FORGE. Issue 23: Trust

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NECKING CU T YOU R T E E T H Out July 5th on Mint Records


Meredith Smallwood “Trust, to me, means letting go of a lot of inner fears and anxiety–of blindly putting faith into another with the hope that they will help you instead of harming you. I think this ended up being a sort of religious metaphor in the piece. Ultimately, it’s about the embarrassment and shame that naturally arises from exposing your inner self to another. Tenderness is hard… ” -Meredith Smallwood Name

Lynch, Hiroshi Teshigahara, and as of late, Ingmar Bergman.

Meredith Smallwood

I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy novels and I’m always really enchanted by the dense artwork they use to pull readers in– especially Clive Barker’s paintings for the Abarat novels. I guess I really like books meant for kids!.

Age 22 What is your current location? Toronto, mostly!

What materials do you like to work with? Mostly just pencil crayon and gouache, but I like trying everything.

Where are you from?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

Ottawa, Ontario

I’m working on my first longer comic right now!

What is your current occupation?

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

Washing dishes and freelance illustration.

Yes!! Music influences my work a lot. I’m really into the new albums by Aldous Harding and Weyes Blood currently.

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I just finished my illustration thesis at OCAD u in Toronto. I think art school is kind of more about meeting people and learning about the industry than it is focussed on learning how to draw, though. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I’m really inspired by classic Soviet and Eastern European animation… Yuri Norstein especially. There’s a lot of earnestness in his work. I also really like films by Alejandro Jodorowsky, David

Where do you like to work? Anywhere quiet and with good light! What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I used to make little comics and ‘sell’ them to my parents on our kitchen table. Proto zine fair experience, I guess? What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I like to think of my personal artwork as a way of


communicating a life philosophy or a thought process, with the hopes of finding others who feel the same.

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @mishsmam (Instagram)



William Samosir “I started developing this technique about 3 months ago, smearing and smudging individual 3D forms with a mouse, texturing them with materials, and then saving each one as a file. Each object is a brush stroke of a sort, but ironically the whole image-making process becomes more involved with arranging these different fragments rather than actually painting/sculpting a full image in one modelling environment. In short the process is more improvisational and very much unlike the mainstream pipeline of the 3D industry. It might sound really oldschool to some people, but I am a big advocate of the sayings ‘trust the process’ and ‘to learn and to unlearn’— especially when working with computational tools. Though that aside, most importantly this portrait is of the intimate and creative relationship that I have with my partner, Melike, whom I have the utmost joy of knowing.” -William Samosir Name William Samosir Age 25 What is your current location? Brooklyn, NY Where are you from? I was born and raised in Indonesia, and then attended high school in Singapore for 4 years. Went to Providence for college and I moved to Brooklyn at the end of last year. What is your current occupation? I work remotely as a physical computing & 3D web development freelancer. I do work with openGL, Javascript, webVR, and a whole lot of 3D modelling. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I graduated with a BFA in Sculpture and a concentration in

Computation Technology and Culture (CTC). The class that first got me into computation is a sound programming class on Pure Data. Though 90% of my computation knowledge is self-taught/ learned from web archives and documentation. Props to Daniel Shiffman and the team for the great online tutorials, they really facilitated my entry into creative programming. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? There are so many, but I think I will list things that inspire me in the field of computation. Ian Bogost’s How to Do Things with Videogames really opened my mind about the ethics and politics of video games, as did Jaron Lanier’s podcast about VR and interactivity. LittleBits, Dynamicland, eleVR—kudos to the radical take on materiality in learning! Also, I have cited this game probably a million times, but Stanley’s Parable really does deserve the utmost critical discourse; similar to the 15 minutes long Goodbye Uncanny Valley on Vimeo, which made me rethink the whole notion of realism and creative practice in 3D. Lastly and most importantly, to my parents, my partner, my roommate, close friends from Indonesia or Singapore or the States alike, professors, fellow artists and thinkers—thank you for the ardent spirit, generosity, constant challenge, and unyielding love. What materials do you like to work with? Anything gooey, in the literal or metaphorical sense. For one, I really like working with casting and mold-making (especially using platinum-cured silicone) to make stretchy Arduino


wearables. At the same time, I always think of the software and interfaces that I have at my disposal as tangible materials. Blender and Substance Painter are a few that really allow me to think of materials beyond the readymade presets; beyond skeuomorphs, photo-realism and hyperrealism. Checkered wood grains! Mirrored leather! Iridescent pixel skins! Realism is not so different from piece of clay after all. Especially when making assets for VR, it feels like I am playing with material of and for dreams, and this fascinates me. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I am currently designing a 3D programming language for webVR, and right now it is a totally self-initiated project. Basically I am trying to make a medium that allows user to create programmatic structure in a performative and sculptural manner. If I were to describe it, it’s a mishmash of Blender, Oculus Medium, and Sublime Text, all cooked in Javascript. Hoping to release a gitHub documentation soon and get this project picked up by more people in the future! Also currently applying for Artist Visa to stay in the States—wish me luck! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I listen to a wide range of music, but there are a few favorites. Hiatus Kaiyote’s Choose Your Weapon, Shigeto’s First Saturn Return and Bibio’s Mineral Love are my go to. Apart from that, depending on the mood I would listen to Yussef Kamaal, Milo, Tyler, Flying Lotus, or Toro Y Moi.

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @williambjs (Instagram)


Where do you like to work? Unpopular opinion perhaps, but I do really like working from home. My roommate and I made a semi-studio environment in the living room of our current apartment. We have a bunch of tools and materials that we have collected over the years, and it’s nice to have access to that. My personal workspace has a PC and a soldering station, and next to it there is a 3D printer that I got last year for a STEAM fellowship. Plus we made a small music corner on the other end of the living room. It’s a pretty efficient multi-tasks setup where a lot of different creative things can happen. Nurturing this space really does make a difference in working and making. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Making graffiti art on photoshop to be published on deviantArt. Back then I literally had no idea how to operate Photoshop fully, but somehow there was something about it that made the experience so tangible and tactile—there was resistance, mistakes, a great deal of manual labor, and every tools and algorithm was a kin of color pencil, or a brush. I latch on to this memory when making my computer-based works today, and I make it a point to unlearn every computational tool or procedure. Long live the computational wilderness :-) What do you hope to accomplish with your work? To create tools for collaboration, and inspire a contrarian momentum in computation.


Eleanor Petry “My brother Josiah, he’s one of my seven siblings and we have been making things together since we were very little. When I was home in Seattle in May I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk in the neighborhood we grew up in. It was a quiet day and there was a light rain.” -Eleanor Petry Name Eleanor Petry Age 24 What is your current location?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’ve been making glamourous dance videos in my bedroom with lights, a fog machine, and a fan. Where do you like to work?

New York City

In the last two weeks, I’ve set up two different shoots to be on the beach. I love the beach.

Where are you from?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?


I remember sitting at my kitchen table when I was a kid with some of my siblings and my Dad, all just quietly drawing with markers and crayons. I loved drawing landscapes with a house on a cliff with water and the mountains in the back. Or the beach.

What is your current occupation? Freelance Director and Photographer Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Self-taught (I had a few amazing mentors) What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I get very nostalgic, and thinking of fleeting moments and memories cause me to want to create something that symbolizes or holds a moment in time. What materials do you like to work with? I like to work with flowers among other things.


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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @eleanorpetry (Instagram)



Anna Firth “This image is the twentieth frame from a recent animated loop I drew. In this animation, two characters are joined together in a small tower. They shift in unison as the figure on the bottom receives an eel from the figure on top who continues to produce the serpents from its mouth. It could be an act of symbiosis or codependence, care or excessive indulgence. The scene takes place on a bed in a well-lived-in bedroom. There’s a love note pinned to the wall and dirty dishes around the bedside. ” -Anna Firth Name

a drawing practice.

Anna Firth

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?


Vancouver, BC

As far as contemporary animation goes, I like what Peter Burr and Cartune Xprez did with touring animation. I loved Howie Tsui’s animation installation “Retainers of Anarchy.” I’m looking forward to Barry Doupe’s new film. Also a fan of Lilli Carré, Amy Lockhart, W-A-L-L-P-A-P-E-R-S collective’s gifs, the work made by my internet animation friends and my Vancouver animation friends.

Where are you from?

What materials do you like to work with?

Chico, California

My animations are all on recycled copy paper. I get 4 reams for $10 at Costco. The only animation hole puncher in Vancouver is behind a locked door at the local university. Pretty much all the paper animators here have a system for getting to it. I sometimes work on acetate cels that I get online or on Craigslist. This is for special occasions only because it’s a really sensitive and expensive process!

24 What is your current location?

What is your current occupation? I’m an assistant at a custom framing studio 9-5. We do art handling, installation and fabrication. Most of what I do is cut the components for frames and assemble them. It is repetitive and meticulous work. Most projects I have to redo two or three times because everything has to be so precise. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? A little bit of both. I did my undergrad at a liberal arts college in Washington. There wasn’t a formal animation program but I took courses in experimental film and documentary. My studies in animation were more focused around history and theory than a technical training. I did a studio-based MFA where I developed

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’ve been working on a project that it I would describe as a “gif album.” I just like the way music is presented and I’m trying to experiment with how to share my animation since I’m not a filmmaker. My research at the moment involves experimental character design and I’ve been making animation that explores the experience of the cartoon body. Since most of my gifs are loops, this often means creating scenes where the characters


are assumed to be living in a looped timeline where they are performing the same gesture or task over and over. I’m a founding member of Flavourcel Collective and we have ongoing projects that I’m a part of. There are 13 of us and we do commissions and put on animation events. I also have a collaborative project with one of my best friends where we tour small DIY venues and do live animation/music shows. We’re not touring this year but we maybe will again in the future. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Animation takes so much time I end up with a lot of headphone hours so I make my way through a lot of stuff. I like listening to “guilty pleasure” music while I work because I like how it seeps into my animations a little. Sad ‘00s tunes, pop punk, sometimes just a few songs or albums on repeat. I draw to podcasts and radio a lo–usually paranormal stuff, dreamy reporting or history. One of my favorite podcasts right now to listen to while I draw is “Art and Labor.”

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @tallgrill (Instagram)


Where do you like to work? I split a studio with another animator. I actually moved houses so I could live in the middle between my work and studio so all my places are in a 10 block radius. The studio is bedroom-sized with a few desks and a mini fridge. I have a drafting table with a light box on it for animating then a second desk for scanning and computer work. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I was really into KidPix and MS Paint as a kid. My specialty was desktop backgrounds. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I like to think of my gifs as little dispatches to the world. Making these animations has drawn some really interesting people into my life and brought me to people I never would have been able to find otherwise.


Jessica Garcia “I chose to depict myself having my natural hair cut because, to me and many other women, our hair is inseparable from our trust. To allow someone just to touch it is a form of trust. We spend countless time and money trimming, growing, nurturing, repairing or accessorizing our hair. This goes double for people of color with natural hair like myself, requiring even more trust between ourselves and our hairdressers because most of them don’t know what to do with it. What’s more is that natural hair has been historically viewed as unfavorable or altogether unacceptable by our eurocentric standards of beauty. When I began sketching, I drew from my experiences having my hair cut as a younger girl. I honed in on my memory of the Dominican hairdresser I saw up until high school. She always treated me like one of her kids and would spend the entire time talking on the phone or to family and other clients that would roam in and out of her home that she worked out of. There was no pretentiousness or curated presentation in her set up or work ethic, just the tools and cords she used scattered around the shop and a Latina hairdresser who didn’t take shit from me or anyone else.” -Jessica Garcia Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Jessica Garcia

Cartoons and anime are huge inspiration for me. Adventure Time, Ren & Stimpy, Paprika and Akira are just a few that come to mind. I’ve always been enamored with storytelling and style, so I love art with a good narrative or strong attention to detail. For example, if you look closely at the backgrounds in Adventure Time, you’ll notice all sorts of props that convey the mood of the environment. Those details really enhance the story for me. I also gravitate towards art that makes me laugh. My favorite artists, regardless of the medium, make their work gorgeous and hilarious all at once. I’m also fascinated by sex, fetish, and BDSM and frequently incorporate those themes into my work. Underground, low-brow comic artists like Eric Stanton and Gene Bilbrew, and illustrators like Amalia Russiello (Madame Dabi), are inspirations to me in that regard. Some other artists who inspire me that I want to shout out are Peter Paul Rubens, Jenny Saville, Ryan Heshka, Miss Van, Regan Dunnick, Andrea Wan, and Kristen Liu-Wong.

Age 25 What is your current location? West Palm Beach, FL What is your current occupation? Illustrator & Designer Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota with an illustration degree in 2016. Before Ringling, I went to middle and high schools with magnet art programs where I studied visual arts, so I’ve been learning and training for several years.

What materials do you like to work with? I start my pieces with drawings in my sketchbook or on printer paper since that’s what I usually have on hand. From there, I’ll scan the sketch, clean it up and color it digitally. Other times it will be completely digital from start to finish. Truthfully, I made


the shift from analog to digital out of financial necessity. I was too broke to re-up on supplies in college but I had a bamboo drawing tablet that my sister had gifted to me in high school, so that’s what I started using instead. I still own and occasionally use that same tablet but I prefer to work on my Cintiq. I do enjoy the flexibility of working digitally because I can manipulate the piece relatively quickly compared to traditional methods.

with me to whip out when an idea comes or the mood strikes, but my house is the most comfortable place for me to work. It’s where I have my best equipment setup and it’s just where I like to be most. It’s also why most of the interior spaces I draw look like wherever I’m living at the time, come to think of it.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

My parents were really restrictive about leaving the house growing up so I was kind of forced to find things to do inside instead. That’s where I would say my first experiences making art began, as a kid coming-of-age in a household that was very religious, culturally conservative and isolated. I remember we had a collection of these old encyclopedias with pictures in them and I would spend my days drawing or making clay sculptures of the animals in the pictures. I would then come up with a written report on the animal, which was mostly just copied text from the encyclopedia to make it look like it was for school. Somehow I was able to convince my parents that they needed to buy me art supplies for these “school projects” and they actually bought it for a while until they caught on to my scam.

