Weronika Banasinska “First I drew some characters in my sketchbook. Of the ones I made, this one had the most potential. I then redrew it several times, trying out different techniques, until I finally settled with pen and ink. It still felt like something was missing, so I thought I could use more space around the head, like in renaissance portraits. There’s somethihng enigmatic about all that air around her, I guess.” -Weronika Banasińska Name
more and more comfortable with it.
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
For the project I’m working on right now, I was inspired by Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince. As for the drawing, I can see a big inpiration from Shigeru Sugiura. I’m a creepy listener and observer, so a lot of my inspiration comes from my immediate surroundings. Sometimes (or mostly), this surrounding is just the internet, though.
24 What is your current location? Kraków, Poland Where are you from? Radom, Poland What is your current occupation? I’m currently finishing my MFA in the Graphic Department, and I also work as a freelancer for an animation studio. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’m a student at the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków. Currently I’m working on my masters degree in animation. Before that, I attended to art high school in my hometown. Back then, I was mostly painting, and trying some textile art. When I got my first computer, I started drawing a lot in the lovely Microsoft Paint, with which my sister and I made a few digital animations. Once I started my studies, I took real interest in animation, and later on, in comics. For now I’ll stick to this path, as I’m finding myself
What materials do you like to work with? I feel most comfortable with pencil drawing, but I also like to use pen and ink, and Photophop. I like using traditional drawing as much as possible, I think it goes well with that I can offer. For my animations, I like to mix different techniques, from drawing to stop-motion with puppets or clay. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m currently working on my Animation diploma. The project started two years ago, back when I was making gifs. I put them together and saw they built into something interesting, so I decided to explore this further, and develop this idea. The story is about finding comfort. In the meantime, I’ve been freelancing in animation, and I’ve made short comics for a few zines and anthologies. My own zine, Moshi Moshi, compiles the comics I made in 2016. Coming up next is a solo exibition in Kraków (the opening is on December 9th), featuring the pages of my most recent comic book, Pucia Prucia, which will be released during
for working there too, sometimes.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
Every project is a whole new karaoke session for me.
It sounds cliché, but I guess I was making “art” since I was a little kid. Drawing characters, making figures with clay, or sewing my own dolls.
Where do you like to work? I’m working mostly at home where I have my computer and all my drawing materials, but I prefer to work outside home whenever possible. Having your working space and your bedroom together can be dangerous. I like writing down ideas and sketching in cafes, or somewhere outside. It helps with keeping it fresh. Also, sometimes I enjoy working with someone else working around me as well. I’m lucky to use my friends’ studio
Where To Find Them Websites: http://banasinska.tumblr.com/ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @bnanapupucucu (Instagram)
What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I treat artmaking as a therapy, sometimes. It helps with seeing things from the distance. I like to create content that will squeeze emotions out of people, be it good or bad. Each project is really different, so I’m curious how my next pieces will be like. It’s always a surprise, for me.
Kim Salt “I wanted to create a very peaceful, comforting image that might give the viewer a few seconds of relief. At first, I thought about depicting a scene that portrays relief, but following the events of early November, what I decided that what I really wanted was an illustration that was cathartic in process and ultimately provided a respite to those seeing it.” -Kim Salt Name
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Kim Salt Age
Growing up, I was especially taken with Miyazaki’s films. These days, I’m most inspired by simple people watching (especially in Manhattan) and going on walks amid varying scenery.
I turned 28 in November!
What materials do you like to work with?
What is your current location?
I usually just work with ink & pencil (and the computer).
I live and work from St. George, Staten Island.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
Where are you from? Although I was born in Manhattan, I’ve lived my whole life on Staten Island. What is your current occupation? I’m a freelance illustrator, though I’ve been slowly weaning myself off of freelance graphic design work. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I studied fine art for 2 years, then switched to a major in Communication Design under New York City of Technology’s web module. Although I only took two classes of an illustration elective, I think my path of study gave me a lot of insight into my current field.
I’m currently juggling some client work, but I’m also involved in Flush Fatale’s group project celebrating various women from history via an illustrated card deck. I’d like to do some more personal work when I have more time on my hands. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Recently, Childish Gambino’s new album, Anderson Paak, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Where do you like to work? I’m most comfortable working from my apartment, but I occasionally flee my desk and sketch in cafes. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? When I was a kid, my father was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy. This made him very weak, so very often I would draw at a desk at the window as he rested in
bed nearby. I would draw animals and create stories about them. I wasted a lot of paper, but my dad would always supply me with more.
Where To Find Them Websites: http://kimsalt.com/ Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @beccaandthebox (Instagram)
What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Iâ€™m still trying to figure this out. On a very basic level, I hope that my work transmits joy to other people. If my work can help edify people by communicating ideas, then it has also done its job.
Molly Fairhurst “For me, ‘relief’ is about being supported by something else.”
gouache lies a little oddly, and not quite flat.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
I’m currently writing a 9000 word dissertation for the final year of degree on ideas of fetishizing authenticity and identity, and the pursuit of selfish image making. This is particularly in regards to Outsider Art and academic writing is rough. My visual response is to draw as many silly tigers as possible and as secretly as possible. Please don’t tell anyone.
Where are you from?
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
A little to the left of Leeds. Somewhere greener and you can see the hills wherever you go. Somewhere that held a “sheep disco” at least once.
For me, music is the most immediate art-form and in that can completely and instantly inform (working). The mood of the music can change the atmosphere of how the hand draws. Luckily for me, I’ve been making off kilter, fun and sincerely daft things, so lots of early The Knife, Metronomy and The Diagram Brothers. I think when I made the more somber piece for this issue I listened to Warpaint and Beach House. Lots of flowing. It’s all vibes.
21 What is your current location?
Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Four years of art school and several DeviantArt accounts from the ages of 11-16. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? My fascination with aging pop stars comes from their strange appearances and sincerely bad dancing, of which I identify with both. See: Bernard Sumner, Thom Yorke, Morrissey etc.... Visually? Those feelings, that feeling of ugliness, and of loose limbs, is exactly what I am trying to embody in my work right now. With a few tears too. It’s the current mood.
What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Asking my parents for ideas of what to draw but dismissing them every time, already deeply entrenched and tortured in pursuit of the sanctity of originality. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I would like people to spend a long time looking at it.
What materials do you like to work with? I love the immediacy of a plain mechanical pencil or a gel pen, my hands often go straight for convenience. I like it when
Where To Find Them Websites: mollyfairhurst.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @molly.fairhurst (Instagram)
Tommi Parrish “The piece I submitted was painted for the most recent issue of a literary journal called The Lifted Brow (where I held the position of art editor for a couple of years). The theme of the issue was ‘capitol’ and at the time I’d been having a bunch of conversations about invisible labour, or more so labour thats vitally important but systematically undervalued. Anyway, I’ve been drawing a whole bunch of crowd scenes lately in the various projects that I’m working on and I thought I’d try and draw and more transparent form of emotional labour. The painting is vaguely tabloid size and is made with gouache. I ended up trading it with my friend JG who helped me out with some last minute screen printing and I think its stuck up on the wall in their studio.” -Tommi Parrish Name
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
i’m probably most inspired by the people i meet and all the different ways of living i get to come across.
Age 27 What is your current location? Montreal in Canada Where are you from? Melbourne in Australia What is your current occupation? illustrator when i can find the work/maker of books/zine seller/ seller of paintings and commissions/ scruffy queer who frantically does odd jobs when rent is almost due and lives off very little most of the time. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? i have an uncompleted graphic design degree and also a uncompleted fine arts degree.
What materials do you like to work with? i use an a4 como sketch pad, with a fine tooth and low level watercolour grade thickness. I’m so familiar with how paint works on this surface i cant really use any other type of paper. buuuut unfortunately they’re only available in the city i came from in Australia so tragically i’ll have to work something else out soon. i use windsor and newton brand gouache and occasionally mix in water colour of the same brand (usually when working with reds and browns) when i want the colour to pop a little more. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? i’m currently working on a Lay Lines mini with Czap books, a compilation book of new and old comics with 2dcloud, a mini with Perfectly Acceptable press and a book with Fantagraphics. Ideally all of these will be released in 2017 but its a lot a lot of work and getting it all done is potentially physically impossible, so we’ll see. i’m also lined up to submit to a bunch of anthologies and in the first part of 2017 and I’m flying back to Australia for a few weeks to deliver a week of writing workshops to high schools though a program called ‘girls write up’ organised by a grant program called the stella prize.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working? i listen to the radio a bunch, also mixes my friends make me along with a lot of young adult fiction audiobooks. In the spirit of living in Montreal I’m slowly getting into more hardcore stuff, but i’ll always love my mopey hiphop, weird pop music, and abrasive experimental noise.
due to being relatively broke always I’ve tried to do it a whole bunch over the years but since i draw almost all day every day it always devolves into me never leaving the house or changing out of my pajamas. i have a studio that i draw and paint at, i draw at cafe’s and libraries when i need a change of pace, i draw at friends and lovers houses. i bring my drawing things everywhere where i go.
Where do you like to work?
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
unfortunately working at home is just to grim for me to handle,
always getting better, feeling challenged. living generously.
Where To Find Them Websites: http://tommipg.tumblr.com/ Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @tommi_pg (Instagram)
Savana Ogburn “When I was brainstorming concepts for this photo, I realized that relief, to me, is typically what I feel when I create a piece of art that tells a story. I find solace in creating new worlds and involving humans (in this case, myself!) in them, thus creating an escape from the real world. So, while creating the set for this photo I used some of my favorite motifs and props- bright lights, the static screen on the TV, flowers, and colored smoke- together to create a dreamy, surreal environment to photograph myself in. I really enjoy the set design aspect of photography and really welcome the physical approach that creating props and sets brings to my work (which is typically done on a computer screen and can tend to get boring), so I was very happy to lug a bunch and flowers and that old TV into my garage to create this.” -Savana Ogburn Name Savana Ogburn Age 19 What is your current location? Atlanta, Georgia Where are you from? I grew up in Melbourne but I was born in Ireland.Just outside of Atlanta, Georgia! What is your current occupation? I’m primarily a student–I’m in my first year at the Savannah College of Art and Design–but I also do freelance photography and design work for a variety of publications and clients! Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I took a few art classes in High School, and have taken a few in college, but for the most part I’m self taught. I do a lot of work
in Photoshop and Lightroom, which I learned about primarily through Youtube and a little bit in my high school photo classes. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I’m very inspired by my friends who are also making art–I’ve made a lot of friends through Instagram and the Internet in general that inspire me on the daily with their work, as well as my pals from school. I also take a lot of inspiration from music–I love musicians that create really vivid imagery with their lyrics like Florence and the Machine, St. Vincent, and Grimes. As far as books go, I have a few photobooks that I look through on the regular to stay inspired- those are Olivia Bee’s Kids in Love, Tim Walker’s Pictures and Storyteller, and I also have a few Andy Warhol books that I love looking at for color inspiration. I really don’t watch a ton of movies that are known for their visual appeal (I have the taste of a twelve year old when it comes to movies), but when I do break out of that I love Wes Anderson’s movies, like everyone else on the planet, for his set design and costumes. What materials do you like to work with? I mostly shoot digital photography, so in order to bring that into a more physical realm (which is much more satisfying that working on a computer screen to me), I love making zines. I also tend to collage and paint a lot of my images to add a hint of fantasy and dimension to them!
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Currently, I’m on break from college so I’m planning a few zines that I’d like to make. I’m working on compiling a bunch of my favorite work from the past 4-5 years to put into a zine- I love the idea of having a physical reminder of my growth as an artist (which sounds SUPER cheesy, but it’s a nice thing to remind yourself of every so often!). I also have a few collabs with friends in mind that I still need to pitch to them, so I’m going to hold off on sharing those, haha. There should be lots of glitter involved, though! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Yes! Lately I’ve been listening to Slugger, the new Sad13 record, Charli XCX, Banks, Shamir, and Lady Gaga. I’m really into pop music and things that sound traditionally girly, because that’s sort of where my aesthetic has been lately. Where do you like to work? Honestly, when I’m at home I work at my family’s kitchen table because I like being around ‘em! I’m not someone who likes to
Where To Find Them Websites: www.savanaogburn.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @savanaogburn (Instagram)
hole up in my room and work most of the time-- I need a little bit of interaction to keep me going, haha. I tend to spread my art supplies out everywhere and make messes- my brain works best when I have lots of room to work! What is one of your earliest memories of making art? When I was maybe 4 or 5, I remember my mom giving me a box to paint (I can’t remember what it was for...) to keep me occupied while she had company, and I ended up splattering paint all over the kitchen table and ceiling, to her dismay. We laugh about it now, though. I also vividly remember being really young and trying to draw characters from TV shows and movies that I liked in the fog on my bathroom mirror. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? So much of the reason I create art is to escape from reality (SO CHEESY AGAIN, I KNOW!), so I really just hope to inspire other people to do the same thing for themselves whether that be through creating their own art or just looking at mine. I’ve also always been really inspired by other young women/femme-presenting people telling stories with their work, so if I could inspire someone else to do that I think I’ll have done my job.
Jake Terrell “The comic I made for this issue was done by hand, with pen and ink, on Deleter paper. I scanned in the original drawing and did all of the colors digitally. This is my process for pretty much all of my recent comic work. The comic is about the characters, their performance and their interaction with each other, as well as the interaction of the colors within the panels. For me, comics offer up an opportunity to design space, color, narrative, character, all in one go. On one page or on multiple pages. The “relief”, I guess, ties into this, but there is also a sense of relief in the characters lack of significance and how the comic has no beginning or end. There is a sort of relief in just the “in-between” moments, without any concrete details as to where these people came from, or where they’re going.” -Jake Terrell Name
What materials do you like to work with?
Pen and ink, with some digital stuff, and Risograph printing.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
23 What is your current location? Brooklyn, NY Where are you from? Southern California Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Just graduated from art school in Illustration, but comic work is mostly self-taught. I took Frank Santoro’s Correspondence Course a couple years ago. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Nothing official right now. I just finished my first book Extended Play, which was published by 2dcloud. That took a while to get together, so i’m slowly starting a few new things. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Yes, all kinds Where do you like to work? My room What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I used to try and recreate those one-liner gags from the New Yorker. My dad was always reading them, so I would try to make my own. They weren’t very funny.
I mostly get inspiration from stuff like manga or anime, but I do like reading on occasion. Two authors i’m into right now are Philip K Dick and W G Sebald.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work? That’s a tough one. I hope to accomplish my own goals of getting better technically, just being a better draughtsman and storyteller in general. then there’s the idea that my work might help
Where To Find Them Websites: http://backtothecave.tumblr.com/ Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @celestin_krier (Instagram)
change some ideas of what “professional” is (when it comes to illustration and/or comic work). Achieving different styles for different purposes or motives to play with preconceived notions of what it “means” to be an “illustrator,” haha.
Thomas Colligan “Relief is like a blanket, offering a moment of comfort and warmth from the outside noise. This is a drawing of my friends Kurt and Nichole taking a nap on our futon.” -Thomas Colligan Name Thomas Colligan Age 25 What is your current location?
Color pencils. I also love the Risograph—which is a different way of thinking because you are limited by colors, size and the machine. The limitations are very helpful, they push me to simplify and do things I would otherwise never do. I often don’t like the way I draw, so it’s nice to have a machine between me and the final piece. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
What is your current occupation?
I collaborate all the time with TXTbooks, which is an independent publishing initiative started by Robert Blair, Nichole Shinn, Kurt Woerpel and myself. We collectively own a Risograph, publish zines and exhibit at book fairs. I am always sketching out new ideas for books on scraps of papers at work. There are some very elaborate plans but very few see the light of day. I am hoping to come out with a zine that is (somewhat) narrative next.
I work as a book cover designer and do illustration on the side.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?
I listen to a lot of Dublab when working. It’s a radio station based in LA, they have a wide range of mixes and a great online archive. I’ve been listening to a show called Dying Songs lately, which is ambient-electronic stuff.
Brooklyn, New York Where are you from? Geneva, Switzerland
I got a BFA in graphic design from Pratt. I was lucky to meet some amazing people there who really helped me figure stuff out. They still helping me, thanks you all /(* . *)/ What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Family and friends. So many artists: Bonnard, Manet, Vuillard, Dana Schutz, Miroco Machiko, William L. Hawkins, Andrew Ho, Yann Kebbi. In animation Anibal Bley is a genius. In film Ozu. What materials do you like to work with?
Where do you like to work? I just moved my workspace from my basement to my room. But I don’t know, kind of missing the basement now. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I remember coping fountains from a book on Italy my parents owned when I was about seven.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I donâ€™t know to be honest. I not sure that I am trying to accomplish something in specific at this point. Just trying to staying curious.
