Sarah Mason “Risk goes hand and hand with decision making. In this illustration she is risking another’s life to save something she loves. I think it is easier to risk what’s getting in-between ourselves and our personal happiness rather than seeing what we are damaging In order to achieve that happiness. It’s give and take.” -Sarah Mason
of my inspiration stems from flipping through illustrated books. I have a huge soft spot for the illustrations of the Madeline books. Currently though, I think one of my most important sources of inspiration really has to be my peers. There is just so much talent in this field right now and it’s really motivating to see it all unfold.
What materials do you like to work with?
What is your current location?
I like to do the bulk of my illustrations in analog. I mostly use watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayon. Sometimes I’ll play with the final in Photoshop if I think it needs it.
Name Sarah Mason
Im currently located in Toronto, Ontario. Where are you from? I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. What is your current occupation? I’ve had many part time jobs. I’ve been a baker, greenhouse worker, cashier, and thrift shop hand. Although at the moment school is my full time job. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I am currently starting my third year of illustration at OCAD U. Before University I invested a lot of my time in a youth led art collective back in my hometown. The collective really drove me to pursue illustration as a career, before that I had no idea how large and inviting the art community was. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? My mom was big into reading to us as kids so I think a big part
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? The biggest thing I am working on right now is an album cover for a really sweet musician friend from back home. I’ve also had this idea in my head for a picture book that I want to make in the near future. Maybe after school slows down a bit. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I usually listen to a lot of acoustic and folk music. Laura Marling, Angel Olsen and Eddie Berman to name a few. A friend recently introduced me to Judy Collins so I’ve found myself playing album after album of her music while I sit and paint. Softer music helps me focus a lot better. Where do you like to work? I definitely need a space without distractions. While im at school in Toronto I tend to shut myself in my apartment and create a peaceful space for myself. Usually ill light some candles and make a coffee for myself before I sit down to work.
Though, my absolute favorite place to work is in my bedroom back home. My parents’ home is on a beautiful wooded property and I really can’t think of a better place to seclude myself in while working on my art.
the birdwatching booklet we had. Even now I still think that birds and animals are my favorite things to draw.
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
I know it sounds cliché but the truth is there is a lot of satisfaction in making a piece of work that makes someone happy. Art is therapeutic and healing. So as long as my work has a part in that I think I’ll be satisfied.
I have really great memories of doodling with my mom at the kitchen table quite regularly. For some reason I specifically remember drawing a lot of birds. I would try and copy them from
Where To Find Them Websites: http://sarahmason.format.com/work Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @kidmason (Instagram)
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
Leesh Adamerovich Name Leesh Adamerovich Age 28
messing around with small sculture work. I also do most of my coloring and typography on the computer so that lets me collage and experiment more with client work. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
What is your current location?
I’m currently working on a sticker set for GIPHY, an editorial piece for Bloomberg Businessweek and a couple commissions.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
Where are you from?
All sorts of stuff. I go down different rabbit holes each week. It’s often 80’s R&B, funk, island dance vibes, but sometimes its country. I’m very easily distracted so I tend to make a lot of playlists to have on hand when I’m busy. Other times I listen to reruns of Felicity, Dawson’s Creek, and Seinfeld. The episode rhythms are kinda great for productivity. When I’m really hustlin’ I’ll just let Neil Young or the Dead play for hours...
Latrobe, PA What is your current occupation? Illustrator, Designer, Artist, etc... Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Some, I did a year at art school and then studied Graphic Design at Penn State. I’d say my illustration work has been self taught though. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I feel like I’m constantly coming across artists and musicians that are so great and inspiring. ... Right now I’m pretty into Jason Silva, Julie Tuyet Curtis, Lou Fratino, Robin F Williams, Robert Beatty, Robin O’Neil, and Thomas Barger (and like a million other people I can’t think of right now). A lot of my other influences, include American primitive art, historical period dramas, the 70s & 80s and Precisionism. What materials do you like to work with?
Where do you like to work? I mostly work in my bedroom at home. But if I have sketches to do I sometimes like to go sit in a coffee shop or park near home. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? In kindergarten I drew a bunch of characters from The Lion King in a big scene and my parents entered it into a local art festival. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I think my work evokes a certain sensitivity. I’m very interested in how forms and shapes can evoke different feelings and moods. I hope to keep exploring forms and their effects on whom or what is around.
I’ve mostly been using pencil on paper but lately I’ve been
Where To Find Them Websites: www.leeesh.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @blobby_baby (Instagram)
Corrinne James “Fearful, yet embracing the fall”
Lydia Moyer and Kevin Everson.
What materials do you like to work with?
I like to use 16mm or 8mm when I’m filming. When recording sound/music I have this four track that’s really nice to use. I have the most fun with music so I love my guitar and my synth a lot. When I draw I prefer Prismacolor markers.
20 What is your current location? Charlottesville, Virginia Where are you from? Alexandria, Virginia What is your current occupation? Studying and working on projects. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’m pretty much self taught but I have a couple of mentors here that are constantly showing me exciting work and interesting artists/people. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I study film and new media so I am really inspired by films in general. I just watched If by Lindsay Anderson and am really inspired by him and British cinema from the late 60s/early 70s. Also, a lot of music from that time period, a lot of melodic psych and a lot of Syd Barrett. I also love to work to Girly Sound by Liz Phair. I also am inspired by anything with a lot of color, translating that to sound, a lot of melody. Biggest people inspirations:
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I have the most fun working on projects that combine live action film, animation, and sound. Right now I’m painting and translating a lot of my drawings/paintings into animations. I’m working on this project about a narcissistic jogger who is great at jogging but is a pretty shitty human overall. I’ve been feeling kind of angry, a lot of weird things have been happening in Charlottesville and it’s really hard to feel like everything is ok or that everything is a great and beautiful influence. I’ve been seeing things as they are and there’s a lot of acceptance that comes with that, so I feel it in my work now. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Pixies, Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, Brian Eno, Liz Phair - those are some steady artists but it all changes all of the time. Where do you like to work? Alone, places with a lot of windows and a couple of lamps. . What is one of your earliest memories of making art? My preschool teacher told my mom that she was worried about me because I would draw the same character every day. I still
do that, I think that a lot of people do that. It’s cool to watch the things that you draw get better and it’s cool to build off of them. I used to just draw rainbows or people wearing clothes made of rainbows and then I would hang them up behind my door. It was exciting when I was seven. I’m still the same, I still draw rainbows. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? There’s that feeling that you get in your stomach when you listen to a really great song or watch a great film and it just feels everything makes sense and you wanna cry or throw up and I
Where To Find Them Websites: corrinnejames.com Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @corrinne.eee (Instagram)
guess I wanna find that thing that means so much to me and find a way to share it with the people that wanna feel the same way. I feel like a lot of my work is an exploration into the things that I’m curious about so I guess a large goal is to try and understand everything more. Even accepting the fact that we won’t ever understand those things feels really wild. There are also a lot of images and ideas in my head that I want to get to know more. I draw these characters and then they feel so far away from me and then I want to get to know them and create places for them. I think that making work and living your life go hand in hand sometimes so I want to find a steadiness within my life and translate that into my thoughts/feelings/work.
Jessica Pettway “For this piece I took a lot of inspiration from kid’s birthday parties and the different colors and decorations that are associated with them. The pattern fabric background reminded me of the laser backgrounds used in children’s school portraits as well as a tablecloth that might appear at a kid’s birthday party. A squiggly balloon is held together by an equally wonky piece of plexi and precariously balanced on the table. It was fun to invite a bit of chance into the process by squeezing the balloon into the plexi, standing the balloon configuration up with little to no support and then taking the photo as quickly as possible. It is always fun and necessary to let go of a bit of control and welcome any outcome.” -Jessica Pettway Name Jessica Pettway What is your current location? Brooklyn, NY Where are you from? East Windsor, NJ What is your current occupation?
different styles and mediums into their practice. I also loooove how they incorporate humor and lightheartedness into some of their work. Lately I’ve been collecting vintage cookbooks and furniture books. I love their design and how weirdly perfect and artificial everything looks!The movies I’m currently into tend to switch up a bit too. Right now I’m really into the older Paramount movie sets like in Cinderfella. I’ve also been pulling a bit of inspiration from game and dance shows like Soul Train and Double Dare 200. Some constant inspirations that I always return to are Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry and Alejandro Jodorosky’s films. What materials do you like to work with?
Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?
I love work with a range of materials. I use a lot of different patterned and textured fabrics, fiberfill, fresh flowers, insulation foam, bedding foam, plexi, vinyl - really anything i can get my hands on. I order a ton of things from amazon and pick things up from dollar stores. Lately I’ve been using more fresh flowers, insulation foam, and Smooth - Cast.
I received a BFA in Photography & Video from the School of Visual Arts.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Right now I’m working with some sexy plants ;) and dancing foods.
I am a photographer, prop stylist, set designer and grilled cheese connoisseur.
The top artists that inspire me tend to change up every now and then but my biggest inspirations are Duane Michals and David Hockney. I really admire how productive and experimental they are. Both artists were never afraid to switch it up and work
Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Toro y Moi is always good to throw on in the studio. He does auntie music really well.
Where do you like to work? I love working from home because thatâ€™s where I keep most of my snacks.
patterns and outlines and color them in, make characters out of them, cut them out and find different ways to make art with them. The colors were always so poppy and the paper was way nicer and smoother than the regular coloring books for kids at the time.
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
When I was younger my dad was a graphic designer at a toy/ teddy bear company and I would take the designs of the different
I hope that my work can make people laugh and escape reality for a moment.
Where To Find Them Websites: www.jessicapettway.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @jesspettway (Instagram)
Brian Ejar “Being an artist means sacrificing everything that isn’t work. It means being selfish at the expense of your health, your sanity, and your relationships… or at least I hope it doesn’t. ” -Brian Ejar Name Brian-Rey Ejar Age 23 What is your current location? Toronto, Canada Where are you from? The Beaches (Triangle), Toronto What is your current occupation? I work part-time as a contract Equipment Distribution Assistant at Ryerson, handing out audio/visual recording gear to students. I just got a job as a revisionist on Kuu Kuu Harajuku and I work once a week at Lamesa as a serving assistant. I also freelance. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? A bit of both. I took an art class in my senior year of high school, a comic book class for an English credit in uni, and I’m about to take a night class at OCAD in Illustration Essentials in the winter. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Artist Q&As—hands down. I mean, it doesn’t work every time, but lately they’ve been my quickest way to getting out of a creative slump. It’s just refreshing to read/hear about the hardship(s) of
other artists you look up to, where you get those “Oh god! You too?!” moments. Those moments let me know that I’m on the right track and push me to keep working and I really like that. If you find the time, check out Richie Pope’s Ask Me section on his Tumblr, which is incredibly insightful. Kate Beaton at the Toronto Reference Library (on YouTube) is a hoot. There’s an interview somewhere also on YouTube with Natalie Andrewson that’s really good. The Art $chool episode of Your Dreams My Nightmare is great, as well as all of Make It Then Tell Everybody. Also, the Filipino arts community in Toronto is hella inspiring and so supportive. And my friends—I’m really lucky to have them. What materials do you like to work with? I work almost exclusively on my iPad Pro. I use AstroPad (app) to clean up storyboards on my laptop and I use Procreate (app) to draw everything else. Sometimes, I’ll use my Intuos Pro but that’s mainly because the mousepad on my laptop is broken. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m still slowly finishing a comic with my friend Mat about a little boy and a bear. I just picked up a comic book/picture book gig for my friend’s album. I’m making this brunch bingo thing with my partner and I’m just waiting to get the green light on this other project that I can’t talk about. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Lately, I’ve been playing Michael Paskalev’s Heavy album and Lee Paradise’s Water Palace Kingdom on repeat. I highly recommend you give them a listen.
Where do you like to work?
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
Anywhere well-ventilated with lots of natural light. My partner pointed this out but she says that my favourite places have sky lights which is very true.
I have a learning disability that makes it difficult to organize my thoughts onto paper. It’s incredibly frustrating because there are things that I’d like to put into writing but doing it takes too long and it’s exhausting (for instance, this questionnaire is taking me a whole day to fill out). So I draw. What I would hope to accomplish with my work is a connection with others, but to begin, I need to get better at getting ideas across through my drawing, because writing is really that hard for me.
What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I made a turtle with ripped paper in kindergarten. I added ripped pieces of blue paper for bubbles.
Where To Find Them Websites: https://www.brianreyejar.com/ Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @brriguy (Instagram)
Louise Reimer “Poisonous mushrooms are a risk you take when you forage. ”
What materials do you like to work with?
I use a combination of traditional media and Photoshop for my illustrations. Recently my friend gave me all her acrylic gouache and I’ve been enjoying combining that with my usual media, watercolour and pencil crayon.
Age 29 What is your current location? Toronto, Ontario, Canada Where are you from? Vancouver, BC, Canada What is your current occupation? Illustrator Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Yes! I went to Emily Carr University in Vancouver for printmaking. I was also in a fine arts program in highschool for a bit and a fine arts scholarship program in my last year of school that kind of streamlined people into Emily Carr. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? At the moment I’m really into David Hockneys America paintings from the 60s, country and western glamour, soft cowboys, primary colours, and all the salami coloured marble at Versailles. This piece was inspired by picking chanterelles in the rain forest in North Vancouver with friends.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m making a comic for Comic Arts Brooklyn about the colour blue, putting finishing touches on my rhinestone cowboy halloween costume, helping my friend Andrea Manica with a mural she is painting, and generally applying for things. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I used to only listen to podcasts while I work, but I started listening to music again recently. While working hard I find it relaxing to listen to music I used to listen to heavily like Silver Jews and Animal Collective, but also have been playing Chance the Rapper pretty heavily. Where do you like to work? I have a desk in my house where I do illustration work and a silkscreen studio that I share with a bunch of artists and printers. I also hang out with friends and draw in cafes at least once a week. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? When I was four my family lived on an island off the coast of BC and I remember drawing a whale that was just a horizon line and a triangular fin shape coming out of it. We would see orcas all the time from the ferry we took to go into town.
.What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Inspire people to create, make weirdos feel at home, celebrate women, interact with my memories.
Where To Find Them Websites: www.louisereimer.ca Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @louisereimer (Instagram)
Alexa Viscius “About a year and a half ago my twin sister Jessica started writing songs. Once she got around to sharing them with me and some friends we pushed her to take it more seriously. The day of her first live performance she canceled, out of stage freight, right before the show. I along with a friend convinced her to get on stage last minute. Later we formed a proper band, Bunny, which I play bass in. Together we push each other to take risks all the time. I push her in music and she has inspired me to take photography more seriously. These are portraits that encompass both of these paths at once, Jessica as Bunny and me as the photographer.” -Alexa Viscius Name
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Alexa (sometimes Alex) Viscius
This list is ever-growing…currently listening to a lot of Haruomi Hosono. I love film, Jim Jarmusch and P.T. Anderson are two of my favorite directors. The last great book I read was Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station. I’m also surrounded by so many amazing women in Chicago making incredible music and art, I am lucky to be able to call them my friends.
Age 29 What is your current location? Chicago Where are you from? Chicago (south-western burbs) What is your current occupation? I have a few…I’m a full-time graphic designer at a 3-person studio called Normal. I am a self-employed freelance photographer. And an unpaid bassist in my sister’s band, Bunny. 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 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. However, as for photography, I’ve only taken a few classes in high school and college. I miss the smell of a darkroom.
What materials do you like to work with? I work across a lot of mediums. With photography I mostly shoot 35mm, with my Minolta XD-7, and sometimes I use my twin lens reflex for 120mm. I have a Risograph printer I love to play with, collaging, making show posters for local bands, or photo zines for myself. I have been venturing into screen printing more recently. I have been printing onto acrylic mirrors. I love acrylic, I’m really interested in object design and want to start getting into design objects out of acrylic. I’m all over the damn place and I like it that way. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I play in a band in Chicago, so I’m naturally friends with a lot of musicians. I have a few shoots with them coming up as well as a few music video shoots to look forward to. I am also going to be part of a team shooting Pitchfork Music Festival in Paris at the beginning of November.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
When I really need to get shit down I love monotonous, repetitive music like Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.” In fact, I am listening to William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops right now, those put me in a zen-like state.
I used to play a drawing game called mailbox with my twin sister and our best friend. We would sit around a table, each of us had a little box by our feet and we’d fill them up with drawings for one another.
Where do you like to work?
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I can work anywhere. I love working in my bedroom, it gets great light during the late afternoon, so I’m easily distracted and find myself stopping to snap photos as the light changes, but I believe distraction can be really good for work.
The simplest, albeit selfish, answer is that making art makes me happy, and sometimes if I’m lucky it can make others happy too.
Where To Find Them Websites: alexaviscius.com Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @alexavisciusphoto (Instagram)
Will Dereume “I guess it’s important to note that this piece is a bit of a departure from my usual working methodology. My drawings and design work don’t usually interact with one another very much, but here I am quite with it. Here, you see a person that is turning away from the sun, and is running away, probably confused. ” -Will Dereume Name Will Dereume Age 25 What is your current location? Vancouver, British Columbia Where are you from? Vancouver, British Columbia What is your current occupation? I’ve been working as a prep cook for the last few years (I think I’m quite good at it). Outside of work, I’m currently studying to be a librarian. I also have my hands in a medley of other things. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have a degree in fine art and critical studies. Even so, I would say I’m largely self-taught! Of course, that discounts the efforts of some of my most caring instructors/mentors. I would say, then—to revise: I was taught how to teach myself. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? When it comes to the world that my comics take place in, I think
that some of my biggest inspirations are William Blake, Yuichi Yokoyama (particularly his book, Color Engineering), Andrei Tarkovsky, and George Herriman — All big names here! When it comes to (solely) textual cognitive fuel, I think I have been running on Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar for the year or so—especially the chapter called “The Sword of the Sun” and also the one about the white ape who plays with a tire in the Barcelona zoo. Susan Sontag’s essay about Walter Benjamin “Under the Sign of Saturn” also really gets me. I began reading some Nabokov this year also, it makes me cry, and it makes me want to begin to draw. When it comes to art style, some of my biggest idols are Son Ni, Maren Karlson, and Sasaki Maki. When it comes to process I think my work finds some intimate kinship in Erik Nebel’s comics, as well as David Weiss’ book Die Wandlungen (The Metamorphoses) Of course, I am also always inspired by the work of my close friends, Juli Majer, Nadya Santoso, and Cristian Hernandez. The strongest driving force behind my work is always my closest friend Sasha—an island of happiness and warmth in the clear north of my being, as Nabokov might put it. What materials do you like to work with? When it comes to physical materials I’m typically *very* particular about the materials I work with and rarely add a new item or colour into my repertoire. My supplies are also almost always really shitty and cheap. Currently, my inventory contains 1 stencil ruler. 3 coloured wax pencils (the kind you mark fabric with when you are sewing), 4 prismacolour coloured pencils, 1 faber-castell coloured pencil (classic colour, blue #351), 1 BIC #2 mechanical pencil (0.7mm), a SANFORD ArtGum eraser, and a clicker ball-pen from the lobby of a hotel in Vancouver. I also work digitally, but the two don’t usually mix.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m kind of working on a small book for Vancouver Art Book Fair, which, at the time of this interview, is coming up really fast! I have also been working on comic strip series which take place in Eggshell. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I tend to listen to just a few songs or albums at a time whether I am working on art or not (in that way, I suppose my musical palette is with the same frugality as my attitude toward art supplies) Normally, those songs are largely determined by my friend Nadya, who is my tastemaker when it comes to tunes. The songs in top circulation right now are Tortoise’s “I set my face to the hillside,” The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” and Dip in the Pool’s “On Retinae.” For albums that I listen to while I work, I guess my go-tos are usually pretty Bach–Mischa Maisky or YoYo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suites and Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations on piano. I think my favourite album is Haruomi Hosono’s Philharmony, which I’ve pretty often listened to while working. Where do you like to work? In the past, I’ve really enjoyed an errant style of work. I would
Where To Find Them Websites: http://www.williamdereume.com/ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @willyborg (Instagram)
keep a little staple-bound book in my back pocket and some crayons and pens in my backpack and draw whenever I had a chance. Nowadays, I have come to enjoy drawing in the evening. I open the window and wear a thick sweater while I draw, it’s really therapeutic. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? My mom was a seamstress, and supervisor at a denim factory when we were little. It was a really bad job, she got paid about six dollars an hour, but you can’t get much else when you’re an immigrant. When she came home late in the night, she brought with her the day’s left-over quality audit slip pads, so we could draw on them. We used to call them “little papers”, and they were pink usually, but sometimes white. On one side of each sheet of paper, there was a diagram of a pair of jeans (to mark the spot of a flaw, if she observed one)—the back side was blank. We drew probably thousands of small shitty drawings on the back of these “little papers”. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? When I came across the work of Erik Nebel several years ago, it was just like finding a little hand to hold while stumbling around in the dark. That’s a high hope to shoot for—so I guess I just hope that somebody can get out a little of what I put into my work. Maybe also feel like less of a freak, or something.