I’ve got a couple projects going on right now. The first is an ongoing collaboration with my husband where I’m animating short loops and he’s producing loops of music to go with them. We’ve wanted to work on something together for a long time but couldn’t think of anything that got us excited. When we finally came up with this idea and made the first piece, we were really happy with it. It’s also given me an opportunity to explore animation more deeply. The second project is a series of comic strips for my upcoming Patreon that I’ve been working on privately for a while. I’ve created a few comics for zine fairs before that were well-received but I have more stories to tell so I want to really explore that medium further. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Most times I actually have cartoons or anime playing in the background while I work. But if I am playing music, NPR Tiny Desk and KEXP on YouTube are always my go-to and that’s how I get put on to a lot of new music. Where do you like to work? I mostly work at home. I do take my sketchbook everywhere

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @themissjaws (Instagram)


What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

What do you hope to accomplish with your work? That depends on what you mean. In the more abstract or spiritual sense, my hope is to build solidarity with other people through the feelings I illustrate and the stories I tell. But pragmatically speaking, creating is cathartic for me and one of the few ways that I can actually achieve some inner peace, however brief. And of course I want to make more money and become a career illustrator. If it was economically sustainable to spend most of my time creating without worrying about food, bills and all of life’s other bullshit, that would be tight, but I’m still getting there.


Katie Hicks “The theme trust really resonated with me as trust in yourself. I focused on the uncertain path we need to take when we follow our own instincts. For myself a lot of the time I feel like I have no idea where I’m going or where a certain decision is going to lead me–but I know I need to make the decision anyway. When making this piece I knew I wanted to focus on the feeling of being lost but also like you’re being led by yourself, even if you don’t know where. For the colouring I wanted it to feel surreal and maybe dreamlike, its not a literal forest your leading yourself through but it does feel like your lost in the trees. Trust in myself has been very important as I’ve been working as an artist. It seems like everything can be a difficult decision from the projects you decide to take on right down to trust that your work is good enough. I don’t know if that ever changes but at least I know to trust myself. ” -Katie Hicks Name Katie Hicks Age 23 What is your current location? I’m living just outside of Toronto right now. Its up in the air whether or not I’ll actually Move to Toronto but we’ll see. Where are you from? I’m from St. Catharines which is closer to Niagara Falls but still in the general Toronto area. What is your current occupation? I’m working as a freelance illustrator and comic artist. I just finished a rough draft for my next comic which I’m pretty stoked about. It’s a semi sequel, semi more fleshed out version of a comic I made while I was in school.

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I went to Sheridan College for illustration. It was a really great experience especially since before then I was just drawing Sailor Moon in my sketchbook everyday. Nothing against Sailor Moon at all, it’s just nice to draw Sailor Moon when you’re around other people doing the same thing. And also getting taught how to draw better is cool too. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? With the new Good Omens TV show I’m reminded of how much I loved the book. I’m into anything that’s sort of occult but really doesn’t take itself too seriously. I also think that the game Night in the Woods was made for me personally. I’m into media that’s scary but not actually scary (cause I’m a weenie) so really anything that would interest a 15 year old kid at Hot Topic. I also have an unyielding lifelong love for My Chemical Romance so I’m basically just an adult emo. What materials do you like to work with? I work digitally but I also like to experiment with different mediums in my sketchbook like gouache, pencil crayons and ink. I usually learn a lot from my sketchbooking then I try to incorporate it into my digital work.


Is there any music you like to listen to while working? When I’m really stressed I put on the hot playlist of Animal Crossing music and rain sounds. When I’m not stressed I listen to a bunch of different types of music, mostly upbeat, loud and noisy. I say I listen to a lot of different types of music but I did just go to my spotify to check what I’ve been listening to recently and it is mostly My Chemical Romance, so I don’t know. MCR and Animal Crossing are my jams right now. Where do you like to work? At my desk and my computer, or maybe my couch if I’m feeling lazy. Not super adventurous. Maybe one day I’ll go wild and work on my balcony. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I really hope there is a universal experience of drawing your first

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @Kati.hicks (Instagram)


perfect anime eye. I was deeply inspired by the modern classic Beyblade and from there I finally perfected the anime eye. I drew it on a piece of paper at school but left it on a desk during recess and when I came back everyone was crowded around looking at it all impressed. Everyone was wondering who the artist was but I didn’t say anything, I guess I wanted to be cool and mysterious. . What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I want to make people happy when they see my work. I’m inspired by cartoons and uplifting comics because I think its important to have a break from worrying and stress. The work that tends to stick with me the most is the stuff that made me happy and forget my problems for a bit - which has been really helpful for me - and I want to try to bring that to other people with my work. With my work that tends to be a bit more serious, like this piece, I just want people to feel less alone.


Bronte Wiltshire “I drew this with balance & vulnerability in mind. Growth like this takes time, and if one character were to step away what might happen next? I’m hoping to express the experience of trusting another person, the beauty in doing so, and the willingness of being together in the experience equally.” -Bronte Wiltshire Name

What materials do you like to work with?

Bronte Wiltshire

Gouache, collage and digital mostly. I always start sketching on paper and move to digital later.

Age 23

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?


A bigger comic called called Flower Feeling, some visual identity work in design and I’m illustrating a poster for the Kyoto roller derby team.

Where are you from?

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?


Lately it’s been Tierra Whack, Frankie Cosmos, Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, Chastity Belt, Cuco & Orange Juice.

What is your current location?

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’ve got a degree in visual communication design, and I’m self taught in illustration. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? Looking over design principles (like Dieter Rams’) and hearing design and illustration processes always helps me get inspired. Recently a book called A Dictionary of Color Combinations (from Sanzo Wada) has been making me really excited about colour theory. Also, Instagram has helped me to find so many great illustrators, but I still have love for artists like Hasui Kawase, the Australian painter Clarice Beckett and Tove Jansson (the inspiration her work gives me is really endless).

Where do you like to work? Mostly my desk but a lot of the time I love to work from bedtrying to figure out if it’s a bad habit or if bed is just the most comfy place on earth. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? When I was around six or seven I used to make these cat in the hat comics. I would use the same characters but make up my own plots (fanfic now I think about it) and draw the characters saying words like ‘dammit’ and ‘bra’, mostly because I was a very edgy child. . What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I hope my work can always help me to connect to myself, and focus in on parts of the world I love and find strength in.


I also hope my work can normalize certain feelings and ways of identifying that don’t get a lot of representation- in the future I’d love to get into children’s illustration for this reason. And for personal work, ultimately, even being vulnerable and making

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @brontewiltshire (Instagram)


something that feels a lot like me is an accomplishment; I want that feeling to ripple outwards into the atmosphere and create something positive and brave!


Abnet Again “This piece was inspired by an oil painting of mine that I wanted to reimagine. It’s all about the fear of intimacy and vulnerability that comes when you want to trust another person. Commitments involving others can be an intense, risky experience that could result in two people failing to function as a unit. In this piece, there are two halves coming together to serve a purpose as one; attempting to be stronger together. I wanted to emphasize the emotions of both individuals and what they share when combined using a computer software called Blender.” -Abnet Again Name

What materials do you like to work with?

Abnet Again

Oil paint and my laptop have my heart right now.


What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

21 What is your current location? Northwest Indiana Where are you from? I was born in Philly, but I’ve been living in the Midwest longer than anywhere else. What is your current occupation? Freelance artist. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Self taught. College wasn’t an option for me (back when I actually wanted to go), so I chose to learn and improve on my own. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I’m inspired by anyone with a distinct art style, the different periods of art history, cartoons and nature. I study at least one of these things everyday.

Working on a series of large paintings that’ll introduce the next generation of my characters and double as my first narrative series focusing on love, relationships, the bad and the ugly. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I catch myself listening to house music and random mixes the most when I start working. Truthfully, listening to music for long hours and looking for new playlists starts to annoy me after a few days. I’d rather watch something or talk on the phone. Where do you like to work? I like to work anywhere I can get comfortable and not be bothered. My studio is also my bedroom, so that works for me. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I was in kindergarten and my class was learning how to paint a basic Christmas tree. It was a simple walkthrough and everyone’s tree was supposed to look the same, but I remember putting my colored dots (for the lights) where I wanted and felt like it turned out way better than everyone else’s, lowkey.


What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I’m going to inspire as many people as possible and give them a new experience with everything I make. I already have the

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Where To Find Them Websites:​​​ Contact: Social Media: @abnetagain (Instagram)


freedom to do what I love everyday, so I intend to keep that going and watch my ideas manifest everywhere. I’m aiming for a spot in art history.


Bella Carlos “This drawing is derived from a specific situation for me but I think it can also be applied to any meaningful connection-- one where a knot is tied through trust and a structure is formed! A knot for me is a nemonic device or a symbol for the efficacy to turn a loose matrix into a composition with agency. Some people might say that a knot is bad because it alludes to entanglement or marriage but I like knots.” -Bella Carlos Name Bella Carlos

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?


I am working on a zine about purgatorial spaces with my wonderful friend, Em Jiang!


Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What is your current location?

Death Grips, Kero Kero Bonito and 90s RnB queens. It’s good to have balance.

Tokyo, Japan Where are you from? North Carolina What is your current occupation? I am a student dual enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University studying Illustration and SocioCultural Anthropology.

What is one of your earliest memories of making art? High school drafting class. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I want to use poetic imagery to make an interpretable metaphor for systems that I engage with.

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I love Anthropology and I draw a lot of inspiration from reading ethnographic texts. I think that everyone has something inspiring about them in some way. I like people more than anything but I really only draw spaces. What materials do you like to work with? Graphite


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Where To Find Them Contact: Social Media: @bella.carlos (Instagram)



Lia Kantrowitz “Most of my work revolves around romance and vulnerability, and naturally trust plays a part in that. This piece in particular is about the anxiety that comes with wanting to trust someone who might not be the picture they painted themselves to be. A lot of people have become so polarized—too scared to be vulnerable, creating their own narrative by withholding, lying, cheating, and playing out their lives as a sim on instagram—never fully communicating, or being themselves, and treating other people like props. In turn it creates a domino effect, because when you get burned by someone unwilling to be vulnerable, it chips away at your ability to let your own guard down. Then you end up participating in this low risk/low reward behavior, avoiding pain by trusting no one. But pain is growth, and if you avoid it long enough, you’ll eventually be an adult-baby with nothing left to embrace but your own insecurities.” -Lia Kantrowitz Name

kept it moving until I started getting jobs solely for illustration.

Lia Kantrowitz

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?



David Lynch was definitely the main influence for deep diving into art, my brother showed me Twin Peaks when I was a kid and I became obsessed with everything he did from then on. Now though I mostly pull all of my inspiration from music — almost every drawing I’ve done in the past 3-4 years is inspired by a lyric. “Giant” by The The and “Tarantula” by Colourbox are two songs I’ll always return to to get ideas.

Where are you from?

What materials do you like to work with?

North Jersey

Usually just mechanical pencils and a good scanner.

What is your current occupation?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

29 What is your current location?

Freelance Illustrator / Designer Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I was always drawing since I was a little kid, but I went to school for Graphic Design thinking that would be the most versatile education I could get. I found it pretty soul sucking early on, so I took on a minor in printmaking. When I graduated I started working at printshops and drawing on the side, and sorta just

My best friend and I co-run a clothing company called Sunday School NYC. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Yeah for sure, my musical taste is sort of all over the place so it depends on my mood but I like music that makes me angry, its a good motivator.


Where do you like to work?

classes poetry book, and I won after drawing Badtz Maru.

My couch.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

I make art selfishly because it’s cathartic for me but it’s an added plus if someone relates to it or laughs at it.

In 4th grade I was in an art competition to design the cover of our

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @liakantrowitz (Instagram)



Dang Wayne Olsen “The spiral Ive had in my head for awhile. Its somewhere between Timothy Leery’s adage ‘Trust your Nervous System’ and the Philadelphia 76ers rebuild slogan ‘Trust the Process.’ I was thinking about reincarnation or what is the thread binds us to that wheel, trusting in the obliteration of ego or body that you are connected to some quantum law that will bring rebirth. This is all uncertain, most unprovable, so it exists only through belief, but really we are all made out of the same OG stardust. ” -Dang Wayne Olsen Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Dang Wayne Olsen is what Ive been rollin with for awhile now. Dango makes me smile.

This list could get outta hand quick but Ill try to boil it down to the present day prime timers. Oof, too many, Im gonna go with a handful, but these are the first off my head so this list will have some major voids. Currently Im really diggin the fashion of Rajneeshpuram, the Bea Nettles Mountain Dream tarot deck, wherever John McLaughlin is on the cover of My Goals Beyond, Holy Mountain, Altered States, Dr. John Lily, The Book of Floating (I’ve really been into floating lately), Jim Woodring, these Connan Mockasin videos, ‘90s raves, Gimme Gimme Octopus, and cartoons for the most part. Im super into the idea of Finnegans Wake. I have the book, I’ve tried to read it many times, but now I just like imagining what it’s about. Same with Lost Highway. I saw that on acid when it first came out, I have no idea what I saw. I have no recollection of the Never Ending Story either. The idea that media could act as an actual portal to another dimension has always been super endearing to me. Portals in general I love. Choose our own adventures. Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Videodrome. Contact. Google Translate. astral projection, Bikram yoga. Berries and stone fruits. Apples and pears.

Age Born in the very early 80’s. Aquarius. Aquarius moon, Gemini Rising. What is your current location? Pasaaaaadena California Where are you from? I grew up in Toledo, Ohio so I usually say thats where I’m from. I spent a good chunk of time in Columbus. Seattle for a minute. Lived in San Francisco. then Oakland for another good chunk, then moved to LA about three years ago. What is your current occupation? I guess Id have to say working as an artist occupies the majority of my time. I also work part time at a float therapy spa. Sometimes I plant plants, carry rocks and dig holes. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have zeroooooooo.