Where To Find Them Websites: www.thomascolligan.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @thomcolligan (Instagram)
Lottie Pencheon “I thought back to the time I felt the most significant physical relief that I can remember. I was suffering badly from pain whilst staying at a friends house, she had left some codeine on my windowsill for me which I refused to take but come morning I was struggling so much that I took the pills. The pain relief felt as though soft waves were gently lifting me up and carrying me off into a blissful sleep in a beautiful ocean. I didn’t wet myself.” -Lottie Pencheon Name Lottie Pencheon Age 28 What is your current location? A small town in the North West of the UK called Macclesfield. Where are you from? A tiny village just outside of Macclesfield called Bollington. My parents are not from either of these places. What is your current occupation? I’m a “part time” freelance illustrator forward-slash cartoonist. I also run my online store where I make and sell t-shirts, paintings, self published zines... With the other part of my time I work in a pub, I work in the kitchen mostly! I like to make food for people. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I studied “graphic design with illustration” at university. I graduated with a first but I can not do graphic design at ALL, I can’t make websites, I can’t do things with font and I just feel extremely unenthused to try and do that kind of work. I leant towards narrative illustration whilst I was studying and made a
few picture books and a comic, I felt happiest telling stories with pictures. But university was a weird time for me, as it probably was/is for a lot of people?? Unfortunately, it took a while for me to want to make art again after I graduated. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Visually I’m really inspired by anything that looks “drawn,” I like messy and I like seeing the pencil, or the bit that went “wrong,” I love these types of drawings that are really brave and full of character. Seeing comics by Seo Kim, Em Partridge, Maré Odomo and Sam Alden really got me out of my post university art slump and encouraged me to become confident enough to try and draw again. Presently I’m super into Ville Kallio’s work, his comics ‘Bio-Whale’ and ‘P-FE/FRAF’ are so exciting to me that I just keep them on my desk cause I’m often going back to them again and again. Patrick Crotty is another artist who does these amazing, scruffy, expressive drawings that are just so endearing, I think it takes a lot of skill and confidence to draw like this. Tessar Lo is probably my favourite contemporary painter for these same reasons. Unfortunately, I get really inspired by melancholy, I usually get my comics writing inspiration and ideas from remembering sad things that have happened to me but lately I’ve been wondering if maybe I can change this and make work that doesn’t come from such an introverted place, but who knows! What materials do you like to work with? 2B pencil, sometimes 6B pencil. I can’t seem to get into pens, I’ve tried doing underdrawings and then inking but it just doesn’t do it for me. Pencil and paper, scanner and then some digital
colour. I like to paint sometimes too both on canvas and on my tablet, I find blending colours relaxing.
shi Yoshimura, Midori Takada, Mort Garson are three of my latest youtube finds this week.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
Where do you like to work?
There are some comics that I have been asked to make but I haven’t started working on them yet oops.. I’ve also been asked to contribute to a Pokémon related project! I’m really excited about everything but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about any of this stuff? I have an exhibition coming up in my home town next year, so I will be getting my paints out again soon. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? When I’m working I like to listen to stuff that I haven’t heard before. I drew this piece whilst I was listening to Mitski and when I got round to scanning and colouring I was listening to Frankie Cosmos. I’m still listening to Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond’ album, I just love singing along to that but when I’m trying to concentrate or come up with ideas I usually like to listen to ambient music, Hiro-
Where To Find Them Websites: http://www.lottiepencheon.com/ Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @lottiepencheon (Instagram)
I’m not sure these days, I work at home by myself at my desk but ideally I think I would like to work at a big table with lots of drawing friends all around. A studio perhaps. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Laying on the floor and drawing lots of Sonics with my older brother. I remember we had our Sonic t-shirts spread out on the floor and we were copying the designs. He is two years older than me and I was always so impressed with how well he could draw!! I wanted to draw Sonic as well as he could! What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I wanna get to a point where I feel like I belong somewhere.
Esme Blegvad “This comic is about how sometimes relief is difficult to indulge in–when trying to cut down on smoking weed, for instance, or fighting yourself to not reach out to a toxic fuckboy. There’s almost an inversion of the meaning of ‘relief’ wherein you’re actively trying to avoid the feeling rather than attaining it. As illustrated in the comic, and in my personal experience, this struggle is almost always futile, because itches have to be scratched.” -Esme Blegvad Name Esme Blegvad Age 26 What is your current location? Bed Stuy, Brooklyn Where are you from? I was born and grew up in London, England, but I’m actually from America, France, and Scandinavia, so I’ve had a massive identity crisis my whole life and I’m always considered a foreigner, no matter where I am. What is your current occupation? At parties I like to tell people I’m an illustrator, but I also moonlight as an after-school nanny on the side. It’s the perfect job to draw at. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’m self-taught. I come from a family of generations of very talented artists, and I kind of figured I couldn’t bother to keep up with the (friendly and loving!) competition, so I thought I’d be a writer. I ended up going to college for writing but decided in my
last year that all I wanted to do was draw comics, so I finished up school by sitting in the back of every class and drawing pictures and little comics that I would then sell to whoever wanted to buy them via my tumblr. My professors were very supportive and cool about it but I remember my grandfather, uncle, and dad heartily mocking me when I announced that I was going to try to be an illustrator without going to art school like they all had. I guess I showed them! Suckers!!! What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Mainly I think I get inspired by other art and artists . My family have inspired and influenced me hugely - not in a cheesy way, just because art was such a huge part of everything when I was growing up. I think I was heavily inspired by my uncle Peter’s cartooning style, and the little cartoons my dad would put in my lunch bag every day, and the children’s books that my grandfather Erik illustrated for like, fifty years. Beyond that I’m also heavily influenced by tons of artists, some of whom are friends or colleagues. Allegra Lockstadt and Mithsuca Berry and Kati Yewell and Sunny Betz, among soooo many others that I have discovered through Rookie magazine. Clare Drummond’s comics are the comics I would make in my literal dreams–as are Taylor-Ruth Baldwin’s. Of course all the big guys like Vanessa Davies and Lisa Hanawalt and the queen Aline Kominsky-Crumb. My favorite illustrator of all time is Chris Ridell. What materials do you like to work with? Simple things. A very sharp 2b pencil, Bristol drawing paper, fine-liner black pens, and watercolor paints. I also like playing
around with pen and ink. I often use a lightbox to draw, starting with a pencil sketch on grid paper. Then I trace it onto a blank white sheet using the lightbox. It’s very satisfying! What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m really excited to be illustrating an educational book over the next few weeks, for teenage refugees who are learning English as a second language in American high schools. It’s being produced by this dope organization called GirlForward who work with refugees in Austin and Chicago, and are aiming to re-vamp the current ESL literature available to these teens to be more interesting and fun to read. I’m also working on a self-published zine that will be available around the time of Trump’s inauguration, with all proceeds from sales going to Planned Parenthood. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I like to watch tv while I work. Currently I’m binge-watching all seven seasons of Teen Mom 2 on MTV. I also watch a lot of episodes of Stephen Fry’s seminal British comedy panel show QI. My favorite music to listen to while I work is classical music. It was always blaring in every household I frequented as a child, always in the background while my grandpa drew in his studio. My go-to classical album is Glen Gould’s poppin’ renditions of Mozart’s piano concertos. Where do you like to work? In bed! I have a great desk but I probably haven’t drawn at it for
Where To Find Them Websites: esmeblegvad.tumblr.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @esmerelduh (Instagram)
over a year. I like leaning back against all my pillows and turning my whole bed into a workspace. You can even fold a comforter in such a way that it will secure a jar of paint water without spilling it! Sometimes I get a leg cramp though… I also like to sketch out ideas on the subway. That weird no-man’s-land, time-and-spacesuspension-y feeling of being in transit is very conducive to getting totally immersed in a drawing. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Probably the day I figured out how to draw hands when I was five. I had been thinking for a long time about how to turn them from spiky, tree-branch-looking asterixes into something that looked more fleshy and star-shaped, more 3D, and when I finally got it I remember feeling like I had really cracked some kind of code or something. I remember showing that to my grandmother and her going “Wow. Yeah, you really got it.” and that made me feel like a real G. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Superficially, my work is cathartic. I make a lot of it as a way to deal with life in general, instead of having a tantrum, let’s say, or just straight-up killing myself. Sometimes it acts like a diary, or a way of processing things on paper. Personally I think what I subconsciously hope to accomplish with my work is a sense of clarity, and maybe also a sense of validity, as though the work itself makes my feelings or P.O.V valid, just by exiting. More broadly, what I ultimately hope to accomplish with everything I write or draw is to make the people who read my work feel less alone.
FORGE. ISSUE 6: SERENDIPITY
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Jack Reese, like many of his peers, has emerged from the primordial ooze of weirdo artists the
likes of Gary Panter and Fort Thunder, to create his own vision for image making and community building. Since moving to New York to attend SVA almost four years ago, Jack has started multiple extracurricular projects to make up for what is often missing in art education. Along with friends, Jack started the ambitious serial anthology, Weakly Comics, as well as the traveling art gallery, 1-800-BAD-DRUG. Since discovering his dissatisfaction with art school, Jack has viciously hunted down the art bellow the cities gilded exterior, and has found himself at the forefront of maintaining it.
Although Jack shares many of the same sources of inspiration as the artists he surrounds
himself with, what separates Jack from his contemporaries is his desire to validate new artist’s voices. Whether it’s in a print project, a performance piece, or a gallery show, Jack is constantly working to make art he believes in available to others. I first got to know Jack at one of the many events he was putting on last year with 1-800-BAD-DRUG, and was so enthralled by how little I knew about him and his friends. With every project he undertakes, Jack creates a rabbit hole of astonishing young art for the viewer to fall into. Now, as he nears his last semester of college, Jack is beginning to navigate that rabbit hole, to see where he ends up on the other side.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Cleveland, Ohio and I currently live in Ridgewood, New York. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio and I currently live in Ridgewood, New York. Was there any sort of an subcultural art or music scene in Cleveland when you were growing up? There was, but I wasn’t as much a part of it. I definitely had a good basis for an art education there. My parents were very supportive and would take me to the museums. They weren’t like “anti-art” at all, even though neither of them are artists. But in terms of subculture—you could get into the punk scene, but I didn’t really fit into that. I was also a nerd sort of. I was brought up in a very academically competitive environment. My parents put a lot of fear in me, like “If you don’t get good grades, then you won’t get a good scholarship into college, and then you can’t go! So I spent more time by myself than in a community. I had friends who were into punk rock and stuff, and that was cool, but I wasn’t really aloud to go. It was like you had to take the train all the way to the other side of the town. I got into comics when I was like 15, just through learning about American Splendor. Harvey Pekar is from the same area where I’m from in Cleveland, and I was like “Oh, some guy did something!” Then I started trying to make comics like that, and they were bad, haha. I did a 30 page comic that I tried very hard on in high school, and I’m glad I got that out of me, because
it was just bad and regurgitating what I had learned about alt-comics. I guess the one sort of subculture I got into was graffiti in middle school and early in high school, which I think is really funny. A lot of, specifically boys I’ve talked to, have a similar experience at that age. But yeah, when I went to high school I found the other kids that liked to do graffiti, and a lot of them were also into super academic drawing. I did it scarcely and poorly. I had a few different tags. I settled on writing “bed head” which is seven letters—very long—but I could write just the first three or the last four. But yeah, I sort of abandoned that after ninth grade or something, when I just started drawing and painting. Before college did you have any formal training in art? Well from a young age my mom was always really supportive. She’s always been into making things. She never let me buy a halloween costume—which I was always really upset about. I always wanted like the pristine ninja costume from Party City. But she made me wear a black sweatshirt and this like busted ninja costume, haha. She was always making pinatas and stuff for birthday parties. So from a very young age she was like “Yeah, whatever. Draw! Just get it out.” What made you decided to move to New York and go to SVA after high school? Well there wasn’t really a draw for me in New York specifically. It sort of scared me. I had never really been there and it just seemed busy, haha. I would have preferred a more easy going midwest town like Chicago. But basically, Gary Panter taught at SVA and I wanted to take that class. Then the scholarship and financial aid package the school gave me made it doable. My sister lived in New York when I first moved here, so that was helpful in acclimatizing me. But yeah, it was mostly that one major draw of “Oh, one of your favorite artists teaches at this school.” and I could figure out how to go there. What has your experience been like at SVA? We were talking about this, and I think we’ve similarly had disappointing experiences in art school. Art school is the best idea anyone ever thought of.You think “Oh yeah, you just go and people teach you about making art, and there’s facilities, and it’s awesome.” But actually it’s like “No, there’s money involved, and because there’s money involved they have to put these bull shit courses to pretend like they’re teaching you something practical.” Yeah, I don’t know… There’s been a few professors that have been invaluable. Having access to a print shop is great. But other than that, I don’t really care too much for SVA. Is there any sort of active community at SVA making work outside of school? I mean, there’s a few people here and there. There’s like people who are older that I’ve met, like Ben (Mendelewicz) and Char (Esme) who do Spider’s Pee-Paw. I think they had graduated by the time I got there, but Gary (Panter) was still talking about them and said I should go meet them. Curtis (Godino), my roommate, he was a little older. Him and a few other kids were doing stuff. Then there was a good group of kids in the fine arts department. A lot of them graduated last year. Michael Jensen—he curated the Savory Selections video collection. His group of friends were all helping him and he included a lot of them. Now there are just a few people I talk to. How did Weakly Comics initially start? Weakly started as a zine. It started as an eight page xerox or risograph zine that was a quarter
of the size of a sheet of paper. It was just with me, Andrew (Alexander), and Max (Huffman). We were just sort of wanted to serialize comics. I wanted to do something like a newspaper strip—not aesthetically or anything but more like how with Dick Tracy, there’re a lot of it and it looks good. So we started doing it with the attempt to do it every week. Sometimes it was every week exactly. We would all finish it, then I would print it and drop it off at the comic shop. But then we decided we wanted to include more people other than these three boys, haha. So I think by the seventh one we started doing bigger collections and inviting more people. Then I think by the 14th one we had a huge fold out that Katy Stubbs did. That was when Curtis had first messaged me and was like “I want to be in this!” and I thought “Oh! That’s exciting! People looked at this and didn’t throw it away.” So then it just seemed natural for us to do a huge anthology. It came out of seeing people like Leah Wishnia doing Happiness. I know that that was really influential on me—just feeling like “Oh wow, this one person made this and it’s really good.” We tried to give as much creative control as we could to every contributor. The actual book is a total mess almost. I think it’s a successful thing, but there’s just so much in it and so many inserts. Daphne (Brophy) made two sheets that were both four color silkscreens, and she printed 300 of them. It was insane… Now we’re working on the next one, slowly. Were there other zines or publishers that you took cues from when you started Weakly? We all have similar tastes. We were all into what Dan Nadel was doing with Picture Box. Then just seeing Ben and Char doing Spider’s Pee-Paw initially was—that’s a crazy magazine and very different in scope than what we were doing—but just seeing people doing that out of our school was really cool. We were looking at Raw obviously because Gary was involved with
that and they were doing weird stuff like the ripping and the taping and doing the cardboard bound books. So yeah, I think there’s definitely a tradition for what we wanted to do. We just wanted to do it as ambitiously as we could. Did you have a specific goal for what you wanted Weakly to be when you guys started it? Has that changed at all over time? No, I mean Weakly was a free zine that we would leave stacks of in places. The initial goal was just “I guess if we’re making it we might as well put it somewhere someone might see it,
even if it’s bad.” People seeing it repeatedly would make them remember it maybe? But then as soon as we started getting more people involved—I know I was definitely like “We can get more people involved… and it could look better… and we could make something even nicer.” You mentioned earlier that you were sort of raised in this academically competitive household. Do you think you still have that attitude towards the stuff you’re doing now? Oh yeah. It’s not tied to school anymore. But just in terms of work ethic, I feel totally compelled to get things done. Having competitive classes, you figured out that you could just continue working for X amount of hours until you just give up or pass-out or you’re just like full of knowledge. I always try to do things as ambitiously as I can, and a lot of the time bite off more than I can chew. But I like trying to figure out how to just do it. What is 1-800-BAD-DRUG? 1-800-BAD-DRUG started as a gallery in what was rented to us as a basement storage space in Glendale, New York just on the border of Ridgewood. It came out of Leander Capuozzo and Bella Zarember. They had a space in Chicago called Hidden Dog. In Chicago it’s a little more affordable and they had a storefront and everything, so they put on some really nice looking shows there. Really recently Andy Burkholder had a show of originals from his book ITDN. Then there was a string of arsonist in the neighborhood and that building got hit. So all the work got smoke damage and the super of the building died of smoke inhalation. It was a totally crazy, tragic story. So we had this space. It was a basement under a dentists office. You would open up a grate in the sidewalk and walk down into it. It was basically just a room made of plywood that was about 10 ft by 12 ft. There was one cinderblock wall, so we would nail plywood into the cinderblock wall so that we could hang art there. We used this really scary tool called a ramset that uses gunpowder. It’s for putting nails into the foundation of houses or something. But yeah, so we had that basement and it was really cheap, especially splitting it between us. Leander just asked me to be apart of it and it was the three of us. We only did two shows in that basement until the night of the second opening when the landlord came. I guess he figured out what we were doing, or someone upstairs complained, because this was on a monday night and way too many people showed up for a monday night in this neighborhood. People were probably like “What are these kids doing?” It was super fun doing shows there, but before we got kicked out we promised to do a solo show with this artist Maddie Reyna. She was in Chicago at the time and was a little bit older than us. But she was totally down to drive out to New York and make work in this dusty basement. So we were like “Well shit! We should figure out how we can actually make this happen and not have her cancel her travel plans and stuff.” So we scrambled and found another space in Bushwick that was in a building that was studio spaces, but it had a door that we could close. So we got that, and Maddie had her show. It was amazing. It was called Whispers of an IUD. The next show we did after that was in a vacant Chelsea gallery. Our friend Jin Lee somehow knew the owner and was always talking about it and how we could do a show there. So we did a show that was like on 10th avenue in Chelsea in a vacant gallery, which was just so funny. It was like “Oh, there are unused spaces in the hotbed of the art world. In between all of these blue chip galleries there’s a space with polished floors and white walls, and no one’s using it.” So we did a show there that was a group show, and that was fun. I didn’t want to make anything that hung in a Chelsea gallery on principle, so I just made three identical shirts for Leander, Bella, and me.