Graham Lister “My work is built around investigations of surfaces, materials and barriers that can be found within our everyday, physical lives. My painting process begins with making representational paintings of what I see around me; things like building site materials, fences, hoardings and brickwork. Using these paintings, I then look to develop new iterations of the subjects, but this time, I work to engage in abstracting or simplification processes. Eventually, with a work like Chain Link Fence, I find that I focus in on a repetitive mark-making process, which gets across the ideas of sameness and of ‘barrier’ materiality, but which also pushes me to foreground the imperfect nature of my personal painting style. The finished work therefore becomes quite interestingly tied to ideas about how far a gesture or mark might be pushed and when it stops being legible.” -Graham Lister Name Graham Lister Age 35 What is your current location? Glasgow, Scotland Where are you from? I’m from Glasgow and have actually just returned to live and work in the city after a few years living in Manchester. What is your current occupation? I’m a visual artist, predominantly a painter and am also lecturer at both the Glasgow School of Art and at the University of Huddersfield. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have been fortunate enough to have had some amazing opportunities to gain formal qualifications in art. I have MA in Art
History, an MFA from Gray’s School of Art and completed a practice-based PhD at the Glasgow School of Art in 2016. I’m really pleased to have studied in different places and to have worked with many exciting individuals too. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? As with many people connected to the arts, there are loads of sources / stories / things that inspire me. However, I guess I could say that I am always inspired when something really allows me to engage with it and almost be part of it as a reader, viewer or as someone listening to it. In terms of books, I always go back to the writing of Paul Auster and find myself being drawn to think about his characters in new ways every time I read. What materials do you like to work with? I am a painter, and so like nothing more than pushing or pulling paint around on a surface. I work with oil and acrylic, on canvas, board or paper, depending on the project. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I have just finished a pop-up show in connected to East Street Arts, I am part of a group exhibition of painting-as-research which has been curated by Material Conjectures at Art Lacuna in London and I have an upcoming show at The Bowery in Leeds in early(ish) 2018.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working? This is something that varies a bit for me. I might have something by Godspeed You! Black Emperor on in the background, or maybe something by Low, and this kind of works well for me. But, if ever I feel that I am getting too concerned about the appearance of the work, I stick on something by the Presidents of the United States of America or some Blink 182 and sing (badly) to stop me thinking too much! Where do you like to work? I have a small studio in the Briggait (which was the old fish market and has been renovated to become home to a number of artist studios) in Glasgow and this is where I work best. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I remember being a really wee boy and being at playgroup /
Where To Find Them Websites: www.grahamlisterart.com Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @lister_art (Instagram)
nursery and the poster paints that we used having a really distinctive smell that I just loved. At that time, I also vividly remember that the painting of robots was the very most important thing for me in the whole world!. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I’m particularly interested in the materiality of the everyday environment. I look to investigate surfaces, textures and planes through painting processes. From representational painted works, I look to gradually abstract and simplify weaves and barrier materials to eventually create repetitive (but imperfect) patterns. I like to try and think about the world through the lens of painting, and often ask myself ‘what would this be like to paint’ or ‘how could I simplify this using paint’? I reckon I am always trying to find out something new using painting.
Ross Jackson “I wanted to make a comic about the risk of surrendering yourself to the universe. I played this ARG once that was built around the idea of “divine nonchalance,” this radical belief that everything will work out for you if you chill out real good on the chaos of the cosmos. It’s a very Mr. Magoo kind of deal and I found that enchanting, but the universe is full of conniving and haplessly complacent forces. There is a profound beauty in opening yourself up to the chaos, but it’s also probably not a great idea, right? I have always wanted to try fugu though. This was drawn with a B6 nib and then I did the colors in photoshop. ” -Ross Jackson Name Ross Jackson Age 26 What is your current location? Portland, OR Where are you from? Ft. Myers, FL What is your current occupation? Teacher at an after-school art program/cartoonist. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I studied creative writing and film in college, so that definitely informs the ways I like to tell stories. Most of my drawing style and ability comes from doodling in those classes and all the other ones I took before them. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
that is a little alien to me, but I feel like we are both chasing a similar kind of funny sad. Working with her always opens up my brain in surprising ways. Sam Szabo is another artist who brings the noise for me. He’s writing some of the funniest and sweetest comix out there and he’s really good at being angry when he needs to be. My favorite movies are Being John Malkovich and After Hours. My favorite book is Adverbs by Daniel Handler. What materials do you like to work with? Lately I’ve been really into B6 and G nibs and this real good ink called “Super Comic Black” that Ic does. For my sketchbooks, I really like to use those Papermate Flair felt tip pens that you can get at Walgreens and these little green mustachioed plastic erasers called “Dad Erasers” that you can get at Daiso. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Right now I’m in the early stages of a new book called “Live Coral,” about a security guard at a halted development property. It’ll be the third in a series of Florida stories that I’ve been working on. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I drew the comic in this magazine while listening to the new Wiki record, Carly Rae Jepson, and “Utakata no Hiti” by Mariah.
My friend Lindsay Anne Watson thinks about comix in a way
Where do you like to work? There’s a little office space in my house that I do most of my work in, but I try to make it out to drawing groups at a few different cafes around town when I can. Shout out to Gridlords and the Sound Grounds Wreckin’ Cru. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I have fond memories of drawing Dragon Ball Z characters
Where To Find Them Websites: www.rossjackson.cool Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @rorsjarckson (Instagram)
based on the thumbnails on the back of an action figure box with Andrew Brestol while our sisters had gymnastics practice. We did that every week for a year. I was probably 8. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? At a baseline, I hope it’s funny and/or open enough for people to project themselves into it.
Chris Nordahl Name
What materials do you like to work with?
I mostly work with vectors in adobe illustrator but also draw and am trying to get more into painting. But I like Illustrator because it seems really intuitive to me and gives so much control.
Age 25 What is your current location? Austin, TX Where are you from? Chicago, IL What is your current occupation? Copywriter at an ad agency in Austin called Bakery Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I recently collaborated on a band shirt with Ryan Curtis who plays bass in my band and is a great designer. I drew a bootleg monstrous hamburger helper hand and he did the layout. I’m also collaborating with my friend Alfonso Ruiz on a new top secret project that’s in the work. I regularly make show posters for Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin and recently made some tour posters for The Hotelier and my friend’s band Alex Napping. I’m currently working on a tour poster for Walker Lukens, a musician here in Austin. Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
Other than a few online tutorials I’m totally self taught. I study other people’s work, cartoons, paintings and photographs whenever I need to figure out something I don’t know how to do. I also have some friends who are really talented designers and art directors who have given me some tips.
I have a big studio playlist that I like to listen to while I’m working, it’s a lot of hip-hop, electronic, and anything with a good beat to help me get into a flow. I’ve really been digging the new Toro y Moi record, Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 by A$AP Mob, Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk, and A Seat at the Table by Solange in the studio. Records that flow without stopping are really appealing to me while I’m working.
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Where do you like to work?
I’ve been really inspired by Tom Sachs, Frank Ocean, and Solange. They all have really unique visual identities that are transgressive but also really harmonious which is something I strive to achieve in my work. I read When the Sick Rule the World by Dodie Bellamy last summer and that’s been a really inspirational collection of writings, she does a great job painting a picture with real personal stories. I’m a big B-horror fan and those movies are often visually insane so that’s always a good well of inspiration.
I just moved in with my girlfriend and our cat and we have a spare room that we’ve turned into a studio. That’s where I mostly work now. Sometimes I’ll work on art while watching TV or during my lunch break at work. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? My mom always encouraged me to make art when I was younger. My earliest specific memory is painting a picture of a ship with watercolors. My parents still have it. I didn’t really
start taking art that seriously until recently, I guess I didn’t realize it had a practical application but wish that I had realized that sooner. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I’d love to be able to make art as a more full time gig. I’d really
Where To Find Them Websites: www.chrisnordahlbook.com Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @whey_protein2 (Instagram)
like to work with brands that I like and would love to design album or book covers and would also like to get into editorial illustration. I hope that people see my work and can enjoy it on a visual level but can also see the deeper messages under the surface. did when I read my favorites artists’ books.
Sophia Schultz “I took these photos in very different times in my life. One was in high school where each weekend seemed to blend together and nothing felt very linear. I would take photos of my friends whether it was going to the beach or going to some bad party. Looking back at the photos makes me nostalgic of those times but ultimately happy they aren’t so close anymore. The other photo was taken outside of Bogota, Colombia where my family lives. The house was my great-great grandparents house, we went without knowing if it was still there and with directions my grandma had remembered from 50 years ago. That night we watched old video footage of my mom running around as a baby through that same house. When I thought of the word “risk” it reminded me of both of these times, the rawness of teen hood, and the potential for disappointment and loss.” -Sophia Schultz Name
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Sophia Schultz Age
Activists around the world truly inspire me. Latina artists Ana Mendieta and Doris Salcedo influence me the way that they push the boundaries of politics, art, and the body.
What materials do you like to work with?
What is your current location?
Plants, darkroom chemicals, and love letters. Sometimes together but sometimes not!
Florida but moving out soon! Where are you from? My family is from Colombia but I was born in Sarasota, Florida. What is your current occupation? Recent college graduate trying to navigate what to do next. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? With analog photography and filmmaking i’m completely self taught. I took a few sculpture classes in college which helped me to incorporate wood, metal, and screen printing into my practice.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I am currently working on a collaborative photo project of all women and nonbinary people of color in nature. My friend and talented artist Sarah Viviana Valdez is styling each shoot and the results are scenes of comfort and wander in this created character that the model adopts through clothes, objects, and the surroundings. I am also always taking photos and collecting love letters for an ongoing installation about love and loss. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Usually i’ll listen to one album the entire time i’m making a specific piece. Right now it’s Girlpool’s album Powerplant or new Kali Uchis music.
Where do you like to work?
giving it away as presents to my family.
I like working alone at first, whether it’s in the darkroom or just in my room or back yard. I’ve never had my own studio space and I am really sensitive to people telling me what to do.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Probably making really bad pottery in elementary school and
Where To Find Them Websites: www.sophia-schultz.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @erotocado (Instagram)
I want to create scenes that are true representations of people, that tell a story that might relate to other people, to work among the lines of art, representation, and radical justice.
Melisa Cola Melisa Cola
exhibitions where interactive dinners took place and so far, I’ve always experienced it as awkward. But right now, I’m working on a sort off cookbook.
Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
Where are you from?
I listen to a lot of Podcasts, cause I love hearing conversations. When I’m working I get numb, I absorb everything better. Right now I listen to Unauthorized Disclosure, Pod Save America, The Read, and Death, Sex, and Money. As for music I like everything, it depends on my mood. I still listen to whatever I liked at 16, like Sonic Youth, Laurent Garnier, Massive Attack. But when I’m working I mostly play a mix R&B, I love it.
Where do you like to work?
What is your current occupation?
I like to work at home. I’ve tried working in a studio, but I’ve always found myself bringing stuff home and being more productive there. If I want to step away from my work I just force myself out of the house.
What is your current location? Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Photographer/BFA student Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
What materials do you like to work with?
I always had to edit everything as a kid. I was either drawing on whatever I could find or cutting into my clothes. The first “art piece” I made was when I watched Jean Luc Goddard’s, Le Mépris. I was completely captured by the cinematography. The long shot of Brigitte Bardot lying on her bed was mesmerizing. I borrowed a camera, that didn’t have a film option, and started photographing continuous shots of still life and people interacting. I then spend hours behind my computer uploading the pictures into a shitty digital slideshow, to make it look like a movie.
I’m really into food powders right now!
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?
In the end I want to give attention to others and causes that matter to me. But making art is still a personal thing and everything I made this year has basically been therapy. I don’t feel bad about it cause it was very necessary for me, but I’m still finding a balance.
I’m in my last year for a BFA. I got into photography around second year and when it comes to techniques I’m mostly selftaught. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? This is such a tough question. I’m inspired by whatever I don’t understand.
I’m doing research on relational aesthetics; I like the idea of using food as an exploration of human interest. I’ve been to a few
Where To Find Them Websites: https://cargocollective.com/melisacola Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @melisacola (Instagram)
Sander Ettema “For the piece I’ve made for this issue of FORGE. I kind of wanted to make some psychedelic safety poster that could have been in some factory, in another dimension. I’m kind of trying to learn to work with text as key objects more, so this was good practice for that. I used some patterns on the walls to give it that video game vibe. I drew all the lines on paper, with a fineliner. Then I did color, font, and texture in Photoshop.” -Sander Ettema Name Sander Ettema Age 25 What is your current location? Drachten, The Netherlands Where are you from? Drachten, The Netherlands What is your current occupation? I design clean vector art for a local company and I draw comics on the side.
someone’s mind. I also really like the comics by Ben Mendelewicz and the rave-style designs by Christian Parks Perdue. Oh and what I’ve also been quite fond of for a while now is the sheer absurdity of some corporate logo’s, especially here in Europe. Happy and weird characters next to bland and boring text. What materials do you like to work with? Paper, pens, a printer, and a scanner. I’m also always looking for new (or old) software to use and implement in my work for new effects. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m working on a 20 or so page comic named Storage Room, which will be about anxiety and other embarrassing stuff. Is there any music you like to listen to while working?
I’m self-taught. I used to do some graffiti when I was younger, but kind of got stuck and dropped drawing for a long time. I started gaining interest in it again since maybe two years ago.
I usually listen to heavy autotune/synth stuff. The poppier the better. I’ve recently discovered A.G. Cook and it was like fate. I also listen to Pollari, Eiffel 65, Pizzagang, Francis and the Lights and a lot of video game music. One of my favorite songs for drawing is “Zan Wit That Lean” by Soulja Boy (the original version, not part 2).
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
Where do you like to work?
One of my favorite (game) designers is Keita Takahashi. I think he has really interesting and fun ideas. We Love Katamari really showed me that art can be such a fun way to have a look in
At a desk, preferably while listening to music.
Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?
What is one of your earliest memories of making art?
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
Well in elementary school we always got notebooks in which we could draw for like an hour every few days or so. I would always pick themes, and they were mostly inspired by toys or video games. I had one notebook that was all filled with G.I. Joe vehicles, and one with strictly vampires, I would draw a vampire version of everyone in my class.
I think it would be cool if my jokes/language would get implemented in the bigger spectrum. I guess similar to a meme. Inventing new ways to express feelings and thoughts.
Where To Find Them Websites: sanderettema.tumblr.com Contact: Sander.firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @Sander_ettema (Instagram)
Alexander Laird “I bought this toy from the 90s called the Vtech Master Video Painter. Basically, you can draw crappy pixel art on old CRT TV via this super janky touchpad. Leaning into the idiosyncrasies of the device makes for a lot of unpredictable experiments. I did the top guy first, and I really liked his whole deal and how menacing he was coming out of a multicolored forest. He seems like the second or third obstacle you’d deal with on a grand quest to reforge the crown of the ancient king blah blah blah. Those characters are always the most fun and dangerous because they have a lot of unpredictable stuff going like being unnaturally obsessed with riddles, or like having a weird thing for fish. The medieval beefy dude below might be biting off more than he can chew.” -Alexander Laird Name
guess I kind of do use my formal education!
What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?
I’ve been on a weirdo 70s sci-fi kick and loving all the weird weird monsters and aliens and spaceships because that’s mostly what I draw when I’m not thinking. The endless story possibilities really excite me as well. I’ve been reading all the re-releases of Valerian and Laureline, and getting my hands on everything Moebius has done - I grabbed an ultra-rare English language copy of the Airtight Garage at Desert Island that I definitely don’t feel stupid in dropping $80 on. I can’t get over the fact of how perfect of a movie Alien is. I think the title song from its soundtrack alone sets up a world that most films can’t get close to achieving. Besides sci-fi stuff, Paul Giamatti in Sideways gives me life on the daily.
23! What is your current location? Brooklyn, NY Where are you from? Toronto, ON, CANADA!!! What is your current occupation? Working two part time jobs–a vegan bakeshop and an independent movie theatre, while I scheme on a billion different projects. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I went to film school in Toronto but I kind of pivoted from that when I decided some of the stuff in film school was somewhat lame. I started drawing comics and doing illustration after that. I still use my filmmaking skills though. I just finished a little animated project where I incorporated some 16mm film footage I shot on bolex with a good friend from film school. So yeah, I
What materials do you like to work with? I’m trying to always switch it up and not work in one medium. My favorite mediums are pencil crayons, watercolors, construction paper collages, risograph, pen, and now the Vtech Master Video Painter! It is probably the wackiest visual medium I’ve stumbled onto yet, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Apparently you can do animation with it! Since getting pretty reliable access to risograph to print physical comics, I’ve been taking more time to think about line-work and lettering. I’ve settled on this chiseled tip pen by this brand called Sakura which I bought in Montreal that’s really great.
What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? My new book The Fashion of 109,069 A.D. is hot off the presses for SPX, and I am starting to work on album artwork for the rapper milo’s side project, scallops hotel. Currently, I am planning the third issue of a comic called Crohl’s House which I write with my brother, and friends. I hope to finish it up for CALA in December. In addition, I am writing a short film that heavily involves the Vtech Master Video Painter, because I am obsessed with it! I think the film will be great. Too many things going on for how little money I’m making from it all, but hey, um, maybe one day. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Top things in rotation right now: this Japanese 1970s ambient electronic album called Green by Hitoshi Yoshimura, the Blade Runner soundtrack, the new Slowdive album, and that Anamanaguchi x Hatsune Miku collab song that came out last year which only just recently discovered.
Where To Find Them Websites: alaird.com Contact: email@example.com Social Media: @alexanderlaird (Instagram)
Where do you like to work? I come up with ideas when I’m biking, or walking, or on the subway, but do the actual work for my projects in my room because it’s where I can have guaranteed and constant background noise of TV shows, and music. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? It’s a lame answer, but it’s felt like I’ve always been drawing. Sorry for the lame answer. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Figuring out new and inventive ways to tell the very best stories! For me that boils down to stuff I thought was cool when I was younger, and figuring out why it’s compelling now that I am a grown adult person.
Disa Wallander Name Disa Wallander Age 29 What is your current location? Stockholm, Sweden Where are you from? I’m from Stockholm. What is your current occupation? I’m currently a student at the MA for Visual Communication at Konstfack, the biggest art university here in Stockholm. I don’t have a job, I’m just living off the student loan. Right now I’m thinking about retraining to become a gardener after I finish my art education. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have way too much training–nobody needs this much training to do what I do. But it’s such a privileged position to be a student, in Sweden almost all education is free, and you get about 6-7 years worth of student loan (which also includes a grant). So I figure I might as well use it. Also I love being a student, if I could be a student for the rest of my life I probably would. It’s great to be in an environment where people want to help you, and teach you what you’re interested in. What materials do you like to work with? For drawing, I almost always use a Uniball Micro. I also have some nice reservoir pens that I got passed down from my granddad, that I sometimes use. But I’m becoming bored with
drawing, and like to use other materials when I can. I use a lot of photography and collage in my comics, as well as painted backgrounds. I’ve also started getting into embroidery, weaving, ceramics, silicone casting–I love to try out different things and see how my thoughts can translate into them. I guess I like being surprised, and even though I like my own work, I get bored with it quite easily. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m currently working on a comic book, which will be my longest one yet. Previously I’ve made books that are about 50-60 pages, but no more than that. Now I’m ready to make something bigger. Maybe my first book with a spine! It’s kind of a series of shorter episodes, but they all add together to a make a longer story. I don’t plan ahead that much, so it’s hard to say exactly what it’s about, but it contains a lot of horses, glitter, and some of my experiments with other materials. I think it’s going to be a very pretty book, that’s my goal. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I probably work in silence more often than not, but when I listen to music while working my go-to stuff is Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Repetitive, monotonous, instrumental music is pretty much the only thing I like working to. Recently I’ve listened a lot to Koto Vortex I: Works By Hiroshi Yoshimura (it’s on youtube, I recommend it!). Where do you like to work? I like drawing in bed, and in the bath. Especially when I’m writing for comics, I need a very relaxing place. I do a lot of writing in my bath tub. But it depends, different places for different kinds of work I guess. I go to my desk at school when I need to do messy things like paint or throw glitter around. Sometimes I like drawing in public places, like the library. It can be really nice to be somewhere where you’re anonymous, but you can pick up bits of other people’s conversations, or find surprising things in the books around you. Yeah, the library is a good place for that.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work? To feel joy, process my thoughts, and connect with other people
Where To Find Them Websites: disawallander.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Social Media: @grrhmm (Instagram)
FORGE. ISSUE 6: SERENDIPITY
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Yiwei Meng exemplifies the true potential of what can come out of an all ages DIY scene. The
19-year-old show promoter and head of Minty Boi Presents moved with his family from Beijing to Southern California, bringing an enormous change to his life while he was still in high school. After being exposed to Tumblr, Bandcamp, and North America’s independent music scene for the first time, Yiwei was shocked by a youth culture he never knew existed, and quickly looked for any way to make it a part of his life. Yiwei initially got his start by frequenting venues in Los Angeles like The Smell and the now defunct Pehrspace, before eventually volunteering for them and throwing shows of his own. While most kids going to shows take for granted the platform and experiences they have available to them, Yiwei has been keen on making the most with what is at his disposal.
I met Yiwei the first time I visited Los Angeles and was totally moved by his enthusiasm to-
wards booking shows while he was still just starting out. Since then he’s thrown dozens of gigs in every type of space you could feasibly do one, and recently started branching out to booking on the East Cost after he began attending RISD. This month I met up with Yiwei while visiting Providence, and the two of us discussed immigrating to the US, art school, and the profoud affect DIY has had on his life.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from China. I left when I was 14 and immigrated to Los Angeles with my parents. I lived there for five years, but now I live in Providence, Rhode Island. Well, I kind of bounce around. I kind of want to move really soon. What was your experience like growing up in China? I grew up in Beijing. While I was growing it was sort of at the time that the city was being gentrified. As I was getting older and going to middle school, it was around when the Olympic Games started happening, so they re-did everything just so that it would look good when foreigners came in. I grew up… I wouldn’t say the slums, but I grew up in the lower income class. But my parents, tried to always put me into better and better educational systems, so I would always be in classes with people who were a lot wealthier than me. Was there any sort of music or art community that you were a part of there? I had no idea about any of that cause I was a jock there. Sports were more popular with kids in Beijing. Since the internet is not available in China the way that it is internationally, we didn’t get as much cool music and stuff from outside. We have a cool traditional music scene that’s more for older people. But as far as music for young people, I had no idea. I had never gone to a show when I was younger. I didn’t really find out about the LA music scene until like two years ago.