What materials do you like to work with? Watercolors, markers, micron pens. I have some colored pencils I pepper in there but mostly watercolors and markers. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Well the biggest collaboration slash project Ive ever been apart


is with my GF Keesi and its due mid July in the form of a human child. I am so unbelievable pumped about that that most of the time Im just sort of out of mind! Other than that I am working on a tarot deck that I also cant wait to bust out on the world. And just continually painting. Maybe a comic book, maybe a music video. All in all its a very exciting time. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Oh most definitely. Almost always listening to music when Im workin. It really depends on what groove Im in. I tend to get a little ocd whenever I discover something new. Sometimes I only jam one song on repeat for hours to days at a time. Those are wild times. I got caught up in a Drab Majesty tune for a few days recently. Probably played it 500 times, I couldn’t stop. Double’s “Captain of Her Heart.” Kate Bush’s ‘A Deeper Understanding” got me. Faith No More’s “The Real Thing,” a classic looper. Anita Baker. Soul 2 Soul. Sade. I like to draw to my own music a lot, Dang Olsen Dream Tape, kind of puts me in a trance. Lately its been Steely Dan in the morning and house music in the afternoon on. Deep house, Lo-fi. Really diggin that stuff. Shpongle, Jah Wobble, new age, kalimbas, marimbas. I could name everything Ive ever heard before probably. A lot of jazz. A lot of smooth stuff. Where do you like to work? Physically, I work exclusively out of a walk-in closet in our

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apartment. Luckily the last few apartments Ive been in have had really nice closets and each time I relocate the closet seems to grow slightly in size, so I keep having to add extra pieces of wood to my desk. At this rate I should have a decent studio within the next decade. But yeah the closet is perfectly cozy for what Im doing now. I got a folding chair I have stacked with rugs and stuffed animals for butt cushioning. Got some vintage Penthouse nudie glasses I keep my markers in. A lot of power objects and totems placed about. Gotta create that energetic space antenna ya know. For the most part I don’t really like drawing out of my zone, but that is something Im working on. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Wow I was probably around four or five. I would draw these books and tell my Mom or Grandpa what to write for the words. Then I’d glue cardboard on the edge like one those old Golden Books. We made a bunch but I think the most epic one was called Cat Robber, probably a twenty pager. I started putting made up video game ads into the books, but then that evolved into just making entire fantasy video game catalogs. I remember Atari games came with those mini catalogs. I was hooked on that catalog stuff, any catalog. I was also hooked on the Impulse Preview channel on TV, watching the same loop of movie trailers for hours at a time. Jacobs Ladder, Flat Liners, Who’s that Girl?


Dion MBD “Being in a long distance relationship, I find a constant longing to be with my girlfriend and this feeling often seeps into my works. When I created Until We Meet Again and Beyond I think I just let go of this pent up emotion visually. In both pieces, I started out with pen and ink drawings that I then finished digitally on Procreate. Even when I work digitally, my approach is often reminiscent of traditional media. For example, I would block in big shapes and build darker layers on top as to how you would when you use watercolor or linoleum cuts.” -Dion MBD Name Dion MBD (Dionisius Mehaga Bangun Djayasaputra) Age

animation major but shortly switched to illustration because I just LOVED drawing. College really improved my technical skills. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?


My inspirations are usually drawn through the location that I am in and its people. However, I do have a favorite book. It is called Toto-Chan, a novel about a special need student who enrolls into a unique school just before the WWII broke out. I love books and movies that does not focus on climax but on building a world and sending messages through little details.

Where are you from?

What materials do you like to work with?

I grew up in Bandung, Indonesia but moved away from my parents to Singapore in 2010.

For commercial works, I usually begin with pen and ink and finish it digitally. However, for myself, I like to flip-flop between materials, experimenting with textures and surfaces to then bring into my digital works.

24 What is your current location?

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? As a kid, I really enjoyed Manga and took a Manga drawing class back in my hometown. I feel like it became the building block as to how I draw especially how I use ink in my works. When I moved to Singapore, I took IB art in high school and was introduced into the world of conceptual art. Despite starting with more tightly drawn illustrations, I was encouraged to strip away my work to boil it down to its essence. It was an integral period of time that lead me into enjoying books and editorial illustrations. In Singapore, school life was extremely stressful and being an introvert, I would spend my time drawing in my room. That was when I began developing my voice as an illustrator. I then enrolled to Ringling College of Art and Design as a computer

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I am now a part-time designer at Psyop from Monday-Wednesday. For the rest of the week, I am working on freelance illustration projects, mostly for publishers at the moment. I get really excited when people ask me about pieces that I am working on but I try to refrain talking about it until the work is published. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I enjoy most slow indie music. One band that I have been listening the most is Reality Club. Another one that I have


played on loop for days now is Monster by Dodie (especially the “Pomplamoose” cover).

church. I was then drawing apples on a piece of paper that my mom gave me.

Where do you like to work?

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

While most people avoid working near their bed for the obvious temptation, I enjoy having a workspace right next to mine. I feel like I can take quick breaks and be refreshed to continue working.

What I really want to accomplish is to have people to feel the sense of longing, encouraging them to dig deeper into their own memories and feelings. Although that is ultimately what I always want from my works, I wouldn’t lie and say that it is easy to do especially when I illustrate for commercial projects.

What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I think I still remember sitting on the floor during a mass at the

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @dionmbd (Instagram)



Bailee Hiatt “‘Viña’ is the first in a series of ink and acrylic paintings on paper that have incorporated Chilean coastal landscapes into my figurative painting practice. When I lived and studied in Santiago, Chile, in the fall of 2016, I frequently visited the neighboring coastal cities Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. These cities had a profound impact on me during this point of growth in my life. It was there that I was able to explore my sexuality and imagine my place in the world beyond the country I was born in. Self portraiture has always been at the center of my creative process, but this series of paintings has been evidence of my efforts to distance my body from my work. I don’t think of this work as a self portrait because it is not direct self-representation.” -Bailee Hiatt Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Bailee Hiatt

‘80s music, pin-up girls, the coast, and lines.


What materials do you like to work with?



What is your current location?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

Seattle, WA Where are you from? Santa Rosa, CA What is your current occupation? Museum Services Lead at Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and Event Technician at the Frye Art Museum. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I studied visual fine arts at ArtQuest, a magnet arts program at Santa Rosa High School, from 2011 - 2015 and then I majored in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts at Seattle University. I studied under Simmon Factor in Santa Rosa and I’ve attended figure drawing groups in California and Washington state.

Series of figurative paintings in ink. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? ‘80s pop and new wave. Also Death Grips. Where do you like to work? Alone. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? Can’t remember. I’ve always done it. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I don’t know yet. Because I’ve always been an artist I don’t think of my work accomplishing anything. I am very close with the art that I produce and I have a hard time making such a private part of me public.


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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @baileehiatt (Instagram)



Amy Berenbeim “This comic is a fragment of a bygone friendship, and touches on the sometimes transitory nature of trust in relationships. It contains a memory I hold tightly to, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten right. Is it overly romanticized because I miss my old friend? Is it overly cynical? I think the moment really was that pure and good, but now I’m missing the shared/transactive memory system which is one of my favorite facets of any close relationship. In terms of process, mine is a mix of care and haste. Printmaking usually requires a lot of planning before execution, but I also don’t want to lose the initial spark of the idea. I wanted to zoom in on little details I remembered from the day on Camano: the scrap of paper, the fallen tree on the beach we draped our clothes on. I wrestled with colors quite a bit to achieve a moonlit aura. I did some color testing and test printing ahead of time, but I’m not a perfectionist with it. I really love the element of surprise in the final product. I like to save space for the happy accident. ” -Amy Berenbeim Name

printmaking really wasn’t even on my radar until college.

Amy Berenbeim

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?


I’m a big fan of everything Nathaniel Russell makes, especially his fake fliers. His work is a very satisfying mix of humanistic and goofy. I’m inspired by way too many books to list, but a few that come to mind are The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Sally Mann’s memoir Hold Still, and Autobiography of Horse by poet Jenifer Sang Eun Park. I have a handful of music videos I like to revisit, like Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know The Better”, Joywave’s “Tongues”, and this insane dance sequence to the song “Kalluri Vaanil” from a South Indian film called Pennin Manathai Thottu.

31 What is your current location? York, England Where are you from? Carnation, Washington What is your current occupation? Freelance printmaker and illustrator Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have a BA in Studio Art from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Luckily my major required me to take an intro printmaking class, otherwise I would probably still be making mediocre oil paintings. I’m from a very small town and

What materials do you like to work with? Caligo Safe Wash Ink and a small assortment of carving/inking tools from college. My favorite paper is Rives BFK 115 gsm, but I can’t get a hold of it in the UK. Pray for me. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? At the moment I’m really into making comics about my relationship to nature. It’s a point of reflection and is also an excuse to do more trail running/hiking/backpacking to serve as


inspiration. I have a new one out in the “Beauty & Being” issue of environmental arts magazine Loam, and I’m in the midst of a commission for another outdoors-oriented publication that I’m very, very excited about. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? When I’m carving a block or printing I binge podcasts like Criminal, Heavyweight, and Call Your Girlfriend. For anything else that requires more fine-tuned concentration, I put on music like Animal Collective, Tennis, The Beach Boys, and anything from Daptone Records. I also recently became obsessed with Ennio Morricone after attending a screening of Once Upon a Time in the West with my husband, Jake. Where do you like to work? I finally have a little studio at home. It was supposed to be a guest room but my desk (a gloriously large old drafting table) is

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @amesinthehaus (Instagram)


prohibitive. It’s the best feeling to spread all of my supplies and projects all over the desk/room and not have to put everything away when I’m done. Farewell, kitchen table days of yore. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I’ve been making art since I was tiny, but one of my more vivid memories is of being excused from the weekly spelling lesson at school when I was 9 or 10 so I could take a watercolor class at the public library instead. I was a spelling wizard and my teacher felt the lesson was a waste of my time. I still feel smug about this. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I’m more peaceful and self-accepting when I make art. Hopefully some of that energy is retained in the final product and passed on to the viewer. My ultimate aspiration is to create work that makes others feel less alone and more in harmony with nature and themselves.


So Kim Name

What materials do you like to work with?

So Kim

I like working with acrylic, especially because the drying process is so quick. I’m not a very patient person when it comes to making work. I’d rather spend the whole day finishing and finalizing one piece before I go on to the next. I can paint over or fix parts I need to at a rather quick pace. Otherwise, I have also worked with spray paint—another great medium that dries in seconds, you have a lot of flexibility with both materials.

Age Born 1995 What is your current location? Brooklyn, New York Where are you from? I was born in South Korea, raised in Hong Kong, and Shanghai, China. What is your current occupation? Artist—I only recently graduated from college with a BFA Fine Arts degree. I came to the U.S. on a student visa so now I am in the process of waiting for my work visa (and to apply for possible green card in the near future). Unfortunately, there are a lot of restrictions for internationals and immigrants so I am hoping for the best outcome for myself and everyone who are going through the same/alike process. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I am very fortunate to have parents who have supported me for my passion with art. Art came to me at a young age, and I have been rather the same ever since. During my high school years, I lacked in academics due to my learning disabilities—I was lucky to have a handful of understanding people in the school to arrange me a better program that was rather focused on art than regular classes. I then applied to multiple art schools in the US, and got accepted into Parsons the New School of Design for Fine Arts.

I also love working on the computer, I used to make album cover designs for artists on Soundcloud and Apple music. At times when I need a switch of energy or material, I like sitting on the couch with my laptop, making designs for clients with a similar process to how I paint. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m currently taking a break from painting, I would like to explore more mediums. I’ve worked with a variety of mediums in the past, but I haven’t worked much with anything related to writing or storytelling. I’ve been looking for the right time and way to execute a new project I am working on which will probably be the most personal body of work to come from me. It’s not in a form of drawing or painting, it’s a body of notes—more like a diary I wrote during a difficult time of dealing with sadness and substance abuse. When I feel ready, I think the piece will be too. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I like to listen to a variety of genres of music. I especially love watching the music videos along with the song. I’m often blown away by the amount of quality production in the videos, how intricate it can be and how complex but eye-catching the storytelling and visuals are. The music alone is exciting, but along with visuals I think it helps me understand where the artist is coming from and a way to deliver more information to the viewer.


Where do you like to work?

like automatic drawing.

I like working in my apartment, which is a space where I feel most vulnerable but comfortable in. I would like to have a separate studio to solely create in, or like a room/space where I can go all out with the materials I have. Currently, I don’t have much space or freedom in experimenting with a bigger scale of works or not having to worry about getting paint stains on my floors. I did have a studio during my thesis year in college, that was a blast!

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art? My earliest memory would be when I was very little, my mom used to put big sheets of paper on the walls for me to draw on. It was a way to prevent me from directly drawing on the bare walls. In a way, it was like drawing a mural or working on a very large piece. I continue to put that practice into use till today —I start with a big sheet of canvas or muslin, lay it on the floor and I draw or paint whatever comes to mind at the moment, much

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @ayamox (Instagram)


I would like to be an artist who makes people feel. I want to reach a point in my career where I can be comfortable enough to give back to those in need as much as I can while being able to support my family and friends. I am currently running a online arts magazine called ODD ONE OUT, supporting emerging and mid-career artists offering publicity to their works along with exclusive artist interviews. My initial plan was to donate 40-50% of the income to animal shelters and other organizations —but I decided to remove the fee aspect of it and run it as a non-profit platform to maximize the amount of opportunities for artists to be able to share their works. I am looking to find a team to help grow the platform into something ‘unlimited’ and in the long-run, donate profits from my own income from my works to animal shelters/organizations.


Kapeh “The process of doing the illustration for the issue was more fluid than I imagined!! I watched Ivan’s Childhood by Andrei Tarkovsky, and there’s a scene where a guy holds the girl, so she doesn’t fall into the hole. For my illustration about trust–although the context of the movie was a little different–when I went to make the illustration I remembered that scene, and it fit really well!” -Kapeh Name

What materials do you like to work with?