FORGE. ISSUE 6: SERENDIPITY
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The fine art world seems really antithetical to a lot of these projects that you’ve developed. What is it about fine art that makes you want to still challenge or explore that platform? I guess that’s more a question about the consumer art world. I don’t think what we’re doing fits into that really. But I mean, I love fine art. I look at mostly fine artists. I feel like I barely draw comics anymore. But I mean, just being able to create a platform where a lot of young energetic people can sort of do what they want is mostly what I’m interested in. Doing a comics anthology is a more populous way of doing that, but it’s also like, having these events or making flyers for them felt similarly fulfilling. I don’t know… You can’t really make a sculpture in a zine so it’s fun having spaces for things like that. Our first show we had music and at our second show we had a swimming pool with working fountains. You can’t do that in a publication. But it’s still fun getting people involved. Across everything I’ve found that I’m interested in being able to facilitate a community or even just a platform for other people. The last thing we did, Lander, Bella and I didn’t have any part in actually making it—the video Mike made (Savory Selections) was all his. He talked to us in June about it, and I was like “We should do a screening!” when we still had our basement space. Then it took him until November to actually get the tapes, but I still wanted to do it for him, so I was just figured out a way to have some hand in it. What do you want to do with 1-800-BAD-DRUG after the whole rise and fall of the spaces you’ve had with it? I think that the actual space doesn’t really matter so much. I’ve jokingly used the term “post
real estate.” I mean, how could you have something like what happened in Providence in the 90s happen in New York? It’s impossible in New York, especially now. The real estate options just aren’t there, so it’s just kind of like “Do what you can with what you can find.” Looking to alternative spaces for showing art, or even just different ways of presenting art, I think is totally necessary, especially for a group of young artists that don’t have the money to get in anywhere. What has your experience been like being an artist in New York today? Does New York feel unlivable? Is it discouraging to think about how difficult it is to do art here? Yeah I mean, definitely being here for the first year of school was a little disheartening because you would see something like Chelsea and think “That’s not even speaking the same language as me.” It’s basically like people buying cars. It’s totally this weird world and infrastructure. Like… New York sucks. It’s a great city, but it’s very hard to afford. Talking about Providence in the 90s again; a bunch of people could be living in a mill building for barely any money at all and have this facility to make work in any direction they wanted to. But being in New York now, it’s just sort of like you have to be differently minded. But the other thing is that there’s just so many people in New York that no matter what specific, seemingly insignificant or out there thing that you’re into, there’s almost a guaranteed community for it. So I think in terms of just being able to get a bunch of people together and amplify something is a lot easier in New York. I would have no idea of how to do that in up-state New York or something.
Do you have an idea of what you want to do or make immediately after finishing school? Do you think you’ll stay in New York? I think it would sort of be a shame to move away after working to establish any sort of anything for X amount of years. If I went to Cleveland I would have no idea what the art scene is there— not to diminish anything that is going on in Cleveland. But it’s not something I’ve put a lot of time into. So I’ll probably stay in New York. Right now I’ve got very specific projects. I’m working on a giant silkscreen movie poster for my friend Jin Lee. She was the one who helped us get into the Chelsea gallery. She’s been working on this Russian Language short film that’s about somebody who moves from the Ukraine to Brighten Beach, and then it’s just sort of like a gangster film. So I’m making two different posters for that—one in Cyrillic and one in English. I’m making more clothes for other people. I told Joe Grillo I would make him a shirt, and I told my friend Lily Rodgers, Curtis’s Girlfriend, that I would make her a utility sash because she always looses her stuff. With 1-800-BAD-DRUG we’ll either try to find a new space or keep trying to hop around places. In the fall I was looking for a garage sort of in the same neighborhood that the basement was in. I contacted someone off of Craigslist and went and met them, and it was the same landlord who kicked us out of the basement. He didn’t know me because I wasn’t the one renting it on a lease. It took me a second to realize who he was, but it was totally frightening. I’m actually finishing a publication right now that’s sort of about him. There’s like one existing image we have of him. Curtis had a very short video clip on him walking down as he was kicking us out—and he kicked us out really violently. He was screaming at the top of his lungs like “I rented you this place for $100 a month, and you’re throwing a summer bash down here!?!?” I mean it was an understandable amount of shock from him since we did have a pool of water and these giant drifts of packing peanuts that were four feet tall in the corners of the gallery, and there were a bunch of kids hanging out. At one point he was smashing beer bottles, and we just got all of the art and ran. But then I encountered him again on a search for a new space. So I’m making an envelope of booklets that are all like misguided anger towards him and identity confusion. My legal name is John, and his name John. Nina is a character and so is Sal the exterminator, who’s her husband. It’s a whole thing. How has the internet affected your ability to do what you do? It’s interesting because, Weakly—when we started doing that—we thought it was going to be specifically print only. We were like “We’re not going to post these on the internet. It’s just going to be an ephemeral thing. If you see it, you get to pick it up and have it. If not, it never existed.” But then we did a Kickstarter to fund the big anthology, haha. So we couldn’t have done that without the internet. Promoting art shows with 1-800-BAD-DRUG—we didn’t put the address on any of the flyers that we made. On the posters I was printing it would just say 1-800-BAD-DRUG and then the date and the time. So it sort of relied on people to—if someone actually saw that and wanted to follow up on it, they just sort of had to look for it online. I mean I don’t have much of an internet following. But I don’t know… I’m happy forming the community in real life. The internet is not something you can ignore, right? I go on it every day. It’s a gigantic piece of our culture. As younger kids we all grew up with it, and know very little about what a pre-internet world is like. So it’s not something you can ignore. It’s access to any range of interesting or banal information. I feel like the internet enabled me to learn about a lot of things I wouldn’t know about without it. I’m not anti-internet. I just think it’s nice to have something that’s sort of intimate. I think intimacy is maybe the right word. Or maybe precious. Just having this physical
thing that you can actually crease or something. What do you think keeps younger people from putting out their work? I was just thinking about when I stopped being afraid to promote my own work recently. Or not even necessarily promote it, but try to become friends with other people that are making stuff that I don’t know just by being like “We both make stuff.” I don’t know when the exact point was. I think it was sort of gradual. I was definitely more comfortable doing it after being in art school for two semesters and starting to go to zine fairs and stuff. Learning the dynamic of
that and the exchanges you have with other people in that sort of setting. If you keep going to those things people will recognize you. And if they don’t like your work initially, maybe you’ll get better and they’ll be like “Oh, that’s cool!” and you guys can pretend that you didn’t know each other before then, and you can start over at that point, haha. It seems like you’ve taken on more of the roll of a curator. Where do you want to go with that and where do you want to go with your own art practice? It’s funny, recently at school—after me trying to explain the different things that I’m working on—someone said to me “Oh, so you’re like a culture curator?” I was like “Uh… That doesn’t sound like what I’m doing…” hahaha. But I’ve gotten totally into being able to promote other people’s work. If I think more people should be able to see it, I’d like to try to do that. One of the most positive experiences in the New York art scene for me early on when I just got to New York was going to Tomato House, which was Matt Thurber and Rebecca Bird’s Gallery, but they don’t do shows there anymore. I didn’t know anyone, but as soon as I got there Matt was like “Hey! Are you an artist? This person is an artist.” Everyone was talking and I met a lot of people that I’m still talking to or working with. That spirit was really important to me, being so open, and it was so contradictory to what the sort of New York art world narrative is. Being in that sort of environment was so energetically the opposite of even the stereotype of that. Everyone is here and talking, and it’s run by artists, and they’re showing the work of other artists, and it’s awesome, and everyone is having a great time. Being able to have experiences and exchanges like that, that are completely positive and have a lasting affect on you—even if it wasn’t anything and it was just like someone being totally polite and introducing themselves—is amazing, especially in a gallery setting run by artists. That’s not something sustainable. An artist run gallery in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn—that not going to make enough money to continue to support shows or anything. But the fact that someone’s doing that out of love is great. Creating this platform where a community can exits that wouldn’t be there otherwise. I’d like to recreate that feeling for someone else. I had no sort of ambition to start a gallery or anything until Leander and Bella sort of invited me into this thing they had a little bit of experience in. Then I realized “Oh, it’s like a lot of the other stuff I am doing.” Are there any project you would like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? I’m always just like “I’ll get to it.” which is probably idealistic. I had an idea of trying to write a play. I’ve had a few art performances—I just did one last week that was fun. I probably do like one a year and then get embarrassed and go back inside. But I think writing a play would be fun. It takes time to get a venue and if you want people to help you. Doing something on that sort of scale would be fun. We’re working on the new anthology and that’ll be a thing. I’m sure I won’t have the time or money I’d like to have for it, but it’s all stuff we’ll figure out.
FORGE. ISSUE 6: SERENDIPITY
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Following years of piecing together songs and shows with his band, Anorexia, as a teenager in Las Vegas, Shamir and his
bandmate decided to take a brief hiatus and dedicate some time to their own projects. Shamir, who for a long time drifted around the few honky tonks in the city in the hopes of becoming a country starlet, decided to try something new and began recording demos for what would become the Northtown EP. To his excitement, his dismay, and his overall disbelief, just months after releasing the EP with the tape label GODMODE, Shamir grew into the pop giant that completely capsized his initial dreams of simple indie acclaim. It’s difficult to characterize Shamir with any one thing he makes, represents, or stands for. Instead, Shamir avoids cliché and trades it for the unique and the unpredictable. Whether he’s making bedroom recordings with a four track, or booking studio musicians in New York, at his core the only thing that truly matter’s to Shamir is the intimacy and honesty in the work he is creating. After he’s seen his life shoot from 0 to 100 with success and responsibility in a matter of months, all Shamir is looking for now is a way to meet in the middle.
Where are you from, and where do you live currently? I’m from North Las Vegas, Nevada originally. For the first 19 years of my life. Now I live in South Philadelphia. What role did music play in your life while you were growing up? Music was in my life, I think, the same way it is for everyone else. I had parents who liked music and listened to music. I would listen to music from their upbringing and stuff that they were use to. My mom listened to 70s, 80s, and even 90s slow jam R&B music—like that’s her shit. She also liked some hip hop and stiff like that. I just always vividly remember very early on listening to and loving Groove Theory and old 80s singers like Teena Marie and Phyllis Hyman. Even some males like Jeffery Osborne too. I just like that smooth R&B. And everybody knowS that I whole heartedly believe that Patti LaBelle is best singer on the face of this planet. That’s why I love living in Philadelphia too, haha. I’m like waiting to run into her! My mom loved Nina Simone. Just very soulful music. I kind of just naturally drifted, maybe at 9, to other things like rock music and stuff. My mom’s twin sister—she was really into music and she had a home studio. My early upbringing, from like kindergarden until I want to say like second grade, it was my mom, her twin, me, and my mom’s twin’s son. We all lived in this house together. So we’d have a lot of musicians over because she had a home studio back in the early 2000s when that was like really expensive and crazy. Just to see them rehearse and record and play made me think “Oh, I want to do that.” So that kind of planted the seed.
Then I kind of just realized there was another whole world of music out there. My mom and other people around me as a kid didn’t exposed me to. When I was 9 I saw The Who on a commercial and then I guess me and my mom were at Tower Records or something. It was some CD shop—back when you could run a business just on selling CDs, haha. I saw The Who and I was like “Oh, I liked the song I saw in that commercial.” So I was like “Oh mom, get this CD.” and she was like “Okay… How do you know The Who? Like, I don’t even know The Who.” It kind of just grew from there. I don’t even know how. I guess I started watching MTV. There was the show Subterranean where they would play all of the alternative tracks on MTV late at night. I’ve always been a night owl, even when I was young, and my mom never forced me to go to sleep. So I would like stay up listening to The Bravery and like LCD Soundsystem and all of that stuff at an early age. Then I just had my mom buy those CDs for me. And then in sixth grade that’s when the whole game changed because—and this was before Spotify too—that was when I got my first streaming music subscription, which was Rhapsody then. They were sort of like the first and that was a whole foreign concept to people. But I was already on it because I got an MP3 player that actually handled streaming content. So you could download the streamed content onto it. So I would just sit on the computer for hours downloading music, and then I would walk to school and would just listen to music. It was like a past time of mine. When did you start making your own music? I started making my own music—I was just kind of lucky because I started early on. Because my aunt was a good example of the idea that you could make music on your
own. That seemed like such a foreign concept to a lot of people when they first started recording for themselves. Not only did I have my aunt at an early age, but then when my mom got with my stepdad, who is a rapper and producer, he had his own little studio too. I would mess around with beats and production with him, and that was like a whole thing. We use to try to collab a lot, but I was like really young—maybe 14 or 15. I started recording by myself when I was 16. I knew there was some way of recording that would fit my voice and my style a little bit better. I came across the Vivian Girls—my favorite band ever—and discovered lo-fi music. I was like “Oh my god, how did they get this vintage sound?” Then I started doing my research and found out about Tascam tape players and all of that shit. I bought a $30 Tascam cassette recorder off of Ebay and recorded my first demos for my band then, Anorexia. It was called Lock Down and it was all on that Tascam four track. It was just like “Yeah, this is my sound. My voice just sounds better lo-fi. This is me. This is what I was suppose to do.” I was just recording by myself after that, and I didn’t really feel like I needed my aunt or my stepdad. I was just like “No, I’m just going to go to my bedroom. It’s fine. Thank you guys.” My aunt would like drop dollars for me to go to professional ass studios. But I didn’t like it, and I felt bad. I was like a little ungrate. But I was like “It doesn’t sound good to me. I sound better recording in my bedroom. Sorry.”
Initially you were making more country or singersongwriter music, right? I just started writing songs acoustically because that was the only instrument I had and the only instrument I knew how to play. I got my first acoustic guitar when I was like nine. I was just writing little songs on guitar. I guess it was just kind of folky by nature because it was just acoustic and I didn’t really know about production aesthetic for other types of music. It wasn’t until I was like 13 when I discovered… Taylor Swift. Then I was like “Oh yeah. I’m going to become a country star. That’s just going to happen.” So pretty much from 13 to 16 I was trying to be like the next Taylor Swift. But it was only until 16 because Taylor Swift was Taylor Swift at 16. So that was the time limit I gave myself. I was like going to honky tonks, I was doing the damn thing. Like I was trying to be Darius Rucker in this bitch. Then after 16 I guess ah… it didn’t pan out for me to become Taylor Swift, haha. I guess I got a little bit booty hurt and got a little bit angsty—also because I was a16 too. So I was like “I’m going to start a band then.” I guess it was after I heard the Vivian Girls, and there was just something about that that lit a fire under me. I was like “I really need to start a band. I’m not just going to talk about it now.” Then literally a week later is when I started Anorexia. How did your band Anorexia come together? It was originally with me and my friend Evelyn, but then she froze at the first show. But she’s on the first EP on
“We had a cute aesthetic because we were like little brown kids playing bedroom-pop. We did really well for a town where there’s absolutely no scene.”
“Anorexia never really called it quits. It’s just sort of Shamir ate it.” our Bandcamp. She plays drums on that. Then after that I just wanted to throw it away, until I realized I had another show booked. I was like “Well I can’t play by myself.” so I went on Facebook and was like “Does anybody want to come just to play this show with me? You could literally play triangle, I don’t care.” That’s when Christina (Thompson) hit me up. She was like “I play bass.” and I was like “Okay, let’s go rehearse.” Then we played the show and we loved each other, and we had a cute aesthetic because we were like little brown kids playing bedroom-pop. We did really well for a town where there’s absolutely no scene. We were able to go to SXSW. It was my first time getting any kind of press outside of friends and family. We
were in the local paper. It was really great. We did it all ourselves at like 16. It was fun. You told me once you actually met Katie Garcia who runs Bayonet Records through your band Anorexia. How did that happen? Yeah! I can’t believe she actually even remembered me. When I was still in Anorexia I sent a demo into Captured Tracks where she was working. Katie was a supporter from the jump. She gave us so much advice. She was like “You guys are really good. Keep going at it! Feel free to send us stuff.” Then, after I like released the Shamir EP, I saw her at a Beach Fossils show and she was like
“I remember when you sent me your Anorexia stuff!” and I was like “Oh my god!!! You remembered!?” It was so funny. But yeah we sent our demo to Captured Tracks. It was the only label we sent our demo to because we were just loving everything on it. So when did Anorexia sort of come to an end, and what did you start making immediately afterwords? Anorexia came to and end— actually we didn’t come to an end. It’s always so awkward to talk about it because Anorexia was my life and it was suppose to be my life. I always thought that I was going to be a little band boy. I never thought that I would be like a solo pop start, haha. That was not the goal. I was not trying to be Shamir. We had only released on Bandcamp, and then we got a tape release which was super exciting. So that was holding us up for a minute. We had also just done SXSW too so we were really happy. Then we had to graduate, so after graduation we wanted to have a little time to get our lives together before we started writing again. We’re both really creative people so we were like “Let’s just do solo side projects for the summer, and then have fun with that. We can like guest on each other’s stuff.” Christina was rapping, so we had a bunch of rapping songs where we were rapping together. She released a whole mixtape, and then I was doing all these demos and putting them on my SoundCloud. I started making electronic stuff because I got a hand-medown drum machine from my stepfather’s god brother. He was using pro-tools or whatever the fuck at the time, so he was like “Oh yeah, you can take this drum machine. We was using it in the 90s for everything.” So I was like “Okay cool. I can probably get really cool unique sounds out of this.” So that’s when I did the really early demos for “If It Wasn’t True” and “I’ll Never Be Able To Love” in my bedroom. People were liking it on SoundCloud—just like my family and friends, because they never heard me sing like that. They knew that I could but I was just too busy “lazy singing” with Anorexia. People were like “Oh wow. Shamir has like pop potential. That’s pretty cool.” I wanted to find a small tape label so that I could press a running of my solo stuff. That’s when I found GODMODE, and emailed them my stuff not even thinking they would open it or pay attention to it. Then they emailed me back and were like “Okay, we’re going to fly you out to New York.” Even then I’m not like “Oh my god, this is so big!” I just though “Oh cool. They’re really nice and they want this to be really well produced and they’re going to fly me out to New York. Whatever!” I didn’t think anything of it. Then, I want to say three weeks after I came back to Vegas from recording it, I got Best New Track on Pitchfork. I was like “… What?” I just didn’t know… No one told me. I didn’t even expect it because I just thought this was a really small tape label. I didn’t know what kind of pull they had. I wasn’t even trying to get that pull from them. I just wanted my damn tapes, haha.