What was your experience like moving to LA and how did you find out about what was going on in the music scene there? It was really funny going to the first show I saw at The Smell. I didn’t speak english for the first two years that I lived in the US, so I didn’t really ever go out of the town I lived in, which was a town outside of Pasadena. It was a really small town, so I couldn’t really do anything there. But then I discovered Tumblr one day and I found out about Mac DeMarco and King Krule and I started listening to all of these different people who played shows with them. The first concert I went to was actually Mac DeMarco. But after that I found out about Arbutus Records and I discovered Sean Nicholas Savage—that label sort of lead me into that whole Montreal scene. One day Sean Nicholas Savage had a show at The Smell, and through going to that I found out about the scene. That day I was just totally touched by The Smell and I started going to more shows. What was your experience using the internet that way for the first time? What was it like to start experiencing life as an American teenager? I was going to high school in this town called La Cañada. I moved there with my parents because my cousin was living there. It’s a really caucasian dominant area and it’s really weird for immigrants to move there. But for some reason my cousin lived there, so my parents decided to move there. I just wasn’t fitting in at all. China blocks Google, so I never had a Facebook, I never had a Tumblr, never had a MySpace or any of that early shit. It was just a life changing experience to have it all of a sudden, you know? When you get to find out about all of these cool people and stuff going on, it’s really incredible. I mean, you know how it goes being in a really rich white town—I was just an immigrant who didn’t speak english, so it was hard to fit in. I wanted to be a part of something, so music and art were what I got out of the internet. What was that first show at The Smell like? What did you start going to see after that? I had this friend who I went to high school with who was a year older than me and I found out through the Facebook page that he was going. Then after that he started taking me to more shows. At that show I met this really cool girl that had been doing art for Celebrity Crush—the show was Celebrity Crush, Promise Keeper, Roses, and Sean Nicholas Savage was headlining. I had never seen anyone that was that good at art, and I just totally fell in love pretty much, haha. So then I was like, “Wow, how can I ever see you again?” So then I started going to all of these shows with the hope that maybe I could see this girl again, haha. But then I started going to The Smell monthly and eventually I found out about Pehrspace and I started volunteering there. How long did it take for you to actually become a part of helping to put on DIY shows? I didn’t really start putting shows on until about half a year after I started going to shows. Honestly, shout out to Danger Collective and Penniback—I was going to their shows cause I was a fan of what they were doing. The first time I met Jackson (Katz) I freaked out. I was like “Dude! Casinos is so tight! I love your project!” So I guess it really just started with people who were older than me who were in the scene for longer, and I was just a fan of what they were doing. I would go to their shows to see their music and then follow their social media to see what they were putting on. Eventually I started throwing shows without the intention of doing music at all. I was making a lot of art at the time so I was just planning on doing art shows. During high school my goal was just to do art and I thought I was going to do art for a living, so I wanted to start doing art shows rather than music shows in LA, but I couldn’t afford the spaces. I hit up some bands who were
friends at the time so that we could get a crowd who would pay an entrance fee. We tried to make it an environment for everything, but we also just needed to be able to afford it first. The first show was at this place called Macau that was in Silverlake, right across from Pehrspace. It was mad stressful, haha. I didn’t know what a PA was. I was stressing out, and I didn’t know how to do sound, and the show just keep running late. We also didn’t expect the number of people who showed up. There were like 100 people who showed up, and that turned into a problem. The Florida Mistakes played, Nathaniel (Stephens) from Red Punk played, and then— they’re not a band anymore but—Lonely Cheif’s other project played. What was your experience like volunteering at Pehrspace? What was it like to see it close down? Working as a volunteer, I felt so loved. It was a space where people had respect for each other and would really take care of you. Everyone was a lot older than me. Pauline and Mike really took care of me and taught me all of this music knowledge. It felt like family. It was pretty open to people volunteering. All of the DIY spaces needed people, so they would have sign up books. If you just asked “Hey, could I volunteer here?” you could probably work there. I was a high schooler, so I was poor. I really wanted to be a part of it, but I couldn’t afford to pay for all of the shows. I could use my work in exchange for getting to see the show, so I was really open to it. It’s been like two years now since they went on hiatus. When they closed down it was so sad. I remember having one last community meeting there and everyone was just like, “Let’s drink some wine, see a good show, and we’ll all bring an end to Pehrspace.” I had a date that night
with my ex, and I had to be like “I’m sorry… I have to go to this.” and I just broke up with her to see the last Pehrspace show, haha. When did you start putting shows together under the name Minty Boi? Haha, it’s mad funny. So, the first cigarette I ever smoked was a Camel Crush, which is a menthol cigarette. It tastes really minty. I got really into it and I started getting all of my friends into smoking menthols. So I had this little friend group and everyone was smoking menthols at the time. So I was just like, “You know what, let’s just go for the name Minty Boi.” since we needed a name to present our shows. Then it started to catch on after the second or third show cause by then I had this feeling like, “Man, I really need to start doing more shows. I feel like I’m actually doing something that’s contributing to this community who raised me and saved my life.” So that’s when it really caught on and I started taking it more seriously. Were there things you noticed about how shows were organized in LA that you wanted to change or do differently with your shows? Right now I think we have—a lot of people tend to complain about how too much of the scene is just white males. We have too many white males singing about their ex-girlfriends right now, haha. It’s cool, I like a lot of the music they make. It’s genuine, you know? But I think we need to make it more diverse in LA. As far as throwing shows, there are a lot of good promoters. I don’t know too much about the New York scene, but I’ve been trying to get involved with that too. But in New York all of the shows are booked by AdHoc and Popgun Presents. I feel like there’s no space for DIY events and the city isn’t able to support it. In LA it’s really different.
There are all of these warehouses and DIY spaces, all with thriving younger kids. I know this girl who goes by the name Smash Club, and she’s been booking shows since she was like 13. There are just all of these mad inspiring people doing stuff in LA. What were some of the first shows that you did that you were really proud of pulling off? Minty Boi has only really been around for a year and a few months. The second show I threw I was really into because we had like 20 artists. That was back when it was still more art show heavy—I haven’t been doing a lot of those in a while and I feel like I really need to do more. It was really diverse too, there were contributions from everyone, and there were a lot of minority artists as well, so I really liked that about it. Starting to do warehouse shows really made a difference for me as far as the route I took with throwing shows. I basically just found these warehouses on the internet and just started throwing shows. Kids started swooping in and started called it “The Minty Warehouse” and that was like the most fun experience for me, haha. Being young, I didn’t really care about who was playing it was just a fun party. We all just came to enjoy the music. I was booking shows right at the end of high school, and then during the summer I started doing more of my shows. After I came to Rhode Island for college I started doing a little bit of booking shows in Providence, but I was still doing some LA shows. I just had to slow it down a bit because I wasn’t there. Things are also starting to get shut down here in Providence right now. The situation is not great at the moment.
Who were some of the bands you started developing a relationship with when you started booking shows? A lot of the Penniback bands at first. Penniback is this label from LA that came out of Glendale. The people who run it actually went to the high school right across from my high school, but I didn’t find that out until later cause they’re a little older than me. I started throwing shows with their bands. With pretty much every show I threw in the first year one of their bands would be playing because I would go to their shows and we became friends. Jacob (Rubeck) from Surf Curse would play a lot of my shows. His project Casino Hearts was so good! We developed a friendship and now he calls me his son, haha. So I guess it’s that sort of a relationship more than a friendship now. Later on I started getting into different kinds of music scenes. In the beginning it was mostly surf rock bands, but then I started getting into post-punk and music with synths. I started developing a relationship with this band GIRL PUSHER. Another person was Cuco. Before he really blew up I did one of his first few shows. But yeah, for the most part it was Danger Collective bands and Penniback bands. Were there other show promoters who you wanted to model what you were doing after? Rene (Contreras) is kind of like this promoter god, haha. I worked with Rene a couple times. He wasn’t really my idol until later. But Rene is next level. I got really lucky because, Jim (Smith) from The Smell set us up. One day I was working there and he was like, “Hey Yiwei, come meet Rene! Rene, this is Yiwei.” Then immediately we added each other on Facebook. I had no idea who he was at the time, and I barely knew about Viva! but I thought, He seems cool. Maybe we can link and build later. Then he sent me a message right around the time I
was coming back for break during school and he was like, “Hey, there’s this Downtown Boys show happening. I heard you’ve been living in Providence. Do you want to put together this show?” That show honestly ended up being one of my favorite shows too. They’re one of the few bands that talks about being a minority and being under privileged, and they really fight for justice. It was just so empowering! Rene definitely hooked it up with that one. I really look up to him. We have a really similar background where we both didn’t speak english until we were older. He’s one of the few promoters who tried to give back to the community. One of my favorite promoters over all these years is Low + Slow. The people who do it are this guy Alex and his girlfriend Natalie. They just have really good taste. They’re always getting these bands I’ve never heard of, but once you start listening to them you’ll be like, “What the fuck is this?” They try to cover all kinds of genres. They’ll do anything. They never care about the turn out—they just want to throw a show and pay the bands fat, and that’s really all they care about. They produce the most solid bills ever. I try to do a lot of shows, but some shows are just not as thoughtful as other shows. All of their shows are just really well thought out. They’re definitely one of my favorite promoters. They threw my favorite show last year that had ten bands play. It was Future Shock, Wild Wing, Geneva Jacuzzi, and a bunch of other bands. They’re just real punks. They don’t care about anything but throwing a good show and everyone having a good time. How was the process booking shows in Providence different from booking shows in Los Angeles? I’ve only done three shows so far in Providence. It’s really different because, to be able to book a show you have to know the scene first and you have to go to shows for a long time. I was just rushing into it, and I wanted to throw something because there was nothing going on and the kids just didn’t know about it. College Hill is separate from the city, so RISD and Brown are totally different than the rest of Providence. There’s this whole beautiful music and art scene going on, but they don’t know about it at all. So I threw a show and brought a bunch of my friends from Bennington—basically LA people I knew from other schools—and I brought them over to play a show. Then I had some RISD bands to support, and that was the show. Then I did two shows with the band Model/Actriz in Providence because they’re close by and they were going on tour. Right now I’m trying to bring Show Me The Body on campus, andI’m trying to get Downtown Boys to play a show. Why do you think going to DIY shows is important to kids in a similar situation as you? I felt really relatable to these kids because I was one of them. I wasn’t accepted when I was living where I lived back in LA when I was in High School. I had long hair, and my nails were painted, and I wore women’s clothes. It was bad. I got bullied a lot and I almost got kicked out for fighting this kid who was being racist. So I wanted these other kids who feel the same way to feel like they’re part of something. There are people out there who don’t care where you’re from or what you look like, but want to know who you are. It’s just been that for me, I guess. I want to keep the DIY shows going as much as the bigger shows. I’ve always liked stripped down shows—whether it’s in a warehouse of someone’s backyard—more than something at a legit venue. It’s fare more relaxed and people can chill. What do you think keeps people from starting to make work or put themselves out there when they’re younger? I think it’s easy to get scared when you’re younger, but the best thing to do is just roll with it. You’ll figure everything out later. I only started knowing what I was doing after the third or
fourth show I did. Just go with it I guess. Nothing should stop you. What are you working on at the moment that you can talk about? I have a couple shows coming up in LA. I’m planning a rave there around Christmas time when I go back. I have a show coming up in a couple days in Providence with some RISD bands and some locals. I have a show for this band Peaer from New York. They’re visiting, and they hit me up, so I’m really honored to do a show with them in LA. I just started booking for this venue called Trans-Pecos—I’m really happy about that. I felt really bad they got their liquor license taken away. But now it’s basically all ages, so I’m pretty stoked on that. I’m helping Penniback out doing shows there. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on, that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? Yeah! I want to do a festival. That’s my ultimate dream. I want to bring all of these bands I grew up with and bring them to a bigger stage. I really just want to work with artists that I admire. I also want to do college booking, cause I don’t have as much money as the college does. So getting some funding to bring some valuable culture on campus would be cool. So that’s what I’m really working on right now. Other than that I’m trying to expand myself and start booking in Boston and New England and New York.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Over the past ten years Mickey Zacchilli has produced a body of work so saturated in emotion, action, and wit that it’s
hard for it not to stick out amongst even the most crowded corners of contemporary comics. The New England cartoonist is best known for her painfully funny and visually stimulating comics which regularly showcase her incredible knack for unconventional storytelling and her idiosyncratic sense of humor. But below the surface of almost every strip she’s drawn over the span of her career are latent themes of self doubt, isolation, and personal growth that make them even more gratifying for their readership. While Mickey’s illustrations are frantic and vibrant, her intentions with each character and narrative are concise and pure, allowing both halves of her brain to coexist in a single panel.
From her ongoing series like RAV and Space Academy to her collaborative comics with Michael DeForge and Patrick
Kyle, Mickey has used her impatience as the fuel to let out for some of the most spontaneously brilliant stories she has inside of her. Her willingness to commit to every gesture she puts on the page gives her work a level of personality some cartoonists spend their whole career’s aching to achieve, but rarely ever reach. In the hopes of learning more about her cartooning alchemy, I took a three hour bus ride up to Providence, Rhode Island and hung out with Mickey for the day. After a giant plate of breakfast at J.P. Spoonem’s, we sat on the floor of her living room with her pets and talking about everything that’s made her the artist she is today.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Massachusetts and I currently live in Rhode Island. What role did comics play in your life growing up? I read a lot of comics while I was a kid. I read the newspaper strips and I really liked X-Men. Then I remember finding Andi Watson’s Skeleton Key and that became a comic I really liked. I always though Andi Watson was a girl’s name but… it’s a boy’s name, haha. It was a disappointment because the comic is all about weird girls that like weird stuff. So I guess that was my real introduction to indie comics. Then there was stuff like Daniel Clowes, who I didn’t really like when I was that age—and maybe still don’t really like, haha. People like him and Adrian Tomine were on that other end of the spectrum of indie comics, and I was like “Ooo, I don’t like this. I prefer XMen.” haha. I don’t really know when I discovered that there was kind of an in between. Where there specific comics that had a big impact on you or the work you eventually started making? I think it was mostly anime stuff and manga that affected my work. Like, Ranma 1/2 was hugely influential on me as a younger person. I just always loved that stuff, especially because when I was younger it wasn’t so prevalent. It was so rare so it was like seeing something you had never ever seen before in your life. When I was a kid no one else knew about it. I was like the only kid that liked it. I don’t remember what time that was, but there was only
the Syfy network and they would just play Akria, Ghost in the Shell, Fist of the North Star, and Ninja Scroll. Those were the only things that were televised that I was aware of. Then you could also go to the video store—like West Coast Video or whatever—and you could buy a VHS tape that was an hour long that was $30. But I don’t think I had any other friends who were into it, so I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because they didn’t know what it was until later. I’m sure other kids watched anime, but I was pretty anti-social to begin with. I didn’t have that many friends in high school or middle school. So if there were other people watching it, I wasn’t friends with them, haha. We did not communicate. Did that lead you to start using the internet early on? Oh definitely! I think the internet is maybe what started it. When I was younger I was an early internet adopter. I loved it. I was on AOL and I was chatting in chatrooms. AOL was funny because you couldn’t really go on the internet. It was just their weird portal to other people. I think still to this day, that’s my favorite type of internet use—just chatting. Like Twitter is good for that. I hate Facebook because there no chatting really, it’s just nonsense. That’s not chatting, whatever they do on Facebook! It’s more like presenting a thing and then people respond to it, and I hate that. I guess theres responding in Twitter, but it still feels more chatty to me. My favorite social media was Google Reader, which was like an RSS reader but there were comments, and you could share it with your friends and your friends would comment. That was the best. But they got rid of it because no one used it except for me.
“Being in school, you just feel obligated to do something important because you’re taking calsses and it’s really expensive.”
You ended up studying at RISD for college, right? What made you decided to go there and what was your experience like while you were attending the school? I mean, I guess I just felt obligated to go to college. My parents were kind of like, “You have to go to college.” and I was like “Oh, I’ll go to art college because I’m interested in… X-Men.” or whatever, haha. I was also drawing a lot, so that’s part of why I went there. I initially went there for illustration and I hated it. So then I switched to printmaking and it was way more fun because I was actually learning how to do a thing, as appose to being given these insufferable drawing assignments. I made some comics before school, but I think when I went into school—because I felt like I had to go to college and have a career in something—I was like “I have to stop making comics because that’s not how you can make money. I have to become an illustrator.” But as I said, I hated that, which led to do printmaking. I loved printmaking and I loved that department, but I didn’t really even make comics in printmaking. My final project was a
What was the student body like there at the time? Did people seem really motivated by what they were doing? I feel like everyone was kind of different. Some people were really excited and some people were really “cool.” It was really varied and it seemed like personality types filtered into different majors. Like, painting was very “cool,” or in industrial design—which was the only major where you could get an actual job afterwords—everyone was really hard working and very down to business. What were your first couple years out of school like? They were much better than being in school, haha. I was much happier and I felt inundated with creative possibilities at that point. Being in school, you just feel obligated to do something important because you’re taking calsses and it’s really expensive. I just remember having this feeling of, Whatever work I make in school has to be really
good or really important. Then pretty much immediately after getting out of school I was suddenly like, I can do whatever I want! That feeling was really nice.
getting paid. But I was doing some other jobs at the time. I just made a bunch of stupid prints and had a lot of fun doing that.
I remember being like, “I’m going to move to New York after I get out of school.” But then my friend who was staying was like “Why would you move to New York if you have no reason to move to New York?” and I was like “Woooooow…” hahaha. I feel like I’m very influenced by other people’s offhanded comments. So suddenly I was like, “Well, why would I move to New York if I have no reason to move to New York?” and then I just stayed here. That was basically the sole reason why I stayed here, but I found it to be good that I stayed.
What was one of the first projects you did after school where you started seeing more people take notice of your work?
I was suppose to finish school in 2006 but I had taken some time off, so I ended up finishing in 2007. I remember getting involved with this community print shop, and my other friend who had been in the same program as me and graduated at the same time, stayed and became the head of the print shop. I was like her assistant, but I wasn’t
I guess the first comics I started making as a person out of school was this series called Bullshit Frank and Gorilla Joe. It was like a buddy comic and it was kind of in a daily strip format, but it wasn’t a daily strip because I didn’t post it on the internet, I would just print them. Those were the first books that had screen printed covers and I started selling at shows. I remember, I use to work at Trinity Repertory Theater doing concessions and I use to draw it at work. I would just work concessions for 15 minutes before the play, and then the play would go on and I’d have nothing to do. It was a great job. I kind of wish I still had that job, haha. Plus, I’d only work like three hours at a time because it was just before the play, during intermission, and
“I guess the first comics I started making as a person out of school was this series called Bullshit Frank and Gorilla Joe.”
“Screen printing is really popular now, but I think back then it was a real privileged to have a community print shop that you could print at, and so it was kind of rare.” after the play. It was amazing… So the whole time I would just draw comics while everyone else working would just be reading or doing other things. That’s where I’d draw most of Bullshit Frank and Gorilla Joe. I also worked at this place with my friend Mimi (Wunsch)— who’s a tattoo artist in Minneapolis now—at Cafe Pazzo, and I would draw them all day there. We’d only ever be busy during lunch rushes there too, so I could work on the comics. Since then I haven’t really had a job where I could do that. Well, I guess I have. I just sort of stopped drawing at jobs then. Weird… haha. Anyways, those were the first comics I drew that people started to see. They were fun and lighthearted one-off comics about a friendship. Then when I started RAV I just wanted to write a longer comic and I wanted it to have more of a narrative. How did the internet affected your ability to make and share your work while you were starting out? I think at that time it was still before Tumblr. There was Facebook and Myspace and LiveJournal, but there wasn’t Instagram or Twitter yet. There were forums though, and that was what I was using a lot at the time. I was a part of the Gingerbox forum which was Corey Lewis’s forum, and that’s where I met Michael (DeForge), Lamar (Abrams), and all those guys. We’d post art work in the forums, and that was the only place you’d post work and get responses. You’d check your thread and if you got replies it was like… the biggest deal, haha. Even if someone
was like “This suck.” or whatever, you were like “Wow! I got a reply!” But now people just post the dumbest stuff. But I remember back then being like, “Every response is a golden gem!” haha. I mean now all of the responses seem empty because it easy to make them. Maybe that’s what it is. You were one of the early adopters of risograph printing from the past few years. How did that type of printing affect your work? Well I feel like people started caring about my work because I would go to shows like SPX or whatever and they work would have screen-printed covers. That was the first iteration of my printing I guess. For RAV I would make these screen printed covers and people would be like, “Oh my god, this is beautiful.” Screen printing is really popular now, but I think back then it was a real privileged to have a community print shop that you could print at, and so it was kind of rare. I remember while my friend Morgan ran the print shop people were unloading print supplies for nothing. Letter presses, off-set presses, screen printing supplies—they were just like “Take it!” because it seemed like print was dead. I mean, I don’t know what the history of the new wave of print making is, but it seems to me like there are a lot more people screen-printing and there are a lot more people using risographs. But anyways, I went to these shows and people were fascinated by my work being screen printed. I don’t know if anyone even cared about the comics, haha.
Then a little bit later, after I moved into this studio called The Dirt Palace, Xander (Marro) got a risograph because she went to some thing in Europe and everyone used risographs in Europe. She had one here, and no one was really using it, so I started printing on her risograph—like the RAV series or whatever other comics I was making. After that I would go to shows and people would be like, “How is this printed?” and I was like “Oh this thing called a risograph.” I remember it was like after three shows that I saw the shift. The first show people would be like “How is this printed? Weird…” Then the second show people were like “How is this printed? Weird…” And then the third show, everyone would still ask me the question, but I got a million emails the next day being like, “How did you print this again? Tell me the name of it!” So I told everyone the name of it. I remember when I talked to Jesjit from Colour Code he told me that he first learned about riso printing after visiting Providence and meeting you. Yeah! Jesjit probably came in 2009? Maybe 2010?
2011??? Sometime between 2009 and 2011—I’m sure he could give you the actual date. But yeah, people got really interested in it. I remember Chuck Forsman and Melissa Mendes emailing me and being like, “How much would it cost for you to print stuff for us?” and I was just like, “You should just buy a risograph yourself because they’re so cheap!” Now everyone has a risograph. I just sold my risograph to Kevin Czap of Czap Books. So now they’re the proud owner of my risograph. How would you describe the RAV series to someone who’s never read it before? I guess it started out like a romance adventure drone comic. I think I started making it because I really liked XMen and Anime which always had a lot of action in it. I just never really drew action stuff. My mom has regularly sent me articles that she finds interesting, and I remember one time when I was little my mom told me, “I read that there’s only like 20 stories out there. Apparently every story fits within one of these 20 story lines.” or something. So I was like “Oh my god! There are only 20 stories? I’m never go-
“When I started drawing RAV, that was in the back of my head and I thought, ‘I’m just going to make a story that basically doesn’t even need to rely on a narrative.’”
