiful old leather camera bag with this red felt interior. He was this kind of old, farmer-y man. He always smelled like tobacco. They lived out in the country and they always had dobermans — at any given time they had like three dobermans! One of them would die, they would just buy another one — like no mourning period, haha. He was maybe like 15 or 20 years older than her, and I just loved him. His name was Larry and he came up to me after my lesson one day and
he was like “Hey, I know you like photography. Would you like to borrow my equipment?” and I was like “Oh, sure! That’s so thoughtful and kind of you.” I hadn’t taken any film classes or photo classes, so I just had to go on the internet and figure out how this camera worked. The first roll of film I shot wasn’t loaded properly, haha. When I went to rewind it nothing had even been taken. So I was like “Alright, lets try this again.” I shot with that a lot and when I moved to New York I learned about point-andshoot cameras, so now my main camera that I shoot with is an Olympus Stylus Infinity. It’s so cute, I love it. It fits in my pocket, and it’s really low-key. I have bulkier equipment, and I just don’t like carrying it around. I’d rather have something smaller that lets me take a photo without being super obvious, especially if I’m doing street stuff and don’t really want anyone to see that I’m taking the shot. I also shoot with a digital Fuji Rangefinder — it’s the Fuiji X100 — and then I have a Nikon D90 with a 35mm f/1.4 lens that I like. That’s the majority of my set up. I have a Polaroid too that I’ve been shooting with a little bit more lately, becasue I got my hands on some Impossible film. For editorial stuff I just list to shoot with the DSLR because I have more control and it looks more formal. Your work seems to really have this constant theme of observation, and much of the way that you shoot portraits is from that sort of point of view. Does that comes from your interaction with what you’re shooting? That’s a really interesting comment. I love hearing what other people have to say about my work because that doesn’t happen to me often since I didn’t go to art school and I’ve never been “critiqued” or whatever. It’s cool to hear other people’s perspectives. Honestly, I don’t really know where that comes from. I think that’s just kind of how I see things. I think it does come from my relationship with people or with things. I feel like when I’m photographing something, I want it to feel intimate. I guess it depends on what it is, but I usually do. At the same time I am outside of whatever is happening. Fundamentally, as a photographer, having a camera there totally changes the landscape. Whether there’s people there, or if you’re just in the woods, having this machine there changes the way that the environment looks. I think when I’m photographing people, I don’t really like to direct them that much. I would rather just shoot as if they knew that I didn’t have a camera. A lot of the time I’ll take photos of people with their backs turned to me because they don’t know that I’m taking the shot. Or I’ll be walking behind them, and I’ll yell out there name, and then I’ll snap. When I go to India — I go pretty often with my family — I take my Fuji which is really small and, a lot of people there in the town that we visit, won’t necessarily recognize it as a camera. They don’t see it as a thing where “Oh this person is going to come take my picture.” so that allows me
“A lot of the time I’ll take photos of people with their backs turned to me because they don’t know that I’m taking the shot. Or I’ll be walking behind them, and I’ll yell out there name, and then I’ll snap.” to very quietly move and shoot and I’ll be able to get the photo the way that I see it that moment. I have a lot of photos of my grandparents where they didn’t know that I was taking the photo, becasue if they did know, they would be like “Don’t take this picture of me. I don’t look good.” One of my very favorite pictures is this picture of my Grandpa a few months before he passed away, with him sitting on his favorite chair looking out the window. It’s something that he would always do. It wasn’t like a special moment for him at all, but it was sooo special for me and I cherish that so much. So being able to just make these little moments and hold on to them — Honestly it’s kind of selfish, it’s more about me and less about the person in the picture. But whatever, hahaha! Thats the way that I do it. How do you feel the internet has impact the way we make and look at art? I think one thing that anybody my age, who’s grown up the way that I have in relationship to the internet, would say that it’s been such a great tool of democracy, just allowing anybody to make anything and put it out there. That’s what I value it most for. The one thing that has been kind of bad is that it’s spurred a lot of copy-cats and that can be kind of frustrating. Or, a lot of the time your work
can be taken out of context. You can lose the caption and you can loose the credit, which frickin sucks! That’s like every artists’ nightmare — to have like 10,000 notes on tumblr and then not have your name or your website connected to it! It’s a double edged sword.