Me and Christina were like “Umm… That’s cool. What does this mean for Anorexia?” Then I was like “I don’t know. I’m just going to go back and just record the rest of this EP. Maybe this is just a one time thing.” But then the press got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger. So Shamir took over. Anorexia never really called it quits. It’s just sort of Shamir ate it. How did that immediate positive reception of what you made effect how you viewed what you were making? It was a little bit traumatizing actually. If It Wasn’t True came out and it got Best New Track. It was the only track I had out officially as a solo musician. So I had to go to New York and hurry up and record the EP. I was still living and working in Vegas and I was still going about my life like it was normal. It still wasn’t like processing to me. I kind of had a breakdown when the first Pitchfork thing came out. I hyperventilated. I was in my underwear on my mother’s couch and I had Best New Track on Pitchfork. I couldn’t even fathom what that meant for the rest of my life. So I thought the best thing for my mental health was to continue like it didn’t exist—which is what I did. I was just working at a Top Shop at this point. It was just all good at this point. Nobody really cared that I was a musician. Then I was going back and forth to New York for photo shoots or recording or speaking to labels or whatever. But I didn’t tell them that because I was like “It’s just going to sound like bragging.” and also low-key in the back of my mind, it didn’t seem like a big deal. It wasn’t until one of the Top Shop people saw me on iTunes on one of the top lists. They were like “Is this you!?” and I was like “Yeah…” She was like “What the hell?” and I was like “I told you I do music.” Then I had my first fashion and style shoot with Interview Magazine while I was still working at Top Shop. That’s a very fashion forward store, and they have all of the fashion magazine on the coffee table. Low and behold, one of the magazines on the coffee table has me in it and then they were like “What the fuck Shamir? What are you doing here?” I was just trying to hold on to that as long as possible. I already had a record deal and I was still working there because I felt like “I’m trying to keep this normal life! What the fuck is going on here.” Then pretty much after I signed and I was going to New York to record because my producer lived out there. That was kind of my turning point where I was like “Oh, I guess I’m going to have to be a full time musician now.” That idea was really scary to me because I never wanted to be a full time musician where I wouldn’t have a day job. It felt so unstable to me. How would I actually make money to pay my bills? How did this happen? Then I realized “Oh this is possible.” It still feels like a pipe dream.
“My mom’s condition with me was ‘You can live with me, but you have to make music.’ So I would just make music in my bedroom to calm her down and keep her mind at ease.” Were you in school at the time at all? Well I wanted to go to school. But my mom was actually the one who told me to take a break year. So I took a break year and started working, and I was like “I’ll just save up to go to school, rather than having debt and shit.” I only wanted to go to culinary art school, so I was just saving up to go for that. My mom’s condition with me was “You can live with me, but you have to make music.” So I would just make music in my bedroom to calm her down and keep her mind at ease. She didn’t want me working my life aways, cause she’s a hippie and shit. She said “Take a break year and see what happens.” And it happened. Yeah, she called it. It definitely wasn’t something I was striving for, it was just something that naturally happened. What was the process like signing to XL Records and then working on Ratchet? A little bit before I released the Northtown EP I started getting some label attention. I went to the XL label office in London and talked to them and played for them and everything. Then I officially signed with them in summer 2014. By the fall of 2014 I had filmed the video for “On The Regular”. I was living in New York full time to record Ratchet, and then Ratchet was done recording by like December 2014. Then It was out by May 2015.
Ratchet was an album to me that felt “of the time” for me mentally. I wanted it to be relatable for people my age. Even if you weren’t my age you could relate to it because you were my age at some point. With Ratchet I was trying to write about unspoken things for young adults in America specifically. That weird grace period between 18 and 21 when you can’t drink and you have a lot of restrictions, but you’re still a legal adult and you’ve got to pay these bills. It’s just weird, you know? Why can’t I enjoy everything thing at 18 if I’m still paying bill just like my parents. I’ve got to cut the edge off some how. “Make A Scene“ on Ratchet is definitely about that. I think millennial’s are crazy because not only are we struggling to take care of ourselves, but we were handed a shitty economy too. And on top of that, you’re telling us we can’t drink? Since I was touring Europe a lot because I was on a European label, I was out there getting fucked up and loving it. Then I have the song “Vegas” on there which is about growing up in “Vegas” and how desolate it is out there. It’s kind of hard to be stimulated because all of the money goes to the strip and creating this illusion. I say in that song “Go to the city of sin and get a away without bail. But if you’re living in the city, are you already in hell?” Then I have a song about my great grandmother who died on my birthday the year before I recorded it. I really just wanted it to be a record that millennials could look back on later and be like “I related so much to this.”
What was it like touring the world at such a young age and having to learn everything about being a professional musician so quickly? I think growing up on tour, for me, was the best way to go. I was a very responsible person already—sometime even more responsible than the adults I was on tour with. I was essentially a 19 year old boss. It was really weird to have to answer to people much older than me. That was always in the back of my head, and I felt awkward about it, but I
could never let that show, because you don’t want to get shit all over. People shit on young artists all of the time and I was like “That’s not going to happen to me. I’m not going to let that happen.” But over all it was good. Tour was hard for the first half. The first set of shows with my official hired ass band was 2015 SXSW. Then from then on I went to Europe, did a few dates in America, then did all of the festivals, and then did the headlining full American/ European tour. There were some days when it was really hard, but it was all just a very good experience. I just love
“With Ratchet I was trying to write about unspoken things for young adults in America specifically. That weird grace period between 18 and 21 when you can’t drink and you have a lot of restrictions, but you’re still a legal adult”
“Then I got a sense of the Philly scene and I was just like ‘Oh my god! All these kids around my age and even younger are out here getting drunk as shit watching dope ass bands!’ haha. It’s like what I dreamed of.” performing. Performing live is very therapeutic for me. No matter what kind of show I had on tour or on a specific date when I hit the stage, that all went away. I also had a good team. My tour manager was a real OG. He’s in his 40s so we would call him “tour dad.” He really helped put it all together and he was really chill. I really loved my band. They were all a few years older, but they were like really funny. I just got lucky. I didn’t have a bunch of yesmen around me, which is what I didn’t want. What was it like entering the pop music world, after your initial prospects were just to be able to release lo-fi music on a small label? I always feel like I’m in this weird middle world where I’m too pop for DIY sometimes, and then I’m too DIY for pop sometimes. It was just weird to have to kiss the ass of someone who’s important in the pop world. It would be like “Do you know who this is?” and I’d be like “I know who it is. I don’t really care that much.” But then the next second my band or my tour manager would see me freak out about someone who’s big on a smaller level. So it was hard to be on tour and then want to go see someone that I like, but my band who was mainly into pop music wouldn’t go with me. I ended up just going to a lot of shows at festivals myself or whatever, cause no one else wanted to see it. That was kind of hard in that sense because there was a lot of people that I idolized that I kind of al-
ready surpassed in a weird way. It kind of felt like that moment in a teenage rom-com where you were kind of like the awkward one and you had your small group, but then somehow you made your way into the popular group and the popular group kind of pulled you away from your awkward closer friends who actually really really knew you. That’s kind of how it felt, haha. When did you first get involved with the DIY music scene in Philly? I got into the Philly scene simultaneously with Joy Again, which is the band that I work with out here, and Alex G, who I saw had something written about him on Pitchfork the same time as me. I was still living in Vegas, so I didn’t know how big he was out here. I remember listening to Harvey and then crying my eyes out the rest of the night, haha. But I found Joy Again because I had released this little acoustic EP on this small Irish label ran by like a 16 year old kid. I just kept up with a lot of the roster and everything he was releasing. Back then their band was called Forever Lesbians, and I thought that was a funny name. So I was like “Oh, I’m going to check this out.” and it was really good. So I hit the guy up who released it and was like “Yo, tell me about these Forever Lesbians dudes.” thinking that they were grown ass men. But he was like “Yeah, they’re like teenage boys from Philadelphia.” and I was like “What!? They’re like kids?” The youngest mem-
ber at this point when they recorded it was like 14 or 15. I was just like “Oh my god. They’re so good and so advanced.” They reminded me a lot of when I was doing Anorexia stuff. I was like “I want to be friends with them.” because I didn’t know many people my age who were making music like that—even though that’s totally a normal thing here in Philly. But I didn’t know that happened when I was living in Vegas. So when I moved to New York, I made a point to come to Philly to see them. That was the first time I came to Philly, just to see them playing. Then I got a sense of the Philly scene and I was just like “Oh my god! All these kids around my age and even younger are out here getting drunk as shit watching dope ass bands!” haha. It’s like what I dreamed of. I didn’t think it was possible, but it was well and alive in Philadelphia. So I just kept in touch with them. Then I started managing them. I’m glad I got to meet them, and they helped me make my way into the scene. What was it like to finally find this community of young people making music and playing show in a type of scene that you always wanted to be a part of in Vegas,
and then have to leave it to keep playing huge shows around the world? That was probably one of the hardest things. I would just be in Europe FaceTiming them and they’d be like “Yo! We just saw this band at this house venue.” But I don’t know, it really stuck with me. I always knew I enjoyed this very special scene out here, because it felt like what New York was trying to do, but New York was already so monopolized. It was already so pure out here, so it felt very natural to come back, but I was so hungry for it anyways. How have you started approaching the music you’re working on now differently than what you did with Ratchet? Well Ratchet was written pretty much in a period of three months. It didn’t feel rushed, because I had a lot of lyrics. Ratchet was kind of the first time I really just wrote. I had a notebook that I ended up losing, but it was my life and I use to just write in there. That was like the first time I was writing to refer back to, because I knew I was working with
“I would pretty much just write and record with instruments I had around me, whether it was my keyboardist’s keyboard, or someone’s guitar that I borrowed. I remember even having Colin from DIIV come into my hotel room to help me flesh out some of these demos.”
“They want me to be the whole gender and sexuality expert and it’s like ‘I’m not the expert. I just have non-binary outlook on gender and sexuality.’” a producer who would just be sending me tracks to write to. It was something that was freaking me out because I was just use to writing songs on guitar and building them out. So with the new stuff that I wrote, it was like the first time where I got to compile a bunch of songs I put together over time. Then I got a new digital 8-track around this time last year and just started using that to write. I would build these songs with a drum machine and I got a little cheap microphone. I would pretty much just write and record with instruments I had around me, whether it was my keyboardist’s keyboard, or someone’s guitar that I borrowed. I remember even having Colin from DIIV come into my hotel room to help me flesh out some of these demos. So I was just pretty much writing that way. And then by fall of last year I had all of the songs compiled and was like “Okay I’m going to go home and record and produce them and really flesh them out.” It feels good because I took some time on it. I feel like the lyrics and even the music is more thought out, and mature, and poetic. Have you experience people condescending towards you because of your age, ethnicity, or your gender presentation in the music industry? I guess I really connect with the discrimination that women experience all of the time, because I get mistaken for female all of the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve
been with my band who—most of them are women except the two dude, my drummer, Davyhon, and my sometimes bass player and sound guy Mike. We’ll be outside or some shit and a bystander will be like “Oh, are you a band?” but will only be talking to Mike and Davyhon while we’re just standing to the side. They’ll be asking about the band and then they will be like “Oh well you know, it’s actually Shamir’s project.” and I’ll be like “Hi!” Then they’ll completely change and be like “Awe! You write your own songs? You lead the band? How cute!” I’ve been getting that shit since I was in Anorexia, because Anorexia was just me and a girl and people thought that we were an all girl band and they would give us shit all of the time. I feel like I identify as a woman in music a lot more sometimes. But then also do reap the benefits of being masculine in the music industry. So sometimes media people won’t treat me the way that they treat women a lot of the times which is shitty. So sometime I bypass reporters thinking I’m stupid or that I don’t know anything about music. I know tons of female musicians who know way more about music than I do. But I think my biggest problem with the media is with the whole gender thing. People being miseducated about being non-binary. Even with my own set of rules. You know, I understand that it’s nice when people are like “Oh, what are your pro-nouns.” But I’ll go by the male pronouns and
I’ll also go by the female pronouns. I just don’t care, that’s the whole point of being non-binary. It’s just always kind of awkward in that sense. Then people are like “Oh why don’t you wear make-up or cross dress?” or whatever. It’s just because I don’t feel comfortable doing it. Just because I don’t identify as male doesn’t mean I’m going to hop over to the other side of the spectrum. I’m just me, and I’m into whatever makes me comfortable. Even with like sexuality—there was this one blog that was a queer blog that said something like “Shamir is one of the best gay musicians around.” That was just so ridiculous to me because they completely mislabeled my sexuality, and never have I ever said that I was gay. I’ve always been open to the fact that I’m queer, but I’ve never said that I’m gay. They just automatically assumed that I was gay. I actually tweeted at the blog and was like “Shame on you as a queer blog to fuck up someone’s sexual orientation like that, when it’s your job to get that right, out of all the blogs.” If it was any other blog I wouldn’t have been mad. It was just the fact that it was that blog. But it’s getting better now that everyone knows what’s up. We talked about this in the past, but I feel like it’s always really frustrating to have someone pigeon hole you and try to make you the spokes person or educator on whatever marginalized group you are a part of. Yeah! It’s the same thing. People want that headline and people want you to be an expert on something that you are. They want me to be the whole gender and sexuality expert and it’s like “I’m not the expert. I just have non-binary outlook on gender and sexuality.” That’s all I have to tell you—and that’s all I should have to tell you. I shouldn’t have to explain it to you because, I’m a musician. I’m not a sexual educator. But then it goes back to how, a lot of people who do speak on those things feel like they’re an expert. I’m just not one of those people. I’m just here as myself and I feel like being myself as an example should be enough for people. You’ve been pursuing a lot more acting lately. How long have you been acting, and what facet do you want to do it in now? I’ve always loved comedy. I use to do stand-up comedy and loved it. That was an avenue that was an avenue I wanted to go down along with my music—music has just become a full time thing. I use to do comedy a lot in my free time a long with music. So I’ve kind of wanted to get back into comedy. Acting seemed like a way to get back into that. I’ve been blessed to be given two really funny, great comedic roles, and one serious one where I’m not really doing anything, I’m just singing. I’m really excited to get those two comedic roles and be seen in that sense. I actually have a comedy reel out there floating on the internet, that I guess a lot of people have seen. It’s really funny because, before the whole music thing I just
remember it had like a few hundred views. Then, not too long ago, I went to go check back on it because I needed some acting and audition stuff because I didn’t have an acting resume, and I was like “Oh! This has like 400,000 views now.” I also want to get into screen writing. I wanted to start acting for the screen writing aspect—to see how screenplays are formatted. I’m still auditioning whenever I can. It’s not anything crazy but, whatever makes sense and feels right I want to audition for. Are there any projects you would like to embark on that you just don’t have to time or money for at the moment? Yeah! I want to do a web series. Something that I could get some kind of decent funding for. I have a lot of Youtube friends like IISuperwomanII. She’s a homie. She follows me on like twitter and everything. I know she’s really into music. But yeah I want to definitely do something like that. But I want it to be more scripted, and not just a straight up vlog. You’ve obviously a really unique voice and come from a lot of backgrounds and experiences that just don’t exist among people in your same level of success. Do you ever feel, since you do have this giant megaphone and are one of the few people in your situation, like you’re responsible in this moment to share your views? I don’t feel responsible for anything. Like… anything. As far as music or image or anything. I’m just responsible with being truthful with myself and the world, and being truthful with art and everything I do around me. I don’t think of myself as political, I don’t like to be political, and I just don’t see myself as like a social justice warrior. But I will speak on things if I feel it’s necessary and if the platform feels right for me to. I recently wrote a thing about how race is depicted in Orange is the New Black in a very detailed way. That was like my first time writing for a blog and everything. It just felt like something I wanted to do and the opportunity just came from a Facebook status. Someone saw it and was like “Do you want to write about this?” and I was like “Sure!” I’m not really trying to be a megaphone for anything. But I do feel connected to all of these struggles and topics. If I’m given an opportunity and it feel right or feels like it will reach people in a correct way, than I’ll do it. It’s really hard for me to get political or social in my music though. My music is so personal to me specifically. Maybe if I was feeling that way personally than I would, but I usually don’t. But my twitter goes off when it comes to anything social. You know, that’s why people have that, haha.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
In an industry so shrouded by the mystery of its future, Elizabeth Renstrom is actively conceiving reasons for people to
give a damn about editorial photography. After clearing up her own unknowns about starting a career in photography immediately following art school, Liz forged a path for herself and her peers to create a life out of image making. From early projects like Tag Tag Tag magazine, to working her way up the ranks of freelance photography, to sitting in her seat of power as photo editor at VICE, Liz has always found a way to maintain her voice and include other people. As the landscape of photography and publishing are constantly changing, she has held together what makes each one such a special place for communication. Liz’s curatorial prowess and intentions are best exemplified in last year’s VICE Photo Issue. Although it was Liz’s first photo issue while at the helm, she created a magnum opus celebrating the past 50 or so years of women in photography. Much like many of her other efforts, 2016’s photo issue reminded it’s onlookers of the holiness photo and storytelling can have in someone’s life. Liz is in no way a purest but she’s actively figuring out ways to maintain the longevity and commitment that have been a part of photography for decades. As media continues to shift towards impermanence and inconsideration, Liz will be constantly championing the laborious art made to accompany to journalism, while inviting new artists do so as well.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m originally from Hartford, Connecticut—the insurance capitol, haha. But now I live here in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Was there any sort of art community in Hartford that you were a part of when you were growing up there? Hartford is a smaller city so, I wouldn’t say the art scene was booming, but I think with any smaller city it’s something that people seek out and it’s definitely there. I think it’s a really tight-knit community. Real Art Ways is in Hartford. There’s a lot of really great creative institutions. You just have to put a little more effort into finding them. So yeah, I think that definitely influenced me when I was growing up. But I definitely used the internet to find other teenagers across the state to go to these things with and kind of create my own community outside of what was directly down the block from my house. How did you initially get into photography when you were younger? I honestly—it’s probably really shallow to say now, haha— but I was a really avid user of LiveJournal. I grew up in the city of Hartford but I changed school to a “magnet” school, which would take kids from the inner-city and place them in different programs throughout the state. I did that, so I didn’t have a lot of friends. So in my spare time after school, I would apply to these writing communities with self portraits, and I would apply to these photo communities with photos I took on my crappy point and
shoot. I think that’s when I started to at least have some sort of tie to—if you even want to call it image making. A lot of it is still on a Photobucket that I have the password for. It’s humbling to see those photos of your Converse facing inward or like emo shit, haha. But that was like my first foray into photography. After high school you went to Parsons, right? When did you know you wanted to move to New York for school? What was your experience like at Parsons? I had been sneaking to New York in high school. I don’t know… I think everyone who wants to be a creative and is lucky enough to live close by ends up here. My focus wasn’t going to be in photo when I was applying to schools. I was applying for drawing and painting and just general fine arts. I really liked Parsons’s fine art program so I visited and really liked the studio situation. They gave me more money than other schools so it seemed like a good choice at the time, haha. Then I changed my mind and sort of freaked out and decided that photography would be—I mean I always loved photo—but I thought it would be a more viable option for my future. In creative professions, I saw more variety in the types of jobs I could do after school. What was the attitude of the other students while you were going there? Did it feel like you were in a group of people who would become a cohort of contemporary artists? I mean… I think art school is a unique time and place.