“I feel like when you want something too much it affects how you do it.” ing to make something that no one else has made before.” and I think that really stressed me out as a young person. That was back when I was drawing comics about some cat guy and his cat friends, and I was very impressionable—I’m still very impressionable, haha. So I think when I started drawing RAV, that was in the back of my head and I thought, I’m just going to make a story that basically doesn’t even need to rely on a narrative. And I mean, it kind of does rely on a narrative, but the story is secondary to the character interactions. When it started out it was suppose to have a story but it just kind of devolved into being this thing that happens. The series has been ongoing for a while now, but it seems like you’ve taken a break with it. What’s the state of the series at this point? I’ve been finishing the last one—or maybe it’s not the last one, I don’t know. I’ve been finishing the most recent one for about four years. And by “finishing it” I mean “not working on it.” Now I’ve been caught up with my most recent comic, Space Academy, so I stopped working on it all together. I was talking to Jacob (Berendes) and was like, “It’s really hard to draw RAV, which is like an adventure comics, and this daily strip where I have to be funny every day, at the same time. They’re similar, but just different enough that I can’t get in the zone for both of them at once.”
When did you feel like you began to find your voice with the comics you’ve made over the past few years? I think it was when I got out of school was like, “I don’t have to try to be important anymore.” I feel like when you want something too much it affects how you do it. I always loved stuff like The Hobbit or Dune or Star Trek—just stuff with these massive worlds that would make be like, “How do you even begin writing this stuff?” I felt like I’d never be able to do that. I realized it was impossible to want that because I felt so unable to do that, just based on my molecular makeup. I can’t focus that long, I can’t remember anything, I just can’t do it. With drawing too—like, I really wanted to be good at drawing in school. When I was a kid I wanted to be so good at drawing. But then it just happened when I was like, “Uh, I just don’t care.” Actually, you know what it was? I had this friend named Jay Zehngebot in school who drew the most amazing stuff. I have a sailboat he drew somewhere around here. He was just this funny little cycling kid. One day he was like “Everyone can be good at drawing. All drawings are ‘good.’” and I was just like “Oh my god! Everyone can be good at drawing!!!” So then after that I just relaxed and I think that was the key. I was just like, “I don’t even want to be good at drawing, cause all drawings are good.” Then that led to the Bullshit Frank and Gorilla Joe comics. Before that I would do the blue line, and I would ink it, and blah blah blah.
“Basically we’d pick a topic, then they’d draw their comics, and as I was printing it I would draw mine really fast.” Totally! I feel like the impatience of your work is actually one of the best qualities about it. I think there’s a lot of pressure in school to be thinking about every gesture you’re making, and that can make creating art really daunting. Yeah, it sucks! Thinking is not productive. I think what happened was once I stopped caring, I was just like “Oh, I’ll just draw this buddy comic.” and I started to have ideas about doing this joke or having this punchline. Then once I’d have the idea about a joke and a punchline I would just be like “Uh, I have to draw this comic!” just so that I could get the joke out of my head so I can think about something else. Then RAV was kind of the opposite of that were I would start by drawing just to draw, and then the story kind of evolved from that. Then once the ball got rolling I would think of stuff and would be like, “I have to draw this so I can move on to the next thing.” What motivated you to start doing conventions? What were some of your first convention experiences like? I think one of my first show experience was when Annie Koyama offered to fly me out to APE to hang out with Michael (DeForge). I think Michael didn’t want to do a show, and she was like “Oh, if his internet friend Mickey is there too then he’ll want to do it.” I mean, I don’t know if Michael knows this, hahaha. But I was like “Hell yeah!” so she flew me out and then that was one of the first shows I did. Either that was the first one or there was this one time when I went to SPX with Jacob Berendes and James Kuo at some point, maybe around the same time. I can’t remember, but it was one of those two.
When did you start up the themed comic series you did with Patrick Kyle and Michael DeForge? What did you all hope to do with that project? Me and Patrick and Michael were at SPX one year—I forget which year—and the first one we all did together at the show. After we finished it I took it home and printed it. The three of us all seemed to enjoy it, so I think we kept doing them. After the first one I was like, “Well if we want to keep doing them, I’ll just print them.” The first one was Cop Comic, and the second one was… I have no idea which one was second, haha. Basically we’d pick a topic, then they’d draw their comics, and as I was printing it I would draw mine really fast. It would take like a day to make the thing and print them out, and then I’d take forever to collate them. Then we just kept doing it. I’m not really even sure why. With RAV I was doing them once a year, and so I just started doing them in-between. And then at some point it was just Patrick who was doing it, haha. So we’d come up with topics, and then me and Michael wouldn’t draw them but Patrick would, so he would just publish them in his books because we didn’t get around to it. How did that method of quick turnaround comics affect your writing? I think it was pretty easy because it was just one-off page long comics. Michael and Patrick would sometimes do stories, but I would just be like, “This is just going to be a one page joke strip.” and that was easy. It wasn’t a lot of pressure so it felt like, I just want to finish this so I can print this and be done with it. That made it really easy to come up with something funny, because I didn’t care as much. When I care about something it just comes out
“Nowadays I’ve been anti-work-ethic. I don’t think we should be as productive as possible and I disagree with that outlook on things.” bad, haha. Like, a lot of the Space Academy comics are kind of not good because I’m trying to make them good. I started Space Academy when I was in school for massage therapy, so I just wasn’t in my zone. I was like, “I really want to do something that makes me feel good as a creative person.” because I wasn’t really being a creative person. It felt so important to me that a lot of them ended up being not good. But you know, some of them are good.
you go to Bennys, you go to Jobline, you go to the bank, you make a screen print, you draw a comic, you play your video game for three hours somehow, and then you go to work the next day! Here it’s really fast to bike everywhere and it’s just easier to get stuff done because of physical space, time, and money.
How do you feel living in Providence has influenced the type of work you’ve made while you’ve been here? Do you feel like you have more freedom with your work because the cost of living allows you to have more financial freedom?
Price Tapes first started as a tape label when I started playing music. While I was living at the Dirt Palace I got this little Tascam recorder and started recording music. Then I was like, “Oh, I could make a tape label and put out other people’s music!” and I did that for a while. Then music sort of became a secondary thing because I started doing Jiu Jitsu and that takes up a lot of time. Music sort of became less important and Jiu Jitsu became more important. Then there was a period of unemployment when I was on unemployment and trying to make whatever. When I was running out of unemployment I was like, “I have to make money somehow, so I’ll start this online store.” It felt like too much to have three separate compartmentalized projects going, so I just kind of made them all one thing. I guess that makes more sense to people who art isn’t something they have to think about. So then I started making t-shirts and patches just to make money. That worked for a while, but I hated running an online store. Fulfilling the orders and going to the post office was never a big deal for me. But having to advertise it and constantly post stuff—the stress of somedays people buying a bunch of stuff and some weeks no one buying anything—that was hard.
Yeah I think so! Nowadays I’ve been anti-work-ethic. I don’t think we should be as productive as possible and I disagree with that outlook on things. But in the past I’ve been really into productivity. In Providence it’s easy to be productive because it’s relatively affordable to live if you have a job. Even if you don’t have a job, there are people who might give you work on occasion and you can get by with that much more easily. Everyone in the community really wants to make stuff, and your peers are just working really hard to make something. But it’s just so small here. Here it’s like there’s no one giving you money for anything. I was talking to my friend in LA and I was telling her what I did today and she was like “That’s so many things. In LA we just do one thing a day—if that.” because there it takes hours to drive to a Bank of America. Here it’s like,
When did you start your online store Price Tapes?
“Price Tapes first started as a tape label when I started playing music. While I was living at the Dirt Palace I got this little Tascam recorder and started recording music.” What role have the music projects you’ve had over the past few years played in your creative life? This guy, Tom Bubul, who’s a good friend of mine moved from Philly to Providence maybe like six years ago. He ran a restaurant so he would just spend the whole day in his house working and drawing, and then he’d go to Price Rite to buy food for the restaurant. He basically lived off the food he bought for the restaurant and the money he made from it—which was not a lot. But he would draw all day and we’d hang out. So I hung out with him one day and he was like, “Oh do you just draw, or do you do anything else?” and I was like “Oh no, I just draw.” When I was a kid growing up, you did one thing and that seemed to be the way it was suppose to be. You were an accountant, or you were an artist, or you were a swimmer—you know, you couldn’t just do all of those things. But I think Tom was the person who made me realize that I could do more than one thing. Now I do too many fucking things, haha. He was like “Yeah, you can do whatever you want! You can do all of the things, or none of the things. Whatever!”
Then I felt inspired to try and learn how to play music. The first band I was in was with Tom and our friend Mikey Stoltz who lives in LA now, and it was called Clear Leader. I think Mickey was the most capable musician of all of us, but he was also like the most “Yeah, fuck it! What the hell was that? Whatever!” and Tom was fully down for whatever. I had never played music before, but they had both played music before. We switched interments every now and then, and that was really fun. I played guitar or drums or whatever, and you would just do whatever you were capable of doing. Whatever you were capable of doing was plenty good. It’s crazy cause, you can pick up a guitar and just be like “I’m going to rip at guitar.” even though you obviously can’t rip at guitar because you’ve never fucking picked up a guitar before, but if you just play it the way that you can play it, it’s fine! It’s great! You just have to have confidence in the fact that you’re a total noob at it. Totally! I remember seeing you perform around TCAF a few years ago you were playing under the name
Dungeon Broads, right? Yeah, Dungeon Broads is my solo project. That’s the one I started making tapes of with the Tascam. That band Clear Leader was first and then after that I was like, “Oh, I can just make music!” With the Tascam you can layer the tracks so I was like, “Wow, I can play the keyboards on one track and then fill it in with guitar…” I was just delighted. It was so fun. That was probably the best music I’ve ever made honestly. It’s just pure or whatever, because I couldn’t do anything else. It seems like that willingness to pursue something you’re not good at really ends for a lot of people once they reach a certain age. So many people are really discouraged from being a beginner at something because they feel self conscious about not being as capable at it as they are at other things in their life. Right! There’s this point in your life where everyone just makes fun of you for it! When you’re a kid you can do whatever you want cause you’re not good at anything. But then theres like ten years of people berating you for being a dumb-ass and inept—or being stupid and cheesy. Then that drives this thing in you that makes you think, Oh no, I’m not—I can’t… You feel like you can’t, but the truth is you don’t want to because it’s fucking terrifying to be shitty! So I feel really grateful that I given this second chance to be excited about trying to learn new things. As a result I’m like addicted to trying new stuff. I tried to learn how to skateboard a couple months ago—which I’m terrible at. But I had to stop skateboarding because I fell down so many times and I do Jiu Jitsu and I’m a massage thera-
pist, which are both physical enough that if I hurt myself I can’t work. I’m already risking hurting myself in Jiu Jitsu, but whatever, haha. I can’t have a second thing that I’m too new at. But maybe some day I’ll learn how to skateboard. It’s on my list. How did the Lovers Only book you put together with Sophia Foster-Dimino and Cathy G. Johnson come about? That was because of a twitter chat! I don’t remember exactly what the chat was, but someone said something, and then maybe I said something, and we decided on doing it. There was an anime called Escaflone that was really good. It was about… You kind of just have to watch it, haha. But there’s a soundtrack for it called Lovers Only. I remember when I was younger, that just felt like a really good title. Then I just happened to be watching that Escaflone theme song on Youtube when we were first talking about it, and I was like “Oh, we should call this thing ‘Lovers Only.’” which was a name I loved since childhood. The idea was to draw a comic about love, and the theme was high school romance. I think shortly before that, in Jacob Berendes’s Mother’s News, I was reading CF’s comic, Monorail High, which was a high school comic and it was fucking amazing. Then also, Jillian Tamaki’s Super Mutant Magic Academy had just come out, so I was like, “I want to make a comic about high school so badly!” So I did, but I don’t think I got what I had wanted for my own work in that thing. I made a fine comic I guess. Cathy and Sophia’s comics were obviously incredible. But part of the reason I started Space Academy was that I wanted to do the high school thing in the way that I had wanted to.
“I feel really grateful that I given this second chance to be excited about trying to learn new things. As a result I’m like addicted to trying new stuff.”
Yeah, how did your daily strip, Space Academy, start and what relationship did it have to your life when you began making it? I was in massage school at the time. It was only four days a week from like 8am to 2pm, but it felt like it was my whole life. I was like half way through school or something, and Michael (DeForge) had just started Richard’s Valley—and I love doing whatever the hell Michael is doing, haha! So I was like, “I want to fucking start a daily comic too! If Michael’s doing it, why the hell not? I’m in school, so I’ll make a comic about being in school.” I mean at the same time, I was stuck in school, Trump had just gotten elected, and it was just over all a terrible time. Miserable. I was more better off than most people, but it felt fucking terrible. Being in a school setting, everyone has different politics, and it just feels like it could be bananas. You just don’t know, and you don’t want to talk to anyone about anything. I mean, everyone at my school was great—it’s just that being in school is terrible. I did fine and got all good grades, it’s just the emotional toll of being in school
gets at me. So I made this comic because of that. It hasn’t really been daily recently. It has in the past, but I took a couple months off. I would always just try and draw it at some point during the day. Jacob (Berendes) was always like, “You just have to draw a bunch and then you can trickle them out.” I would do that sometimes, but sometimes I would get caught up, and then I’d be like, “Uh, I have to do today’s comic.” I did pretty good for a long time—like probably 120 days. But then I fell off, and now I’m trying to get back into the daily thing. But it’s hard to start up again once you stop. Do you feel like the way you’ve written it has been influenced by the fact that it’s daily? That’s the thing, it’s harder to do. I think with RAV it was just a ridiculous narrative and with Bullshit Frank and Gorilla Joe it was just punchlines. With this one I made the mistake of trying to do both, where there’s a daily punchline and there’s this over arching narrative that’s happen-
“That was because of a twitter chat! I don’t remember exactly what the chat was, but someone said something, and then maybe I said something, and we decided on doing it.”
“I don’t know what the Space Academy pacing is, but it’s very hard to control because people are reading them all at once, but there’s also people who are reading them one at a time. Who knows if this over arching thing is even being conveyed, because it’s so distracting having a punchline every time.” ing—at least in my mind. I don’t know if I’m conveying it all. I get really stressed out about it because it’s harder to control the pacing. With RAV it’s really easy to control the pacing because you just add more fucking panels and it doesn’t matter because you’re not posting it on the internet everyday. It’s really easy to do a movie style pacing—which is I think more what RAV is. I don’t know what the Space Academy pacing is, but it’s very hard to control because people are reading them all at once, but there’s also people who are reading them one at a time. Who knows if this over arching thing is even being conveyed, because it’s so distracting having a punchline every time. What stuff are you working on at the moment? I guess it’s just Space Academy. I’m trying to finish RAV 11, but that’s on hold while I try to finish Space Academy. Me and my partner Tess have been talking about doing a high fantasy comic where we would write it together,
haha. But that’s in it’s embryonic stages. I also started trying to learn how to weave on a loom. I want to do more patches. I owe the subscribers more patches, haha. I owe them like five, so I have to do five more. But it’s expensive to make patches and the return just takes a long time. So that’s on hold while I get my finances in order. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on that you haven’t had the time or money for yet? Nothing immediate. In terms of my fantasies—I don’t think I’d actually want to work on it—but it would be cool to make a TV show or something. I’ve been thinking about making an RPG that I would write. I thought working on some kind of game might be fun. When I was a kid I wanted to be a Blizzard artist. I love all of their fucking games. I want to make that fantasy comic. It would be cool to make a sci-fi thing. Space Academy isn’t really sci-fi even though it’s in space.
“He was just like, ‘Pick a place and a thing, and then just combine that and make a comic about it.’ and now that’s basically my formula for comics.”
I like to come up with the theme for what I’m going to do. Jacob at one point was like, “You should make a comic for Mother’s News.” and I was like “Okay, I’ll make a comic for Mother’s News. What should it be about?” Then he was just like, “Pick a place and a thing, and then just combine that and make a comic about it.” So I was like, “Oh my god!” and now that’s basically my formula for comics. The comic I ended up making for him was called Graveyard Ducks and it was about ducks in a graveyard. Space Academy is about an academy in space. Lovers Only was just lovers in high school.
Do you feel like there’s a driving force in your life that motivates you to keep making work? Do you feel like making art benefits how you operate as a person? Well sometimes it’s really stressful, haha. I feel pressure to make work because of the productivity thing, but I’m trying to be like, “I don’t need to be productive. I’ll just do what makes me happy.” But I think primarily, I like to have fun and I like to make something that I like first. I don’t like it when I make something and then years later I read it and I hate it or it embarrasses me or something. I just really like to make stuff that I’ll enjoy in the future, if that makes sense? I just want it to be fun for me and everyone else, but also for it to have a ghost of a heavy hand. It’s not just fun, there’s something else there. You don’t have to read it that way if you don’t want to, but it’s there for you if you want it.
I feel like it’s important to incorporate things that you feel are important into work that you are having fun with. I can’t think of a better way to explain it. With RAV—which is mostly a fun comic—it’s still a little sad. There are a lot of emotional interaction that are based on similar things that have happened to me, and I use the comic to process what that means or what an interaction like that is. In some ways it’s how I want to be in the world. Everyone’s so fucking nice in the comic, except for Ben, and then they just go through phases of change. There was this crazy theme in my childhood or in media at the time where everyone was like, “People never change.” There was this period where every TV show or cartoon had an episode about how it was impossible to change. Like, if you were a bad guy who was mean, you’d always be that way. I’m sure there was optimistic stuff, but for some reason that really stuck to me and I was really afraid that you’d never be able to change as a person, or at least I would never be able to change as a person, because I had some issues as a younger person and I wanted to become a better person. So it was scary to me that all of these adults and media was like “No! you’re fucked!” In RAV the characters change through out the story, and I feel like that’s something I explore or think about because the idea that no one can change has stressed me out. But I do believe that people can change. It’s really not that hard, haha.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
Dustin Payseur has been one of the most creatively motivating people in my life, from his painstaking dedication towards
making the most innovative music he can, to his unbelievably uncompromising attitude towards supporting and releasing music. Like many people who’ve grown up in isolating small town America, Dustin’s sharp conviction with everything from his songwriting to his politics were shaped while growing up surrounded by forces he disagreed with. With his longest running musical project, Beach Fossils, Dustin has reinvented his own creative process with every album he has crafted, in an effort to keep things interesting for himself and listeners. In the past seven years since the release of Beach Fossils’ debut, he’s put out three unique albums and an EP, with his most recent release turning out to be one of the most staggering, genre bending records to come out this year.
As Beach Fossils has grown and taken different shapes since starting in 2009, Dustin has continued to explore other
musical projects, the most ambitious of which being his and his wife Katie Garcia’s record label, Bayonet Records. Dustin’s music has meant the world to me since I discovered it at an apt moment in my life as a teenager, but it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work along side him and Katie at their label from 2015 to 2016 that I really because invested in everything Dustin has committed his life to doing. A few months after the release of his tour de force, Somersault, I caught up with Dustin and asked him a bunch of the questions I had been waiting years to probe him with.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina—a very boring, dull, and steril with not a lot of respect for art and music and culture, haha. So I came to New York City, and I’ve been living in Brooklyn for about nine years now. Are you trained at all in music, or are you primarily self-taught? No training. I was always really against having lessons. My parents kind of wanted me to get lessons when I was younger. My parents aren’t the kind of people who would force any sort of activity on me if I didn’t want to do it, but time and time again they would be like, “Do you want to get piano lessons or guitar lessons? Do you want to play trumpet or be in band at school?” because they knew I was interested in music. But I was always like, “No.” Growing up I didn’t want anyone to teach me how to play guitar because then I’d just start playing like them. I was like, “I don’t want to play like someone else. I want to play like me.” so I just taught myself how by playing along with albums I liked. I’d teach myself really weird tunings and stuff. In middle school the kids I hung out with all started bands and stuff, and they would never let me in their bands because they said I didn’t know how to play guitar since I always made up my own tunings. I would just think, Fuck them! They just don’t get it! haha. Honestly, they just didn’t get it. Look at them now. What the fuck are they doing?
What role did music play in your household growing up? I know you’ve told me in the past that your parents were in bands and have really good music taste. I mean it’s humongous! It still is. Music is such a huge thing in my family. My grandpa plays Cuban music. He’s a percussionist and a singer. My mom was playing ever since she was a kid. It was kind of just in the family. My dad was playing since he was a kid too, so music was always there. I remember when my parents would get a babysitter so that they could go play a show. I kind of thought it was something that everyone’s parents did, haha. I didn’t realize it wasn’t like that until I got older. But I didn’t even know that they liked cool music until I was in high school—not until I was like 16 or 17 or something. I started getting really into punk and branching out from there. I was really interested in what inspired punk and what those people were listening to. My parents have a huge record collection so I was going through it and I was just like, “Oh shit. They have so much stuff in here that’s amazing.” And it wasn’t even just older stuff either! It wasn’t just like they were collecting records from when they were young. They always stayed up on new music, so they were always bringing home cool shit like Bjork and Nine Inch Nails and stuff like that. So I mean, that definitely had a huge influence on me. Was there any sort of counter cultural scene in Charlotte? Did you have any sort of community for that when you were younger? It wasn’t even about finding a community, it was just that there was a record store down the street from me. The
people that worked there probably hated me because I would go there every single day as soon as I got home from school. There wasn’t an album in that store that I didn’t know about, because I was just obsessively there until they would close and make me leave. So I got into all of this stuff on my own. I never really cared about “a scene” or like “a movement.” I still don’t give a shit about that. I feel like music is such a personal thing that something being a movement really cheapens it. It makes it cliche all of a sudden. I’m still really bad at getting into shit like that. People will be talking about how, “This album is amazing! You gotta hear this!” and I’ll be like “Yeah, whatever.” Then three years later I’ll hear it and be like “Oh shit! This record is awesome!” and everyone is like, “Yeah, we told you!”