For me, most of the art that I look at or I’m fond of is not really art that was produced and then put on the internet. I think it’s becasue everything I learned in school when I learned about art history was all pre-1800s. I really focused on Gothic Architecture from the 1200s to the 1400s. I really love ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Korean art. I love French impressionism. Work that’s in a totally different medium that inspires me is not work that was made when the internet was around. But then there’s so much photography that’s happening right now that is meant to be shared on the internet or is meant to shared in a gallery or something, and I’m really inspired by all of that as well. It’s just nice to see young people who are making work and not worrying about impressing anyone — just “This is what I am. This is things that I see and things that I make. I hope you like it and I hope it brings something nice to your life. If it doesn’t, that’s fine! You can just keep moving on.”
Are there any ways you would like to display your work, that you haven’t had the opportunity to yet? Ooo, yeah! I haven’t really done that much gallery stuff. I think, as somebody who primarily displays their stuff on a screen, it would be great to be able to print my work more. I’ve been in maybe three gallery shows, but I would love to be involved with that more. The feeling of getting your photo printed is so cool! Getting to see it from being this tiny thing on your cell phone or computer to a big 11x17 print or something is so cool. I just made a print for my friend for her birthday, and I wanted to keep it — I was like “This looks great.” haha. I’ve been in a few zines and I would love to do that more. I think just doing more tangible stuff would be cool. I made a zine last year with my work and a bunch of my friends work and this year I just want to put out a poetry zine with stuff that I’ve written, maybe with some photos in it as well. That’s one good thing about the internet; you can make a little thing and print some, and if people like, they can buy it. You don’t have to know who they are and it can be really cheap too, which is cool.
Are there any project you would like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? Well… Can I tell you about a project that I am working on, that I do have the time and don’t need any money for? One thing that I was talking about earlier is representing people of color in fashion photography. That was something I was doing really heavily for Rookie last year, and now I’m working on more editorials for other magazines and trying to include people of color, regardless of their gender or skin tone or whatever. But now, one thing that I’m working on setting up shoots for is shooting more gender non-conforming people and more a-gender people, becasue that’s how I see myself and how I’ve been representing myself lately. I think for all artists, the work that you make is a reflection on who you are at that time. Last year I was really focused on POC issues, especially in representation. Now I’m — definitely still focused on that — but I want to focus more on gender non-conforming and a-gender and non-binary people. Now i’m working on contacting people who are gender non-conforming to
“When I go to India — I go pretty often with my family — I take my Fuji which is really small and, a lot of people there in the town that we visit, won’t necessarily recognize it as a camera. They don’t see it as a thing where ‘Oh this person is going to come take my picture.’ so that allows me to very quietly move and shoot and I’ll be able to get the photo the way that I see it that moment.”
ask if I can photograph them. So far I have a few shoots set up for the next month that I’m really excited about. I hope that it helps change someones life out there. When I was growing up I thought that I had to present as female. Especially being South Asian — if you’re born female, you have long hair and you tie it in a braid. That’s just the way that you do it. Especially in India, I’ve seen like maybe one person, who was born as a woman, who had short hair. Working on that right now is really important to me. In terms of not having money and stuff, it would be great to be able to travel more and shoot more people in different parts of the country. I feel like, living in New york, it’s really easy to be like “This is the entire world! Everything happens here!” but this is just one little speck in the entire earth with so many other people making incredible art and so many other people living these amazing lives, whether they’re in a tiny village or a big city somewhere or they live on a tea farm. I want to be able to do more traveling to other cities in different parts of the world. What do you hope the accomplish with your work and what motivates you to make more work? Well… I’ll give you an Allen Ginsberg quote that I love. There was this journalist who passed away a few years
ago named Matt Powers, and right after he passes away I read this piece that he had written about meeting Allen Ginsberg and developing a friendship with him. One thing that Allen told him towards the end of his life when Matt asked him “What should I write about?” was “Write about your love for your friends.” I kind of have taken that and morphed it into my own thing of “Make work about your love for your friends, or your love for people you don’t know, or your love for the things that you see.” I think that a lot of my work is motivated by seeing something and just finding some sort of emotional attachment to it, whether it’s a tree, or my grandpa, or my best friend, or whatever. It can be inanimate, it can be a building — like my love for a cathedral — it can be anything. I think that’s what I’m really inspired by; being able to see and experience something, then making a photo of it so that I can look at it later and continue to cherish it and share it with people and give them some positivity. I think just being able to elicit some sort of emotional reaction — something visceral — is important to me. I always say that the biggest compliment that anyone can give to me is when they say that something that I made maked them cry — cry in a sad way or cry in a happy way — just to be so moved by something. That’s what I’m flattered by, and that’s what I want to continue to do.