I’ve been loving working with oil pastels lately. You can get so many different textures, and it feels so good painting with them.

Age 21 What is your current location? São Paulo, Brazil. Where are you from?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’ve been love to work with oil pastel lately, you can get so many different textures, and it feels so good painting with them. Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What is your current occupation?

Hmm it depends, mostly when I’m drawing, I listen to something according to my mood, but when I’m working on some kind of narrative, like zines, comics, etc... I listen some ambient/lyricless songs to keep me concentrated.

Freelancer illustrator

Where do you like to work?

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

I would like to work on a room with a nice natural light, and a big desk!!!!

Self taught, always looking for references etc on internet.

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

When I was six, my dad had this bar, where I used to stay until my mom could get me, I always asked for paper to draw almost everywhere I went. In the bar, my dad gave me those packing papers of cigarette boxes and I drew in the back. At the end of the day I had a pile of drawings on the counter, and this was repeated for a long time... I miss all this productivity.

São Paulo, Brazil.

Independent artists, mostly girls, inspire me a lot!!!!! But now that I’m working on comics, I love to read artists like, Inio Asano, Taiyo Matsumoto, and Puiupo.


What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Animation!!! I’m really excited to start with (my notebook is dead so as soon I can buy a new one, i’ll try something ^°^)

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Where To Find Them Contact: Social Media: @kapehhhh (Instagram)



Rialda Dizdarevic “I found inspiration for this piece in group rhythmic gymnastic and human pyramids photos. To me, these disciplines were the perfect metaphor because they are primarily based on trust. In order to succeed in their quest, all the participants need to trust each other with their lives in order to perform and achieve the common goal. Therefore I wanted to draw a parallel between this pyramid and the real life circle of trust. This way I am pointing out the importance of being a part of the group. Having a net of people who share mutual trust and will always give support to and help each other bloom and thrive through life is essential. Only when you put trust into some special people, you will be able to climb the pyramid of life. Together.” -Rialda Dizdarevic Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Rialda Dizdarevic

What is your current location?

I enjoy watching films directed by Wim Wenders, Roy Andersson, Aki Kaurismaki, etc. I often find inspiration for colour palettes for my illustrations while watching Wes Anderson’s movies. I love everything about them–the themes they are exploring, the aesthetic, the humour… Apart from that, I highly admire Matisse’s work. When I started the Womanhood series, I was mostly inspired by the shapes and colours of his cutouts series.

I am currently based in Waterloo, Canada.

What materials do you like to work with?

Where are you from?

My work is primarily digital. The tools I use the most are my iPad Pro and its Procreate app. I always have a sketchbook and a bunch of pencils and markers on hand, though.

Age 26

I was born and raised in a small city of Novi Pazar in Serbia, but I lived in Belgrade prior to moving to Canada. What is your current occupation? Freelance illustrator Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I graduated from the University of Arts, Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade, Serbia where I studied costume design for theatre and film. That background has influenced and shaped my work as an illustrator in many different ways.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I am currently working on developing my own personal projects and building a portfolio. Mainly I work on a series of illustrations about womanhood. Within that project I explore the image of women and their bodies as well as my own personal response to the period of transition into womanhood. I am also preparing the exhibition that will be held later in July. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Absolutely! The music I listen to changes based on my mood and/or seasons. Currently I have the new album by The National,


I Am Easy to Find, as well as Jonathan Wilson’s Rare Birds on repeat. Where do you like to work? I enjoy working from home. I have improvised a little studio space in my living room and I love it. It has so much light when it is sunny outside! That creates such a lovely working atmosphere. Sometimes though, when I get too lonely at home I like to go to a local coffee place. Seeing some well-thought interiors and lots of different people always inspires me to work more. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? One of the earliest memories of me drawing dates back to when I was in kindergarten. The teacher read us the tale of Sleeping

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @_rialda (Instagram)


Beauty and later asked us to make an illustration of the story. I ended up drawing the huge bushy wall of roses and thorns that grew in front of the castle where the princess and her entourage were sleeping. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I would like to continue working on a series of illustrations I am currently working on. I hope to keep exploring the emotional response to the transition into womanhood, its meaning, and perks. Along the way, I would like to experiment with different techniques and try to develop and upgrade my artistic style as well as figure out who am I as an artist. In the end, I hope I could communicate with the audience on a level where they would be able to relate to the themes and feel the emotions I am exploring through my work.


Lucie Ebrey “To me, real trust is knowing that you could do something destructive, or that someone else could do something destructive, and neither one of you doing it. A mutually assured agreement. We have so many opportunities to screw each other over each and every day for little or life changing gain and we often choose not to. I find that comforting. So by having two dogs–the most loyal and trusting animals out there–and having them circle each other whilst both holding a knife to the other’s throat with a friendly wink ‘n’ smile, knowing they’d never sink the blade in, I was trying to get across this notion across. There are also some Freesia flowers thrown in there, which are meant to represent trust. Pretty lovely flowers really. Trust is something I continue to struggle with after some genuinely damaging interactions in the past. I’m a little too sensitive I guess. I hope that one day I have as much trust as these two dogs.” -Lucie Ebrey

Lucie (Ebes) Ebrey

of “proper” education, alongside the 1 art class a week in secondary school. I’m hesitant to say that it really had a major influence on informing much of my approach, however.


What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?


I take inspiration from a bunch of stuff. Film especially - I think drawing comics means a lot of stuff like shot composition and pacing crosses over a bunch. My dad had an extensive collection of movies and would always sit me and my sister down to watch films he found interesting. I’m really grateful to him for that. As for my biggest movie inspirations, I don’t want to sound like every former art student ever and say Ghibli...but Ghibli. I love how emotionally loud their animation is and always try to replicate that in my work. I also watched Yellow Submarine when I was 7 and not only did it get me into The Beatles, but it really left a huge impression on me with how surreal and stylish it was. I also gravitate a lot towards horror like Alien, Hereditary and The Wicker Man–I think it’s healthy to wanna feel a little uncomfortable once in a while. Big comic inspirations come from all over. James Kochalka’s American Elf diary strip is a big one, and for 5 years between 2012 to 2017 I did my own daily diary strip to sort of compete. (I think autobio is just what you do in your early 20’s.) Then there’s Jeff Smith of Bone fame and Craig Thompson for their approaches to brush lines. Michael DeForge rules also. I feel like I’m competing with a handful of cool and nice online artists who I admire and tweet at too.


What is your current location? Bristol, UK Where are you from? Birmingham, UK What is your current occupation? Whenever people ask me this my answer is always “I’m a cartoonist!” just because I love the title of “cartoonist.” It’s so absurd and it’s what I’ve wanted to refer to myself as since I was a kid. I also moonlight as an optical assistant. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I did the whole run of a foundation course and then 3 years studying illustration at Falmouth University. So that’s 4 years


What materials do you like to work with? I’m currently in a happy, long-term relationship with Pentel brush pens. We’ve been going strong for a good 6 years now and I’m really comfy with them. They really get me. Anything I can’t get done with a brush pen, I’ll use fine liners or maybe my nib pen if I’m feeling fancy. I also like messing around with watercolours and making silly pots out of air-dry clay when I need to try and get out of a rut or medically need to have other creative juices flowing so I don’t dry out. And lately I’ve been making tiny paintings on cardboard with acrylic just because it’s what’s on hand. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I have a big project that’s been cooking for quite a while - like, years! - that I can’t talk about yet and hope doesn’t blow up in my face. Apart from that, there’s a bunch of ideas for zines and mini comics in my sketchbook that I’d love to get done in time for Thought Bubble. Or maybe TCAF again. Or Vancaf next year if I get in. That’d be pretty hot. There’s physical merchandise like new shirt and pin designs I wanna finally send off too. Since moving to Bristol I’ve gotten more involved in group projects. I’d love to do more things like that. Hit me up, Bristol folks! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I have a big Spotify playlist where I dump all the music I wanna listen to. It’s around 800 songs deep and is full of everything and anything that’s caught my ear. I’m talking from rock, to country, to klezmer, to Final Fantasy soundtracks. It’s my go-to. I’m also a big podcast listener since it’s a passable social interaction

Previous Work

Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @lucie_ebrey (Instagram)


substitution during deadline crunches. My big picks are stuff like My Favorite Murder and Last Podcast on the Left. It’s maybe a little weird to think about how many cutesy kid’s gigs I’ve drawn whilst listening to police interviews or hearing about brutal stabbings. Maybe I should listen to a language course instead. Where do you like to work? I’ve always worked in my bedroom, and whilst I like the privacy and lack of any judgment, I’d started to worry that too many of my prime years are being spent in isolation. Like, am I gonna be on my deathbed and think “I could have done that a little better, don’t you think?” But! I recently moved to a bigger place with a devoted teeny-tiny studio room for me and another housemate to share, so we’ll see how that goes! I also shlep my sketchbook down to a cafe on days where I don’t necessarily have to work at my drawing desk. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? I for sure remember being 5 years old at school and being made to feel like an absolute criminal for colouring outside the border of my picture! There must be other even earlier memories but I’ll be darned if I can scoop them up. I was always drawing though, but I guess that’s what every artist says. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? To get to draw enough cartoons to understand a little more and to be understood a little better. And get paid enough doing it to afford a dog.



Cole Haden is a performer and artist whose vast practice is unified by his deep love or creation

and observation. Cole has been making music and visual art since his adolescents, feeling enthralled by the endless possibilities of art revealed to him through the wisdom of his high school art teacher. As a teenager he was an active participant in his local community theater, learning the principals of DIY though the organizations passionate yet pragmatic productions. After deciding to attend Berklee College of Music, Cole became immersed in Boston’s underground music scene, seeing genre defying acts in unconventional spaces. After a handful of encounters with Jack Wetmore and Ruben Radlauer at local shows and around school, the pair approached Cole about fronting a new project they had been developing. Shortly after the three formed Model/Actriz, an undefinable band whose songs are as abrasive as they are tender.

In the few years that they have been active, Model/Actriz have played a couple dozen

electrifying sets across the US and in Europe, leaving a lasting impression on audiences everywhere they perform. Cole, Jack, and Ruben have carefully crafted an abstract yet concise sound, incorporating noise, live instruments, and powerful lyrics. With both Model/Actriz’s shows and his own solo performances, audiences have been held captive by Cole’s visceral and engaged stage presence. As he navigates and traverses every inch of the stage at his disposal, Cole belts thought provoking and often graphic lyrics, with a delivery that feels like he’s speaking to each person in the room directly.

After seeing Model/Actriz for the first time this summer, I was eager to learn more about Cole

and his other creative outlets. After speaking for a couple hours, I was totally enamored by his articulate examination of his work and the truly genuine intentions behind his craft. His reserved but bewitching demeanor mirrors the complex perspective he channels through his work, and his way of talking about his process suggests a wisdom beyond his years. I learned so much through talking to Cole, and I left our conversation with a greater appreciation for his work and the creative process as a whole.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from… I knew you were going to ask this question, and I hate that I have such a long winded answer for it. I just want to set the record straight because I have assumed this lie about where I’m from. I’m from Southern Delaware. I would tell people that I’m from Rehoboth because that is very close to where I lived and it’s a pretty well known town regionally. But my address was actually to the town of Dagsboro. I just never want to

live that lie ever again, so this is where I’m going to set the record straight. If I keep it up I know that the real heads from Delaware are going to be like, “Umm, you’re not from there. Why are you saying that?” So I’m from Dagsboro… but my creed is Rehoboth. Right now I live in Boston. What was your experience like while growing up in Delaware? My town was much more rural than Rehoboth, and even though it’s just 20 minutes away,


the social climate feels very different from Rehoboth. Rehoboth has historically been a very LBGT+ friendly town and is a summer resort destination for a lot of people. So I always envied the people that lived there. Also the reason why I wanted to say that I was from there was because I was insecure about being from such a small town, I was like, I guess I’ll take as good as I can get. But that insecurity doesn’t really exist anymore. I actually really like where I’m from. I was fortunate enough to have had enough creative outlets and that I was able to explore the things that I still am interested in. But it was definitely isolated. I was tasked with seeking out the things that excited me about the world because they weren’t readily available. Where I lived it was not particularly easy to get to a city. They’re all two and a half hours away, so going to the city was definitely an occasion. It just made me self-motivated to sort of carve my own identity. What role did music play early on in your life? Did your family encourage you to make music or did they shape the type of music you were into at all? My parents are definitely fans of music. They’re very supportive of whatever it is I decide to do. But they were never encouraging me to specifically go into music. Whatever I felt passionate about, they wanted me to feel free to do that. The kind of early music that I was exposed to would have been—my mom had a Dixie Chicks CD and a No Doubt CD. There was a period where my dad had a Ska mix CD that he made, and that’s what we would listen to in the car. He was really into Rush. My mom was into Motown type music. They were fans of what they liked, but they weren’t record collectors, you know? The earliest thing that I was individually a fan of was Cats the musical. That was like my first musical experience. That really affected me. I would just listen to that soundtrack on repeat and watch the film on repeat when I was three. I still watch it all of the time. It stays with me. It haunts me.


Do you remember what in particular really activated you about the musical? That production is such a feat of music, dance, theater, and stage production, so I’m sure there is a lot to take away from it. Yeah! You know those Disney figurines that come in those boxes? I would just have those and I would set them up into little dioramas that were like the Cats set. I had this one figure of Glinda the Good Witch, but she was just so much bigger than all of the other characters that I had. She played the part of Old Deuteronomy always, haha. I would do the same thing with my Beanie Babies. Honestly, I’ve never tried to trace back what the initial hook was for that. But it’s so weird that the ways that I move and dance naturally, and the way that I like–musical passages that I would write off the dome–if I listen to it, I can still hear traces of Cats. I recognize how hokey it is too. Like… it’s Cats. I get why people are so not into it. But I don’t know, you either miss the boat or you’re on it. When did you start making your own music? Did you make your own music early on? Was there any sort of music community at your disposal while you were growing up? I started playing around with writing songs probably in 5th grade on my Casio keyboard. I remember there was one book report in 5th grade that I had to write a song about Harry Potter for. I didn’t have to write a song, but I think I chose to write a song about Harry Potter. The artistic community for me was the community theater that I was involved in. I would say that that was influential to me in the way that someone else growing up in a DIY community might have been influenced. Cause it was DIY—it’s community theater. But we just performed other people’s repertoire. I’d say that that’s where I learned the discipline of making something, to the point of wanting to show it to somebody. In high school I had a few friends that played instruments that I would jam with. My good friend Ryan Phillips was my main collaborator during high school.