You’re spending so much money—or “future-spending” so much money with student loans—and investing in something that is very precarious. Half of the kids have that attitude, and work really hard, and have a great knowledge of where they’re going, and really use their professors as resources. And then you have the other half of the students who, for them, the stakes aren’t as high. When you have that blend of people it can cause some existential dread, hahaha. Like when you work on your own stuff and you work so hard on this project, and you bring it to a group critique as a freshman and someone else brings a self portrait that they shot in their dorm bathroom. What was your experience like finishing school, and then entering the art world to try to make a living off of what you learned? I think sometimes at these institutions the focus is sort of really on conceptualizing and carrying out projects, but not the practical “What does it mean to be a working artist
and supporting yourself outside of school?” My goal was to figure that out. I was working all though out school—not at jobs in the arts—but working at Starbucks and American Apparel full time while trying to support the crazy shit that I was making, which I wasn’t sure where it would apply after school. I think in my last year at Parsons I took a professional practice course, and that was sort of my first intro into what photo editing meant. It was sort of on my mind, but I had no clear path when I was graduating or what my next steps were in terms of entering the professional photography world. If you saw my personal work that I was making at the time when I was graduating, it wasn’t the type of work that could be easily applied to commercial or editorial. The only solution for me beyond a vague sense of photo editing was “Okay, I’ll try and get on the gallery circuit and focus on my studio practice and figure out a way to make a living from doing that.” It’s so nebulous—a “fine art photographer.” You have to invest all of this time and money into these personal projects and there’s not a lot of payback after the fact. You’re sort of just investing in a reputation that could then maybe
“It was a way for us to kind of see what it meant to make a magazine and exactly how much effort needs to be put forth for the curation and the concept behind one”
“It’s sort of like what you’re doing with this. I think a lot of people do it to maintain their sanity when they’re working under bigger brands that have an image behind them already.” lead to editorial or maybe buyers.
How did you feel after you graduated? Did it feel defeating in realizing how limited the options were in making a career out of art? Or did you feel really mobilized to figure out how to make what you were doing possible? When I graduated I was working full time at American Apparel. I was basically just trying to organize my peers and the people I connected with in school to kind of keep up the idea of group critique. I started thinking of ways of how I could also start a publication or something that brought people together or motivated people to keep doing work and projects after this weird hive that we all came from. That was my main goal in the couple weeks after I graduated. Then I got recommended for an internship at Time Magazine’s photo department. I got it that summer right after I graduated, and that was sort of my entrance into all of this. That’s really cool that you were trying to create more opportunities for you and your friends to keep making work and talking about each other’s work after school.
Did that manifest itself in any particular projects that you started? Yeah! My strategy with working with the photographers I went to school with was starting a magazine with my friend Alex (Thebez) called Tag Tag Tag. We did our first edition of it the summer after we graduated together. It was a way for us to kind of see what it meant to make a magazine and exactly how much effort needs to be put forth for the curation and the concept behind one, since there are so many of them. That was a really fun project, and again, just an excuse to keep in touch with the people that we both respected. We also reached out to kids at other schools or who weren’t in school. We put our own kind of assembly of artists together in our own way. It was something that I really needed going into Time, because you know, coming from a fine art background I was like “Oh my god, I’m selling out!”
My internship was to work for this edition they were doing of Time called Style & Design which was more of like a luxury culture magazine. It was this bespoke, beautiful publication, and I didn’t really know what that would mean going in. I wanted to sort of stick to my indie/DIY fine arts
roots, so I was also doing that to sort of neutralize all my preconceived notion about what it was going to mean to help put together this really large scale production for a legacy brand like Time. It’s sort of like what you’re doing with this. I think a lot of people do it to maintain their sanity when they’re working under bigger brands that have an image behind them already. You can influence it, but only to a certain point, so it’s nice to have something that is yours. How has Tag Tag Tag evolved over time for you? It’s changed over time. We still do it and it’s become so many different things. But we did that first edition and it took us a long time to put out. We really wanted to make it print, but we had no money to actually put up the cost of making even an addition of 400 magazine at 80 pages a pop. It’s expensive. So we decided to do an online version. Then Alex and I, in our second break of jobs entering freelance, finally put out our second edition which was a print journal, and we were really proud of it. Now it’s sort of just a general photo website. We want to do a third edition. I’m still working out how, haha. When you start out a magazine you’re like “It’s going to be quarterly.” then “It’s going to be bi-annual.” and then just kind of “I do it when
I have time.” I think that’s sort of what we’re working on right now. It sort of like a bucket of ideas and artists that we want to see together—that we will put together when we have a month to do it. What was your experience like interning for Time? So basically all of my preconceived notions of Time magazine were sort of false, and I learned how outstanding the photo department was at that magazine—and still is. It really gave me an understanding of how photography functions in journalism and in culture, and how it pushes stories along. I learned so much about production. It was the first time I was shooting for a major publication and they were trusting me enough to do still lives and do creative images for the magazine. Through my photo work at time, I got assigned to do editorials for other magazines like Bloomberg Business Week, which hires a lot of up and coming people. Their photo department is made up of really brilliant photo editors who are just like “I saw this one personal project that you did. I think that could apply to this white business guy.” There were just a bunch of weird publications I never thought I would be shooting for in that time period at Time.
“Their photo department is made up of really brilliant photo editors who are just like ‘I saw this one personal project that you did. I think that could apply to this white business guy.’”
“My first ever printed portfolio was, I think, for the VICE photo issue in 2012. They printed almost all of my student work over like eight pages which was a really huge deal.” What was sort of allowing you to go from one freelance job to the next? How did you end up getting to work with all these different places at once?
like it so they put it in their magazine. Then a couple other photo editors are always stocking people, and they see your work. It’s about keeping up with that.
I will say the photo industry is pretty small, and it was smaller than I realized when entering it. I would say just trying to be as knowledgeable as possible and really paying attention to who was shooting for who, and keeping up on my peers and contemporary photographers that I was excited about, was really important. Having that knowledge of what was going on, and also that every single time you worked on a job, following up and making sure people knew you existed. Sending out promo and doing all of the things you learn to do in school—actually doing them! That follow through is really important. I started with not knowing anybody, and at most art institutions you’re given the chance right before you graduate to do a round of portfolio reviews. That was where I met Amy Kellner who had been at VICE maybe six or seven years ago, when she was the managing editor. She really liked my work, and that was like my first connection. From then it just snowballs I guess. Someone sees your work and they
Who were some of the other photographers you were coming up with at the same time?
It’s so funny since I am an editor now, but I’m also an editorial photographer and was really just starting out shooting four or five years ago, which seems crazy to say. All of the people I was paying attention to were people I was recommending at Time as newbies to introduce to their department. I think it was a lot of people who now are really well established, like Charlie Engman, Bobby Doherty who now shoots like all of New York magazine every week, and David Brandon Geeting. I was looking at a lot of still life because that was what I was also primarily doing. Just all of those new young really vibrant, quirky sill life photographers, I was keeping a catalog of. Also all of the people at SVA who are now making waves in editorial photography just these past two years like, Molly Matalon, Corey Olsen, or even Zak Krevitt. All of these people who
I now hire a lot. It’s just really cool to see. They were just students and you see their work and you’re like “Oh my god! You’re going to be great. I can’t wait.” I try to hire people when they’re in school if they have the availability. But it’s really cool to see your peers and jump on their personal work and see how it can be applied. Did that enthusiasm for all of your peers work lead you into wanting to do more curation, rather than just shooting? Yeah, I definitely think so. As an editor, I look at so much work and so many talented people are sending me their work and pitching to me, and mailing me their beautiful zines. You sort of get really overwhelmed and you begin to think about your own work and what you bring to the table. I don’t think it’s sad to realize there’s so much great work. You kind of begin to sort of need to refocus and figure out how you’re going to make an impact with your stuff. At this point it time—it’s like what you said—It’s more exciting for me to be using my creative ability to sort of champion and help foster other people’s work through
stories I can give them where I’m currently working, or through my own projects. That’s really satisfying for me, and so fun to see. It just ends up being a collaboration between you and another photographer from assigning to end. It’s a different process and I really like it. Do any of the shoots you did when you were starting stand out to you now? What was one of the more memorable shoots you did? My first ever printed portfolio was, I think, for the VICE photo issue in 2012. They printed almost all of my student work over like eight pages which was a really huge deal. VICE was a magazine that I was obsessed with and looked at for photography in school. All I wanted to do was to be in that issue, and it was really surreal to have the photo editor at the time email me before I was out of school to ask for work for an issue coming out that summer. That was a really big deal. I still think about that and take it into working at the company now. I just think it’s such an exciting boost of confidence for younger photographers to have an opportunity to participate in something
“ I just think it’s such an exciting boost of confidence for younger photographers to have an opportunity to participate in something like it. I don’t think a lot of magazines offhandedly print personal or project based work that much.”
like it. I don’t think a lot of magazines offhandedly print personal or project based work that much. So that was really cool. Then that summer I had a nightmare shoot for Time that was like my first full page in a magazine of Time’s caliber. I volunteered to do it because I was like “Oh shit! My grandma is going to see this!” and it was a shoot about ice cream. I had to make a creative still life about all the flavors of ice cream coming out that summer. my wonderful, gracious photo editors who were taking me under their wing were like “We think you can do this. We really like your personal work, you use poppy colors, you’ve got this! Can you do it over the weekend?” I was like “Yeah!” So I did it by myself at Time’s studio in midtown. The studio itself was a very long walk from the kitchen. So I was running with cones of ice cream that I scooped, back to the studio so that I could insert them into this rig that I built for like 12 to 15 cones on a seamless paper. I wanted to die, haha. Just all the things that I now know that kind of shoot needs to make it happen, I didn’t know and I learned very quickly. But I got it done, and I totally photoshopped the bejesus out of it, and it ended up looking good. How has living in New York impacted your ability to do what you do? A lot of people say “There are so many photographers here, so it’s difficult to make your way up through the ranks.” But you also have so much access to all of the photo departments here and all of the magazines. You have the luxury, if you can get through to the editors, to set up meetings with them. Just being able to bounce from one magazine to another, and not having to travel from out of town to do an interview. That’s invaluable and I don’t take it lightly. It’s a really supportive community here and there’s a really warm and fuzzy group of people here. I think there’s tons of support and tons of resources and outlets, even if you’re not working in editorial. There’s just so many little and big galleries, and creative DIY zines and venues. It just makes you feel less alone. We’re really spoiled, I think. How did you become the current photo editor at VICE? I had been photo editing for a coupe years, and then I didn’t really like where I was photo editing. I wasn’t happy doing it anymore. But it was at a publication that sort of had an identity that I didn’t really enjoy and couldn’t find a way to support the types of photographers that I wanted to support. So I quit, and I decided that I wanted to throw myself back into my own work and promote myself as a photographer. I did that for a year and some change. Then I kind of missed editing—I missed what I knew what I wanted to do with editing. Then I did a stint right before VICE for another company, just to sort of make a little extra money in between shooting jobs.
I had met VICE’s previous photo editor because we interned together at Time, and we both sort of came up at the same time. We kept in touch, because we both really liked the same types of photography, and we always asked each other “What are you looking at now?” He recommended me for the photo position at VICE because he was going to grad school. He sent me an ominous email and was like “Would you ever be open to any opportunities opening up here?” and I knew exactly what it was about. Then he took me out to lunch. It’s funny thinking back about what I thought it would mean then, versus now doing it. I was sort of scared because I knew it was a lot of responsibility. But I knew I really really wanted to fight to try and get it to see if I could. So I told him like “Yes, of course I am!” It was a really long interview process over the course of two months. Then I got out of the gauntlet and got the thing, and I’ve been there ever since. It’s crazy and it’s a lot of work. It’s a no person department and it’s like me telling myself that I’m doing the right thing most of the time. But it’s also, I realize, such a unique position to have, and I really don’t take that lightly. Was there anything that you knew you wanted to bring to VICE’s photo editorial that wasn’t as present there when you started? I mean I really respected what the previous photo editor was doing. As one of my tasks in the interview process, I had to take a recent issue and breakdown how I would do it better or differently. I sort of just stuck to that rubric and applied it to my first issue. My only goals were really to keep it pretty international, in terms of the photo essays that were going in. I also wanted to keep it really diverse and just really pay attention to my hires for the types of stories I was being given. I kind of came in at an interesting time because I worked on maybe three or four issues, and then we took a three month period of time off, when we redesigned the magazine. That was when I had a lot of opportunities to change what I thought the photo format should be. I don’t want to say accidentally, but I created a little more work for myself, haha. We increased the photo page count a lot within that redesign period—which is great, because more amazing art goes into the issue every month now. But that format requires a lot of searching for a lot of talent in lots of different genres of photography. With a lot of freelance industries sometimes it’s very hard to break in as a young person, and some times art directors only want to work with up and comers. How do you go about including young people or holding on to people you work with? I guess my strategy for this particular job that I’m at right now is, because we have such a variety of stories and I pretty much have to opportunity to have who ever I want, it is encouraged to hire younger people. I think that the
approval process at other places is so much bigger than ours. I take that responsibility and try to hire as many new people who need this kind of first experience to sort of push them along to the next thing. I don’t think it’s a bad thing when a photographer sort of “leaves me” or shoots this thing for the first time with me and then some other publication sees the great work they did for me and now they’re working for W or Nike. I think that’s great! Part of me is like “Oh… I see.” and not even with the photographer, but more so with the publication or company. I think it’s awesome. I sort of really live for those moments. The purpose of VICE for me is giving people the first sort of intro and start. So I don’t feel as much pressure to be hiring someone with an amount of followers on Instagram or somebody who had this piece done about them. It is so bottom priority for me to be hiring trendy people. It’s more a priority for me to give great photographers a fresh start. Who were some photographers that you knew you wanted to get to shoot for VICE? I knew I wanted to introduce myself and just see if some of my heroes would want to be involved in new projects if I gave them complete creative autonomy. That’s definitely something that’s happened quite a few times since I’ve been at VICE. I’ve been able to work with people like Sue Debeer, Luis Gispert, Jill Freedman, Xavier Simmons—just so many people that were pie in the sky people for me. I’m just always endlessly surprised that if you just ask genuinely and say “I’m a big fan. Would you want to do something cool? Here’s the page count.” I don’t get a lot of people saying “No” which is so exciting. Even for my own personal publication, I more often than not get people saying “Yes” than “No.” That was definitely something I had in mind going in. I think I’ve accomplished a lot this year, going though something like the photo issue, and also through our theme issues, which I try to do original commission on the cover. I think I’ve totally changed a lot of the roster of photographers that we feature in the magazine. I think that’s just natural. With every photo editor there comes a certain rolodex of people that you know. Also just through my own personal relationships, I have a different network. I lean towards styles more than what the previous editor may have. That’s neither good or bad. There’s just bound to be an influx of different people in the magazine because of it. How have you gone about finding new photographers to work with? We work pretty in advance, so I am always keeping in mind portfolios. I’m pitched portfolios in a variety of ways, like cold pitches, going to zine fairs, going and seeing student work, teaching classes, or even taking portfolio reviews with photographers who may just be in town for a couple days. I see so much work through so many differ-
ent outlets, and the portfolios that stick I kind of book mark them. Then I start the conversation around if they’d ever want to be published in the magazine. The themed issues and the themeless issues both have two 12 page photo portfolios in the featured section, so I’m always looking for those kinds of features through out the year. What was the process like making your first VICE photo issue last year? I was terrified! The photo issue meant so much to me for the reasons I already kind of stated. I had a really great sense of purpose and responsibility to make it special this past year. I really believed in having a show attached to it, and I was scared that it wouldn’t happen. I tried to think about themes that I thought were sort of necessary this past year. What we chose was a really simple one but it was really effective. I started gathering work around a themeless issue that would be all women in the beginning of March, and put an initial slide show together of the 18 photographers I was thinking of at the time. From the beginning of June until the end of August pretty much, it was all photo issue all the time, haha! It was so surreal to be working on and investing so much time into something so many people look at in my industry and field. Because of that I was like “Oh shit… This needs to be my baby.” So that’s what it was like haha. I was so honored to have so many talented women across so many different types of photography in so many different ages in that issue. I don’t know… I think it was a perfect thing to happen last year. I wouldn’t change anything about the whole process. I just wish that we had a larger distribution of it, haha. What direction do you see editorial photography going in the next few years? I’ve been asked that a lot this year, just because I’ve had to talk at a lot of “future of photography” tech focused things, haha. What’s funny to me is, the trends I see in editorial photography are mostly these nods back to film and ephemera—really knowing your skill or at least making it appear that you are shooting on film. Now in editorial, we all have these apps and filtering systems that allow us to do that. So I think that’s the biggest trend that I see that’s already happening in terms of style. In terms of editorial photography in general—it’s hard! It’s kind of sad where things are going. It’s sort of like where journalism is going. People aren’t wanting to invest as much in original work, or time consuming work. I think because that’s effecting journalism, it’s ultimately going to effect the art that goes with journalism. I hope that’ll change. I always think that long form journalism is going to exist, and with that will be amazing visual storytelling. But I think it’ll obviously be a lot more online. We’re just so over saturated with really great photographers and there’s just maybe not enough places that can hire at the same rate that new amazing photographers are coming out. So… who can say Matthew… That’s a difficult question, haha.