“‘Make work about your love for your friends, or your love for people you don’t know, or your love for the things that you see.’”
Photography by Matthew James-Wilson
Paper Jam 5
Paper Jam 5
G.W. Duncanson @ @ Paper Jam 5
Tyler Boss & Courtney Menard @ Paper Jam 5
Tyler Boss @ Comic Arts Brooklyn
Emily Yacina @ Silent Barn
Sitcom @ Silent Barn
Forth Wanderers @ Silent Barn
True Blue @ Silent Barn
Florist @ The Marlin Room At Webster Hall
Long Beard @ Shea Stadium
Florist @ Shea Stadium
gobbinjr @ Silent Barn
Ronald Paris @ Silent Barn
Harmony Tividad @ Silent Barn
Frankie Cosmos @ Space Ninety 8
IAN @ Palisades
Fraternal Twin @ Palisades
Fraternal Twin @ Palisades
Painted Zeros @ Market Hotel
Privacy Issues @ 603^
The Glow @ 603^
Harmony Tividad @ 603^
Cleo Tucker @ 603^
Dog Date @ Don Pedro
LVL UP @ Market Hotel
Told Slant @ Market Hotel
Girlpool @ Market Hotel
Girlpool @ Market Hotel
Guerilla Toss @ Palisades
Guerilla Toss @ Palisades
Best Shows By Matthew James-Wilson
January 15th @ Silent Barn
Swings/Sitcom/Emily Yacina/Forth Wanderers January 30th @ Shea Stadium
Florist/Long Beard/Vagabon/Yours Art The Only Ears this show happened the night i released issue 10 of the magazine. i woke up early that day, and didn’t finish working on the issue until after the show had already started. once everything was uploaded and sent off, i rushed to the silent barn for the show, only to realize that the show was actually happening at shea stadium. all the sets i caught were incredibly placid and i felt much more at ease about everything. during the show two separate people came up to me, recognizing me from the magazine. that had never happened to me before, but it felt really validating.
February 7th @ Silent Barn
Ronald Paris (Release Show)/Harmony Tividad/ Sitcom/True Blue a lot happened at this show. for starters i met robert tilden for the first time almost immediately after walking into the silent barn and getting my wrist band. I can’t remember the precise circumstance, but I was talking to aaron, and then harmony and robert came over, then harmony left, and then aaron left to smoke, and robert and i ended up talking about something for like 20 minutes. finally i was like “oh yeah, what’s your name?” and then realized he was someone reed kanter had been raving about the last time i talked to him. this show was surprisingly low-key considering how stacked it was. but that made it really nice because it was mostly of friends of the bands there. i remember standing in the corner between the door and the bathroom talking to quinn moreland, and every time the door opened, someone else i was really happy to see walked in. i ended up standing really close up once aaron started setting up. the whole room grew silent as he started testing out his mic and roland keyboard. since it was a release show he was attempting to play the whole album front to back with just his keyboard, and started the set with the opening track from pool, underwater. i hadn’t ever heard the lyrics to the song so clearly, but once i did that night, i totally froze up. the chorus was “hi there, franklin underwater.” referencing one of the songs greta wrote on the first album she made when they started dating, and establishing the water motif for the album. it was probably the most romantic gesture one could pull off. that whole set was probably one of the most incredible performances i ever saw on that stage. probably one of the best performances i ever saw, period… towards the end i definitely wept a few tears. after the show i sort of wandered to a corner in the back of the silent barn, unsure what to do with myself. adam kolodny came over shortly after and we both really quietly gushed about the set. adam is one of my favorite people to talk to at shows since i don’t get to see him very often, and talking to him that night was particularly memorable because we ended up talking about our individual reasons for wanting to document what had been going on in the music scene. it was really invigorating and reaffirming and just before we separated he brought up his idea to make a documentary about the music happening within the scene. i think this show will really stick in my mind as the most saturated idea of the person i was when i was 20 years old.