He would play guitar and I would make beats and sing. We would perform together and that was my first experience playing music with another person, rather than just composing it myself. When you were finishing high school did you see more of a clear path pursuing music than pursuing theater? Did you feel


at all conflicted about deciding what you wanted to do at that point? When I was exploring what I wanted to do post high school, I was touring around music schools and acting programs. It was hard because I didn’t study music in high school or grow up the way that a lot of other people had, which prepared them to enter into music

schools. I felt like I wasn’t that interested in going to acting school to perform other people’s work. I didn’t really know where I wanted to go, so I ended up only applying to two places, and one of them was Berkee. I guess in high school I was still doing theater, but I think where my heart was and where my art practice was was music.

It’s really valuable to have someone nourish your artistic vision that way, and give you a platform to share your work with other people. Having someone like that can also help you figure out that it’s so much more about the process of what you’re doing and working through than people’s perception of the end result.

One of my mentors at the time was my teacher Mrs. Loeber, she set an example of “not giving a fuck” in the best ways. She showed me how to be… deliberate? I don’t know, I feel like I’m trying to explain something right now that a lot of people would get, you know? She was an art teacher. She taught me how to be an individual and how to be unapologetic about what I wanted to do and to take the time to do my homework and immerse myself in the work of other people, to then take a step back and respond in a way that I felt like was coming from my own experience. Instead of going to art school, I felt like the best way I could translate the things that I learned in that class was to go and learn how to produce music better.

Definitely. It becomes clearer to me all of the time that it’s about the process and not the end.

Were you making visual art in that art class in high school? Did you have other interests that were informing your art practice as a whole? I did a lot of different things. My senior show took up like half of the gymnasium. It was big. But it was because she really gave me the liberty to do that and really commit to my vision. My pieces were really big. I did some sound, I did some sculpture—all different types of stuff. I don’t mean to say it to inflate what my skill set was. Whether or not the quality was good in other people’s eyes, it just felt like she endowed a sense of limitlessness to my sense of creation.

I feel like the internet has really influenced how people think about their process or what point you’re suppose to share something you’re working on. It almost seems like there is a desire to finish stuff quickly just to have something to share frequently. What influenced me to decide to go to Berkee was that I did a summer camp there between my junior and senior years of high school. Through that I met a lot of the people that had also decided to go to Berklee. During the time that I was living in Delaware, they were my first introduction to the larger community of musicians and artists and producers, and they really blew my mind basically. The sense of immersion into that community made me want to experience that and really commit to that in school. I mean, in any school full of art people, you don’t like what everyone makes. I’m fortunate enough to feel like my friends make things that I’m not embarrassed to share. I’m not friends with them for their art, but it’s definitely a cherry on top when their art is good too. When I got to school, my experience with live music was very limited. One of the first concerts that I went to—where I actually met Jack (Wetmore) and Ruben (Radlauer) which was in the first or second week of school- this band called Dent played. I feel like everyone in my friend group will tell the story about the first time they saw the band Dent. Whether they like it or not, they were really influential for my sense of that same feeling I got in high school. That appreciation of art that I felt in high school was reintroduced after seeing


them. All of the band members were insane musicians. The music was really theatrical, but genuine. The performance was really visceral and exciting. The songs were like whole odysseys, but not in an annoying way. It was in a way that felt tasteful or logical. The first time I saw them was in a venue called Great Scott. After that I kept going to their shows just to see them play. They were also upperclassman at Berklee when I entered. They were playing in basements and it was my first introduction to the basement scene and the DIY community of Boston. I really owe that band and the music they made and the fact that I was such a big fan of it to how I met the community of artists that I’m still friends with and surrounded by today. What were you studying at Berklee College of Music and how did that inform what you started making while you were there? Well my program was called Electronic Production and Design. I chose it because


I felt like it was at the crux of music and contemporary art, and it felt like it was the most open ended, as far as what you made of it. I wrote a lot of music during my first year of school that sounded like an electronic interpretation of what Dent was doing. It was a lot of really long-winded rave numbers basically. That doesn’t reflect the quality of Dent’s music, I was just being verbose. So I had that music that I was writing myself, and I was playing that with a friend who’s a guitarist, Justin Miller. I was also playing keys and running electronics for this pop artist, Meresha. Then it was at the end of my first semester that Jack and Ruben asked if I would be interested in playing with them, just to see what would happen. They had recorded a few things as voice memos and sent them to me. It wasn’t until March of that year that we got into a rehearsal space together to try stuff out. I was definitely more independent. Jack was in like eight bands at one point. Ruben was in a million bands. It’s just never been my desire to spread myself that thin.

Photo by Julien Kelly

With a lot of the music you have made together as Model/Actriz, it seems like you’ve put a lot of effort into figuring out how to create unique sound with a lot of simple elements. Did you try to bring different things to inform what the band would be or did the process of playing together inform what it would sound like? Jack and Ruben did a lot of the leg work in solidifying what our early music sounded like. It was a lot of just the two of them jamming together and recording it. They had done a lot of the sketches that became our first two songs, which informed where we started. Then I came in to put words over it. But there was never a discussion about, “This is what we’re going for.” The process of playing together has always been really organic. We try to just play together and see what happens. One of our goals was to take each of our respective instruments and subvert their typical roles to become in some ways more like machines to extend their musicality through noise. We’ve tried to hone in on a type of energy. We would

know when something wasn’t it more than when we were trying to go for something. We liked a lot of the same artists, but I think what informed our sound the most is that we each have our own really distinct tastes. We all like a lot the same stuff, but we all have pretty hard opinions on what we don’t like too. What were some of the first Model/Actriz shows like? How hard was it to integrate the music you were making into the community you were a part of in Boston? Was hard to find bills that you would fit on? It’s still really hard for us to get on a bill that really makes sense. I feel like the bills that make the most sense, and the bills that I like the most are mixed bills. Usually it’s us, a project that is more electronics focused, a project that’s more of a metal leaning project, and then maybe a singer/songwriter. I feel like that encapsulates some part of whatever we do. Those are the bills I like playing the most with this band. The first show that we played


was us and three producers. It was our friends Fitness, mmph, and Floodwater. We were able to play the show partially because Ruben and Jack had been involved in putting on shows in a place called The Fridge, and they had done a lot of work to make it a space where people could showcase art that wasn’t typically presented in other venues. It was a cool space. But that’s how we got our first show. We only played one show in Boston before we came out here to the west coast to do a tour. What was it like playing to audiences on the west coast and in Europe? Did those audiences differ from the audiences in Boston? Touring on the west coast specifically has always been my favorite place to play with this project. I feel like we’ve been very fortunate to get the response that we do from audiences around LA and throughout the state. The exchange of energy out here between us on stage and the audience is really special. I’m just always stoked to play out here. We’ve played really great shows in places that we never thought we would have great shows. We aim to really break the barrier of the stage and the audience. In that way, I try to take the time to see the audience the way that they see the people on stage. I think that that has made it so that most of the shows we’ve played have felt really gratifying for me. We played a show in Columbia, Missouri in a storage garage space. When we got there during the day the town was really dead. It was in the middle of the summer and it’s a college town, so no one was there. When we got to the show people pulled up and it was really different suddenly. Going back to what we were talking about with being from a small town—I was really naive going on tour thinking that these towns that were outside of big cities would be any different from playing in big cities. People everywhere are going to seek the same things that people from cities want. They’re going to, in whatever way they can, supplement their need for art. That became so much more apparent playing shows like that. It makes a lot of sense and

I shouldn’t have assumed that that was not possible outside of places like New York and LA. The three of us are pretty unanimous in knowing that we’ve only played one really whack show. That was in Berlin. The people who invited us to play that show were really into the music and I’m thankful that they asked us to play. Anytime someone is a fan of the music, I appreciate it. But the circumstances in which we played were really dismal. It was the middle of winter and we were supposed to play with this other band, Pan. We pulled up to the venue and it had been turned into a tattoo parlor that day. It was totally gutted and it was unusable as a venue. We had to go across the street—I don’t even remember what the place was—but it ended up being a pay-to-play. We had all of our equipment and we had to wake up the guy who lived there in order to use the spot for a show. We had to pay him like €50 to get in. The other band decided not to play at this point because we had to set up the venue to play. So it was just us, the guy who booked us, the other band and two of their friends, and two girls from this band we played with in Valencia, Føtzen Power Germany. The girls from Føtzen Power were like the only people in the audience, and they missed our first song, so the booker asked us to play the song again because the only two people who came missed it. Because I just have a mic, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to climb on stuff whenever I’m playing. So I was just climbing up the side of the wall to escape how uncomfortable I was in this space. It’s just a bummer that it turned out the way that it did, because it wasn’t like from lack of enthusiasm from the person who booked us. Going back to what you were saying earlier about the reception of the band in smaller towns vs bigger cities in California, I feel like there is definitely an interesting dichotomy around “performance” between both places. I feel like in LA especially, there is this familiarity and comfort around performance since so many people here are performers themselves. It’s so common that it is almost expected or it can


bleed into other aspects of people’s lives outside of their art. But in smaller and more isolated communities, performance can be much more of a spectacle or an escape from normality, and the appreciation of it can have a different intensity. Well… Here’s what I think. In a small town the trend might be that performance becomes a form of escapism for people. Where as here—I just feel hyper aware of myself here, and when you’re surrounded by more people who are performing, it becomes unclear where the performance ends and where your truth starts. In a way, people here might be more inclined to recalibrate their lives and create themselves through performance, rather than escape themselves through performance. What informs your voice as a writer? In your writing for Model/Actriz there are a lot of references to abuse of power, sexuality, and confronting an unforgivable past. What do you hope to communicate with

your writing and what has helped shape how you go about communicating that? I think the writing for Model/Actriz has been about atoning for and celebrating the ugly parts of the human condition and providing a space in which people—myself first—can feel more whole. For people who are unaware of the band’s history, we’re coming back from a hiatus now, and I think the way that I’m approaching the writing now is less so about creating a laundry list of things that I find disturbing and more so about incorporating the dailiness of life. It’s more about the general absurdity of going about your day. I think the person that I was when I started writing for the band was still in a way intimidated by the person that I felt like I needed to be onstage. The way that I was writing was to fill this idea of who I thought I should be. It was still my thoughts and my beliefs. But now, through having more life experiences, I feel less inclined to become something more than what I am right now. That’s the way that I’m

Photo by Ian Dunham

approaching writing the new material. What led to you three deciding to take a hiatus and how do you think taking that break has influenced the way that you’re now reapproaching the band? The hiatus was my motivation. It was because I felt like—I had made music before and I had performed my own music, but I still felt unclear

about what I felt like what my strengths were as an artist. I felt—only through my own paranoia and not through anyway that Jack or Ruben made me feel—incapable on contributing what I felt was my most authentic self to the band, because I was still unsure what that even was. It was never really a breakup in my mind, but I knew that I had to take however long I needed to rediscover the reasons why I wanted to make music to begin with. Through


the process of releasing an album that I made on my own I felt like I was equipped then to open up to collaborating again. What do you think is the relationship between where you are in your personal life and your ability to make art? Do you feel like you reach points where you need to go through something in your life before you can start thinking about creating again? In order to write do you feel like you need to conjure up a certain part of yourself that is sometimes not available? Yeah. I’m learning to accept what my natural workflow is, but that’s kind of a constant nagging thought that I’m never doing enough of what I need to be doing. I write songs, but I don’t think of myself as a songwriter. I’m discovering ways to answer to my want to make things when it’s not writing songs. Through writing ambient music when I don’t have any words or through drawing in my free time when I can’t listen to anything. What do you think prevents people from sharing their work early on? How did you get over that when you started sharing your own music with other people? I had to love the music completely. And that didn’t mean that I wasn’t insecure about it or nervous about it. It just meant that my love of it trumped feelings of it not being “worthy.” It’s hard to convey the sense of necessity I felt in writing the music that became my album Demeanor, and how that music was an intangible embrace for myself. That was the only music that I listened to for like months— not to marvel at my own creation, but because it was my home. It was just where I was mentally. I think it takes making something like that for it to click that your music should be for yourself. You don’t believe it until you experience it for yourself. Did you start making the work for your solo album while Model/Actriz was active, or did you begin writing that material during the hiatus? It took a long time. I guess when I stopped


the band, it was never to work on something else specifically. I was just going to wait until something erupted. I’ve never talked about the place that that album came from, just because it’s really complicated to me and I feel like there are so many qualifications to it that I would need to make. But I’ll just explain it. I fell in love for the first time and I would consider it my first relationship with this guy. It was long distance and when it stopped, even though I’m unsure whether the relationship meant the same thing to him, the grieving process for the relationship was documented in the music. That was the catalyst for writing it. I didn’t intend to write a breakup album— and in a way, I don’t think it is a breakup album. It’s more like all of the love I had left over from that went back into the album. Just because there’s so much speculation and unsureness about what the relationship even was, I’m really spit balling throughout the album the whole time. In my mind it is sort of a chronological timeline of coming out of the break up process. “Strawberry Blonde,” which is the last song, is based off of a dream that I had. I remember waking up and feeling like I could finally allow us both to live in my mind as separate people. That was like the first moment of exhalation for me. I don’t know if it was a moment of peace as much as it was a moment of resolve. There’s just so much that went unspoken at the end of that relationship that that song in particular is written cyclically to reflect the way that I still think about it. That’s all I have to say about that, haha. What has music been an outlet for in your life? What power has music had in your life that other things in your life haven’t? A lot of the times when I’m listening to music, even when things are not transparent in the emotion of the music, I find that I get choked up. Even just talking about it, I feel a cry in my throat building. It’s hard to explain the love of music that I have. It is the channel through which I remember everything. The ethereality of it reflects how in awe I can be of living in general. This is very rarely at the forefront of my mind when I’m listening to music—I’m usually just in my head experiencing it. I think

about how the function of songs and any piece of sound is a door to open any sense memory that you have. But the process of writing a song uses anticipation and release, and the moment that you anticipate in a song—as soon as that feeling arrives, it just as quickly is gone. When you are basking in the gratification of hearing that moment, it’s

already behind you. That is an experience that I find really incredible. It’s interesting how music can be a marker of time and the way you’ve felt at different moments. How you felt the moment that you decided to record an idea or calcify a feeling you had through making a song, is


then just relived over and over every time you listen back to that song or every time you perform it.