Alright, this is literally coming from a fucking middle schooler. This song is called “How Can I Live This Life.” There’s “Destroy All,” “Resurrected Evil,” and “Destruction of Earth.” Track number eight is called “Redneck Fuck” hahaha. This one is “Hymn of Suicide.” I’m sensing a theme here, right? Look! I even put the credits in here dude. I said “Vocals by whatever, Noise by whatever, Drum Machine by whatever, Pedals supplied by my friend or whatever.” This one is amazing. It says “Thanks to every band who doesn’t suck and the people who support me. Extra love to my girlfriend from middle school. Fuck you to everyone of the shit talking motherfuckers who made me who I am.” hahaha. This is amazing. I’m like putting credits in a four track tape for myself. Like, no one was ever going to see it.
I got super into Insane Clown Posse in middle school, but then later on I got beat up by some juggalos. I wasn’t like part of a juggalo community, I just thought this shit was cool—like I collected their albums by myself and didn’t really know people that liked them. But then I got beat up by some juggalos and was like “Awe man, I don’t know if I’m into this…” haha. Actually, I’ve sort of come full circle because I think that shit is good again and I still listen to it. I mean, I don’t care. I listen to everything.
That’s Incredible! It seems like a lot of the influences you’ve had over all have been really “anti-establishment.” Was that a common thread for what you liked in music more than whatever it sounded like early on?
What were some of the first music projects you had before you started making music as Beach Fossils? Like growing up? I have some tapes in the other room actually. It’s all shit that I recorded on a four track when I was 11 or 12 or something. I could play some for you sometime. I’ve never really played them for anyone. I want to digitize them, but I keep on forgetting to. I need to because if the tapes get too old they’ll just break or whatever and they’ll be unlistenable. But with that stuff it would always be just me. I would just use my dad’s guitar and my dad’s bass and just record stuff. My parents got me a four track because my dad didn’t want me using his eight track recorder becasue he thought I would break it. So my dad bought me a cheap little four track and it was like the most important thing I ever owned. Then eventually I got a drum set when I was 15, and that was amazing. I stopped playing guitar altogether. I would just come home and play drums all day and make the neighbors call the police on me. Do you remember the names of any of the recordings you made? Oh yeah, they were terrible! Morbid or Trap I think were like the names of the artists for a couple of them. I would make fake record label names and logos too, so it would be like “420 Productions” and stuff like that, haha. All of the songs were like—you know what, I just have to grab one of the tapes. (Dustin walks out of the room) I think I moved them… Oh I have a lot! I’ll just take a couple.
I think I was into that stuff because that’s just who I’ve been. A lot of that definitely comes from my parents too. My parents are super “fuck the man” and anti-establishment kind of people. They’re very skeptical of things. They taught me to be that way as well. They taught me to question everything, which was really important to me growing up because I went to Catholic school. When you’re in Catholic school and your parents are always telling you to question everything, you would get in trouble. I would just be like, “I don’t think God is real.” My mom didn’t even tell me she was an atheist until I left catholic school. I was just like, “It would have helped if you told me this earlier! I could have had somebody to talk to.” So they definitely had a big impact on me. It’s funny because the shit that I got into was because I was rebelling against them because they’re parents, and you’re like suppose to do that I guess. They liked cool music, so I had to like nü metal. That was my rebellion to them. After you finished high school what were your prospects for the future? All I wanted to do was music. I never had anything else I wanted to do. I didn’t even have anything else I felt like I was good at. In school I was a bit of a loner. I didn’t really hang out with people a lot. It wasn’t necessarily that I was a reject or whatever, I just kind of liked my own space. I just wasn’t super social when I was growing up I guess. I’ve changed a lot now, you know, but then I just didn’t care. I remember we had career day or whatever where you have to dress up as whatever you want to be. So I just came to school dressed as me with jeans and a band t-shirt. They were like, “What are you doing?” and I was like “I want to be in a band. I can dress however I want!” haha. Then they were like, “I don’t know if you can do that.” They were suppose to give you career advice so everyone was like, “I don’t know… Do you play music?”
“All I wanted to do was music. I never had anything else I wanted to do. I didn’t even have anything else I felt like I was good at.” and I was like “Yeah.” and then they were like, “Well… I guess keep playing music.” and didn’t really give me any advice, haha. I went to community college in Charlotte for a little bit, but I wasn’t doing anything focused. I was just taking philosophy classes and art classes. I was just learning about eastern philosophy and sculpting and stuff that I couldn’t really even get credits for to transfer to a real school. I ended up dropping all of those classes anyways because I would stay up all night watching Fresh Prince, haha. How did you end up moving to New York? I always wanted to come to New York. That was always the goal. For me it wasn’t even necessarily about accomplishing anything. It was a goal on it’s own to just be able to get out of where I grew up and to be where shit was happening. To be around the diversity of culture and art and music and everything was just so exciting to me. I just thought, I don’t even care what I do. As long as I’m there, I’m a success in my own mind because I got out of where I grew up. I guess I never really think about the long term. I’m always just thinking about little goals, and then some-
thing comes up over the horizon. As soon as I came here I started going to shows. I would literally just go on Oh My Rockness or I would get ShowPaper and would go to every single thing I could every night. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any friends, so I was just going to shows completely by myself. I didn’t even know who was playing—and I didn’t even care! I was just like, “Fuck it! I’m in New York and there’s music everywhere. I’m just going to go to these shows.” If I saw a band that I thought was really cool, after they finished I would just talk to them and see what they were about and try to meet other musicians. I wanted to start a band so I could start playing out here, so I was just talking to people. If I thought a drummer was sick I would go talk to him or something. But that didn’t really work out. I didn’t meet anybody from that. I didn’t end up making any friends that way at all. So I was still just like a loaner going to shows and doing shit by myself. I was like, “Well I don’t know anyone else I can make music with, so fuck it I’ll just make music by myself.” So I just started recording the Beach Fossils songs by myself.
“What was really different about Beach Fossils than what I had ever done was, for every project I had made before that I’d write an EP worth of material and then I’d be over it.” When you started Beach Fossils, was there anything you wanted to do differently with it, that you hadn’t done with any of your projects in the past? I don’t know. When I moved to New York I remember talking to my parents and I was like, “I’m over guitar. I don’t think I’m ever going to play guitar again. I’m so sick of it. It’s such an overused instrument.” I was making this electronic music that was more like heady and psychedelic. I mean, I was into all different kinds of things at that point. I was super into kraut rock and I was inspired by the way that they used early electronics, so I wanted to make a project like that. I was just recording a bunch of synth music and stuff like that. Then I was trying to put shows together, but I realized that the songs were so crazy complex, and they had so many different instruments on every song that I was like, “I would need like seven people to pull off a show, and I don’t know anybody.” So then I decided I was going to make a minimal project where it was a set of instruments on every song—two guitars, a bass, vocals, and drums—and I’ll really simplify things. I started recording the Beach Fossils stuff and imme-
diately I made like three or four songs. It was “Desert Sand,” “Daydream,” “Vacation,” and “Sometimes.” I remember I had just recorded those and I was walking around the city listening to them in my headphones. I was like, “Oh shit. I really like this.” It was some of the stuff I had been the most proud of making in my life. I couldn’t believe I made it. Then eventually I sent the demos out because I was proud enough with it to do that. I had already sent so many demos out and got so many rejection letters and silence at that point, so I was just like, “I don’t even want to do this anymore.” But then I heard back from Captured Tracks and Woodsist at the same time, and they were both labels that I thought were so cool. I was like, “Holy shit man! I can’t believe it!” It was mind blowing that they liked it because I respected them so much. I would buy anything that said Woodsist or Captured Tracks on it at that point, so I was so psyched. I guess what was really different about Beach Fossils than what I had ever done was, for every project I had made before that I’d write an EP worth of material and then I’d be over it. I was like, “Okay, I experimented with that sound. I’m satisfied.” and I would move on to a new
sound. I was always trying shit out and I recorded shit in every genre I could think of—just cause I like everything. So with jangly guitar stuff, I was really into 80s UK jangle pop and The Byrds and shit like that. How did things start to change from then on? After sending in the demo and hearing back from those labels I was like, “Well fuck, now I have to record like a whole album… This is going to be crazy.” I had never done that before. Everything had to be consistent, haha. So I kept recording the first Beach Fossils record. I moved from Bushwick to Williamsburg to a new apartment, so
there was a big chunk of time where I wasn’t recording. Recording that album was over the span of like eight months, but really all of the recording was done in the first two and the last two pretty much. The middle of that was just me recording other shit that didn’t make it on the record. I was still recording in the earlier kraut rock style. Then I was like, “No, this stuff doesn’t really fit.” so I kept working on songs and throwing stuff away, trying to figure out the Beach Fossils sound. Then I finished it and it finally felt complete. I sequenced it and listened to it and was like “This… this is like an album…” haha. Then I turned it into Captured Tracks, got a couple 7 inches, and it just felt so real.
“I guess it was the first time I had ever felt validated, you know what I mean? I was just like, ‘I’ve done something now that no one can ever take away from me. I have like an actual record out there in the world.’”
“I was just on the Beach Fossils MySpace page, and I was like, ‘I need a bass player and a guitarist and a drummer right now.’”
When I got the Daydream 7 inch—I remember picking it up from the Captured office and walking it home like it was gold. I just thought, I can’t drop this. This is the most important thing that has ever existed in my life. I couldn’t believe that you could just have something on vinyl, haha. I just thought that seemed so crazy. Then it was like a religious experience. I put my headphones on, put the record on the turntable, laid down on my bed with my headphones, and I felt like I was in heaven. I was like, “If this fucking building collapses, I’m fine because I accomplished this.”
After having so much discouragement leading up to that point, what did getting signed do for your overall confidence or your attitude towards making music? I guess it was the first time I had ever felt validated, you know what I mean? I was just like, “I’ve done something now that no one can ever take away from me. I have like an actual record out there in the world.” I was just so proud! I had always liked the stuff that I was working on, but I never knew if what I was working on would be something that somebody else liked or not. It was so weird. I had a lot of fun working on that album. There was no stress or anxiety or anything. It was just so fun because it was just so new. I would stay up all night working on stuff. How did you assemble the live band when you started playing shows since Beach Fossils was just you up until that point? When I got signed with Captured I still didn’t have a band. Then they were like “Oh, do you want to play the Woodsist/Captured Tracks fest?” and I was like “Yeah sure! But
I don’t have a band.” and the show wasn’t that far away. So literally—this was MySpace days—I was just on the Beach Fossils MySpace page, and I was like, “I need a bass player and a guitarist and a drummer right now.” I had shows already booked and I was starting to say yes to more shows. The first person who hit me up was John Peña and he was like “Yo, I play guitar and I have this project.” He sent it to me and it was called Heavenly Beat. I listened to it and it was really different from what it is now. It sounded like Orange Juice, and I loved the way he played bass. I thought it was fucking sick. He just moved all around the neck. So I was like, “You should play bass.” One of the only people I met in New York playing music was this dude Chris Burke and he was in this band called Kegs of Acid. I use to go see him at these weird noise shows and spiritual crystal shows. He’d always be there. So I was like, “Yo, do you want to play guitar in this band?” and he was like “Sure.” Then I was like, “Does anyone know a drummer?” and John was like, “Oh my friend is a photographer. He can probably play drums.” and I was like “Sure, he’s in. I don’t fucking care” haha. Literally with the first people I could find I was like, “You’re in! We gotta make this band happen.” and that was it, that was the band. I just said yes to everything. I remember Chris or John coming up to me after the first or second show and they were like, “Yeah this person is wondering if we want to play this thing at Glasslands. Do you guys want to do it?” and I was like, “Dude honestly, don’t even ask me. Every time we get asked to play a show, just say yes immediately. I’m not going to say no to anything.” We ended up playing like four nights a week at a different DIY venue every night. Todd P was always booking us as the main
support for shows that were really big. That was cool because then the shows that I wanted to go to where the ones I was playing. What were the first few years of touring like? How did it feel seeing the world for the first time and growing up as a young adult on tour? It was crazy… I always wanted to tour. I was so excited. I remember talking to (Mike) Sniper before we had even started talking about touring and he was like, “Yeah when this record comes out you guys will go on tour and go to Europe and stuff.” and I was like, “What? You think we’ll actually go on tour?” Then he was like, “Yeah!” and I was like, “You think we would actually go to Europe? You think that could actually happen?” and he was like, “Yeah.” I just thought, What the fuck… I couldn’t believe it. So we did our first tour, and just starting it Chris quit a few shows in. He was like, “I don’t like touring. I don’t want to do this.” and he quit. So I was like “Fuck!” and we had to find somebody. Then our friend TJ from Cloud Nothings filled in. He had literally just finished tour and we were driving through Chicago and their tour ended in Chicago so we picked him up and we started a brand new tour for like a month, haha. He was a total maniac. But I mean, I hated touring at first. I really fucking hated it. It was horrible. None of us had any money. We were just sleeping on people’s floors or sleeping in our van. We also didn’t have the best chemistry as a band. The group that we had at the time was just fighting all of the time and everybody was just always drunk. There was a lot of tension just because we were all out there doing this thing, and I felt like it was my responsibility becasue everybody was broke and they were sacrificing a lot. They quit their jobs and stuff. It was kind of heavy. So I was like, “I don’t know if I like touring. I love recording and putting out music, but I don’t know if I like touring.” The more we’ve done it the more I started to grow to like it. Then the band started to shift and members started to change. Things have changed a lot and now I fucking love it. I love going on tour. How many different line ups did the band go through? What changed before you started working on the second record? There weren’t very big line up changes between the first record and What A Pleasure. I mean, Chris quit and our drummer at the time quit. So (Zachary) Cole (Smith) started playing drums with us. Then we brought Chris back actually—actually, there were a lot of weird line up changes. Who the fuck was playing guitar for me at the time? And then Cole ended up switching to guitar because we got Tommy Gardner. So that was the line up for the What A Pleasure tour dates. We did the US and Europe and Cole was in the band for those.
It was definitely going to be more of a band effort for What A Pleasure, but it didn’t end up being. I wrote a couple songs with John and that was kind of that. Then we went on that tour and there was a lot of fighting. We got fucking kicked out of a club in Boston for fist fighting at the merch table, and we weren’t even aloud to load out. Then I was like, “This can’t continue like this.” And eventually John parted ways with the band and he continued with Heavenly Beat. Did your attitude about what you were doing change at all as you were getting older and putting out more music? I loved that people were listening to it. It was really exciting, but I hated that people had expectations. That was the thing that bummed me out. I also remember a lot of corporate stuff was kind if bumming me out. During those times in 2009, 2010, 2011—those were sort of like the earlier days of corporations really starting to dig into independent music. I remember just thinking it was weird. It seemed slimy and it seemed like I didn’t quite know how I felt about it, but something felt wrong. I was like, “This kind of seems like it’s against everything I’m standing for.” I talked to a lot of people in the music industry about it and was like, “Is it selling out to play a show for some fucking corporation or whatever?” and I just remember a few people being like, “Look, nobody buys records anymore. Bands don’t make money off of records anymore. It’s hard to make money off of touring. If something is offering you money to play their show, you don’t have to pretend that you like this brand. Just play the show and get paid doing what you love.” So I was like, “Okay fine.” I mean, if there was some brand that I completely didn’t agree with or some weird fucking bull shit, obviously I would not do it. But it’s just become the norm at this point. Everything is so heavily branded. I was reading something the other day about a protest that was going on, and I was reading a list of their sponsors. I was just like, “What!?!? There are corporate sponsors for a protest?” This is what’s happening now. But then I was thinking about it and I was like, well is it good or is it bad? It’s only really bad if the corporation is forcing an opinion on the protest. But if a corporation is going out there and supporting a cause and giving money to help the cause, I guess that’s not a bad thing. That’s actually kind of cool if a corporation is helping out with a cause. That’s very different from the music thing, because the music thing is just because they want to look cool. What was it like being on Captured Tracks at the time? It seemed like there was a really strong, tight-knit community of bands on the label around then. Definitely! It was a huge community. I mean the biggest part with that was Katie (Garcia), who I was dating, was the label manager for Captured at that time. I was just always
“I mean, I definitely didn’t feel like, ‘This label exists and I’m an artist on it.’ I just kind of felt like, ‘This is a community and I’m behind the cause.’” there anyways, just hanging out at the office or hanging out with Mike or something like that. Anytime they signed a new band, the first time they would come to New York we would go and hang out with them. Katie and I would host them here at the apartment. It literally felt like every time a new band got signed I was like, “Cool man! New friends! New family members!” It was awesome. Everyone really got along and it was such a special community. It was cool, and it was happening fast because bands were signing to Captured Tracks a lot. Mike was putting out so many records during that time. He was just putting out so much stuff and it was really exciting. I remember when Mac (DeMarco) first got signed. He’d come here and sleep on the floor in our living room. Now he’s playing at fucking Radio City Music Hall! It’s beautiful.
The impression I’ve gotten from talking to you about that whole era is that it seems like you tried to be really supportive of these new bands on the label, whether it was through bringing them on tour, introducing them to new music, or even just letting them sleep on your floor. Did you feel at all like you wanted to be this older brother figure to newer bands on Captured Tracks because you were one of the first people to help the label thrive? I mean, I definitely didn’t feel like, This label exists and I’m an artist on it. I just kind of felt like, This is a community
and I’m behind the cause. I wanted every good band I could think of to be on it. I just wanted everyone to have a good time and put out records and tour. I guess I knew how special it felt to me when I first got signed, so I liked being around people when they had that same exciting feeling of first getting signed and putting out their first record. You just saw moment after moment when everybody kept going from doing DIY show to doing a big headlining show a few months later. It just kept happening with every band. It was so exciting. I remember that happening with DIIV and obviously with Mac. I mean Wild Nothing—I was already good friends with Jack (Tatum) before he got signed, so it was cool to see it with him. It was like every single time he came back he was playing a bigger place.
What was the process like making Clash The Truth? What felt different going into making that record versus making your first one? I mean, I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing Beach Fossils at that point. I wanted to keep doing music obviously, but I talked to Mike about it and was like, “I think I want to start a new project with a new name and a new sound.” He was like, “Well… You’re under contract as Beach Fossils, and Beach Fossils are doing well, and you’re going to make another Beach Fossils record.” So I was like, “Okay.” I didn’t really want to though. I was just kind of ready to throw in the towel with Beach Fossils.
For me, I don’t care if people like something, I just care if I like it, and I was starting to lose interest in the project personally. I came back to the same feeling of, There are too many guitars. I don’t want to play guitar anymore. So I was getting frustrated with the project a little bit and I kind of had writers block. I had to dedicate all of my time to something I wasn’t fully interested in. I was listening to a shit ton of punk at the time, so a big template for that album for me was The Buzzcocks. So many of the songs are really fast because I was listening to the Buzzcocks all of the time and it didn’t even sound fast anymore. I just thought, Yeah, this is the normal tempo of a song. So I started writing a lot of fast songs. I had always made a lot of punk music as a teenager, but it was super thrashy hardcore shit. The challenge I gave myself for Clash The Truth was, “How do I make a punk record that’s like pop music, but make sure it’s not poppunk.” haha. I guess in a way that’s what a lot of the 80s jangle pop stuff is. It was music inspired by punk, but they kind of sanded off the edges and made it a little more pop. A band like McCarthy that had a really sharp political message and the songs were really fast, but they weren’t screaming or in your face. It was the same message and the same morals, but it was like, “We don’t have to subscribe to the same sound as everyone else.” That was kind of the vibe. I was like, “I want to make songs that are kind of angry, but that don’t sound that angry.” Totally! It took me a while to piece it together when I first started listening to the album years ago, but every element from the look of it to the sound of it really points towards it being your post-punk record. I love post-punk. I think it’s some of the greatest music that’s ever happened. It’s some of the most experimental music I can think of—you had so many different things going on in reaction to punk. Post-punk is one of the most diverse genres that’s ever happened. The whole point of punk was that it didn’t have to sound like anything, but that didn’t really end up happening. It all just kind of sounded like rock and roll. But post-punk could be anything. Like, I count no wave as post-punk. It could be so fucking weird and off the wall and make no sense. It could be a dude talking in monotone to a weird synth, or it could be Wire, or it could be Klaus Nomi, or could be ESG, or like DNA—it could be any of that. It’s all completely different sounding bands, but it’s all a part of the same thing. That was just a huge inspiration for me. I had listened to that stuff a lot before I had even started Beach Fossils, but I didn’t incorporate that into the Beach Fossils sound. My whole thing with the project is trying to keep it a little more well rounded and not one dimensional. I’m not a one dimensional music listener, so why would I want to be a one dimensional song writer? I’m still experimenting with a lot of different styles whenever I write music. That’s just what it’s about.
Are there specific themes that you’ve noticed come up in your songwriting a lot? Yeah it’s funny because I kind of do it all in a similar way that I’ve always done it. But I guess what comes out is different in the end. My approach to writing songs is pretty much the same as it’s always been. I’ll just put down a bass line or a guitar line and then sort of layer stuff on top of it. Then you’ve got a song. Then the vocals and lyrics always come last. I don’t even have a vocal melody in mind when I write music, which I’ve recently found out is weird. I guess the traditional method is somebody sits down with a guitar or a piano and they play some chords and they hum a tune and then they’re like, “Okay that’s the structure of this song.” But nobody ever told me that’s how you’re suppose to do it. I didn’t know that that was a universal method. So I would just do the instrumental and I’d figure out what to do with the vocal after. Then for lyrics—I’m definitely inspired by people who make up little stories about other people or who write a narrative with a linear progression through out a song. But that’s just not how I write. That’s also not the kind of stuff I read. What I read inspires me a lot. I don’t have the attention span for novels. I don’t even have the attention span for short stories. That’s why every book on my bookshelf is a poetry book, because that’s all I have the attention span for. That’s the same way I write lyrics. Even with a lot of poetry, what I love about it is no one can tell you it’s wrong. A lot of the grammar in a lot of poetry is fucked up and it’s like that on purpose because you’re completely dismantling language and putting it back together again. It’s like cubism where you’re completely changing the laws and reassembling it. That’s always inspired me as a way to write. You look at the films of Harmony Korine or like David Lynch and in their work it doesn’t have to be a linear thing and it doesn’t even have to completely make sense to anyone else. You just have to make something thats real to you. As far as my approach, I’ve always felt like the three biggest inspirations for me are Taoism, dadaism, and surrealism, where you’re reaching into your subconscious and putting this thing out there and not having any ownership of it. Just make it and don’t process it to hard and don’t try to over analyze it. That makes a lot of sense because, I feel like in a lot of your music—both with the recording and the lyrics— you’re just trying to arrange these disparate puzzle pieces until it creates something that feels whole. It’s funny because within one song I could be writing about like five different things. Then in the next song I’m writing about five different other things. But there might be a couple lines in each song that are all about the same thing. So there are these different veins running through the whole album, you know? They all kind of match, but they’re not on the same song, they’re just on the whole album.