VICE is unique because the magazine has always been free, so it’s never really made money. There isn’t as much pressure to appeal to any sort of advertisers or anything like that. I also don’t feel as much pressure on myself or who I’m assigning. I think a lot of new, smaller staffed magazines are popping up as a reaction to this, because we do want to be making work for printed media. Are there certain themes that you feel are reoccurring in your own photography? I think a lot of my personal work that has been shown a lot—it’s work I’ve made three to four years ago. Not that that’s old in anyway, haha. But I feel like in our photo world, lots of people take a photo and put it up and then it’s gone. With my personal work from that time, and sort of what I’m working on with new sculptures and projects now is that sort of manic behavior of young people—certainly my own manic behavior at that time period. There are certain symbols of what meant a lot to me growing up in it. The work that was shown in VICE in the photo issue is about symbols applied to girls and how crazy they are. Horses and dolphins and what happens when you illustrate that and what that kind of girl can be. It was really funny and interesting to me. I don’t mean this in any sort of way, but I think the work that I was making then has in the past four or five years become very trendy and popular. I think you see a lot more of it now. The exploration of femininity in photography and still life has really blown up, and I think I was coming in right before that major wave. So it’s funny and cool to be a part of that zeitgeist or see yourself starting to be a part of a zeitgeist in photography. How do you think the internet has effected photography and the direction it’s going now? I don’t know. Like anything else, it’s just used as a tool to self promote a lot and to get work out that you’ve either made for yourself or other publications, at a way faster rate. I think sometimes that’s really awesome and makes my job a lot easier. But I also think it’s really cool when I meet somebody who has been working on something that they’ve never decided to put online. They’re just making it because they need to. Then they’re showing it to me for the first time. That only happens like once or twice every few months. When ever it does I’m like “Are you a unicorn?” hahaha. We upload so much photography to the internet. Everything is effected by it. It’s like that over saturation I was talking about. I just think we lose our attention span and ability to distinguish between those really thoughtful stories, and just “content.” What still excites you about photography after it’s taken up so much of your life for so many years now? It’s so cool to be able to pair an artist with a writer and have them come together and make something really awesome. To have someone who is shooting something so
different from themselves and really connect with a subject—and when you can see that in the film they submit— that’s really cool and exciting for me. It’s also nice to see the perseverance of people who feel this need to commit and invest in their personal work. Then having them share it with me is a huge honor. I get to do that so often, and it’s constantly invigorating because it’s something that, as I’ve taken on more editing, editorial is something I haven’t been able to do myself. So it’s so inspiring to see people balancing everything. To see people driving to the desert one or two months out of the year and sleeping out of their car and making images that way—or working with a traveling clown circus and making images that way. That’s just really cool to me, and there’s so much of that, which is awesome. It doesn’t all have to be a curated life on Instagram. There are still people really wanting to just tell stories through the medium of film. What things do you have coming up this year that you’re excited about working on? In 2017 I definitely want to do the third edition of Tag Tag Tag, and either get it on the website or figure out a way to print it cheaply. I just want to have it out there, and I want to have a new catalog of people to support. So I want to get that done. I want to do another awesome photo issue, and I want to make it bigger, and I want to have it be more of an event and a series. I want there to be a community created around it, so I just have to figure out a cool way to do that. Are there any projects you would like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? I wish I had the time to really take a couple weeks off. I find when I’m at the bottom of a mountain of a project— I’ve completed one, and I’m conceptually a little lost—I really like to have time to sort of reflect and absorb greatness in other mediums. I have the resources here to do it. But to really be thoughtful and to take that selfish time to focus on what my next personal body of would will be, is something that has been eating at me now for the past year. I would love to invest time in that, when I’ll be able to. That’s definitely something I think is worth investing time into. As a photographer—or a musician or whatever—you feel a certain amount of pressure to make a statement every couple years as to where you are as an artist. I think the longer that you take to do that, or get bogged down with other things, it becomes this weird sense of dread. I don’t know if you feel that way about your medium, but it also helps you recenter on your point of view for so many things because you’re figuring out what you care about again and how you’re going to uniquely express yourself. It’s a huge undertaking and you need time to do it.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Just like water and electricity, Colour Code is a utility to North America’s zine and comics community. In the five years that
Jesjit Gill and Jenny Gitman have been operating the printer and publisher, the two have printed tens of thousands of pages, supplying artists and consumers with some of the most beautifully printed ephemera in the world of small publishing. From its beginning in Jesjit’s parent’s kitchen, to its expansion in his apartment, to their fully operational studio in Parkdale, Toronto, Colour Code has grown organically along with Jesjit’s passion for printing. Although Colour Code might be his most successful venture, it’s certainly not Jesjit’s first. Since transferring to OCAD for screen printing, Jesjit has been infatuated with every aspect of production. Taking what he learned from his mentor, Michael Comeau, and the Canadian gig posters community, Jesjit started the newspaper Free Drawings and zine fair, Zine Dream, inviting new artists to create and distribute their work with him. Eventually his projects became more elaborate after he discovered riso printing in Providence, Rhode Island, and bought his own beat up risograph with Patrick Kyle and Michael DeForge. Since that point on, Jesjit has been able to find happiness in making printing his lively hood and primary practice. This year Jesjit is set to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Colour Code, and his 10th annual Zine Dream. But the primary thing on his mind for this year is simply figuring out how to share everything he’s worked towards and learned about printing with the people in his community who are keen on learning.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Brampton, Ontario and I currently live in Toronto. Was there any subcultural scene that you were a part of in Brampton when you were growing up there? No. At least not something that I felt like I was a part of. I definitely felt like I had to get out of Brampton and come to the city (Toronto) to be a part of the community. So when I was 19 or 20 all I could do was like save money so that I could get out of there. How did you initially find out about zine culture before you moved to Toronto? I was learning and getting into screen printing, and I made a lot of posters for shows. I was part of an online community called GigPoster.com, so I’d make posters and post them online. Then I got connected to a lot of artists. I got connected to artists, like Seripop and tons of others from all over. That was kind of a gateway to this other thing for me. I didn’t really know anything about art or printing or zines or anything like that. I just liked music and I made posters, that was it. Were you going to a lot of shows in Toronto when you started making posters? Who else was in the GigPosters.com community at the time? Yeah, I’d go to a lot of shows in Toronto. I know (Micheal) DeForge from that community. I got to meet Seripop
who were like—this seems so long ago—but they were like idols to me, cause I was so young and they were like these really crazy screen printing pros. Then I met Michael Comeau through that, who I later interned for. There were a ton of artists, many of whom I’m still in contact with. A lot of the books that we publish as Colour Code are by people I got to know like ten to twelve years ago through gig posters. How did you end up interning for Michael Comeau? How did that experience inform what you ended up perusing afterwords? So I was studying illustration at Sheridan College in Oakville, which is another small town even further away. I kind of got sick of that and I had always loved screen printing. Being a part of GigPosters.com, I kind of followed Seripop and what they were doing. I got to see them because they had an art show here at one point while I was still a kid living with my parents. I got to meet them and that was a really significant thing to me at that time. At some point, I don’t know, I think I asked them something about screen printing, and they connected me to Michael Comeau who was a screen printer here in Toronto. Back then, I think he was really not into online community—maybe partly because he didn’t know how to use computers or something, haha—but he just had no presence online really. I don’t think many people would have though twice to see his work online. But they connected me to him and I got to meet him and to see the amount of work that he was doing, all of the posters he was making for events and shows in Toronto. His style
“It was such an incredible object; a newspaper of just crazy comics and drawings. Then, it was just a little bit of research, and I was like ‘Oh, it costs hardly anything to produce a newspaper and you get so many of them. Why don’t I just do this?’” and the way he created his posters was very inspiring to me. Eventually I asked him if he needed an intern, and for a summer I’d just come downtown one day a week and help him print. Is that around the time you transferred to OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design)? Yeah, so I was studying illustration and I wasn’t really interested in it. I knew that I loved to screen print, and I wanted to live in the city, so I switched my major and I moved downtown and started going to OCAD. What was your experience like at OCAD? Did you feel like there was more of a group of people making the type of art you were excited about there? Yeah, for sure! Because of the proximity to all of these things that were happening, having access to going to shows and art events, it was just different in the city from the suburbs. The people I got to meet were a lot more interested in collaborating and making art together. That was really good for me, and helped me develop my practice.
When did you start organizing some of your first printing projects like Free Drawings? I was doing that while I was in school. When I showed you the Free Drawings newspapers a few months ago, that was actually the first time I’d looked at that in a couple years probably. I was just thinking about it, and it felt like I knew so many people that liked to draw, and we’d just hang out and draw together. We’d hang out and make drawings together and then I’d screen print zines out of those drawings. Then eventually—I think I was inspired by the Paper Rodeo newspapers and a few other newsprint publications that I had seen at The Beguiling or wherever. It was such an incredible object; a newspaper of just crazy comics and drawings. Then, it was just a little bit of research, and I was like “Oh, it costs hardly anything to produce a newspaper and you get so many of them. Why don’t I just do this?” So I went from screen printing zines to collecting these drawings from my friends and from artists I knew who’s work I liked. Basically I would just get these drawings together, and then I would cut and paste them onto a big sheet of paper, and then scan that, and then send that to this printer. I’d get 2000 newspapers made and I’d just go around to coffee shops and bookstores and just drop off a pile of newspapers.
“Printing more and more people’s work, I was getting what I got out of making my own prints. Then that’s what kind of led me to where I am now” I don’t know, it just kind of all happened. Everything in my life was about printing or making zines and books. I was helping Comeau, I joined the studio that he was working at called Punch Clock, and I was spending all of my time engaged in self-publishing. I published the Free Drawings newspaper form 2008 to 2010, and I think I graduated in 2010.
What was motivating you to start putting out other people’s work, rather than focusing on your own career? I think back then I had more of an active practice of drawing and making things myself. I was making a lot of posters. But what I loved above everything was printing. Every time I printed something —or even printing that newspaper with another printer—I felt like I learned something about the process with every project. I could only make so many things myself to print where I would get this really satisfying feeling from it. More and more I would ask people to print things with me, or to make a zine, or do a print, or whatever. Printing more and more people’s work, I was getting what I got out of making my own prints. Then that’s what kind of led me to where I am now, because I still feel that with printing. It feels like it’s been quite a long time. But still, every time I feel like I’m learning something about the process and am getting better at it—finding short cuts and ways to do it more efficiently. I never thought about that being a career, but it developed really organically.
Who were the other artists you were coming up with in school at the time? Were any of them involved with Free Drawings? I think I still work with most of them. I think you know a lot of them like, Patrick Kyle. Alicia Nauta who’s a screen printer and one of our studio-mates. As Colour Code we often work with her. Alicia, Patrick, and I also plan Zine Dream together, and they’re pretty significant collaborators in that way. Jacob Horwood who is also another studio-mate of ours. It probably wouldn’t be possible to have a studio like this to keep both of our practices going without each other. He graduated a little bit earlier, but he started running his own experimental music label called Beniffer Editions. From that he just became a really professional textile printer. While we were in school he was a big influence on me. It’s pretty cool to see where he started to where he is now. The first Zine Dream was in 2008 when you were still in school, right? What gave you the idea to do that zine fair and how did you put it together? I started Zine Dream with another artist, Laura McCoy. At the time we just felt like “There’s just two zine fairs a year in Toronto and there should be more opportunity for people who make books and comics and prints to have a chance to sell and share their work.” So we just got together and we planned a zine fair in I think 2008 or around
then. We booked the Tranzac, which is the Toronto Australian New Zealand club. I was working there at the time so they gave us a really good deal. For the first several years I think we were charging people like $15 for a half table and $30 for a whole table—which, relative to other zine fair, is pretty inexpensive. For many of those years I think we would invite specific people who we thought were making really interesting things, but then we had this big space so anybody who was interesting in exhibiting got a table, because we had to fill this place and we had to put on an event that would attract an audience so that it wouldn’t feel like a waste of time. It kept succeeding and every year it got a little bit bigger, and now we’re going into the 10th one. Did you lose a lot of the resources you were able to use for print making once you left school? Well I didn’t really feel like I stopped having the resources because while I was in school I joined Punch Clock
and I did most of my work at that studio. I was primarily screen printing for people and then I was doing the newspaper. Right after I graduated I had an opportunity to do a residency at this print shop in Providence, Rhode Island called AS220. I went there because, initially I was interested in using an offset press and learning how to do that. I got to do that and it was so much fun. I love every kind of printing, and getting use a small offset press was like… I was having a blast the whole time. But while I was there I got to visit this artist Mickey Zacchilli who had a risograph in her studio. I had a vague idea of what a riso was, but then I got to see one working. It’s basically a machine that screen prints, which is what I did by hand. You didn’t need to use any chemicals, there was no mess, there was none of the physical labor of pulling prints by hand, and it was just everything that I wanted. It was kind of the combination of what I wanted to get out of learning to use an offset press, and also what I loved about screen printing. So I came home from the residency and was just like non-stop searching on Craigslist or Kijiji or whatever,
“At the time we just felt like ‘There’s just two zine fairs a year in Toronto and there should be more opportunity for people who make books and comics and prints to have a chance to sell and share their work.’”
trying to find a riso for myself. It was just a couple months later that we got one, and that was the beginning of Colour Code basically?
Were you mostly just printing stuff that people asked you to do for them? When did you start reaching out to people to start publishing their work?
What’s the story behind getting your first risograph?
I think it started with reaching out to people to do project and to publish their work. But then being one of very few people that had a riso or that even knew what a riso was in Toronto, more and more people were asking to use it or to do projects with it. It was a combination of both. The demand for it out grew the amount of work I was planning to publish myself.
When I got back from the residency I found a riso and I asked Patrick Kyle and Michael DeForge if they wanted to go in on it with me. So we just put our money together and bought this riso. We split it, so we were all printing our own zines with it. It was pretty cool. We started together with that machine, and I was getting more and more into the idea of offering riso as a service, and I wanted to be more ambitious with the process. But the machine we got was so old—it was one of the first generations of the riso printer. I knew that if I was going to try to make a living off of printing or even offer any kind of legitimate service using it, I needed to have a machine that I could rely a bit more on. So we had that for—I can’t quite remember now but maybe a few months—and then I found another one, which was slightly newer. What is Colour Code and what separated it from your previous print projects with other people? I feel like I had graduated from being amazed by this new machine to “Okay, I’m getting a handle of how to use this. Now I can do something significant with it.” I think it was the beginning of 2012 and I was like “I’m just finishing school and I’m getting into this new thing. I’m going to start a new project.” and that’s when I started Colour Code. It just felt like a fresh start for something. Was it a really small operation in the beginning? Oh yeah, it was so small. The first few months I think I just had it in my parents kitchen in Brampton. For the first couple books that I printed with it, I would trek back to their place a couple days a week and work on these books. Then eventually I moved it into an apartment that I was living in. It was very small—I mean it’s still pretty small—but compared to now it was much smaller. I didn’t have any kind of a complete vision or anything for what I was doing. I was still taking on projects where I still wouldn’t quite know how to do everything. I was learning on the go with every book and every print. It was like “Oh! This is how you impose a book.” All the aspects of prepress and layouts were new to me and I went from lining up the pages in photoshop to actually getting professional software to do those things. It was just always about learning how to do it, and then learning how to do it in an easier way. Figuring out how to make it easier for myself or figuring out how to do it faster, while still getting the results I wanted.
Were there other printers or publishers that you wanted to model what you were doing off of? There were definitely other riso printers. Even now, there’s a community of other riso printers all over the world. Just though Instagram or Facebook, seeing other people’s work you just feel like “What?! You did that with a riso? That looks so good! How do I do that?” haha. But when I was starting I was looking at work by these printers from the Netherlands who have been doing riso printing since early 90s or the late 80s. They’re like the best at it. The other one that comes to mind is Ditto Press from the UK. They were one of the first printers I think. I was just drawing inspiration from what the originators were doing with these machines. Risos have been around for a long time, but only in the last five or six years has there been this boom of comic artists and graphic designers using them in this context. So while they’ve been around for the last 20 to 30 years, it is a relatively new thing. How has the scale of Colour Code and the resources you use changed over time? I kind of just got into this crazy place where I was always on the look out for used printing equipment. I was always checking Ebay and a bunch of print specific auction websites. Even now I still check them on a regular basis, because you never know. Print shops are always going out of business, and there are always crazy deals. But back then almost every day I was checking to see if I could find something for cheap. I’ve had in my possession… I don’t even know now. Currently in the studio we have five risographs. I’ve had maybe four others in the past. At a certain point it was like, I’d get a riso secondhand from someone who had just gone out of business or someone who was just getting rid of this machine. I would get it for cheap, and then I would basically use it until it fell apart. Then as Colour Code grew and the business grew I realized that that’s not really a good way to run a business. It would be like “Okay, now some part of the printer is broken.” or “This color is broken or not working. I’ve got this project that needs that color but the color is gone. I can’t rely on this.” So at a certain point it was like “I have to figure out a more reliable way of supplying my service.