Are there any projects you’d like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment?

I think that’s the challenge of performing old music. I think live performance is more ingrained in the space that it is being performed in. It can also be a personal experience, but it’s more of a communal thing. In my head that’s the difference for me. In performing it or writing something over a long period of time, the person that you are at the beginning of the writing process is different from who you are at the end. In order to release something, you have to continually accept that the person you’re becoming and changing into as you’re working on a piece is different from who you were when you started it. You have to allow the piece to reflect who you are at the time that you’re making it, even if it’s something that you’ve been working on for a year. Then when you’re performing it, you have to perform it as the person that you are then instead of trying to go back. The music I wrote three years ago—I’m not performing it as the person that wrote it three years ago, I’m saying it now as I am, and that makes it tolerable to keep doing. I feel like I’m just referencing different things within myself so that it means different things to me.

Yes. I want to write some kind of piece of big formal theater, like a ballet or an opera, that is all about Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not something that is based in my own personal experience with my family or anyone that I’m in contact with. But it’s something that I feel like is such a rich topic for discussion, and I feel like it’s misunderstood by a lot of people, including myself. I feel like I could use it as an opportunity to research and understand what that experience is like. But it also extends into what inspires me about music’s ability to trigger memories. That’s like a 20 year plan.

What are you working on at the moment that you can talk about? I’m working on an ambient double single that’s going to come out later this summer. That’s another avenue that I’ve been exploring. It’s separate from the dance music that I write. They are never in the same set. It’s a project that is still under my name, but it’s a different collection of songs. It’ll be the first time that I’m releasing two finished pieces on all platforms, and I’m working on some videos for it. I think the ambient music I write more immediately taps into the mystical experience I have with music. Writing a song with lyrics is more material and based in myself, where as the ambient music is more me tapping into what is essential about music that I find inspiring. So I’m excited to share what I’ve been working on with that.


What do you feel like you still struggle with as an artist? What are some hurdles that you want to overcome in the future? My process is highly reliant on surrounding myself with the work of other people. When I’m writing words in particular I am really ravenously reading and comparing how other people write to the things that I have in my head that I want to express. I’m constantly relaying between different sources and people that I admire and people’s techniques to then concentrate all of those things into what I think is my truth. It is my aim to build more of a trust in my stream of consciousness. Everything that is out that I’ve made, I’m happy with. It’s not that the process doesn’t work for me, but I don’t want to rely on getting permission from other people’s work and the way that other people make their work to give myself permission to do it. I think that’s something I’ve struggled with and I’m going to be constantly trying to find ways to avoid that sense of self-censorship for the rest of my life. I envy people who sit and write a diary entry that becomes a song. That hasn’t been the case up until now, but I see a future where it happens like that for me. It’ll happen, but I think that’s the obstacle right now.



Los Angeles based cartoonist and painter Helen Jo has patiently revealed who she is to herself through her art practice.

Since growing up a textbook loner in a culturally isolating community in San Jose, Hellen has used art as an outlet to better communicate with herself and the world around her. After moving to Berkley for college, Hellen discovered zine making through the city’s longstanding underground community, and was stunned by the unlimited possibilities of the format. Hellen’s love of comics and visual storytelling quickly became a vehicle for discovering experiences outside of her own and engaging with other artists around her. Since her early comics for her college newspaper and her first published book Jin & Jam, Hellen’s work has often focused the most emotionally raw point in life; when an individual is coming of age. After relocating from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, Hellen worked for a number of years in animation on TV shows like Regular Show, Steven Universe, and Stone Quakers, before coming to the realization that she felt most fulfilled dedicating her focus to her personal work.

Like many artists Hellen has forged her path through a lot of trial and error. But despite the internal and external obstacles

she has encountered throughout her career, each challenged has added to Hellen’s resilience and conviction. The work Hellen is probably best known for, Frontier #2 published by Youth in Decline, is a collection she felt hesitant to publish at first, but has proven the lasting quality of her work. The paintings that make up the book exemplify Hellen’s expert ability to create intriguing narratives through subtle compositions and memorable characters. The book’s various paintings of fictional girl gangs that inhabit LA are also likely recognizable to anyone who’s consumed indie comics online over the past five years. Frontier #2 was my first introduction to Hellen’s work, and I’ve been keen on learning more about the artists behind the book since I first came across it.

This summer I finally had the chance to talk with Hellen about the past, present, and future or her creative practice.

Hellen’s charming sense of humor and warm demeanor made her incredibly easy to talk to and gave way to a sincere discussion about here work. Over the course of a couple hours at Hellen’s home studio in Highland Park, she and I talked about the value of community, overcoming disappointing your parents, and how to take care of yourself in order to make your best work.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? Well I was born in Mississippi, but I actually grew up in San Jose, California. I now live in Highland Park in Los Angeles, California. What was your experience like growing up in Northern California? How long were you in Mississippi before you moved? I moved from Mississippi when I was five months old, so I don’t know what it was like, haha. My parents were grad students from Korea so they moved around a lot. They were just in Mississippi for like a semester for some program. I think I was conceived in Upstate New York or something. They got their masters at SUNY Buffalo, then they moved to Mississippi for about half a year. Then I was born and they moved to Florida to work on their PhDs. Then we moved to New Mexico, and I lived in New Mexico as a little kid for a couple of years. I remember that being really lonely because there weren’t very many Asian kids. I just had a really hard time making friends

because we moved a lot… and I was weird. It was also a giant desert state, and I had never lived in the desert, so I just felt like, Man… This place is dry as fuck and theres like nothing around. I’m just bored and lonely all the time. Then we moved to Cupertino, and it’s an area full of East Asians, so I felt like, “Oh! My people!” But then I felt so lonely again because I was such a fucking weirdo and I couldn’t even hang, haha. Then growing up in San Jose—on one hand I had the benefit of being around a lot of people that look like me, which I know a lot of Asian Americans don’t have. But on the other hand, I was just a typical loner. Growing up with a community of people that you think you belong to, but still feeling like, Oh I still don’t really belong because there’s something wrong with me, haha. I feel like I had a weird coming of age. I came of age when I realized, I maybe don’t belong in anyone place, but that’s okay. As long as I try to be the most honest version of myself.


“I came of age when I realized, I maybe don’t belong in anyone place, but that’s okay. As long as I try to be the most honest version of myself.” It’s really interesting that every Asian American’s experiences growing up and coming of age here can be so vastly different based on the generation that their family moved or the state of the country they were leaving when they moved. I remember talking to Hannah K Lee, and she gave me so much insight into her specific 20th Century Korean American experience. How do you think your experience differs from some of your Asian American friends and peers?

Hannah and I actually have a really similar “immigration background” or whatever you would want to call it. I think she was born in Korea and I was born here, but besides that we both grew up on the west coast, we both went to Korean churches—which is a really big part of being Korean American—and both our parents moved here around the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s so specific and also so insular. Growing up I always assumed all Asians in America had a very similar background. I thought they were all the children of immigrants who were one generation removed from their home country and that they all went to church. I thought we were all nerds that all played violin or piano and went to church and are terrified of shameful things. Then as I got older I would meet—like in California there are a lot of Japanese Americans who are third or fourth generation whose parents and grandparents have been in California for forever. They have family who’ve been in internment camps and shit. I met Asians who are outside of the American diaspora, like Asians who grew up in Russia, who just have a completely different experience. It just makes me realize, Oh, I don’t know anything, haha. I feel like even the west coast Korean experience is so specific. When I meet Koreans from Virginia or even


Koreans from New York, they are their own whole world. Even within California! I grew up in Northern California in the Bay, and I thought, Oh all of the Koreans I know here love god, but they’re also really hard because they’re into hip-hop. But then you meet K-Town Koreans from LA, and they’re scary as fuck! Even though we’re from the same state, they have a different accent. I have a very Northern Californian accent. But Southern Californian Koreans... I don’t know. Koreans love to appropriate other cultures in an attempt to assimilate more as Americans, so they try to sound more Latino or Black. But it’s weird. We seem so similar, but we’re not, haha. Then moving to LA I thought, Oh I’m going to make so many of these K-Town girl friends. But you know, I moved here in my 30s, so that wasn’t going to happen. We’re all old and boring, haha. No ones like a badass bitch. I mean there are badass Korean American women I’ve met—they’re all badass. But they aren’t “badass” in the specific way I thought like school yard bullies, haha. They’re adults with jobs. Did you feel at all insulated by the community you grew up within? Was there anything that left a big impression on you that you found outside of that community while you were growing up? Oh totally! Growing up in a Korean church is really isolating. You’re just around people who have the same, very specific belief all the time. I was super sheltered as a kid. Not just because of church, but because my parents—they weren’t really strict, but I just internalized their discipline, haha. I just denied myself fun shit. I never went out. I only did what I was suppose to do. Then I had a nervous breakdown at the end of college. But I would kind of see outside of that in school. I went to public school,

and you just meet lots of different kids there. When we moved from Cupertino to San Jose, it was the first time I ever met non-East-Asian Asians. I met Filipino kids and Vietnamese kids. I was like, “Wait, where are you from?” I think I was in fifth grade, and even then I realized, Wow, I don’t know anything and I’ve lived in this bubble. I feel like in school was were I probably saw the most outside perspectives. I met goths in school, haha. I was like, This is what I want! But I was too afraid to try and do any of that. The only things I really did in high school were like—I was obsessed with school because I really wanted to go to college and leave. I was in orchestra, which was just a bunch of East Asian kids. It was not really that illuminating. But in school I met lots of different weird kids. But I was mostly into the goths. Meeting kids who didn’t care about the same things I did was kind of cool. I never found other kids who liked to draw. I’m sure they existed, I just didn’t talk about it with anybody. Anytime I tried to use my interest in drawing at school, it would be redirected into school shit like, “You could draw for the newspaper! You could draw this thing for school spirit!” and I was like, Okay… I guess this is what this is for. Then I went to UC Berkeley for a while before I dropped out. There are a lot of cartoonists that live in Berkley and in Oakland. I think my first semester—I had never lived away from home and I had never had my own spending money. So I would go to the book store and buy all of these graphic novels which I had never seen before. I remember reading The Death of Speedy inside Cody’s—like the whole thing—and I was like, This is what I want to do! I don’t want to go to school anymore! Seeing those comics and reading people’s zines, and also being able to meet people making zines—that was the biggest influence from an outside perspective. I realized, Oh, you don’t have to follow a single path towards a career, and there isn’t just one acceptable way to be an adult. You can be an adult and make little DIY zines in your room and you’re still and adult and it’s okay. I think moving to Berkley was definitely the biggest chance to see how other people lived. How did you decide to go to UC Berkeley? What were you studying there and how did your experience at the school lead to your decision to leave? I chose Berkley… just because it was the best school I got into, haha. In high school I was a really big nerd, so I had really high expectations of myself. I was a good student, but for the last couple years I kind of just coasted on my reputation. I feel like that’s a bad thing that happens. It almost sets you up to fail in high school when teachers are like, “Oh, you’re going to kill it! You’re going to be famous one day!” Once I got to college I was just like, Oh, I’m just like everyone else. I’m not special. I’m not even smart. haha. So I went to Berkley just because it was the best school I got into. It wasn’t far from home and I was just scared because I didn’t know anything yet. When

I got there I decided I was going to be a German and women’s studies double major, which is like… who does that??? Why waste your money, haha? It was cool though. I did the German thing because we have a family history with Germany. When Korea was occupied by Japan, Germany was a close ally of Japan, so a lot of Koreans went to study in Germany. My grandfather was one of the first people to study there, and he became a professor of German in Korea. He made a Korean German Dictionary and was the first person to translate Faust into Korean. So it just loomed large for me. I didn’t really even know why. I didn’t really know the history of the Japanese occupation of Korea at the time. But I just thought, Oh that’s so cool! That’s what elite, sophisticated, worldly people do—they study German. So I did that, and I took a women’s studies class just out of curiosity. It was actually a women’s studies and anthropology class, so it was about gender and the gendering of health care. It was about how there is no true objectivity in scientific studies, and I was like, This is fucking fascinating! I’m going to major in this too! After a while I was just like, “I hate school.” I love learning stuff, I just hate doing homework and I hate reading. But being at Berkley was cool because there were so many bookstores and comic bookstores, and I learned about alternative comics really quickly. In high school I only read a little bit of manga and a few newspaper strips. I was really into Dilbert. But then when I got to college I started reading Love & Rockets, I learned about all of the goth shit like Jhonen Vasquez, I learned about Eight Ball, I learned about Julie Doucet. Black Hole was coming out the first year I was in school, so I was reading that and I felt just like, Wow, comics have an endless storytelling potential. You can do anything. I think when I was in college it was just when Kevin Huizenga started making super weird fold out comics. It was so cool to see that you could do stuff like that. It doesn’t have to be narrative. It was amazing. I personally would rather make narrative comics, but I just liked learning that comics isn’t a genre, it’s a medium. I thought it was cool that you can do whatever you want. So I spent a lot of time thinking about that. I made all of my first comics right after I dropped out. I made a bunch of comics while I was still “in school.” But I wasn’t really doing my homework because I was making comics. I made three auto-bio zines and I photo copied them at Moffitt Library at Berkeley. One of the machines had red toner, so I was just like, “Yeah, I’m just going to make red toner zines.” No one even knew what riso was yet. I made two horror comics. One of them was a full length, single contained story. I was really proud of myself like, “Wow, I just made a 50 page comic!” I was really into Junji Ito and Suehiro Maruo. It was cool to read Asian comics that were not like typical manga. They’re weird and grotesque and I thought, That’s what I want to do! So I made those comics.