March 2nd @ Silent Barn
Bethlehem Steel/Gobbinjr/Human Band Practice
March 3rd @ Space Ninety 8
Porches/Frankie Cosmos March 3rd @ 603^
Cleo Tucker/Harmony Tividad/The Glow/ Privacy Issues
March 5th @ Market Hotel
DIIV/Painted Zeros/Surfbort i got a ticket for this show really last minute the morning of, when they released a handful online. i was really excited because dustin told me that he was going to be doing a dj set after the show ended, and i still hadn’t ever seen diiv before. diiv was really big for me toward the end of high school, and i remember really vividly watching their performance at one of the last 285 kent shows on pitchfork, and thinking “is this what shows in new york are like!?!?” this show felt like a really great opportunity to try to relive that thing i felt like i missed out on before moving here, especially since it was happening at an og diy venue like market hotel. my camera battery died just before they went on, so i had to leave the front of the crowd and stash it at the coat check. by the time diiv went on i was really glad the battery died. during their whole set i couldn’t stop dancing. it was so unbelievably fun, i had a hard time slowing down to catch my breath. during one of the songs they played off of oshin, i remember moshing and facing the crowd, and suddenly recognizing nick gazin behind me. all of a sudden we were facing each other and nick reached out to hug me, and the two of us embraced each other, bouncing in circles around the room. i had never met nick before that night. after the show i found him again and told him how much his curation and art editing work for vice meant to me. he was very kind and gracious, and later on in the night we found each other again in the green room. we talked for almost an hour, and he gave me all of this really genuine and respectful advice about studying art in college. that night was really special, and i woke up really sick the next morning becasue i didn’t get home until 3 or 4 am.
March 7th @ Palisades
Horse Jumper Of Love/IAN/Fraternal Twin/ Soft Fang March 25th @ Market Hotel
Girlpool/Told Slant/LVL UP/Palberta March 26th @ Palisades
Guerilla Toss (Release show)/Downtown Boys/ Future Punx/Disco Phantom this set was fucking insane. it was super hot, and it smelled like shit. kira and i missed the future punx set, and most of downtown boys set. but it was probably the most fun i’ve ever had palisades. the raw power behind guerrilla toss’ set was astounding and i was immediately hooked.
Shows I Wish I Had Gone To February 29th @ Baby’s All Right
Long Beard (Solo Set)/Emily Yacina/Yohuna/ Crosslegged March 31st @ Shea Stadium
Japanese Breakfast (Release Show)/Emily Reo/ Adult Mom/Bethlehem Steel March 31st @ Other Music
You Should Check Out... By Matthew James-Wilson
i was totally blown away the first time i encountered guerilla toss this winter. the band produces such a catastrophic arrangement of sound that it’s very difficult to decipher what’s going on exactly. yet, beyond it’s complexity, their live performance still satisfies the core principles of any good punk or dance music; demanding attention and getting people to move. this winter guerilla toss released their most consistent album yet, eraser stargazer. like the music itself, the album art is an indiscernible mishmash, that still has subtle references to the past, with it’s clear inspiration from alton kelly and stanley mouse’s design for the grateful dead’s europe ’72.