So we started working with distributors of the equipment and we started working with newer equipment. Now we use equipment that is still serviced and there are still parts available from Riso itself. So, just incase we commit to doing something, and something happens. We can solve the problem in a timely manner. It’s been a while now, but when I started it happened a few times where “I have to print this book with yellow ink, but I don’t got yellow ink anymore!” haha. Something dumb like that would happen, so I just had to figure out a way to not be super sketchy in that way. Eventually we moved Punch Clock into a bigger studio, and I was able to move everything out of the apartment and into the studio with Punch Clock. Now we have a dedicated space for everything that we do, which is way healthier than living with all this stuff. Even now, depending on how busy we are, our hours can be pretty crazy. But when I lived with the printers, I’d wake up in the morning and I’d go downstairs and just start working, and then I’d just go to bed at night. It wore me out super quickly. You obviously have a really legitimate business and you now work with the distributors of the machines. But what is it like entering the world of risographing for someone who knows little about the machines? I wouldn’t recommend you buy one new because they are quite expensive. With the scale of output that even
we have or any DIY self-publisher would have, it’s 100% not worth it to buy it new because they can be anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. But the way it works with Riso is that, they have distributors all over the States and all over Canada, and what they do is lease the equipment. Bigger print shops will lease new machines, and then send it back and get a newer machine. Once one of these Risos is sent back, instead of being $15,000 it’s maybe $2,000 or $3,000 to buy, because it’s had probably two or four years of use put on it. The Riso machines are much more resilient than that—or they can be depending on how much they’re used and how they’re treated—so you can still get several years more use out of it. So if we get this machine for $3,000, but we can use it for the next like five years, than that’s totally worth it. What are risographs primarily suppose to be used for? The art community is a very small fraction of the customer base for Riso. The machines are primarily made for churches and schools. That’s who mainly uses the risos. They use them to print flyers or cards or pamphlets. The riso is kind of made as a simple alternative to an offset press. You don’t have to be a skilled worker to run a riso, but the riso in a very limited way can do press quality work. I think in that aspect, print shops will get a riso just to print envelopes or whatever—just simple things like an address on an envelope. Anyone can do that with the riso.
“I would get it for cheap, and then I would basically use it until it fell apart. Then as Colour Code grew and the business grew I realized that that’s not really a good way to run a business.”
“Ultimately we’re working pretty long hours, more often than not we’re working six to seven days a week, and we’re just taking on as many projects as we can.”
You don’t need a skilled operator who you would have to pay a lot more to use it. Straight laced print people look at the quality of riso and think it’s garbage. But it’s basically spot colors with oil based ink on paper. How else do you do that besides with an offset press? But with an offset press it’s significantly more, material costs are way higher, and it’s much more involved. Whereas with the riso you can just turn it on and print 50 one color envelopes in fluorescent pink ink. Color Code has become really well know for the level of quality that you guys put out. How have you been able to develop such good craftsmanship with such an unforgiving machine? I think it was definitely trial and error. Having a background in screen printing, it was just a lot of experimenting with the process. I took every project as an opportunity to learn something about book layout. But the most important part of using a riso, I think, is the prepress and just how you handle the files. With full color art work, how you separate the colors is really important, because you can’t just do it the same way that you would work on something that
you are going to print digitally. Even when you’re using an offset, you have to alter your artwork pretty significantly to get the kind of results that look good for riso, just because it is pretty limited in someways. But that’s also a pretty exciting part of the process for us—just learning different things about prepress, and color separation, and experimenting in those ways. I don’t really know what to say about it other than, we spend so much time in photoshop, and then we’ll print it and it won’t look good, then we’ll go back into photoshop and mess around some more. Is is difficult to try to run a business around something like zine making, where none of the artists you’re working with are really making a living from it or even trying to make a living from it? We’re not like raking it in or anything. Ultimately we’re working pretty long hours, more often than not we’re working six to seven days a week, and we’re just taking on as many projects as we can. We’re paying our bills, we’re covering our rent, and we get to do this thing that we love to do. We’re just getting by really. We just try to fill up our plate with as much work as we can get, and then we try
to also work with people that are not just in the DIY zine or comic community. Riso exists beyond that. It’s existed before it was a medium for comic artists. So we do a wide variety of things. Some things are more fruitful than other things. But probably the work that we enjoy the most, that looks the best, we’re not really making much money from—it’s just an opportunity to make something interesting with the equipment. How have you seen the internet effect what you’re doing and print in general? I think the internet for sure makes it way easier for us. Really we don’t do any promotion for our business. I post to Instagram, and that’s as much promotion as we do. We take some nice pictures of something that looks cool, and then other people see it and that’s how people have an idea of who we are or what we do and what we make. That word of mouth generates more work for us. Without the internet, I’m not sure how much work we would be doing. We’re zoned in on a really small niche with what we print, and with the internet, everyone across the world who’s interested in that has access to that. We all see the same images of what other riso or comic people make. We’re all pretty familiar with each other even if we don’t know each other or if we’re in different countries around the world. I think that’s pretty incredible.
Recently you were printing on big project in the Netherlands. How did you end up getting invited to work on that? That was maybe a month and a half ago. I visited a school in the Netherlands called the Van Eyck Academie. They have a pretty incredible printing facility there, and they’re really into riso there. Every couple years they put on an event to celebrate riso printing. This was I guess the second event that they’ve done. It was exactly what I was just saying. Jo Franken, the person in change of the printing facility there, he is just connected to all these printers across the world through the internet, seeing everyone sharing their work online. It’s pretty incredible that we all use this kind of obscure machine to make art prints with and then to have this avenue online where we can just see what everyone else is doing. I got to meet printers from South Korea, from Brazil, from Italy, and they were all just young people doing very similar things in totally different places. It’s incredibly inspiring to see. We all met at this event called Magical RISO and it was just a week long, really intense, riso celebration. Just total riso nerds hanging out, getting into the process, and talking shop. I’ve never felt so much a part of a community like this. I mean when I was younger, contributing to GigPosters.com I could kind of see that that was a thing. Screen printers just got to be nerds together about their
“We all met at this event called Magical RISO and it was just a week long, really intense, riso celebration.”
“I think that would be pretty interesting to have people in our studio working together and using the riso and learning how to make prints or books.”
process and what they made. But I guess I didn’t feel as connected to that as this. Now that I’ve grown up a bit and I’m doing this—riso printing is what my whole life is based around. I’m super lucky I’ve found this machine that I love to use, and now I found a community to be apart of. . How large is the team at Colour Code now? Colour Code is myself and my girlfriend Jenny Gitman. She’s always been a part of Colour Code in some way or another, but maybe two and a half or three years ago she joined full time. So now it’s basically 50/50 between us. She does a lot of the prepress and she will communicate with our clients for the most part. Then I’ll handle a lot of the production and making things. But lately, because both of us are sometimes away from the studio, we can both pick up the slack in either case. She’s been learning more and more about printing and she could totally run the ship if I just left I guess, haha. You mentioned earlier that this will be the tenth Zine Dream this year. How has the fair changed since you started it in 2008? I think it’s changed quite a bit. For one, there is a significantly larger demand for it, so unfortunately we can’t just have everyone that wants to be a part of Zine Dream. We just can’t host that. I mean it’s nice that it’s grown than much. The space has also changed and we’ve moved the venue for it. It’s not just myself and Laura McCoy that plan it. I mentioned, Patrick Kyle, Alicia Nauta, and also Jenny my partner—we all plan it together—so it’s changed in
that way. But beyond that, it’s still a zine fair that we just put on together. I think the spirit of it is pretty much the same. DIY print makers, comic artists, and self publishers just getting together and sharing their work. What do you have planned for 2017 that you can talk about? We’ve got a few publications planned. We’ll put out two or three titles in the spring or in the next few months basically, and then again closer to the end of the year. So we’re just in the process of finalizing that. We’re also getting ready to plan the tenth Zine Dream. It’s all a work in progress. Are there any projects you would like to embark on that you just don’t have to time or money for at the moment? Yeah! It’s always been on our mind to start doing workshops and to offer workshops with riso printing. Because it is an easy enough medium to get into, I think that would be pretty interesting to have people in our studio working together and using the riso and learning how to make prints or books. That’s something we’re aspiring to do this year. Even as a part of our doing riso printing as work, on a daily basis we have to explain what it is. People will ask us to print things, but very few people know how the process works. When we print for people we kind of have to explain what’s happening or how it works or how to prepare their files. So to actually get people into the shop and using the risos, will be pretty important for us.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
The life and work of someone like Austin Feinstein are made possible by the type of invigorating music scene that has
been operating in Los Angeles for the past ten or so years. As a teenager Austin has accomplished more than you may ever in your life, yet he still feels the pressure from himself to keep getting better. Austin was not cultivated in a community filled with apathy and discontent, but rather entered a music scene dominated by ambition at a very young age. And that fact alone has created the desire and opportunity to go after all of the experiences and accolades he has amassed. From his early Bandcamp aliases, to his critically acclaimed collaborations on albums by Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean, to his most consistent project, Slow Hollows, Austin has constantly trying his hardest to push himself in a different direction. Like a shiny pin ball in Los Angeles’s sprawling music industry, Austin has bounced from one side to the next taking everything he’s learned back with him. It hard to believe that the past few years may just be the prologue to a much more vast and fruitful music career for Austin. But then again, it’s hard to believe the poise and stamina he has already had to get this far.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Los Angeles, and I still live in Los Angeles. I’ve never really gone anywhere else for a long period of time. I’m pretty sure I want to stay here forever, haha. Are you formally trained in music at all, or are you primarily self taught? Primarily self taught. I took guitar lessons for maybe a month when I was like five or six, and I was not into it at all. I completely stopped playing guitar. Then, I don’t really remember what it was, but I think the White Stripes got me back into it when I was like nine or ten. Then I just
picked it up and sort of taught myself all of the basics, and I’ve just gone from there. When did you initially start going to DIY shows in Los Angeles? I first started going to those shows because all of my friends were going, and it kind of seemed like the cool thing to do. They were a lot of fun. I would want to go to them every single weekend. There was just this handful of bands that would play these shows, like Moses Campbell and the early Big Joy Records scene. That was super influential on me. It was just kind of something to do. Then that got me more into trying to play shows.
“I started going to shows at venues like The Smell when I was like 15, or maybe 16.”
“I mean I’d alway been playing music myself and trying to release it, and I’d put it out under different names. Hollows was kind of the final thing that got the most attention.” I started going to shows at venues like The Smell when I was like 15, or maybe 16. Then there was also Pehrspace. They actually just recently closed down a few days ago. Pehrspace and The Smell were definitely the only venues around that weren’t like professionally run like The Echo, where you had to be 18 to get in and you needed advanced tickets. It was one of those things where anyone could go. That’s what I started to do all the time when I was around that age. Who were some of the first people that you met though going to shows? I met a lot of new friends, not a lot of the older musicians. I met a lot of the people that played in the bands too. I met a handful of people that are actually very close to me now. I didn’t really meet my friend Dylan (Thinnes), who plays in the band, though shows, but we went to school together and we sort of bonded over that as soon as we started hanging out at these things outside of school. That’s sort of the same as a lot of friendships I’ve had. When did you initially start playing music as Hollows? I mean I’d alway been playing music myself and trying to release it, and I’d put it out under different names. Hollows was kind of the final thing that got the most attention. It was really all the same music—it was all like recycled songs under different names, haha. But then as soon as
I released it as that, I tried to take it a little more seriously and got a live band going. So it was really just this culmination of all these attempts, and that’s the one that took off—or at least I’m still doing. What were some of the other names you were putting out music under? In eighth grade, I think, I called it California Weather or some fucking horrible surfy thing. I was just like “I’m going to do this! I’m going to make surf rock, and everyone’s going to love it, cause that’s what’s in now!” haha. I had an album out under that in like eighth grade. It was like six songs, and two of the songs were just filler tracks with noise to make the albums longer—which is still something I struggle with. Then I had Happy Pills which was like ninth grade. That was when very early Hollows music started to be written. Still terrible also… But that was when it all sort of started to take form. After Happy Pill it became Hollows, and now it’s Slow Hollows because of too many bands being called Hollows. How did you initially find out about Bandcamp? When did you start releasing your own music on it? I don’t really remember how I found out about Bandcamp. In middle school I would try to find these new bands on Youtube, and there was this one youtube channel that was constantly sharing all of these smaller artists. Then
it was like “You can find it on Bandcamp.” and I had no fucking idea what that was. I thought it was like some weird actual camp that bands went to. Then as soon as I found it I was like “Oh, this is pretty cool. It seems easy, and anybody can put their music on it, so I might as well.” Bandcamp has definitely been very helpful. Anybody can put anything on there. I guess that’s kind of dangerous. But’s still very helpful too. When you first started playing shows and putting your music online, did you face a lot of people being condescending towards you because of your age? I’m sure that that definitely happened, but nothing ever like hit the fan. Nobody had ever come up while I was playing and was like talking shit. I think at the end of the day, when you’re 15, no one is that mean. But I definitely know that went down, because I’ll look at pictures of myself and think “Wow, that was super embarrassing… I don’t know why I thought people were into that.” I’m sure people didn’t respect my music as much. But I think it’s kind of gotten to a level now, where we’re a little bit older, and there are so many bands our age now that are so
talented. But I think when I was 15 it was a little bit weird for sure, haha. How did you start working with Danger Collective Records? I met Reed (Kanter) and Danger through this festival that they put on, probably like three years ago now, called Danger Daze. It was a super small, five or six band line up at this place called The Mint, and we were asked to play. It a was really cool. I didn’t really know about them— they were kind of weird, haha. I mean I liked them, but I didn’t like foresee a future with them. They all smoked and I was like 16 and thought “Ew, that’s gross.” But I met them through that, and we kind of had this weird on and off relationship for a minute. Then, we were having the record release for the first album, and two days before it was suppose to be put out the record label was like “The tape company isn’t… oporating anymore…” I was like “Sick, thanks for not fixing that.” Then Danger was like “Oh, we’ll do it!” and they got the tapes pressed in like a week. They actually put out the album, and helped with the record release show, and we thought “Alright, these
“Nobody had ever come up while I was playing and was like talking shit. I think at the end of the day, when you’re 15, no one is that mean.”
guys seem really really nice.” Now like half of them play in the band and they’re all like my best friends Who were you initially going to put out your first album with? Well the first label that we really wanted to do it with was one of the main LA indie labels. They were called Big Joy. We had talked with them a lot and the guy, Michael Firestein, who ran it was like “Yeah, we’d be down.” Then it turned into this thing where he was very flaky and nobody would respond. Of course, us wanting an album out, we would be super fucking weird and push for it, and I’m sure that turned him off. He’s also a little bit sketchy anyways. Yeah, just both sides had a lot of negative aspects. After we realized that wasn’t happening I think the label that was going to put it out was… I think it was called Wire Hanger. I don’t think it’s a thing at all anymore. I think it was just a small start up that pressed a tape for the band that ran it, and then nothing happened. So they were the ones that didn’t end up pressing that album, but then Danger stepped in. Then as soon as Danger started doing more, new labels stopped popping up and people realized “Alright, these guys are doing it right. They kind of have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on.” What was the process like making that first album, I’m Just As Bad As You Are? That took a lot of time actually. And like, the end result
isn’t great, so there’s nothing to really show for it, but there was a lot of time put into that whole process. There were a a lot of demos made and a lot of things where I was like “Oh I can just record it myself and do it!” and eventually it turned into being “Alright this is not working… Let’s record at an actual studio.” So my dad’s friend had a studio and we ended up using it for free. It worked totally well. I mean, it was what it was—it wasn’t anything professional. But it definitely got the job done. What you’re process like actually writing the music for an album? When do you know when a song is done? The writing process for me is always kind of weird. I can’t write with other people at all. It just like doesn’t happen because I get frustrated, even if what they’re working on is better than what I did. There’s just kind of this mental block, so I always have to be writing alone. It’s usually when I’m really bored and with a guitar. That sounds super emo, haha, but that’s just kind of how it is at the end of the day. I don’t really ever know when a song is done. When everything is recoded I usually think “I could have done some things better.” so I don’t think a song is ever really done. But it can be recorded and put out and still be kind of half-assed—which a lot of our things are. That’s actually something I struggle with. I’ve been trying to take more time and at least write a single song for a handful of months. If it’s not constantly putting something new into the song, it’s at least sitting with it and repeat-
“I’ve been trying to take more time and at least write a single song for a handful of months.”
ing it. Maybe once in a while I’ll hear something and go “Oh! That could change.” or “This could be added.” For this new album, the horn parts came in way later—like months after the songs were written. But they wouldn’t be the same with out those horns. So it takes a lot of time for sure. How quickly after your first album did you start working on Atelophobia? A lot of the songs were as old as the first album. We recorded a handful of songs in a couple different places— some of them here just with my stuff and some of them at another studio. We were all kind of in this weird transition period—not with out lives or anything big since we were like 17, haha. You can only get so deep when you’re that age. But we just kind of rushed into things and it wasn’t really working out sound wise. That’s why it took almost two years for that album to kind of come out after the first one. We needed to grow up a little bit more and put a little bit more time into it and find out what needed to be done with it. Then we figured out “Alright, Let’s do it with this guy Tabor (Allen). We can do it live and it’ll bring more energy
into the songs.” So that’s how that happened. Finishing it up was cool because you realize whenever you finish an album and put it out, that whole project is done. You have a little bit of time to wait, and then you play the songs live, and then you write more. It’s always kind of rewarding to just put it out. How did you choose the album art for it? The art was done by Lizzie Klein, Reed’s girlfriend. She’s a really good photographer and artist. I saw that picture that she took of the tin foil couch and thought “This feels really cool. It feels like it fits the music really well.” What was it like to suddenly get this really positive reception from people after it came out? It was cool. It was kind of bizarre. Not that we were like selling out massive venues or anything. But for what it was, it was kind of strange. It’s always weird knowing that people really like your music when you don’t like it that much. I don’t really back my own music, haha. I don’t
“I saw that picture that she took of the tin foil couch and thought ‘This feels really cool. It feels like it fits the music really well.’”
think its that great at all. The idea of somebody really liking it is still bizarre. I’m just like “I don’t know what you see in this. I don’t know what’s so special about it.” It’s rewarding for sure… But it feels bizarre. That album then led to a lot of other opportunities for you. Around that time was when you got a contract with YSL, right? Yeah the album came out first. I’m happy that that was and what prompted other things to happen. The album came out in June. I was actually working with Saint Laurent in Paris when the album came out. I met Hedi (Slimane) because he had started taking pictures at shows that we would play. He found out about us through other bands, I think, and then somehow got my information and Saint Laurent reached out. They asked me if I would come in for some casting. I was like “Uh… sure. I’m not really a fucking model or anything. But if you’re going for that look, I’m down.” haha. While Hedi was the creative director I did a couple photo shoots for campaigns. Then I did a runway show, which was cool.