“I dropped out I made Jin & Jam and I met Dylan Williams, the Sparkplug publisher. He was living in Berkley and I would see him around. There were these ‘comic salons’ in Berkley back then...” Then after I dropped out I made Jin & Jam and I met Dylan Williams, the Sparkplug publisher. He was living in Berkley and I would see him around. There were these “comic salons” in Berkley back then—so pretentious, haha. But I would go to them because it was the only way to meet other cartoonists. I met a lot of amazing older cartoonists who were really friendly. They had lots of good advice and they would look at my comic and give me good feedback. I don’t think I gave Dylan my comic— he might have picked up my comic at Comic Relief. He was like, “Hey, do you want to be published?” and I was like, “Uh yeah I want to get published. I just dropped out, and I have no direction in life. I’ll do that!” haha. So I did a book with him. Then I was like, Yeah! Dropping out was a good idea! But then I went right to art school. I think I was still a really scared of my parents and I didn’t know what I was doing. So I thought, Okay, art school is the right decision, and I moved to San Francisco to go to Academy of Art, and that was a mistake. I mean, I learned stuff there. I definitely became a better draftsman. I think I entered art school when I was like 24, so I was pretty old since everyone else was like 18. It was very weird. At that point I was already


making comics and I was doing a lot of group shows at Giant Robot. I was just so arrogant and I was like, I don’t need art school! I think that’s true anyway though. You don’t need a degree to work in art. So I just decided to drop out and I just kept working for a long time. I was doing freelance and making zines. Then eventually I moved to LA in 2011 or 2010 because my boyfriend got a job at Cartoon Network and I got a job a year later at Cartoon Network. I’m not good at making decisions. I just go with whatever happens. You sort of described the conflict of not knowing what you wanted to do, and going along with what your parents wanted you to do. While you had this pressure from your parents, were there people who were being encouraging in a positive way? What was motivating you to continue to figure out what you wanted to pursue while you were feeling lost? Did you have any online community at that point? I was using the internet. I think when I was in college, right before I dropped out was when Facebook became a thing. At that point artists weren’t really using it, but it was one of the first social media platforms. They weren’t

even calling it “social media” yet—that term didn’t exist. They were called it Web 2.0. Through that I was able to see other cartoonists and be like, Oh, I’m not the only one doing this shit. That was definitely encouraging. It’s always good to know that you’re not alone in pursuing this stupid thing. There are other people making the same bad decision you are, haha. But I think the main thing was—I’ve always had this sort of umbilical cord attached to my parents. I don’t want to slice it because I love my parents. But I was making a lot of decisions based on the internal voice of, What would they want me to do. Living with that for a long time was really anxiety inducing and made me feel physically sick. But after a while I started believing in being the most honest version of yourself and being really sincere. I needed to apply that to myself and pursue the stuff I want to do, even if it means maybe having a bad relationship with my parents. You know, it wasn’t easy telling them that I dropped out twice, haha. They were happy when I was at Cartoon Network, but then when I told them, “I’m not going to be in animation anymore.” they were like, “What are you doing!?” haha. So it’s never easy, but the outcome that I was hoping for was worth it.

Calvin (Wong) also helped a lot. Just being in a relationship with someone who’s like, “You’re an adult. You can make your own decisions. You don’t have to do things based on what you think your parents will say for the rest of your life. You should just make your own choices—choices based on what you want.” It’s really weird to hear that from anybody. But he’s a very supportive partner so it gave me some confidence to do that. I mean, I didn’t accept what he said first. I was like, “No! I can’t do that! I’m afraid of them forever! I can’t be doing comics until their dead!” haha. So his encouragement was important. Also just seeing more and more cartoonists out there—especially more Asian America women cartoonists. Before I didn’t know too many, because I only knew the ones in the Bay Area since Facebook didn’t exist yet. It was just the ones I would see at APE (Alternative Press Expo) or other zine fests. But then after Facebook and Twitter and LiveJournal and all of that stuff, I was like, Oh, there are actually a lot of us. I see this person and they told their parents that they want to pursue a lifetime of misery in art and they’re fine. If they can do it, I can probably do it. So that helped a lot.

“I was only just starting to process that when I was making Jin & Jam. It’s been 11 years since that comic came out and I’m still dealing with the fallout of all of that shit. We kind of process our adolescence forever.”


What were some of the first zine and comic fairs that you did early on? Who were some people in the Bay Area that you met who were inspiring to you? The very first time I ever tabled was in 2002, and that was the first time I ever made a zine too. It was at APAture, which is this Asian American arts festival in San Francisco run by Kearny Street Workshop. They have this big event every year that is like a two day multi-media festival. They had this gallery and there would be bands playing on one end and then a wall of people selling comics or crafts or whatever. After that I was just like, Oh, this is how you get people to read your work. You have to table at these things. When I lived in San Francisco I was doing APAture and I did Alternative Press Expo a lot. I probably did that fair for a decade with a bunch of friends. I did SF Zine Fest a bunch of times. At that point I didn’t really have any money, so I wasn’t really traveling outside of the state to go to fairs. Then later I did TCAF a couple times and it blew my mind—just being in another country at this huge festival where everybody is fascinated by whatever it is that you’re doing. I think I went to SPX once back then. Being on the other-side of the country and realizing, Wow, people outside of California also give a shit. When I first moved to Berkley, the cartoonists that I met and would mostly hang out with was this group of Asian American cartoonists including, Jason Shiga, Derek Kirk Kim, Gene Luen Yang, Thien Pham, Lark Pien, and Wahab Algarmi. They would hang out every week and do an art night. They were all at least six or seven years older than

me. But it was cool to see that these people were already making books—books that I could find at the comic book store—and they were all Asian Americans who were pursuing the stuff they wanted to do without their parents hating them. I was like, Wow, that’s crazy! I was so shy at the time because I was afraid of everything, so I would go and sit and not say anything for three hours while most of them would talk about stupid shit. They were the coolest people in my eyes. Then I ended up living with Jason Shiga for like a year, just so that I could go to art night more easily, haha. They’re all still making comics and still doing work. Gene has been winning crazy national book awards. But seeing them definitely helped. The biggest Asian American cartoonist at the time was Adrian Tomine. He was huge! But he wasn’t someone I knew personally. I’d see him around Berkley and follow him, haha. But I never talked to him. When you’re young you feel like, That’s not attainable, or, I’m never going to be at that level. But when you actually see people who are making work and doing great, you realize that it is attainable, and it’s something that you can actually do. Was there a specific catalyst for you making Jin & Jam? How did making that comic help you process some of the experiences you had as a teenager? I had made these horror comics which were really fun! What I really like are coming of age stories. As I kid I really liked YA . The Ramona Quimby books—that sort of stuff. Anything where the protagonist would realize

“Later I did TCAF a couple times and it blew my mind—just being in another country at this huge festival where everybody is fascinated by whatever it is that you’re doing.”

Jen Wang, Ryan Sands, and Hellen Jo


Photo by Calvin Wong

their potential, either through friendships or some transformative experience. I didn’t realize it because I was going through it at the time. So I thought, Even though I’m experiencing puberty really late right now, I’m going to write a coming of age comic. I had a few best friends growing up who really introduced me to cool things in life, whether it was cool music or cool ways of thinking. I wanted to make a book that was kind of about two characters who were a little bit of a combination of all of those friends, but they are also kind of two versions of me. Jin is the real pre-college version of myself. Reserved and kind of nervous about what everybody thinks. Just weary of everybody—very cautious. Then Jam was more what I hoped I would be after I came of age—I still don’t even know if it’s happened. But she’s just open and super friendly and doesn’t care what anybody thinks. She isn’t weary of people. I don’t know if I’ve actually reached that point. But I wanted to have a comic with those two kinds of characters. When Dylan Williams offered to publish something, that’s when I was like, “That’s the comic I’m going to make!” When I wrote it I tried to include stuff about growing up in a Korean church. I put a little bit of that in there. I don’t even think I’ve fully processed that experience in my life. It was kind of damaging in a way. Not just the religious or christianity aspect, but even just growing up going to a church that’s just people of your ethnic community. That’s pretty intense. I think I was only just starting to process that when I was making Jin & Jam. It’s been 11 years since that comic came out and I’m still dealing with the fallout of all of that shit. We kind of process our adolescence forever. I read a National Geographic article on teenage brains. That’s the point that they are growing the fastest and you retain the most memories. That’s when those particular experiences can scar or uplift you the most. I feel like everything I do is based on dealing with whatever pain or trauma or annoyance from being a teenager. When I was writing Jin & Jam I don’t think I understood any of that. I was too young maybe to write that book. But it was cool to make a narrative that wasn’t auto-bio, because I had to actually make stuff up, haha. I just wanted to include all of the different things I liked. I wanted it to be an action comic with martial arts and shit in it. I wanted it to be a tear jerking coming of age. I think making that book and making the two horror comics before it made me realize that coming of age is the genre of all genres. It’s the genre I want to make all of my work in, whether it’s comics or paintings or illustrations or whatever. I like presenting a sort of romanticized view of teenagerhood, but also one that shows a lot of the growing pains that people go through. Jin & Jam really cemented that feeling. But I wasn’t really able to make any more comics with that, so I made paintings and drawings. Mostly what I do now is paintings and drawings of girls that are all mad and sad, haha. That really came from Jin & Jam.

What was it like going to college the second time around? What practical skills did you learn at art school and what kind of art were you making at the time? I had never taken real art classes before that. The biggest thing I learned was anatomy. How to draw proper proportions. I draw in a style that is somewhat cartoony, but is still based in a sort of realism. The people look like people and I want the shape of an arm to look like the shape of an arm. I think it made my style stronger. Before I was doing way more cartoony style drawings influenced by manga. I was really into Ranma 1/2. The reason why all of Rumiko Takahashi’s drawing are so amazing is that they have cute, cartoony, cherub like faces but they have amazing anatomy. It’s not super realistic, but it all looks really cool. I think I went to art school because I felt like, I just have to be a better artist in order to make the stories that I want to make. I became better at anatomy. I took clothed figure drawing classes for the first time in art school, and that really blew me away. When you draw clothes in a realistic way, like the folds of a shirt in an elbow, it can make an image so much more powerful. Little details like that can be accurate, but still clean and simplified in a comics way. I also learned some color theory which helped with watercoloring. But I still feel like I’m faking it a lot. I remember the color theory, and then I try to mix the colors and realize that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, and then I paint, haha, Those were the biggest things I took out of school. Eventually art school just felt like it was a drain on my resources. It was the same thing that it was at Berkley. I wasn’t doing my homework. I felt like I was just wasting my parents money and my time if I’m just going to show up here and not do the things I’m supposed to do. It just seemed better to dropout. At the time I started doing more freelance and I was actually being paid to do art and I was selling pieces in gallery shows. I thought, Well this is possible. If I just work really fucking hard, I can actually make a living off of this. Then you know… it only took another ten years before that was true. I learned a lot from art school. But also, a lot of my favorite artists didn’t go to art school or didn’t graduate from art school. They just worked hard and pursued the shit that they knew they were good at. So I just figured, I could do that too. What were some of the first jobs you did after school? After I dropped out I did some freelance. It was definitely not enough to live off of. I was doing posters for bands, but they were bands that no one had heard of. I remember being hired to do a poster for this Taiwanese band that was being brought out for the Taiwanese consulate—it was a really weird job. I did a lot of stuff like that. I did flyers for bands and flyers for shows. I did some t-shirt


“After I dropped out I did some freelance. It was definitely not enough to live off of. I was doing posters for bands...”

designs for a skateboard shop way east in the Bay in Pleasant Hill or Walnut Creek. At the time I tried to do as many random freelance jobs as I could, but I also wanted to do the stuff I wanted to do. For the skateboard company t-shirt they were like, “Draw whatever you want.” so I tried to draw something that was basically really Junji Ito inspired drawing. It was this horrific drawing of this girl whose head was ripped off, and her blood formed the name of the skate shop. Then parents complained about it, which was cool. But I have no copy of it and I have no evidence that I did it.