i bought the florist and eskimeaux 6 days of songs split tape at one of the first shows I ever went to at the silent barn. it was pretty early on during the first semester of my freshman year at college, and i remember listening to the tape constantly with my roommate at the time. that tape along with florist’s we have been this way forever became really important albums to me, and i was really excited last summer to find out that they were planning a full length lp with double double whammy. this winter florist released the birds outside sang, and it’s one of the most personal and intimate albums i’ve listened to in a really long time. listing to this record now, i can smell all of the same smells and recall all of the same moments that i associated with listing to rough demos for tracks like white light doorway and 1914 in my bedroom last year. but this time around the songs feel like they’ve aged and matured over time, the way that i have since that fall that fall when i was listening to them so much. every track on the album is more developed and considered than anything florist has previously released, but is just as tender and as ever. in addition to the fully realized versions of old recordings, the birds outside sang also includes several new songs that fully exemplify the power and introspection of emily’s writing. there are more poetic moments like thank you and then more ominous ones like the album’s title track, signaling a larger range for florist. this record is both motivating and heart breaking, and is worth making new memories to associate with.
Art Week 2016
this compilation was a really unexpected gem that just sort of appeared this winter. a compilation from unlimited-free-milkshakes-label like this hasn’t come out since 2012, and it’s a really good portrait of the bedroom recording scene on the internet from the east coast right now. the list of musicians who contributed to art week 2016 isn’t too dissimilar from the 2012 art week, but what is remarkable is how far so many of those people have come in the past four years. some of my favorite tracks on this compilation are the ones by cat be damned, harmony tividad, and alan j (lol), as well as spencer radcliffe’s excellent emily yacina cover.
i was really intrigued by this series after seeing a preview for alex g’s episode. it’s really stupid that you have to download an app on your phone, and set up an account to actually want all of the videos, but after jumping through all of those hoops, it was totally worth it. this series has some of the best short form interviews with artists, and a really strong focus on having the artists choosing how to talk about their work. the people they chose for the first round are all some of my favorite musicians, so it was such a pleasure to watch all of them.
Hazel Cills hazel cills has been one of my favorite music journalists for a while now. to me hazel and her writing really represents an important shift in the way that we write about music on the internet. hazel’s criticism far extends past artist’s music and performance alone, and seeks to analyze the social and political context that the music exists within as well. simultaneously, hazel’s writing really taught me how to take things made within the mainstream seriously, and not be so dismissive of work based on its accessibility. hazel has written for dozens of sites over the past four or five years, and was a key contributor to rookie mag for a long time. when i initially heard that mtv was making big changes in an effort to revitalize their audience and credibility, i was pretty skeptical. the moment I heard that they asked hazel to join the staff really early on in this transition, i knew mtv wasn’t fucking around, and i started taking there intentions more seriously.
THANK YOU: KENDRA YEE CONNOR MCCANN LOGAN FITZPATRICK ANJA SALONEN ADAM DE SOUZA IURHI TREME CERE SUNNY BETZ IURHI PENA ADAM GIROUX ABBY MCMILLEN JUSTIN GORDON MICHELLE MACINSKY ANNA WHITE SHRIYA SAMAVAI BRIE MORENO DAVE BENTON MIKE CARIDI RYAN SANDS NOEL CLARO KIRA ASZMAN HANNAH K LEE KATIE GARCIA DUSTIN PAYSEUR JANE MAI JANE SANDS JO HYRKIN PAUL KIM PATRICK KYLE GINETTE LAPALME G.W. DUNCANSON REED KANTER LIZZIE KLEIN AARON MAINE GRETA KLINE LILY SNOWDEN-FINE LAUREN REDDING AMY ROSE SPIEGEL EMILY YACINA COURTNEY MENARD NICK RATTIGAN MICHAEL DEFORGE NICK GAZIN SAM ALDEN TYLER BOSS SONIA JAMES-WILSON... MICHAEL HURLEY SHINYA TSUKAMOTO ALICIA BOGNANNO DAN DEACON REBECCA DUNLAP KRIS PETERSEN MISAKI KAWAI SEAN MORRIS LOUISE REIMER LALA ALBERT STEPHEN MERRITT LUCAS NATHAN DEAN WAERHAM ELAINE EDENFIELD RICHIE POPE KAMASI WASHINGTON JESSE JACOBS JIM NUTT GLADYS NILSSON KARL WIRSUM
E D I T E D BY M AT T H E W JA M E S -W I L S O N
Published on Apr 30, 2016
FORGE. is a quarterly submission based art magazine, with the sole purpose of showcasing the work of different artists on the internet and a...