“Starting the label was the first time I decided I was going to fully commit to doing something, and then realized it was so much harder than I thought it was going to be, haha.”
When did you and your wife Katie Garcia decide to start the label Bayonet Records? When did it become important to you to release your own music? For me personally, I wanted to start a label forever ago. As you can see from these little cassette tapes here with their fake label names on them, I’ve always wanted to do it, and I’ve always been inspired by independent labels. I always just thought it was so cool that you could just make something from nothing and you could do it yourself. You don’t have to wait around for anybody else and you don’t have to rely on anybody else. Just make it happen. It’s the most empowering thing. It’s funny that I have these very traditional American values in me, but in a way that almost seems rebellious because it’s not how most people do their thing. Most people just get boring. But for me, I’m all about independence and freedom andshit like that. I like the freedom of creating on my own, and not having a timeline, and not having anyone tell me what I can or can’t do. I don’t have to involve anybody else, I and love that! I think the independence of all of that is inspiring. So I had always wanted to start a label. I had been talking to Mike about doing an imprint on Captured Tracks the whole time I was on the label. I didn’t really find any
bands that I wanted to sign at that time, so I just didn’t end up putting anything out. Then my contract had ended with them and Katie was parting ways with them, so it was just good timing. I had always told Katie, “I want to start a label and that I want you to be the label manager because you know how to do this and I have no idea.” haha. But I was also like, “You have a real job and I can’t take you from that.” and she was like, “Yeah I don’t think that would be possible.” But eventually it just worked out where everything kind of came together and she was actually able to it. Bayonet wouldn’t exist without Katie. If you left it up to me, it would be a fucking mess, haha. Nothing would come out on time, nothing would reach anybody right, the artwork would be backwards and upside down—it would be a mess, haha. What were the steps between deciding to do it and actually finding the artists for it? Basically I said if I ever made money from Beach Fossils I would want to start a label. I guess I had been kind of frugal, so I set aside some money and was able to start the label with that. Then when Katie and I got married we were like, “Please everybody, don’t give us gifts. We’re trying to start a label, so if you want to just give us some
cash instead just do that.” but you know, we weren’t relying on that. I saw a really funny article online that was like, “They started their label with money from their wedding.” and I was like, “Dude are you crazy!? Do you know how expensive a fucking label is? You think we made that much money from people giving us money at our wedding? No.” That was like two percent of how we started the label. We were both always looking for artists. A lot of it came word of mouth and just asking people who we knew if they knew of anyone they thought were good. Like I asked Mac if he knew somebody and he was like, “Oh, you should check out Jerry Paper!” It was the same sort of thing with other people. Just friends saying “Oh you should check out this thing.” or “My friend just started this band. You should listen to it.” Starting the label was the first time I decided I was going to fully commit to doing something, and then realized it was so much harder than I thought it was going to be, haha. I mean, I guess that was what moving to New York was like too. I was like, “Oh this is not easy…” Katie had warned me all along, because it’s really a lot of work. It’s
crazy. Then trying to write music at the same time was really hard. Especially when we started it, because I was doing like three projects. I didn’t realize how much paperwork was involved with starting a label, haha. I was like, “This is nuts.” So over the past year or two I’ve kind of taken the back seat with the label, so now I’m solely doing A&R. What have been some of the side projects you’ve done over the course of the time done Beach Fossils? What function in your creative life have they served for you? I mean a lot of them I haven’t even released, but I still count them because they still exist and they still happened. For me it’s always about keeping a sketchbook. I listen to so much different stuff and often I’ll hear something and think, I wonder if I could do that. I have like thousands of Logic projects that no one will ever hear of me trying out everything possible. I did Laced which was more of a punk or post-punk band inspired by stuff like Unwound and shit like that. Then with Fluoride I was just trying to think about future industrial music. Industrial music has already been done, so I was like, “How can I do
“A lot of it came word of mouth and just asking people who we knew if they knew of anyone they thought were good. Like I asked Mac if he knew somebody and he was like, ‘Oh, you should check out Jerry Paper!’”
“When I was working on Beach Fossils stuff I was so focused on only doing this one sound and it was driving me crazy and I didn’t know what to do. So I think it’s an important reminded that I have to always be trying out different styles to keep myself feeling fresh and excited.’” this with contemporary sounds?” So that was the point of that project. But we never even played a show. It was fully just a recording project. What I haven’t released is mostly just electronic stuff. I listen to a ton of electronic music and I’m always messing with that kind of stuff because it’s fun. I don’t know if I’d ever release any of it but it’s just fun. It’s good! I love to let off steam with other projects and sketch out other ideas, because that was the problem I was running into earlier with Beach Fossils. When I was working on Beach Fossils stuff I was so focused on only doing this one sound and it was driving me crazy and I didn’t know what to do. So I think it’s an important reminded that I have to always be trying out different styles to keep myself feeling fresh and excited. How much of your day is spent working on music? It depends. I don’t have a normal daily schedule in the slightest. There’ll be literally a week where I won’t leave the couch. I’m just like a fucking melting into the couch all day. Then there’ll be another week where I won’t leave the studio and I’m there for 18 hours a day working on shit and that’s it. So It depends on how I feel. If I’m in between tours, I’m usually melting into the couch. But if it’s after I’m starting to work on stuff again, I’ll split it pretty evenly where I’ll have one day where I’m working all day, and
then the next day I’m part of the couch. What was your process like working on your most recent album, Somersault? What did you feel like you needed to bring to the table this time around? I guess I just really wanted to make the music represent more of what I listen to and keep the sound fresh for myself and anyone that wants to listen. But it’s always a song by song thing. For writing Somersault, it was hardly ever thought about as writing an album. I feel like that’s a good way to go about doing it because then you’re just writing songs and you don’t even have to think of if they work together or not, because they will in the end. If it’s coming from you, they’re going to work together. I use to always thing about an album as making something that really works together. But now I’m just like, “I’m just going to write some songs. Whatever style pops up that I like to do is okay.” When we were starting it me, Jack (Doyle Smith), and Tommy (Davidson) would be in the practice space or during soundcheck and we’d just be messing around. I ended up deciding that I liked some of the stuff they were doing, so I was just like, “Let’s just keep writing stuff together.” We never talked about it becoming a band effort, it just kind of became collaborative over time. It’s funny
“So much of us talking about this record was more about texture than it was talking about songs.” because when we first talked about how the album would sound we were just like, “We’re going to make a trip hop album. Fuck it! Let’s just do it.” We were going to go full Portishead on it. Now there’s only slight traces of that on the record, because I think we just like too many different things to just keep it to one sound. I mean, it was the product of listening to everything. Honestly, there was so much. We have a playlist that has hundreds of songs on it, and it has every kind of music on it. It has a lot of baroque music on it, it has jazz on it, it has soul on it, funk
music, world music, rap, trip hop—whatever! The playlist was all for instruments and textures and stuff. So much of us talking about this record was more about texture than it was talking about songs. It was just like, “Man, the guitar in this song sounds like it’s being played by a fucking chain instead of pick.” or like “The drums on this just sound so crazy. How do we get that sound?” It was all about that. I feel like with each song every instrument is inspired by something from a different genre. We
would get the bass sound from a Cure song, and then figure out the drum sound from a fucking Wu Tang song, and then figuring out the guitar from an Isaac Hayes song or whatever. Then it all kind of comes together. You seemed to be working so hard on the record the whole time I was helping out at Bayonet. How long was the stretch of time you worked on it? Did you ever feel discouraged because of how long it took? The result is definitely an album that sounds so worth the toil that went into it. I mean, there was a lot of frustration. There was a lot of me going back and forth on things. We scrapped so many songs… We scrapped like four albums worth of songs, because we just kept writing stuff and being like, “This doesn’t feel right.” We didn’t completely throw stuff away. We would take parts from things we threw away and recycle them into what ended up on the album. I don’t think anything is ever a waste—it’s always a learning experience. Even if you write a song that you hate that you’re not going to use, you either know that you don’t want to use it
or you find something in there that you do want to use. It helps guide you into more and refining your sound. Sometimes I would struggle with some real writers block. I would just hit a wall, or I would get lethargic, or I would lose inspiration, and I would just be like, “I don’t know what to do.” You’d go into the studio and fucking sit there and nothing would come out. I would just feel so crazy. I talked to Katie about it a lot and I was like, “I don’t know… I keep writing bummer songs. I keep writing all of these sad sounding songs with depressing lyrics, because that’s just how I feel right now.” and she was like, “Yeah! Just write how you feel.” And she was right, you know? If you feel a certain way you just have to write that. I feel like the most honest I had ever been in a song before I wrote Somersault was “Sleep Apnea” and that song just came out while I was having a true breakdown. I was just like, “I’m going to write exactly how I feel.” It’s funny because it’s the most bummer song I wrote, and it the one people like the most. And it’s cool, because that’s how I feel a lot of the time. People come up to me after shows or write messages to me and just tell me that they feel
“There was a lot of frustration. There was a lot of me going back and forth on things. We scrapped so many songs… We scrapped like four albums worth of songs, because we just kept writing stuff and being like, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’”
the same way, and that listening to it really helps them. I get that! My favorite music is depressing music, because that’s the shit that feels more real to me. That’s the stuff that I connect with the most. I fully understand that from the perspective of someone who’s listening to it. I never set out to write music like that, but if you’re going to write what you know and how you feel, it’s just got to be honest. What was it like putting the whole record together? How does it feel to tour with it now? Putting the album together was amazing. It was so many sessions in so many different cities and states and areas if the country. It was a huge process but it was pretty fun over all the whole time. Putting it together was one thing, and then figuring out how to do it live was a completely different thing. I felt like, I don’t know how we’re going to do this. The whole point was that we were writing it and we were going to figure out how to play it live later, because the album is the most important thing. We were just talking about The Beatles and how they just quit touring and were fully in the studio—which is kind of the dream in a way. But they were also The Beatles and the biggest band in the world and could totally afford to never have to tour again if they wanted to, haha. So you listen to that stuff and it’s like, “How the fuck would they play any of that live?” It’s completely insane. You could never play it live. You would have to have like a million people on stage. But that was the vibe. “Let’s just write this how we want it to be, and we’ll figure it out later.” I think we figured it out pretty well. We got a fifth member who’s playing keyboards and trumpet and doing some back-up vocals and stuff. Definitely having another person fills it out in a way that changes up the sound live. The weird thing to me though is, ever since the beginning of Beach Fossils playing—from the DIY beginnings and stuff—we’ve just had a reputation of people coming and moshing at our shows. There was a lot of that on the west coast, but there were also some places where it wasn’t like that—especially in Europe. We just did a tour in Europe and everyone was just standing their with their arms folded and I was like, “I can’t tell if they like us because they’re not jumping off stage.” haha. But I think it’s just a cultural thing. There are also just a lot of new fans. There are a lot of people seeing us for the first time, and a lot of people that have just started on Somersault and that’s the only thing they know about us. I talked to certain people about it and if they see people moshing they’re like, “That was crazy! Has that ever happened before?” and we’re just like “Yeah… usually… a lot…” People are like, “I can’t imagine that happening at a Beach Fossils show!” It’s just funny I guess. I guess I wouldn’t expect it if I just started listening to Beach Fossils either.
It must be funny to play that set in so many different rooms and get totally different reactions, even though it’s all the same songs. It seems like so much of being in a band is just doing the same thing over and over again, but sometimes there are different results. That’s really true! It’s so much like Groundhog Day. You wake up, drive in the van for a long time, load in, soundcheck, pee, do some interviews, play the set, repeat. We try to always change it up during the set. That’s why I could never play to a backing track. We’re always improvising shit during the set. It’s kind of fun because I don’t know if people who see it know it’s planned or not. The other guys don’t really initiate it as much—I’m usually the one who starts it. I’ll do some weird shit and make it last a really long time, and everyone else just kind of joins in. They’re really good at it. They totally get it. You brought a lot of new elements and people into this album. What was it like having so many features on the album? I mean I’ve always been really into features. I love working with other people. We’ve had features on the previous records with Blonde Redhead and Wild Nothing and stuff like that. Even the people I wrote some of the songs with early on that were in the live band—I almost consider that a feature because they definitely changed the ways the songs sounded, but they weren’t necessarily a part of the writing process for the most part. A lot of the people we brought into it, we just hit up on a days notice. It depended on the feature. The strings and the pedal steel and the flute and all of that stuff—we were hitting up everyone we knew being like, “Do you know someone that plays this? Do you know someone that plays this? We need them to come in tomorrow cause we have a crazy deadline and we’re already mixing the record.” Everything was a days notice. It was nutty. We had people coming into the studio—like Gavin (Mays) of Cities Aviv came into XL when we were mixing the album already. We had people coming in and laying shit down last minute. The record was just instrumental when we started mixing it pretty much. We’d be mixing for 12 hours a day, and then I’d come back to the studio and stay up until like seven in the morning doing vocals, and then I’d go back in to do the mixing as ten or eleven in the morning. My brain was fried. I was also really sick which was crazy. Getting Rachel Goswell from Slowdive was through Katie. I was trying to think of someone for it. Caroline Polachek form Chairlift helped me write the vocals in that song. I was like, “I need somebody who can sing in this range.” Originally Caroline wrote it for me to sing, so she was trying to sing in my range. She has the most impressive vocal range I’ve heard in my life. She can go so low and she can go so high. It’s unbelievable. So then I was singing
it, and I was like just so use to hearing her scratch vocals on it that I was like, “I want to have a woman sing this line instead of me. It just balances out the song in a really nice way.” I was brainstorming and I was like, “It needs to be someone that can sing both low and high because the vocals kind of shift a lot throughout that song. Then Katie was like, “You should hit up Rachel Goswell!” At first I was like, “I don’t even want to do that because I don’t want to be told no and feel sad that Rachel Goswell doesn’t like my song. I don’t even want to deal with that.” hahaha. But she was like, “Just send it!” So I sent it and I was super nervous to hear back. Then she wrote back that she said she loved it and that she’d be so happy to do it, and that was awesome. She’s the best, and that whole band is the best. That was definitely a dream collaboration. What topics did you feel like you wanted to talk about in the lyrics on the album? There’s a lot of political stuff and a lot of personal stuff through out the whole thing. In my notes on my phone, I’m always writing stuff when I’m thinking things or feeling things and I end up using those as lyrics later on. When we were working on the album it was during the whole election season, which was the most depressing thing happening. It was down to Trump and Hillary and I didn’t like either of them, but I really didn’t want it to be fucking Trump. Then it became clear that he was taking the lead and that was an insane bummer—I mean, calling it a bummer cheapens it. It’s just a fucking nightmare. I’ve never been too overtly political in the past with my music because I think a lot of the times people try to do it they sound cliche and insincere and really hollow. But personally I’m very interested and involved with that stuff and it’s kind of all I think about to an excessive extent. How could you not be? It’s just something that’s so upsetting. It’s not necessarily that the state of the country is worse now than it was a couple years ago. It’s just that now people are paying attention. Not even—it’s just that now white people are paying attention all of a sudden. That’s what it is. People are like, “Oh my god, look how racist people are now.” but it’s actually more like, “No, people have always been that racist. You’re just paying attention to it now. Now you’re finally looking at it.” If people weren’t paying attention to it in the past or weren’t doing anything or saying anything in the past, at least they are now. Even if certain phrases or things that people do or say seem almost cliche or hollow or something, it’s at least a good starting point for people to fucking pay attention. I’ve always just written my lyrics off of things that I’m dealing with internally, and it’s always kind of through more of a poetic or philosophical lens or something. So I mean, there have definitely been a lot of hints at stuff like that before. To me I think Clash The Truth is a pretty politically charged album if you look at the lyrics. Certain songs too. Like “Adversity” was I guess the first political Beach Fos-
sils song I ever wrote. But I don’t think people even notice that or think about it. But for me that whole song is about getting out in the streets and protesting. “They will break our bones, but we’ll carry on.” That’s literally what it’s about! So it’s always been a part of the music, but I don’t know if people notice. I think I was just a little more overt with it this time. It was a little more just kind of saying it. What are you working on at the moment that you can talk about? What do you hope to do once you have the time and money in the future? I mean I’m always working on music. I’m constantly working on music, and whether or not it’s for Beach Fossils, it’s too early to say. I don’t know. I told myself I wasn’t going to between tours, but I already was kind of working on some stuff recently. But who knows when that’ll start coming out. I would like to put out music quicker. I think I might focus less on albums and more on just putting songs out. If I write on a song by song basis, why not just put shit out when I’m happy with it. That’s what was so cool about Bandcamp and SoundCloud. People would work on shit and just be like, “Hey, I just wrote this. Here it is!” That’s so cool and I think we’re at the point with streaming where that’s even the way major labels look at it now. It’s not even about albums anymore for them. Instead of making people wait a few years for an album just put some songs out. I mean on Somersault there are some songs on there that we wrote ages ago. If I had just put it out as soon as I finished it, people could have heard it back then instead of having to wait for the whole thing. So we’ve kind of been talking about that. If we’re excited about a song and theres a lot of energy vibing around a song, that’s a cool time to share something rather than waiting a million months. What do you feel is still a challenge with the work that you make? What hurdles do you feel like you’re still trying to overcome with music? There are always new goals, you know? It’s like we were talking about earlier—every time you’re climbing the hill you just start to see more. There’s always more that you want to do. There’s so much that I want to do! I want to tour more. There are so many places I’ve never been to that I want to go see. I still have so many songs and ideas in me that don’t exist yet that I really want to get out there and share with people. To me, I don’t feel like I’ve shared even close to what’s in me, creatively. So I guess the goal in itself is just to keep making albums and keep making music and stuff that I’m proud of. I want to keep the music changing and evolving, and if it’s Beach Fossils or not— I’m a human being and my life doesn’t center around Beach Fossils. It just goes back to the freedom and independence thing. I don’t care. I just want to make music. If I make something that’s too wildly different than Beach Fossils, and I know it doesn’t fit, then I’ll do it as a solo thing. But if it does it’ll be another Beach Fossils album.
by MATTHEW JAMES-WILSON
With the scores of photo and curatorial projects that Laurence Philomene has constructed over the past few years, she’s
gone lengths to look inward to solve the questions and problems she faces in the world around her. While the Montreal based photographer has worked with top-tier clients and publications since before finishing college, she’s truly made a name for herself with challenging personal work that explore her own experiences with illness, gender, and identity. Where many photographers hide behind the lens and project on to their subjects, Laurence has made the conscious effort to make work that reflects her perspective first, even if it comes at the cost of her comfort, privacy, and sanity.
What really struck me most the first time I discovered Laurence’s work a few years ago was not the beautiful spectrum
of vibrant colors she utilizes in the images she produces, but was rather her commitment to including the spectrum of people she interacts with everyday. While visiting Toronto at the end of the summer, I met up with Laurence on the day of the eclipse to discuss the past and future of her work. The two of us decided to record the interview on a rooftop downtown as the moon shifted in front of the sun, hoping that we’d maybe be changed from the beginning to the end of our conversation.
Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Montreal, Canada and I still live in Montreal, Canada. I’ve lived in the same house since I was a oneyear-old. When did photography become a part of your life early on? I got my first camera when I was like five. It was a Rugrats film camera. I went on a trip with my family and I remember taking photos with it. I very vividly remember how the photos came out. So I guess that’s my earliest photography memory. Then after that when I was a little older— around 11ish—I was really into getting point and shoot cameras and just taking photos of myself, and my dolls, and my friends. Then when I was 13 I found these dolls online called Life Dolls, that are these collectable dolls that were made for one year in the 70s. They were too scary for children, so they got discontinued, and then this photographer started collecting them and taking photos of them. Then this woman in Japan saw those photos and decided to start producing them again. So then they became a collectable in Japan, and theres a new one that comes out every month. There was a huge community of people at the time—I think there still is—taking very artistic photos of them on Flickr. So I got really into them and I saved up, bought myself one on Ebay, and started taking photos and putting them online. Then I just never stopped taking photos after that, haha. Was there any sort of art or music community that you were a part of while you were growing up in Montreal? Yeah. Definitely not IRL though. Basically, I started posting
stuff on Flickr and found this whole community of people there who were my age, from similar backgrounds, and who I related to. We kind of started building each other up and giving each other feedback. It was very wholesome. If you look at our old Flickr pages you can see we give each other testimonials and really constructive criticism and shit. So that was really the people that I grew up with. A lot of them are still my friends and a lot of them are very successful photographers now. I think the most successful ones are probably Olivia Bee, Mike Bailey-Gates, Eleanor Hardwick—those are my peeps. They were like my close friends when I was like 15, haha. That’s who I talked to every night. First it was all on Flickr, then it was on Tumblr, now it’s on Instagram. Some of those people I’m super close with still, and some I’m not anymore. But that’s basically who I grew up with. There was a whole group of people and Kenta (Murakami) wrote a whole article about it a few years ago about their teenage years and the Flickr community. It’s a really nice article. It kind of sums up what all of us went through and coming of age together as a group of young photographers in North America and in Europe. It’s interesting that a lot of the photographers I know who are of a specific age all came out of this really condensed period of using Flickr as a teenager. It’s cool that in had such a distinct role in all of these young people’s lives. Yeah! It definitely felt like there was momentum behind it. I’m sure there still is, but I feel like it’s kind of gone and Flickr has died out. It was this moment where all of a sudden young people could have a camera and you could do this thing online with it. For me, I was just bored after school and I didn’t have anything to do. I suffered from chronic illness so I was home a lot and I would just
“So I got really into them and I saved up, bought myself one on Ebay, and started taking photos and putting them online. Then I just never stopped taking photos after that.” take self-portraits. We did all of those “365 photos” or “52 weeks” things where you’d take a self portrait every day or every week or whatever.