They actually used one of the songs from Atelophobia in a promo video to promote this show they had at the Palladium for their final thing with Hedi. That’s kind of all I’ve done with them. But it’s been great. No complaints with how they’ve helped us. How did you start working with Tyler, the Creator on his album right around the same time? I think I started working with Tyler six months after—actually no! Six months before the album came out. The order was Tyler, my album, then Saint Laurent. He reached out to us on Twitter, I think, and was like “Oh I found this, and it’s great.” Then I was like “Oh, thanks.” He asked “Do you have any shows coming up?” and was like “Yeah we have this show.” I don’t remember where it was or when it was, but he ended up coming and we then became kind of closer friends. Then he was like “Oh, I need guitar for this album.” and I was like “Okay, great!” so I played a couple songs on that album (Cherry Bomb). Ever since then we’ve been pretty close friends. He’s really really talented and really really really sweet.
“It’s always weird knowing that people really like your music when you don’t like it that much. I don’t really back my own music, haha.”
“I played a couple songs on that album (Cherry Bomb). Ever since then we’ve been pretty close friends. He’s really really talented and really really really sweet.” Was it scary to have all of these things happening at once so quickly, or did it feel exciting to have separate forces all helping you move forward? I liked it a lot because I need multiple things going on for me. If I had like one thing I wouldn’t be in as a good place mentally. I have to make sure I’m always working on something. If I’m not I’ll just get really bummed out. So having things that were different than music was cool. That really helped me. You’ve also simultaneously been putting out solo music under the name TEEKS this whole time. What has the role of that project been for you? That would just happen whenever I would have down time—which I actually have a lot of. But it’s from super intense downtime when there is really nothing happening. I’d write a song that maybe doesn’t fit for the band at all, that’s more like electronic—I don’t want to say beats cause I’m not really into making that, but they’ve kind of turned out that way. I’ve just been trying to fuck around and see if I could do something like that well and experiment with other genres. I just don’t want to do one thing, you know what I mean? I hear a lot of bands and they have certain albums that are really great, but then I think “Alright. What are you going to do after this though?” It feels like bands think people will get weirded out if they do something crazy different, because their sound is too refined or too individualistic. I kind of want to shy away from that. So that’s kind of where the solo stuff comes in.
Just experimenting and doing whatever.
You’re sort of in a very unique position where you’ve developed a pretty substantial audience while you’re really young and very much at the beginning of what you’re doing. Do you still feel a pressure to meet an expectation of the people that are listening to or watching you? Yeah, that scares me a lot. I don’t really take the whole age thing into consideration when I’m writing—and I don’t think anyone really does. As weird as this sounds, I don’t want anything to sound “teenage” or “young” or like “adolescent music.” When I write I’m like “Alright, how does this sound compared to other adult musicians? How does this compare to this album?” In terms of “not fucking up” and having a lot of pressure, I definitely feel that. Not necessarily from an audience. If they don’t listen to it, that’s fine. I love when people don’t like our music. I like it more than when people like it, haha. But I feel pressure coming from myself, just because I’ve dedicated so much time and resources, and a lot of people believe in me. Fucking it up would be a really really big loss. So I’m definitely really really careful about everything I choose to do. Everything I write, any show that I play, anything I want to get involved with, it definitely feels like walking on eggshells.
What do you do to ease that stress, or remind yourself of the flexibility you have to make mistakes or change your mind? I don’t, haha. I don’t have a remedy for that at all actually. I’m not like tortured by it. But there’s really no remedy for that. I kind of just have to sink in it for a minute… which is shitty. But it is what it is. It keeps me going. I’m stressed all the time, but I’m still going. What was the process like working on the most recent Slow Hollows record, Romantic? It was really fun, because it was a little bit more straight forward, and it wasn’t as messy in terms of writing the songs and recording. They were all written within the
span of like a year. Then we recorded over a week at this little studio that we set up at Reed’s house. We all just kind of lived there for a week and knocked all of the songs out super fast. With a lot of the second album Atelophobia, there were parts that were just recorded poorly and out of tune. Just like small shit that was just wrong. On this album I didn’t want to have any of that. My main thing was like “I don’t want there to be shit that doesn’t need to be there.” If a song is horrible, than it’s just horrible. And that’s fine, I just wanted to make sure it was recorded well. I didn’t want anything that could have been fixed or done differently in the recording process. I’m pretty sure we ended up with everything done to the best of our abilities. That’s really what I wanted to focus on with this one.
“I’m pretty sure we ended up with everything done to the best of our abilities. That’s really what I wanted to focus on with this one.”
“He was like “This is what I want you to do to record the guitar for it. And then sing on it.” Then he just left…. For like hours… He didn’t come back for like four hours—maybe five hours.” Where there things you knew you wanted to bring to this album that you hadn’t done on the past two? I mean, I definitely wanted to put more on the album. There’s like a little piano, and trumpet, and saxophone, and synth too. The last album was just all live rock band shit. I just wanted to sound prettier and add things that just compliment the song more and fulfill every possibility.
In between recording the album and releasing it, you were asked to work on the new Frank Ocean album, Blonde. What was that experience like? I think he also found our music. I met him at a session when I was with Tyler. He was like “Oh, I think I know who you are.” and I was like “Hello…” haha. Then we didn’t talk or anything cause he’s not really somebody that you just hit up. But then I got a text from him that was like “Yo, I’m working on this song. Can you come in?” I was like “Yeah. I don’t know what you want me to
do. But I’ll do it I guess.” When I got there it was super laid back and he just kind of showed me this song that was super rough. He was like “This is what I want you to do to record the guitar for it. And then sing on it.” Then he just left…. For like hours… He didn’t come back for like four hours—maybe five hours. I was like “Alright…” I turned to the engineer and was like “I think I’m going to go…” Then as soon as I’m about to leave he comes back in and is like “Oh, what’s up dude?” He didn’t say anything about him being gone for five hours, so I was like “Alright, what’s up? Thanks for coming back.” Then we played him what we had and he was like “This is great!” So I was like “Alright! Bye.” and left. Then probably two weeks past and he called me back in to write another part of the same song. Then it was the same deal, and he left. I don’t know if it’s to give “the artist” their space, but it was weird for sure, haha. But then I went back in a couple more times and he was actually there for that. That was helpful, cause I had no idea what he wanted me to do. But I think it turned out okay. You mentioned earlier that you often have a hard time writing music with other people. Is it any easier when it’s for a project that’s so far from your own? It’s definitely weird. I try to compromise with what I do and what they do—not that I’m about to totally fuck with what
they’re going to do. At the end of the day, it’s their project and they’re probably bigger than I am. I try to throw in different aspects to maybe make it a little bit out of left field or change the guitar tone or something like that. So it’s not a struggle, but it’s definitely super bizarre. It’s not really music that I put on and listen to. But it’s fun and a bit of a challenge. How do you feel the internet has effected your ability to do what you do? It’s everything really. It’s kind of unfortunate that it has to be that way. I wish I didn’t have to have a social media presence at all for the band or myself. But at the end of the day, you just kind of need that. Nobody would know who you are. I don’t know how people got popular without it. Anybody can put any nonsense or bullshit up, and they’ll get some recognition for it, even if it’s the worst thing ever. With that being said, It definitely has helped, just because you can kind of paint yourself a certain way on social media the way that you want to. You can definitely make sure that everything is perfect and that you are represented how you want. Anybody can be who they want. If Death Grips didn’t have a social media presence, nobody would think that they’re like “spooky” or anything like that, haha.
“You’re so influenced, when you’re younger, by things around you. You just immediately shit out the exact same thing. Realizing that is probably something that turns people off from releasing stuff.”
How has it helped you distribute your music? What has it been like to go on tour and find kids who are already so familiar with your music?
Are there any projects that you would like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment?
The internet helps a lot with out of town shows for sure. That’s just how people find out about shit. It’s cool to know that people from out of town can find you through the internet. Anybody can find it where ever they are. Being able to see that in action and going to another place like Reno or Arizona and seeing people like singing along in a substantial sized crowed is really kind of mind blowing honestly. It’s very strange.
I want to do more videos—or at least a video for the new album. But I don’t want it to be a music video for a single song. I don’t want to see another music video. I don’t think anyone cares enough. I’d rather have it be something new. For Atelophobia we did a short film that we premiered to an audience, and that was it. It was cool because, if you saw it you saw it, and if you didn’t then you’re never going to see it. I kind of want to do something similar, but I want to shoot it on film and have different actors. That’s something that I definitely want to work on. I don’t want to put out an album and have it exist on it’s own. I’d rather have an album be accompanied by a handful of things, and I can call all of those things that one name.
What do you think prevents people from putting out their work when they’re younger? I think that they probably get too deep into their own heads. They might get intimidated or turned off and start doubting themselves. I feel like when you’re younger— definitely for me and my case—you write songs, and they just sound exactly like how another bands sounds, because you’re so influenced, when you’re younger, by things around you. You just immediately shit out the exact same thing. Realizing that is probably something that turns people off from releasing stuff. I know it did for me with a handful of songs. But yeah, realizing that maybe your music is not completely natural to you, that can scare younger people away.
What do you want to see happen in the next year? I think I’d want to get recognized as somebody who’s not just a musician. When you think of somebody like James Murphy or someone like that, you don’t think “Oh, he’s a musician.” You know that he’s done other things. He’s really well rounded. Or people like Jon Brion—he scores and writes and all of that. This also means me having to put more work in and accomplishing more things. That’s where I need to start. I just have to do way more, and then hope to get recognized for those multiple things.
“I think I’d want to get recognized as somebody who’s not just a musician.”
Photography by Matthew James-Wilson
CURRENTS was the first group show of young contemporary artists presented by FORGE. Art Magazine. In an effort to establish a new cohort of developing creators, I invited 11 artists to create new work for a gallery space. The show was not centered around a specific theme to ensure that the art that was presented sincerely reflected the voice and perspective of itâ€™s respective creators. Instead, what binds the work together is the current sensibility each artist shares, as young people in 2016. During the month that CURRENTS was up we also put together a string of events, bringing together artists from the show, musicians from the Brooklyn DIY scene, and the community surrounding both. The aim for CURRENTS was not only to bring together the young artists producing work for it, but also to show other young people how possible it is to make and distribute your own work. Because FORGE. has existed for the past four years as a primarily online publication, I really wanted to invite the same intentions and attitude that the magazine has promoted online, in an IRL experience. In the end I really wanted to encourage young people to learn what they could from the show, so that they can eventually do the same thing with their own peers.
Jillian Medford of IAN SWEET @ CURRENTS
Jillian Medford of IAN SWEET @ CURRENTS
Cleo Tucker of Girlpool @ CURRENTS
Cleo Tucker of Girlpool @ CURRENTS
Cleo Tucker of Girlpool @ CURRENTS
Current Joys @ CURRENTS
Current Joys @ CURRENTS
Shriya Samavai & Allyssa Yohana @ CURRENTS
Grade Pending @ CURRENTS
Tyler Boss @ CURRENTS
Yours Are The Only Ears @ CURRENTS
Yours Are The Only Ears @ CURRENTS
Dean Engle of Quarterbakcs @ CURRENTS
Dean Engle of Quarterbakcs @ CURRENTS
Downtown Boys @ Market Hotel
Fraternal Twin @ CURRENTS
Fraternal Twin @ CURRENTS
Sophia Bennett Holmes @ CURRENTS
Long Beard @ CURRENTS
Long Beard @ CURRENTS
Franz Charcoal @ CURRENTS
Franz Charcoal @ CURRENTS
Audience @ CURRENTS
Gabe Fowler @ CAB
Robert Beatty @ CAB
2D Cloud @ CAB
John Pham @ CAB
Tyler Boss @ CAB
G.W. Duncanson @ @ Paper Jam 5
Kevin Czap @ CAB
Colour Code @ CAB
Patrick Kyle @ CAB
Killer Acid @ CAB
Breakdown Press @ CAB
Ness Lee @ CAB
Siobhan Gallagher & John Malta @ CAB
Weakly Comics @ CAB
Brie Moreno @ CAB
Jane Mai @ CAB
Frankie Cosmos @ Webster Hall
Frankie Cosmos @ Webster Hall
Vagabon @ Webster Hall
The Dove & The Wolf @ Trans Pecos
Strange Names @ Trans Pecos
Guerilla Toss @ The Villian
Guerilla Toss @ The Villian
Pile @ The Villian
Pile @ The Villian
Kate NV @ Elvis Guesthouse
Kate NV @ Elvis Guesthouse
Lexie @ Elvis Guesthouse
Lexie @ Elvis Guesthouse
Lexie @ Elvis Guesthouse
Lexie @ Elvis Guesthouse
You Should Check Out... By Matthew James-Wilson
this month surf curse released their second full length album, nothing yet, four years since their last release. the highly anticipated album comes at a unique time for the two and really shows off every moment of the four years they took to make it. in the widow of time between their first tapes on big joy records to there new vinyl release on danger collective, nick rattigan and jacob rubeck have been separate by distance, attitude, and prospects in life. yet the two never once stopped make music together. the album they’ve finally created, as their lives drifted back to each other over the past year, shows the two bringing in every part of the people they became during the time apart. nothing yet is an electrifying and thoughtful shift for the two piece, and show cases so much growth in nick and jacob as musicians, song writers, and people. i feel so lucky to be able to experience it in my life, the same way that i get to experience nick and jacob as friends.
it probably comes as absolutely no surprise that lexie was one of my favorite bands to put out music in the past few months. the band is essentially a super group, colliding two of my all time favorite bands and favorite people. lexie started as a project where greta kline of frankie cosmos and alex bailey of warehouse would construct songs by emailing recordings back and forth to each other. over the coarse of a few months they crafted the demos for what would later become record time! doug bleichner of warehouse was added on drums and they recorded the album in a single day at the silent barn. so far the only copies that exist were hand made and distributed at their very first show at elvis guest house. i bootleged the show with a zoom recorder, deeming myself the very first “lexie-head.” within the few songs greta and alex and cobbled together since this summer, you can hear the two avoiding many of the grooves they’ve often found themselves. it’s almost as if they are trying on each others clothes in these recordings, and seeing how they fit. unlike most attempts to “dabble” in a different kind of song writing, greta and alex produce something that sounds so sincere and shyly well executed. like any good partnership, lexie sees greta and alex challenging each other to try something new, and everyone succeeds in the process. especially the listeners.
Adult Swim Singles Program 2016
yet again adult swim put out a massive genre leaping singles collection that stretched across the whole second half of last year. from last may to last december adult swim’s boutique label, william street records, released a new free song every wednesday, totaling in 31 tracks. the compilation has many of the regularly featured performers like flying lotus, earl sweatshirt, and tim hecker, while also putting together some incredible collabs like one with mitski, ryan hemsworth, and keaton henson. like any of the past year’s singles programs, adult swim takes the most talented odd balls from every respective music scene, and pairs them with incredible individual album covers made by their studio.
Our First 100 Days
the lovely people over at secretly group devised a project that not only shares unreleased tracks from musicians across dozens of independent labels, but is also aimed to support the many organizations that face threat after the trump inauguration. our first 100 days is incredibly simple. for each of the first 100 days trump is in office, secretly will add a new unreleased track to their compilation from one of the 100 bands and musicians they reached out to. if you donate a minimum of $30, you can get the entire compilation as it comes out, and all of the proceeds go to organizations like all above all, the people’s climate movement, and southerners on new ground. the comp has a star studded list of acts contributing like angel olsen, women, toro y moi, and how to dress well. but more importantly all of these people have come together and offered up their craft to support numerous causes they believe in.
Warf Cat Records i’m a little embarrass it’s taken me so long to hop on the warf cat records bandwagon. since 2011 the greenpoint based label has been the comfy haven for some of the more off kilter music within new york’s diy scene. in few years the label has been active they’ve put out a startling array of releases by bands like macula dog, wall, and palberta. one of my favorite parts about the label is just the calculated grit of the visual aesthetic each of their releases share. warf cat has mostly put out brief eps and 7 inches. but never the less the short and sweet punches to the gut are all worth your time and money.
THANK YOU: KENDRA YEE MOLLY FAIRHURST WERONIKA BANASINSKA THOMAS COLLIGAN KIM SALT TOMMI PARRISH ESME BLEGVAD SAVANA OGBURN JAKE TERRELL LOTTIE PENCHEON JACK REESE SHAMIR BAILEY AUSTIN FEINSTEIN ELIZABETH RENSTROM JESJIT GILL KIRA ASZMAN ADAM BANICKI RIVER DONAGHEY JAMES YEH TAJI AMEEN ANNIE KOYAMA GRETA KLINE PATRICK KYLE GINETTE LAPALME ANNIE KOYAMA NICK RATTIGAN ALLYSSA YOHANA REED KANTER YUKI KIKUCHI ELAINE EDENFIELD JACOB RUBECK BEN JACKSON ALEX BAILEY XAVIER AARONSON SHRIYA SAMAVAI KUSH MALIK JILLIAN TAMAKI KATIE GARCIA DUSTIN PAYSEUR SYMON JAMES-WILSON MICHAEL DEFORGE SONIA JAMES-WILSON... ELIZABETH FRASER SEO KIM ROBERT DIGGS KURT WOERPEL TAYLOR JOHNSON MOLLY MATALON LIZ PHAIR CAROLINE TOMPKINS BRIAN ANDERSON WILLIAM ONYEABOR EDDIE HUANG CHAR ESME LAMAR ABRAMS BRIAN CHIPPENDALE STEVEN SVYMBERSKY RYAN SLAUSON HISHAM BHAROOCHA ZANNIE OWENS KEVIN BARNES MOLLY SODA
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 Jan 31, 2017
FORGE. is a quarterly submission based art magazine, with the sole purpose of showcasing the work of different artists on the internet and a...