Do you have any formal training in photography or are you primarily self-taught? Yeah I went to Dawson College in Montreal for photography, which is like a community college. I studied four years of professional photography there, and it’s a program that’s very commercial. It’s pretty similar to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) or SVA (School of Visual Arts). It wants to be SVA but it’s not. It’s small town SVA basically, haha. What made you decide to pursue photography and go there for school? What was your experience like there? I feel like there weren’t really other options. I just applied to it and got in and that was it. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I just remember I put together a portfolio, sent it in, and it’s not a super hard school to get into, so I got in. I don’t think deciding to go was this deep process of thinking, Ooo should I be an artist? Should I do something else? I feel like all of that came on later, after I graduated.
That’s when I was like, “Oh shit. What do I do now.” But the decision to go to school I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.” At that point—when I was 16 or 17—I had already been doing interviews and got a bit of press, so I was very encouraged to go in that direction. By the time I was in college I was already pretty established in that little Flickr scene.
I think going there had an interesting counter effect because it was so commercial and they weren’t digging all of my work. I got good grades because I did all of the work and I did it well. But thematically, I was like, “I’m going to do everything that they don’t want me to do.” I think now it seems weird to say it, but at the time there wasn’t a lot of pastels or color in advertisement photography. So in all of the studio classes I was really into making everything pink and making everything bright, and that just wasn’t a thing at the time. My teachers were like, “No! That’s not going to sell. You’re never going to make money with this. It’s not going to become a thing.” Now here we are five years later and I’ve seen ten campaigns for brands that have copied my work, haha. So that’s kind of funny. I don’t know, it was an interesting experience. I learned a lot business-wise and technically, so I’m glad I went. But it wasn’t a very artistic place.
I think a lot of the work that I do was shaped there though, because of a lot of different things. I came out as being gay, so a lot of my started to be about queerness and queer identity. Then I got really sick—I had kidney failure, which I’ve suffered from my whole life. But I had an episode then, so I spent a lot of time alone and not actually in school. I was doing school work still, but from home by myself. So a lot of my work became super introspective and about documenting my body and all of this stuff. Then we had to do two graduating portfolios and for one of them I did this project called “Feminine Identity” which became a big thing that I’m known for. It was about experimenting with femininity and masculinity. Then I also did a still life series which was all pastels and candy and all of this stuff. All of it was not received well by my classmates and professors, but it gave me a lot of internet fame or whatever, which then drove me into madness, haha.
community of people backing me up. The reason why I kept going with it was because, although my professors were like, “No, we don’t get this.” I had a whole bunch of people being like, “No, we love this. We love what you’re doing.” who were just responding really positively. So I don’t think I’d be anywhere without that really. Because a bunch of the work that I do is online based, I feel like my entire career revolves around that. I have a lot of feelings about it, because I actually don’t like the feeling of people looking at me or people knowing who I am. But my whole career is based on that basically. That’s how I get clients, that’s how I sell prints, that’s how I survive! Just by constantly existing. It’s this love hate thing where I can’t stop myself from pouring out myself into the web. But at the same time I hate it so much and I wish so badly that I could go off the grid. Maybe that’s the gemini in me—this dichotomy, haha.
I think a lot of young artists go though that, where they don’t get support for their work from their educators, but they get a lot of support from their peers online. How has the positive attention from the internet impacted how you’ve approached photography?
Did that seem like a common conflict with the peers you grew up with? Were they at all also torn between their experiences at school and experiences through the internet?
I think the reason I went to college was because I had that
I don’t know. I feel like we all pretty much went to art school. I was super jealous because a lot of the people
“The reason why I kept going with it was because, although my professors were like, ‘No, we don’t get this.’ I had a whole bunch of people being like, ‘No, we love this. We love what you’re doing.’”
that I knew were in the United States and they had the resources to go to those fancy schools. They went to Pratt, and they went to SVA, and they went to FIT. They went to all of those places—the places that I could never afford to go to, in any way, shape, or form. I never had the resources to go to somewhere like that so I always felt kind of jealous. But after a while, when I was 18 or something like that, I realized, Oh, I could just go to New York and see these people. I started going and hanging out with them IRL and it devolved into something where it just stopped being only online. Because all of these people moved to New York, they then started be less online based and it became like, “They’re just photographers. They’re just going to school and doing their thing in their IRL communities.” But because I’m in Montreal and so far away from that, I still have to rely on the online thing a lot, because there’s not as much real life networking that I can do.
you would expect from someone who’s worked at Vogue for 20 years. He’s just super chill and down to earth.
How did you meet the executive photo director at Vogue, Ivan Shaw, and Rama Mosley from Splendid & Co? What was your experience like studying under both of them?
What were some of the first photo jobs you did during or after school? How did you get the opportunity to work with those clients?
I met Ivan the year after I graduated college because I won this contest. Flickr decided to do this thing called 20 under 20, and I think it was part of a rebranding effort for them while they were trying to become relevant again because it was dying out. It wasn’t really a contest, but they had curators who picked through all of these Flickr people they liked. So one day I just got this email that was like, “Hey, you won this thing.” and I was like, “Sweet!” Then they flew us all to New York, put us in a fancy hotel, and set up an exhibition at Milk Studios. The whole concept was that it was the 20 best photographers under 20, but it was really weird because most of us were actually 21 at the time that t. happened. When they did the selection we were 20, but when the actual contest happened we were all like 21. I would say that half of them were from the community of people I knew like Olivia Bee and Chrissie White. I won the big prize which was the Curator’s Choice Award, and the prize was a mentorship with Ivan Shaw. He was the photo director at Vogue at the time, but since then he’s been promoted to doing special projects with Conde Nast now. He does archival books and stuff now, so he’s been more busy since then so I haven’t had the time to interact with him as much. When I won it really forced me to say, “I have this opportunity, so I’m going to do it.” and I started going to New York a lot and seeing him. He got me in touch with a bunch of people and at the time I was really trying to get an agent and book these big jobs. He was connecting me with all of these people, but everyone was like, “Oh, who are you? You look 12.” and no one took me seriously. So it was weird. I had this year of my life when I went to all of these fancy meetings with all of these people, but none of them took me seriously. Ivan has always been really nice. He’s such a kind and encouraging person—which is not what
Then Rama has been my mentor for film stuff. She reached out to me around the same time too. She was building this agency called ADOLESCENT. and she was trying to get me to sign with them. At the time I was not into it and basically blew them off for like three years, haha. Last year she kept trying to hit me up and finally I was like “Okay, I’m going to do it.” and I signed with them. So she’s been helping me do film stuff and helping me push myself in that direction. She’s just a super hard working person. She’ll answer my emails at like 2am everyday. She’ll be like, “I’m in Sweden filming this thing.” She runs the production company and the website and films all of these ads for all of these big brands like every day of her life and still has a family! She does a lot.
I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I feel like my first jobs were just portraits or people’s head shots. I think the first really big thing that I did was for Yahoo Style. That was fun. They were like, “What do you want to do?” and I was like, “I think I want to do nail trends.” so they just sent me some fancy jewelry and were like, “Just put this in the photos.” That was my first paid editorial job. I had done some editorials for Montreal Magazine and stuff like that, but not a big name like Yahoo. Then the first big film thing that I’ve done was this promo for Netflix that I did last year. That was fun too. Every time I do a big job, it makes me it feels like I’m back in school. It’s like a weird test and it’s always kind of annoying and has weird requirements that I have to fulfill. My normal day to day is just people who want portraits or people who want an album cover and they specifically want my style. But when I work with bigger companies, a lot of the time I’m catering to them. That’s really different and it feels like a school assignment in a fun way. Every time I feel like I’m just learning. Everything I’ve gotten is through the internet and through networking in Montreal. I do a lot of jobs for local designers and stuff. Some contacts I’ve gotten through Ivan when I did that whole thing of trying to sell myself. I did some stuff for Yahoo Style and Teen Vogue through that. It’s kind of hard for me because I’m not in New York and I can’t go to New York at the moment. So I have all these brands that know of me and know who I am but can’t actually hire me for a lot of things. The people and things that they want me to shoot are there so I can’t do those jobs. At what point did you start getting interested in zine culture and self publishing your work? Well my dad is a screen printing teacher, so I feel like I kind of grew up with that. All of his friends are illustrators
and comic artists and all of that stuff. So I feel like it was just part of my upbringing. Then I co-founded this collective in 2012 called The Coven, and it was a lot about bringing attention to artists who weren’t getting a lot of attention online. It was made up of a lot of people doing multi-disciplinary work like sculptures and installations and all of that kind of stuff. Then me and my partner at the time got into making zines somehow. We started making a ton and going to all these different fairs in Montreal. Then—I don’t even know how we ended up at TCAF, but we tabled there. I don’t know how I got from the first time I did EXPO Zine to where I am now. I just kept doing it I guess. For a big part of my life, all I did was just print zines and do a lot of screen printing. I feel like I want to get back into it more, because now I’m just at my computer all day. That’s not as fun, haha. How did The Coven come about and who were some of the artists you worked with on it? I started it with my partner at the time and it just started as a blog. It came out of us seeing a lot of photography collectives and us wanting to do something that wasn’t photography. We worked with a lot of artists in Montreal and in the UK for some reason. Originally it was very heavily about feminism, but I feel like we all kind of evolved and now it’s a lot more about being queer and trans representation. At first we had twelve members and some of those members were Liv Thurley, Samantha Conlon, Patricia Alvarado, and I. Then we started doing exhibitions and it became this thing where whenever I would travel I would
organize a Coven show wherever I was and I’d invite local artists to join in. We did one in San Francisco and invited Vivian Fu to join in. But now, because we all have lives and are not in school anymore, it’s less of a thing. It’s just not as much of an online thing anymore. But whenever we travel we still try to organize shows. The last one we did was in London in January, and that was the biggest show we’ve ever done. It was like 80 artists that we all invited to do a tarot card, and then we printed a risograph deck of all of the tarot cards. Printing everything was really intense, haha. It’s sort of less of a thing now and I don’t spend a lot of time working on the collective. But then when I do do things, it’s a lot bigger. I don’t really know where it’s at now, but whenever I have the energy I’ll do another thing with it. It’s also just because the person who I started it with doesn’t really make art in that way anymore, so I kind of took over. It also started as a women’s collective, but now a lot of people in it don’t identify as women anymore. There are a lot of things that have changed. But I guess it’s more like a group of people I collaborate with and who collaborate with each other now. When did you start making work focusing more on gender and sexuality? How has that evolved over the course of the past couple years? I definitely started in college when I came out. In school I was forced to produce a certain amount of work, so I was like, “Well, this is what I’m interested in at the moment, so
“I started it with my partner at the time and it just started as a blog. It came out of us seeing a lot of photography collectives and us wanting to do something that wasn’t photography.”
I’m going to make work about it.” A lot of my early work was about exploring the concepts of femininity and masculinity, and I think there are a lot of flaws that I see in the early work that I did. A lot of it was about putting men in feminine scenarios and exploring femininity though that. That made sense to me, but a lot of people interpreted it as me photographing trans people, which it wasn’t. That reaction really furthered this assumption of trans women being men in dresses, which is not the case and not what I was trying to do. So I have a lot of problems with how that early work is perceived. But a lot of it was more about me exploring my own gender identity and exploring how I felt about femininity. I felt not at ease with it and I was trying to make sense of it for myself. So that’s a lot of what my early work was about. Last year after I did a month long curatorial project, I was like, “I want to do more photography again and I want to get back into that and focus on myself.” So then I started this series of portraits of my friends who are non-binary. That was a lot more collaborative and that seems to be where a lot of my work about gender is going. I’m more focused on listening to the people that I’m photographing and asking them how they see themselves and how they want to be shown. So that’s kind of where I’m at now. It’s interesting because it’s very much about gender, but it’s also more just about people how they are, and somehow that’s a radical thing, haha. It’s kind of funny to me because, when I do the shoots I don’t ask people, “How do you feel about gender.” or “How does this represent your gender?” or whatever. That’s not what it’s about. It’s just about me hanging out with people and being like, “How do you see your self.” I’m non-binary too and I think this year my work is going to be a lot more introspective and about my own identity. But yeah, it’s not about being like, “This is what trans people look like.” It’s most just about, “These are the people in my life right now.” I think, among all of the work you’ve done, your style of self-portraiture really stands out. Unlike a lot of photographers, you use self-portraiture as the starting point to talk about different things or even photograph other people. When did you start taking your self-portraits and when did you start involving other people in them? I started doing self-portraiture when I was 14 or 15 when I started photography because I just didn’t have anyone else to photograph. I mean, I had friends, but I didn’t have any that lived near me so I would just photograph myself after school. It was definitely a self exploration thing. The first time I did a full self portrait series that had a concept to it, I had really bad insomnia. I had a stocker at my house when I was 15, and I couldn’t sleep for a whole year after that. So my first self portrait series as a whole was—I started doing this thing where I would stay up all night until the sun came up and that was when I would start feeling safe again. I would go with my camera and
my tripod to the park near by and take portraits of myself sleeping in different spots of the park at 5am. That was the first time I really thought something through and did a whole series around a concept. I still really like those photos too. Then after that a lot of my self-portraiture was about my illnesses and exploring that. My body would physically change a lot because of the illnesses that I have. I would gain a lot of weight and lose a lot of weight, so I was kind of documenting that. Then it sort of became about gender somehow. Then I went through this whole thing where I started being really afraid of the internet. There was just this moment of self actualization a few years ago when I realized that you can Google me and I have no control over what shows up. I have no control over the fact that I’ve been putting myself out there on the internet since I was 11, for better or for worse. That was a huge fucking thing for me and feeling like, Shit… I fucked myself over. I have all of this documentation of my existence, but what if I want to move on and not be that. Anyways, so I had this whole moment of being freaked out and stopped feeling comfortable showing my body online. But I still have this weird desire to document myself for whatever reason I guess. So I started doing these self-portraits using other people and putting elements of myself on them. I’d give them an orange wig and put them in my clothes and stuff like that. I’ve been doing that series for around three years now, and it kind of evolved into creating this fictional identity that’s not me at all at this point. So it’s sort of this imaginary self-portrait. I have a lot of feelings about it right now and I’m not sure if I should continue with it. I don’t know if it’s a fucked up thing I do or a good thing I do. I’m not sure how I feel about this obsession with projecting myself onto others. It might be unhealthy. I don’t know. It’s changed I guess. At first it was about me and hiding my face and tricking the viewer. Then it became about documenting this ideal life that I wish I had, like when I went to LA and took a bunch of pictures of Vivian (Fu) and Molly (Soda) and Arvida (Byström)—all of these artists that I love—in the wig. There it was like, “This is the life I want to have. I want to be a west coast girl and have palms trees in the background.” So I took all of those photos and that became a part of it. Then it just kind of became all about colors. Sometimes it’s about gender too. I take a lot with my friend Graeme in them because he’s what I want to be, haha. I’m always just like, “I want to be you!” Now I don’t really even know what it’s about. There are even people who ask me to be photographed in the wig. There’s not really anything of me in the photos at this point. My hair doesn’t look like the wig at all in real life now. It did when I started, but now it doesn’t really, haha.
“I don’t know how ethical it is to make work that’s not about me.” How does your personal work differ from the editorial or freelance work that you do? Do you approach each one differently? I feel like it use to be a lot more different because I didn’t know how to bring the creative thing to my commercial work. But now I feel like they’re actually pretty similar. Obviously commercial work will maybe be a little more boring if it’s just random portraits or photos for a designer. But it’s pretty similar, and I think people reach out to me because they want my style. The one big difference I would say is how I approach editing it. When it’s paid work then I’ll just do it immediately. But with personal work, because I have to do so much work just to survive, my personal work gets put on the back burner. It’s not that I don’t shoot—I’m constantly shooting stuff—but I literally have like 3 hard drives full of work that I haven’t been able to edit in like three years. It just sits there and I have so many things I want to do, but when am I going to get to it? I don’t know. Usually there are a couple weeks in winter when I don’t sleep and I just edit all of the work and put it all out. That’s just how I work, haha. How much of your work do you think is about exploring things you don’t know about yourself and how much of it is about exploring things you don’t know
about the people around you? 100 percent is about me, except my non-binary portrait series and commercial work. Everything else is about me, haha. Sometime I don’t really realize what it’s really about until much later on. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is, I don’t know how ethical it is to make work that’s not about me. But then at the same time, is it relevant to just make work about me? That’s really where I’m at right now with it, and I’ve been criticized in the past about it. With the non-binary series it’s about my community and it’s about a big part of my identity and the people that I love. So it’s still kind of about me. But a lot of people think it’s not ethical for me to even just take photos of other people. The camera acts as a very specific tool that creates context, so I have a lot of feelings about it. What are other themes that are consistent throughout your work that people don’t seem to point out or think about as much? I’d say illness is a big part of it. Loneliness as well is a big part of my work. A lot of my actual self-portraiture—not the orange wig stuff—is about that. A lot of my early work is very much about that. I use to live alone, and then I didn’t for a while, but now I live alone again, so I think
it’s going to return to that soon. So yeah, I’d say themes like loneliness, chronic illness, mental health, and paranoia are all in there. I have Nephrotic syndrome which is a chronic kidney illness, and I also have Cerebral Thrombosis which is like a blood clot in my brain. I’ve had a lot of things, haha. I’m also about to start HRT (hormone replacement therapy) so I think a lot of my work is going to become about that soon. But we’ll see. I’m waiting to get results on that soon. Then I also have anxiety, paranoia, ADHD—just a lot of good shit, haha. So a lot of my work is about that. How did your Camp gallery project come together? I think in that moment we were just like, “Let’s do this! Let’s do a gallery because we’ve always wanted to do it!” But I don’t think Montreal was the right place to do it. Basically, it was a month long pop-up gallery that we did two big exhibitions and three special project spaces in. I worked on it with Billy “Starchild Stella” and Natalie “Ambivalently Yours” but I took care of most of the curation. We did workshops and events everyday and we had an art shop at the same time as well. So it was a lot of work. We took over this space, painted it, set it up, and worked with about 80 different international artists. I think part of doing it was just proving to ourselves that we could do it. But when you do that kind of stuff with no funding in the middle of a city that doesn’t really appreciate that kind
of work, it can kind of drive you over the edge a little bit. It definitely burnt us out physically since we did it for a month. We didn’t get any press, so it was hard to get anything out of it besides the fact that now I know how to run a gallery show I guess. I guess my goal with it was the same as it has been with everything else—highlighting queer, trans, and non-binary artists. Also a big thing that we wanted to do with it was do a project that had all of these artists that wasn’t just about identity. I think because of that it wasn’t really as well received, because people didn’t care since it wasn’t something you could sensationalize. The theme was just camp and the different meanings of the word—like “summer camp” and “campiness.” People who went there really appreciated it, but I don’t think the media or press cared. What do you think is the value of having both IRL and online communities in an art scene? What do you feel like you’ve gained from having each? That’s hard to say because I feel so strange about the art community in Montreal. When I come to Toronto it feels a lot more real to me. It’s funny when I come to these types of fairs like Zine Dream where everyone is really excited to see each other and it’s a really positive thing. I love coming here and doing that, even though it’s weird that I exist
“Also a big thing that we wanted to do with it was do a project that had all of these artists that wasn’t just about identity.”
“I feel like over the years my work has become more and more curatorial. Any chance that I get to photograph my friends who are artists and put them out there I try to do.” in this comics community here and I don’t really know any photographers in Toronto. I feel like my community is still very much online because everyone that I can relate to photo wise is in the states, and I can’t go there. So when I do get to see them and when they come and visit, it’s such an exciting thing for me to be around other photographers my age. But right now I don’t think I have a very strong sense of art community in real life.
I remember leaving New York when I first started visiting and thinking, “Wow, now I know what it’s like to have people in my life who are in the exact same place as me.” That felt so great. But obviously there is also a competitive aspect to it there. So maybe it’s nice that I don’t have that, because I don’t have to worry about losing jobs to anyone since no one else does what I do in Montreal. I think for me, photo wise, I like having an online community and people that I can relate to over the internet, and then also have these friends in real life who are doing other things. I think there was a period of my life where everyone I was hanging out with was a photographer. They were all my Flickr friends who I was visiting in LA or New York and we were all doing the same exact thing. That was cool, but
I moved back to Montreal and started hanging out with people who do different things and it was like, “Oh this is nice. I can have a break from work and we can just hang out and not worry about this stuff.
It’s interesting that you’ve taken on the role of the curator with a lot of the projects that you’ve done. Why do you think you’ve taken it upon yourself to bring people together to work on something? I feel like over the years my work has become more and more curatorial. Any chance that I get to photograph my friends who are artists and put them out there I try to do. Now a lot of my work is photos of other artists. I never really photograph models, so even my photography has functioned as curatorial work. I know that the curatorial work that I do is not what the public cares about when they look at my work at all. I know people come to me for colors and aesthetics and all of that shit, but that’s not actually what I care about. So I try to throw in a bit of other people’s art any time that I can. Hopefully then people see it instead of just seeing them as my photos I guess. But yeah, I think it’s a big part of everything I do.
How do you feel the economics of a city like Montreal affect the work that you make there and your ability to survive off of your art there? For this question you can just write my answer as “LMAO” haha. I always get this question because people are very curious about it. Montreal is a very interesting place because you can live there very cheaply. So it’s a really good place to produce work, and I think that’s why I’m still there. I can live there cheaply and I can produce produce produce all of the time. But then at the same time there are not resources to really make anything super big either. So, it’s a really good space if you want to do DIY shit on your own time. But there are no clients there and the money that’s being invested in the arts is invested in a very specific strategic way that promotes this very specific idea of what Quebec is. So I don’t know… I don’t feel very welcome there, but at the same time it’s home to me. It’s an interesting place in that it’s not actually changing. It’s a very static place because there are no jobs, so there are a lot of people who move, but very temporarily. People don’t stay there for very long if they don’t speak French. You can’t really get a job if you don’t speak French. Because there aren’t really any jobs, the housing market stays low, so artists live there, but you can’t really do a lot of work there. There are maybe a couple photographers working and being successful, but that’s it. How does that influence my work? It think it allows me to produce a lot. Even though I feel like I’m constantly working, compared to New York people or Toronto people, I’m not always working, haha. What do you hope to change about editorial photography? What do you hope to have your work impact within photography in general? I think my work has impacted editorial and commercial work in a way. I’m not saying that to be conceited, I’ve just seen it and I know that work that I’ve done in the past has impacted a lot of color use and trends. But that’s not actually what I care about or want to do. I think a lot of what I want to do is make something that’s really genuine and hopefully more collaborative. I just want my work to be as honest as possible, in aspects, whether it’s personal work or editorial work. I also just really don’t want to make work that’s just representation for the sake of representation—which is hard because a lot of the work that I do is about representation, haha. So it creates this weird cycle of trying to figure out what is genuine. How did you start working with ADOLESCENT and what has your role been since you started working for them? I guess I’m represented as a director there. They mentor me and I also produce content for their website. I do a web series of artist interviews, which is basically my own personal project of whatever I want to do. They’re su-
per supportive. I talk to them like everyday and tell them about what I’m working on. They’ve been pushing me to do more film stuff, which I was very reluctant to do. Rama sought me out a few years ago to do film stuff, but I was very reluctant and didn’t want to do it. For the longest time I was like, “No! Photography is my thing. I’m a photographer and that’s it.” because my brain couldn’t wrap itself around all of the elements of film since it’s so much bigger. But now I’m starting to get around to it and I think life is pushing me in that direction a little bit, so I’m trying to follow that. I think it’s interesting because they’re starting to be on the come up now, but they’ve been around for a while. I’m happy that they’re finally getting some sort of recognition. Are there specific mediums you want to work with that you haven’t had the chance to work with yet? I want to go back to shooting film honestly. I use to shoot film all of the time and I just haven’t been able to afford it for years. I really want to explore more large format and medium format stuff, and I just don’t really have the resources to. I’m trying to push myself to do more narrative work. I do a lot of documentary stuff, and I love making documentaries, but I’m working on developing a web series that is narrative based. That’s hard for me and it’s not something that comes naturally, so I guess that’s something I’m exploring more. What projects are you working on right now that you can talk about? I’m working on shooting part three of my non-binary portrait series. I’m going to start shooting that in the fall hopefully. Then I have an exhibition for it at X-Space in Toronto in January. Then I have a bunch of things that are up in the air right now with the web-series and film stuff. I think I’m mostly going to focus on working on my non-binary series and I want to work on a new series of self-portraits this year that are actual self-portraits of me, haha. I don’t know, this year is a little bit weird for me. It’s a little bit nebulous. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. We just made it to the other side of the eclipse, so I’ll have to see what life has to offer now I guess, haha. Are there any projects you would like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? Yeah, always! I want to keep shooting my non-binary series, but I want to have funding for it because I want to be able to pay everyone involved—myself and the models. I really want to make a book of it and do all of this stuff, but I don’t have the funding for that at the moment. I really want to do more books. When you do actual photo printing it’s just so expensive, but hopefully I can make something this year.
RENE CONTRERAS b y MAT T HE W J A ME S -WI L S O N
Rene Contreras has built a small booking empire over the past 12 years, starting out by throwing backyard shows as
a teenager to now curating stages for massive festivals like Coachella. As a kid growing up Southern California and learning English as his second language, Rene found going to shows in his local scene filled the void of self expression in his small town. Since the first shows he’s started going to, Rene has taken on the role of the audience member, the performer, the booker, and the promoter, putting all of his energy into making sure the same life changing experience he’s had is available to the people around him. Years later, his unique taste and unbridled passion for putting together diverse shows has had a deep impact on Los Angeles’s music community as a whole, and his influence is beginning to ripple out into the way that other bookers approach organizing shows.
Unlike Los Angeles, the city of Pomona, CA is not known for it’s history of live music or as a place where young bands
can go to reach a bigger audience. At least not until Rene started the DIY festival Viva! Pomona and began bridging the gap between LA’s indie scene and the spanish speaking music scenes from the US, Mexico, and South America. Now after hosting the festival in Pomona for it’s fifth year in a row, and throwing hundreds of stand alone shows just like it, Rene is still eager to bring his vision to new stages around the world.
Where are you all from and where do you live currently?
Did you have any training in show organizing, or were you primarily self taught?
I am from Pomona, California which is a suburban town eastbound of Los Angeles. I also currently live there.
At the beginning I just rolled with the punches. I knew that we had to book the bands, set up some kind of deal with the money, find a space and a PA, and then make a flyer to begin promoting the event. As the shows got bigger and the bands grew in popularity I just went with the flow. It wasn’t till I started working at The Glass House, which is still an established venue in Pomona, CA, that I was able to properly take notes and learn from people who organize shows how things ran.
Was there any sort of music or art scene where you grew up? Yeah, there were quite a few venues, the main one being The Glass House. They have hosted a lot of really cool shows through out the years. Some of the other venues around at the time were The Tiki Room, The Valut, Angelos, Aladdin Jr and probably some others I might not be thinking of. The downtown section of Pomona is an arts colony so there were always of galleries showing local art from around the area. It was a cool scene to grow up in. When did you start going to DIY shows in Los Angeles? What were some of your first experiences like? I started booking and promoting concerts at age 14-15 in peoples backyards. I just loved seeing people invade a space and express themselves. The first DIY shows I was able to book were metal, hardcore, and punk concerts. I would charge $3 and have about five bands perform. We would usually hire someones older brother to work as a security guard and then we’d give them a cut of the door. The shows sometimes got out of control because they were just in backyards that were open to anyone.
Were there other show promoters or bookers that you tried to model what you were doing off of? At first there wasn’t because all I wanted to do was throw a rager in someones backyard. I think as I grew older and started realizing that going to concerts and seeing a live band was more of an actual experience, I started noticing other promoters and how they strategized there bookings and selections of music. I went to Coachella when I was 16, and the crowd at the time was unreal to me. The energy of going from stage to stage was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Then I started seeing a festival by the name of FYF Fest pop up more and more. Both those festivals definitely inspired me to want to do something cool. Another couple of festivals that really inspired the way I book were Festival NRMAL and All My Friends Music Festival. NRMAL is based out in Monterrey, Mexico and
“The first DIY shows I was able to book were metal, hardcore, and punk concerts. I would charge $3 and have about five bands perform. We would usually hire someones older brother to work as a security guard and then we’d give them a cut of the door. ”
All My Friends is based out of Tijuana, Mexico. Their curation was unlike anything I have ever seen, and they seemed to be ahead of the curb musically. Going to those festivals also felt really raw, both festivals are just so cool. What were some of the first few shows you booked? Some of the first shows I booked were shows with The Shrine, Audacity, Lovely Bad Things, and Crystal Antlers. Before that I booked a lot of metal/hardcore shows with bands like True Romance, Admit Your Defeat, Modfied Mercali, Calora, and just a lot of unknown local bands, haha.
Did you have any bad experiences early on where shows fell a part at the last minute and you had to figure out how to salvage them? I remember booking a show at a house that my neighbor had gotten. I remember already not really trusting her and knowing the show was probably going to fall apart, but I still went with it anyway. The day of the show
we showed up to the house with a PA on a skateboard and someone’s mother came out yelling at me in Spanish saying that there wasn’t going to be any show happening at the house. Then when my instincts kicked in and I had to take matter into my own hands. Within a couple of hours I had the show switched over to my house–and my parents were not having it–but the show happened anyway. During the show my parents locked the doors and everyone had to use the restroom outside. It wasn’t a pretty sight. We had about 500 to 550 people in my backyard, but the show still went on. Who were some of the bands you started developing a relationship with early on? What venues were supportive of you when you started? When I started booking shows there was a collective of young college kids called The Noise Academy, and they allowed me to book shows at a Mediterranean place in downtown Pomona. After booking a couple of shows there I started booking concerts at The Glass House down the street. Some of the bands that I started booking early on were Chicano Batman, Girlpool, Bad Suns,
Tijuana Panthers, Together Pangea, The Buttertones, and FUZZ. What was going on in the LA scene when you started booking shows? What did you want to do differently with your shows that seemed to be missing from the other shows you were going to? When I started booking garage rock was brewing in LA. The guys from Burger Records started booking shows, The Growlers were opening shows, and it was all still in the come ups. What I tried to do differently was that I started looking at myself in the mirror and I started trying to connect more with the Spanish language–which was my first language. I knew a lot of other people that grew up in Spanish speaking households. With that intention, I began to book Spanish speaking bands on the same shows the bands that sang in English from LA or around the USA were playing. I started to realize that different music is booked very differently. If a band speaks Spanish, they are automatically placed in a “Latin market” category. If a band speaks in English they are placed in an “English market” category. Combining these two languages in a DIY setting almost felt like a breath of
fresh air for both the Spanish & English speaking world. It allowed for a lot of doors to open for musicians on both sides. How did the idea for Viva Pomona come about? What was the process like organizing the first year? The first year of Viva! Pomona came about after I went to Los Angeles and told people from LA that I was from Pomona and—not everyone but some of them would make a face and tell me that they were sorry. I was in shock that some of them had never even heard of Pomona. I also just wanted to help the local bands in towns in Pomona and the surrounding areas. It’s very difficult to go to a big city and get a gig at a nice venue. Naturally, one day while I was at a taco shop in Ontario, CA where a group of friends and I were brainstorming, we came up with the idea for Viva! Pomona. It’s really a celebration for the suburbs, and throughout the years the show has definitely evolved from just booking local artist to booking international artists. The first year was hectic. We had no idea what we were doing, haha. The Glass House allowed us to book the
“It’s really a celebration for the suburbs, and throughout the years the show has definitely evolved from just booking local artist to booking international artists”
“It’s important to see different forms of expression no matter the language, and I feel like a DIY setting allows us to see each other for who we really are.” place and sort of just run with it—with them obviously supervising us making sure nothing went wrong. If it weren’t for The Glass House, the bands and the people the first year for sure would have never happen. We had Tijuana Panthers, Vivian Girls, La Sera, Grass Widow, The Babies and many others bands perform at the first one.
grown into a show where people know what it is. A lot of our friends have also grown as musicians and are thriving, so it’s a cool feeling to see where they are now. We also now really try to concentrate on bringing more Spanish speaking artist from Spain, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina to the US.
In the past you’ve talked a lot about how you hope to bring bands from different scenes, backgrounds, and cultures together for your shows. Why do you feel like thats so important in a place like Los Angeles?
When did you start working with Goldenvoice? What is your current role there?
I feel like bigger cities across the world just have a larger pot of culture. I think it’s important for us to value our differences and focus on how our differences bring us together. It’s important to see different forms of expression no matter the language, and I feel like a DIY setting allows us to see each other for who we really are. It’s cool. How has Viva! Pomona grown since the first year you organized it? We now book established bands and have bands that are on tour or who people actually know about. We’ve
I started volunteering at Goldenvoice at a young age, when I was probably about 17. I work in the festival department which has been really cool. Are there any shows that you’ve put together in the last few years that really stand out to you, or felt like a turning point in your career? I think every show I’ve booked or worked on has been a special turning point in my career. I really love working with the Surf Curse guys, I think they’ve overcome a lot of obstacles and have shown what it means to do thing yourself and be successful.
What was your experience like curating a stage at Coachella last year? Getting to curate a stage at Coachella last year was unreal. Being able to let loose creatively and apply what I constantly daydream of in a real life scenario was incredible. I was very fortunate and forever thankful with Coachella for giving me the opportunity. You’ve been traveling a lot recently to places like South America and are starting to get offers to book stuff out of LA. Could you talk a little bit more about that and what you hope to do with those opportunities? I would like to think that I am a big advocate for newer creative ideas that pop up. Living within a big centralized city like Los Angeles I feel like our ideas get regurgitated by each other. I get a lot of inspiration from towns that are far away from each other and I feel like they can contribute to each other’s creativity—especially if their creative process are still forming. Taking people out of their comfort zones within a creative space is something that needs to
happen often, and a way to make this happen is by uniting different communities together. I feel like most of us always tend to look at the United States and European countries as places of contemporary art and creativity. We tend to forget about countries down south like Mexico, Central America, and South America. Creatively speaking, they have a lot to contribute to the world of art, and when it comes to music I feel like they don’t have an equal opportunity to express it the same way it could be said by other countries. What do you think can still be improved with the types of shows that get booked in Los Angeles? I think there needs to be more diversity within music and I think that different styles of bands should not be afraid play with each other on bills. Is it important to you to keep what you’re doing small and DIY, or would you eventually like to have your booking operation become a real business? If I was doing this to create a real business I would of quit
“Living within a big centralized city like Los Angeles I feel like our ideas get regurgitated by each other. I get a lot of inspiration from towns that are far away from each other and I feel like they can contribute to each other’s creativity—especially if their creative process are still forming.”
“Cuco headlined this years Viva! Pomona and at first the people that weren’t aware of his work kept questioning us by asking us “Who’s Cuco?” Now I think it’s clear that the majority of the people that are really into music know who Cuco is.” a long time ago. I started booking concerts out of passion and because I wanted to create an atmosphere that would unite people from all walks of life. Bringing a new form of creativeness and combining it with something local from Los Angeles or New York has always sparked my curiosity and has made me smile. Unfortunately kids grow up and life hits you. Bills start coming in, cars begin to break down, you start a record collection, groceries need to be bought, etc… I wouldn’t be opposed to making it a real business while keeping my respects to the DIY culture and giving back to the community that I came from. I would just have to keep myself grounded. What are you working on right now that you can talk about? At the moment I am working on some cool shows with an artist named Cuco. He just went on his first mini tour in Texas and sold out every major city within that state. I am really excited to see where he’s going to end up with his career. He is an artist that erases the cultural lines between the English and Spanish language through out
the world. Cuco headlined this years Viva! Pomona and at first the people that weren’t aware of his work kept questioning us by asking us “Who’s Cuco?” Now I think it’s clear that the majority of the people that are really into music know who Cuco is, and if they don’t they will soon find out. I am very excited for him and his team. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on that you just haven’t had the time or money for yet? I would love to make Viva! Pomona a little bit bigger, work on other shows in the United States, and possibly explore other music communities within the United States and figure out a way to connect the dots within those communities. I want to give platforms to musicians in different areas of this country by using the same DIY philosophy and keeping it real.
Shriya Samavai & Allyssa Yohana @ CURRENTS
Photography by Matthew James-Wilson
Jesjit Gill & Jenny Gitman of Colour Code @ Zine Dream
Alicia Nauta @ Zine Dream
Billy Starfield & Laurance Philomene @ Zine Dream
Thomas Colligan & Kurt Woerpel of TXTBooks @ Zine Dream
Patrick Kyle @ Zine Dream
Ginette Lapalme @ Zine Dream
Kim Jooha of 2dcloud @ Zine Dream
Michael Comeau @ Zine Dream
JG @ Zine Dream
Michael DeForge @ Zine Dream
Louise Reimer @ Zine Dream
Rabeea Syed @ Zine Dream
Alexander Laird @ Zine Dream
Misbah Ahmed @ Zine Dream
Kendra Yee @ Zine Dream
Kendra Yee @ Zine Dream
Benjamin Sommerhalder of Neives @ NYABF
Pete Gamlen of Tan & Loose Press @ NYABF
Heather Benjamin @ NYABF
Brie Moreno @ NYABF
Killer Acid & Wizard Skull @ NYABF
Gabe Fowler of Desert Island @ NYABF
Lester Rosso of TBW Books @ NYABF
G.W. Duncanson Paul@ Windle @ Paper @ NYABF Jam 5
OOGA BOOGA @ NYABF
Paul John & Alick Shiu of Endless Editions @ NYABF
Mega Press @ NYABF
Kurt Woerpel & Rob Blair of TXTBooks @ NYABF
Thomas Colligan & Rose Wong of TXTBooks @ NYABF
Perish Publishing @ NYABF
Jesjit Gill & Jenny Gitman of Colour Code @ NYABF
(Sandy) Alex G @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
(Sandy) Alex G @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
BODEGA @ Alphaville
BODEGA @ Alphaville
French Vanilla @ Alphaville
French Vanilla @ Alphaville
French Vanilla @ Alphaville
Anna Altman @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Really Big Pinecone @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Really Big Pinecone @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Really Big Pinecone @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Really Big Pinecone @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Yowler @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Yowler @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Tall Friend @ Babyâ€™s All Right
Lala Lala @ Trans-Pecos
Lala Lala @ Trans-Pecos
Surf Curse @ Trans-Pecos
Surf Curse @ Trans-Pecos
Surf Curse @ Trans-Pecos
Surf Curse @ Trans-Pecos
Frankie Cosmos @ The Echoplex
BOYO @ The Los Angeles County Fair
BOYO @ The Los Angeles County Fair
Current Joys @ The Los Angeles Audience County @ DBTS Fair
Current Joys @ The Los Angeles County Fair
Current Joys @ The Los Angeles County Fair
Laszlo Horvath @ SMOG
BOYO @ SMOG
BOYO @ SMOG
Mdou Moctar @ Machines With Magnets
Mdou Moctar @ Machines With Magnets
Mdou Moctar @ Machines With Magnets
Black Pus @ Machines With Magnets
Black Pus @ Machines With Magnets
Black Pus @ Machines With Magnets
You Should Check Out... By Matthew James-Wilson
princess nokia (born destiny frasqueri)is probably the most important rapper to come out of new york’s underground this year, and it’s been exciting to see her rise leading up to the re-release of her album 1992 on rough trade records last month. like any great act coming from a diy background, frasqueri bares so much of her perspective, background, and personal experiences within her music, elevating it past any limitations she could face. the sincere and relatable songwriting of her most recent release exceeds her previous two mixtapes, and carves out a concise space in modern rap to discuss topics that are vital to be reflecting right now. from its now iconic cover to its infectious singles, 1992 proves to be a landmark for independent rap. the album in unabashedly funny, dark, and most importantly honest in the way that it depicts frasqueri’s experience growing up as a young woman in new york city. tracks like “goth kid” and “tomboy” push up against common perceptions of how young people of color see their gender and social identity, while tracks like “abcs of new york” and “green line” give vivid descriptions of the version of new york that frasqueri has called home while being a life long resident. the album thrives on polarity, constantly forcing the listeners to question their idea of who princess nokia is in their minds—or even the idea that she needs to conform to one rap archetype. the deluxe release of the album is a true gem from this past year and points towards a highly anticipated follow up from princess nokia.
the atlanta, georgia three piece, omni, is a saturated force of human ability, bringing an unparalleled level of musicianship and tension to the sphere of indie rock. their most recent album, multi-task, continues on the path plotted out by their debut, deluxe, but trades the band’s signature fuzziness for high fidelity. every part on the album is performed by the band’s two founding members, frankie broyles and philip frobos, and have this robotic, yet syncopated, quality that gives the band their endearingly stiff sound. the three members have an incredibly rich history of releases with previous projects (including warehouse, balkans, deerhunter, and carnivores) but it’s exciting to see them join forces, bringing the best qualities of each to omni. multi-task is a beautifully intricate album, and it’s worth your time if you haven’t listened to it yet.
Adult Swim Singles 2017
this certainly isn’t the first time i’ve included adult swim’s annual singles collection in this section, and it probably won’t be the last. the beloved off-kilter cable network has been the home of some of the most creatively challenging television shows on the air for years now. while they’re primarily known for their work in television, they’ve committed themselves to achieving a similar goal within the independent music world, often creating platforms for music that might not have otherwise reached a wide audience. on this year’s singles collection adult swim’s curators have crafted a 52 track long playlist ricocheting between genres and level of familiarity for their listeners. some of the biggest stand out tracks for me are the contributions from deerhoof, downtown boys, moor mother, and oneotrix point never + ishmael butler. they even got fucking brian eno and kevin shields to share a single for it!!!!! since it’s free there’s really no reason not to check it out.
The Raincoats 33 1/3 Book
i’ve been looking forward to this book since it’s announce earlier this year, and it’s exciting to see the impact it’s already made on people’s awareness of the raincoats. ptichfork staffer jenn pelly has been putting out some of the best writing on the site for the past few years, and has been an important voice in championing artists from new york and philly’s recent diy scenes. for her contribution to the ongoing 33 1/3 series she decided to pitch the groundbreaking debut by the raincoats, an album that has been especially important to me over the past few years. the book was just released, so i have to admit i haven’t finished it yet. but it means a lot to see both this amazing writer and the band validated with this dream project.
Colin Joyce colin joyce has been a favorite contemporary music journalist of mine for the past couple years. my friend greta introduced me to him at a show years ago i’ve tried to keep up with his writing since. with his writing at publications like the fader, pitchfork, and the now dismantled thump, colin has crafted thoughtful pieces focusing in on the humanity of artists he’s covered. his work is a breath of fresh air among most music writing, so i recommend tracking it down.
THANK YOU: KENDRA YEE KIRA ASZMAN LOUISE REIMER LEESH ADAMEROVICH SARAH MASON BRIAN EJAR ALEXA VISCIUS CORRINNE JAMES WILL DEREUME GRAHAM LISTER JESSICA PETTWAY SANDER ETTEMA ALEXANDER LAIRD DISA WALLANDER SOPHIA SCHULTZ ROSS JACKSON CHRIS NORDAHL MELISA COLA MICKEY ZACCHILLI LAURENCE PHILOMENE RENE CONTRERAS YIWEI MENG DUSTIN PAYSEUR BECCA TOBIN PATRICK KYLE MOLLY SODA PATRICK EDELL JILLIAN TAMAKI REED KANTER SAM ALDEN SEAN SOLOMON LIZZIE KLEIN GREG RUTKIN ANDREW MCKELVIE PASCAL STEVENSON ANNIE KOYAMA MICHAEL DEFORGE KURT WOERPEL GABE FOWLER NICK RATTIGAN BRIAN CHIPPENDALE JACOB BERENDES RYAN SLAUSON PAUL JOHN RYAN SANDS LUKAS CAPREZ SONIA JAMES-WILSON... KATSU NAITO LILLIE WEST EUGENE KELLY FRANCES MCKEE MAT BRINKMAN ZOE ZAG LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX CHRIS TAKINO FRANKIE BROYLES NICOLAS DEHGHANI KURT COBAIN COURTNEY LOVE THRU TRAN VANESSA BRISCOE HAY MDOU MOCTAR
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 Nov 1, 2017
Published on Nov 1, 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...