I wanted to do more of that kind of stuff, but in order to live I was doing stuff like working as a box office ticket salesman for three different film festival in San Francisco. It’s a seasonal job, but when you have multiple film festivals it’s kind of year round. I was selling tickets for the Asian American Film Festival—now it’s called CAAMFest—and Frameline which is an LGBT film festival and also for the international film festival, but I forget what that one is called. So I was making my living selling tickets and doing really random jobs. I was an intern at AOL Radio. My friend who was one of the DJs there, she hired me to do off the books data entry for iTunes, which was a new thing at the time. I remember being hired to be a bouncer at a party once for one of the film festivals. I did a bunch of random shit! At the time I could afford to live in San Francisco because I lived in a closet basically. Then I made some money doing a few freelance projects. I realized I could


make a lot of money at comic cons and zine fests selling prints and zines and comics and whatever merch. But I was also getting help from my parents at the time. There’s just no way you can live in San Francisco and do that kind of shit and afford to live. I was also amassing crazy credit card debt—which is really terrible. I was young and very irresponsible and I didn’t understand the concept of interest. So I was just paying my minimums, and suddenly I was like, “Wow, why do I owe so much?” By the end of my time in San Francisco I was pretty depressed. I wasn’t really going out very much, and I was working all of the time to try to pay down this debt. It just felt like it was impossible. Then my boyfriend got a job in LA at Cartoon Network. He had never had an art job before. He was a UX designer. But he moved down there and was like, “I’m making about the same about of money that I was working at my old job. But now I’m making art and stories and stuff.” I didn’t want to join him at first because the idea of working in television was really repellent to me. But then I was like, Okay, I really need money and I really want to be with my boyfriend, so I’ll move to LA. When did you first meet your partner Calvin? What did you think of LA when you decided to move here? We actually both went to Berkley at the same time, but I didn’t meet him then. I was making comics for the Asian

American student paper on campus called Hard Boiled. It was pretty cool! They didn’t pay me or anything, but it was full tabloid size paper and I got the full back page. Every month I made a whole auto-bio comic about stupid shit like how I hated hugging. I think at the time he was seeing my comics and he would see the things I was selling at Comic Relief. He was also making comics at the time. So we never met in college, but after I dropped out I started seeing him at APE and SF Zine Fest. I’d see him around and he looked really different back then—like he looked like an engineer, haha. He was really nice and I would buy his comics which were amazing. The first time I remember remembering his name was, I was doing a screen printing demo at the Asian Art Museum’s kids day. He came and I was like, “You’re Calvin! I remember you!” Then I think we went on a date right after that. At first I was like, “Oh you live in Fremont and you’re an engineer? Whatever dude. That’s cool I guess.” But then the more that I talked to him, the more I was like, “Wow, we’re actually really similar.” We both had a similar upbringing growing up in California. We were both in orchestra and we both felt like we couldn’t do the things we wanted to do as kids. We both felt like we had to pursue “real jobs” but we just wanted to make comics. It

was just nice being with someone who understands your entire youth, haha. We were both selling comics through the same publisher, JG Quintel, the guy who created Regular Show picked up our comics and he offered Calvin a storyboard test. Calvin was just like, “I think I’m going to do this. I think it’s time to actually pursue art as a living.” At the time I wasn’t ready to leave San Francisco and I wasn’t ready to leave my apartment. I also really wasn’t ready to move somewhere for a guy. I was like, “I don’t know… I really like you, but do I really like you?”—obviously I like him, haha. But it took me a year to think about it. But I just spent the whole year being depressed and barely making any work. So I was like, alright, I’ll just move down with you. Moving down here has been pretty cool. We miss the Bay, but we know that the Bay of our memories doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s a totally different place. We’ll still go back because our parents and our siblings live up there. But living in LA has been really great. LA has definitely got more of a chill vibe. We’ve both had more time to pursue the things we wanted to do. We have more life security and this house. We’re close enough to our families where we can see them pretty often, but we’re also far enough that we have our own lives, haha. That’s really important.

“I was doing a screen printing demo at the Asian Art Museum’s kids day. He came and I was like, “You’re Calvin! I remember you!” Then I think we went on a date right after that.” Photo by Hellen Jo


Also Calvin is my best friend, so there really was no question about moving down here by the end. LA suites both of us really well. In a place like New York or San Francisco or something, where it’s really competitive as an illustrator or cartoonist because the cost of living is so high, and you’re constantly grinding. But because you’re surrounded by so many other cartoonists, you’re also constantly grinding to stay relevant. In LA there is a similar grind here—everyone here is pursuing their art and you have to grind for that. But I think LA there is more freedom to pursue different mediums of art. You don’t have to stick to one perfect practice. You can kind of do whatever you want, which is awesome. You can kind of go at your own pace a little more in LA. In New York it kind of seems like, if you’re not constantly producing new work, you feel like you get left behind a little more. But here it is kind of like, just do what you’ve got to do and put it out when you want to put it out. What was the transition like when you moved to LA and started working in animation? I got a job as a revisionist on the same show he was on, Regular Show. It’s crazy—I paid my credit card debt off in like six months. And I had a massive amount of debt, haha. I just couldn’t believe it. I thought, This is what I was meant to do! so I worked in animation for like four and a half years. It was great because I was making tons of money, but I also kind of hated parts of the work. I felt like I wasn’t that great at it. I did have some time to pursue the things I wanted to do, but not that much. Also when you work on really popular kids shows, your identity as an artist is kind of erased a little bit. While working on Steven Universe, everything I did online was related to Steven Universe. If I tried to post anything that wasn’t, people would be like, “Oh wow! That looks like this character on Steven Universe!” I still get those comments now, even though I haven’t worked on the show in years. Also kids on the internet really hated my episodes, haha. So after working in TV for a while I was like, “I can’t handle this attention and I can’t handle this erasure of my identity.” I was still making work and doing some freelance editorial stuff, but it was more to maintain the stuff I wanted to do, because at work I was just working for this bigger thing. So I was on Steven Universe, and then I went to FOX ADHD and that was cool. All of the people that worked there were amazing and super talented. Everyone had a lot of cool interests. I still have friends from there. But after the company folded a lot of people went on to work at Titmouse or ShadowMachine or Netflix, but I was just like, “I think I’ve been putting off my own practice, and that’s really want I want to do.” I had some savings still at the time, so for a couple years I just lived off of the savings while I Was slowly starting to make t-shirts and prints. Eventually I was able to produce and sell enough of those year round to live off of. I have a lot of advantages though too. I’m very blessed to live in this house that my boyfriend bought. If I wasn’t living here I would definitely


be hustling way more. But it has gotten to the point that I can live off of mail order and a little bit freelance. I feel like I’m finally doing the stuff I want to do. What do you think separates the zine and art community that you came up in from the zine and art community that you are a part of now? When I started I only knew two Asian American Women making zines. I remember the first APE that I went to or tabled at, it was mostly white men, and they were mostly older than I was. There were definitely people that I admired there, but there weren’t very many people that looked like me or that just looked different. Even the content reflected that. At the time diary comics were really big, and all of them were really similar. It was people with similar backgrounds telling their similar stories. Or there were comics about relationships, but they were always through the view of the white boyfriend. I remember the only comic that I had read that was in English with a Korean Character in it was a graphic novel called Mail Order Bride by Mark Kalesniko. In the book a white man gets a mail order bride from Korea—and she eventually becomes kind of a cool character because she asserts her independence and leaves and stuff. A lot of the book is about how she’s exotic and how he has these expectations of her to be a subdued Asian wife. It kind of fucked me up a little bit to read that and have that be the only representation of a Korean person in a comic. Nowadays it’s so different.You go to a fest like LA Zine Fest or CALA or TCAF or any festival, and there are a million young Asian American women. There are way more queer identities represented. There are trans people and non-binary people There are just way more voices. There are way more black cartoonists than when I first started. I don’t think I knew any when I started in 2002. I think with the internet people realize, Oh anyone can make comics. You don’t even have to draw well to make a comic. As long as you can write, you can make a comic and your story is valid. I think when I started, that wasn’t really something that people believed. Zines and comics exist because they are so accessible. They are cheap to make and they’re cheap to buy. It’s a really communal form of art making and storytelling. But at the time it felt like there were a lot more gatekeepers. You didn’t know who else was doing this shit, you just saw the people who were published who were at these shows. I feel like it was also more common to hear negative shit about your work, haha. I can’t even tell you how many times as a young person, I’d show my comic to people who I admired who were mostly white men—they wouldn’t comment on the story they would just be like, “Oh, your backgrounds really need work.” or “Your Anatomy is really off right here.” The first review I ever got for Jin & Jam was this really weird review in The Oregonian. The guy was just trashing the comic and talking about how I couldn’t fucking draw and how the physics of these two siamese

“Sometimes people draw sloppy and those same people could labor over a drawing to make it perfect. There are just million ways to do it and there’s no reason to hide any of it.” twins I drew didn’t work. But then, by the very end he was like, “But it’s a very touching coming of age story…” and I was just like, “Wow, this guy is just writing this as he’s reading it. What the fuck?” I think now people realize that art is important, but it’s not the end all be all of a good comic. I kind of liked that evolution. People realized that a comic could be really simple and it can even be really ugly, and it can still be amazing. It’s really about how you use the medium and how you write. I really like that about it. I really love that your style has this very spontaneous and forgiving quality that highlights the process you’re taking to get to a final image. The way that you incorporate sticky notes and your gestural line work give so much life to your drawings. Yeah! I mean it’s comics, it shouldn’t be mysterious. Some people want to keep it mysterious, but I don’t know… Why hide the truth? Sometimes people draw sloppy and those same people could labor over a drawing to make it perfect. There are just million ways to do it and there’s no reason to hide any of it. It’s hard though. I think a lot of artists beat themselves up and feel like, If I don’t have


a perfect piece of work than I can’t show it. I use to be like that, but then I was thought, Well, then I just can’t show shit. I’m just going to show everything at this point. Who cares! I’m trying to be better at not trying to make every drawing I do a labored over piece of work. Also accepting that even if it’s rough and sketchy, it can still be a final piece. It doesn’t have to be labored over or inked. The comic I’m working on now I’m not inking. I think I fucking hate inking now. I’m never going to ink a comic again, haha. I mean, I don’t know if that’s true but, I’m not going to ink this comic. It’s just pencil and smudgy, and I’m happy with that. How have you developed your painting and watercolor skills over time? Did you have specific breakthroughs with the material you were using or the techniques you applied? Definitely sitcoms—or shitcoms. All the stuff I’ve read over the years. I try to go to the Tate Modern or whatever when I can and check out art shit. I like Rainer Werner Fassbinder films. I try to keep my influences open. I don’t just read comics and I don’t just watch sitcoms. But I think television has influenced me more as a writer than

comics. I’ve talked before about the timing of sitcoms and the way you have to keep all of the fluff out. It revolves around advertising, so it’s all about keeping a really tight structure and keeping the viewer involved. The pacing of the jokes and the way you suck people in—that’s why I stick to the grid. It’s easy to read, and it’s fluid. I try to get really realistic pacing to immerse the reader. Megahex came out the year that I finished high school and started college, and I remember so many people who were never particularly into comics reading that book and getting into comics because of it. I remember having a copy and loaning it to multiple friends, and then seeing those friends buy their own copies of it. I definitely think a part of its success can be credited to it’s readability for people just being introduced to alternative comics. Yeah it became like a gateway comic. People say to me at festivals, “This is the first comic that I’ve read.” and I see reviews that say “I don’t read comics, but I got into this.”

How have you developed your technical skills as a cartoonist while on a constrained budget? Have you changed the materials you use over time? Watercolor is something I kind of learned on my own. I learned because when I was first dating Calvin he was really into watercoloring. I didn’t do any color. I was like, “No! I’m just doing black and white! Jaime Hernandez and Charles Burn’s style all the way! Never color! Fuck color!” I didn’t even like cross hatching or grays or anything. I still like that the best. But he was like, “Just try it!” so I bought a watercolor kit and was like, “Oh shit! This stuff is actually pretty intuitive. I was just messing around with it. After testing different papers and pens and stuff, I found that the way I did most of my paintings in the 2010s—it was always on Arches watercolor paper, with a pocket Pentel brush pen with watercolor on top of that. It was a look that worked really well for me and people really liked it. So I did that for a long time. I was making a lot of paintings in that style. Then I just got sick of it because it’s so labor intensive. I really love making paintings and constructing these sort of narrative compositions where

“I really love making paintings and constructing these sort of narrative compositions where there is a story. You don’t know exactly what it is, but something is happening. But those pieces are very time consuming.”


there is a story. You don’t know exactly what it is, but something is happening. But those pieces are very time consuming. I haven’t really done a full painting like that in probably a couple years. Now I just do drawings of figures. But it’s mostly just because it’s so draining to do that work, haha. At this point in my life I’d rather put that energy into making an actual narrative, like comics. But that was a process that worked really well, and it helped me get really popular. Those paintings were just being reblogged all over Tumblr. I didn’t even have a Tumblr. I was just like, Wow, I don’t have to do anything. People will do it for me. Cool! Youth in Decline collected a bunch of the paintings for the second issue of Frontier. That book has done really well. People find it wherever—in other countries, at libraries. He’s still reprinting it which is really cool. I think it’s in its second printing right now. People— especially young women—really connect with whatever vague narratives I’m putting out in the characters and the paintings. It’s really nice. I mean, I’m making all of this stuff for them. What have you been working with recently since you stopped doing as many of those labor intensive paintings? The methods and tools that I use nowadays are more driven by what I already have and what is convenient and what is going to look good. For that new zine I put out— it’s a riso zine, but I drew it all with a 2B pencil. Those were the pencils I was using when I was storyboarding because I was drawing on paper. I liked how soft and smudgy they were and how dark the graphite comes out. I stole a bunch of those pencils from Cartoon Network like six or seven years ago, and I’ve been using them since. They are actually my favorite pencils to draw with. I use to be all about really tight mechanical pencils with hard led and inking with microns. Then with the watercolors I would ink with the brush pens, and it made me realize that loose is better. Brush pen kind of helped me give up some of the tight-ass over labored look. But then even with the brush pen, I was really laboring to get the lines to be very very clean. Now it’s just like, Why should I even ink any of this… Pencils are better anyway. The drawings can then look more spontaneous and alive. It’s just messier, which I kind of like. There are a lot of German comics that I’ve enjoyed, and so many Germans don’t ink. I can’t remember if it was Sharmeela Banerjee or Aisha Franz, but one of them told me, “Oh, we stole it from the Norwegians.” because I guess Norwegians don’t ink either. They were saying its a very American thing to ink your comic. So I realized, Yeah, why ink it? You can just up the contrast in photoshop. Nobody fucking cares. My inking is not as strong as my pencils anyway. It’s way faster too.

The Frontier book that you mentioned was definitely my first introduction to your work, and I feel like that must be true for a lot of people. That work felt so new and contemporary when it came out, and the style and sentiment of it still feels very relevant. What was the process like collecting those paintings for the book and how did the release of that book change people’s awareness of your work? When I first started doing the paintings, I think I was just known within the comics community. No one really knew who I was exempt for other people making zines. They were just my friends and the people I tabled with. But I was making these drawings with cool girls and they were being posted online without my permission, but it ended up working out for me. Then eventually I got two shows— one at Giant Robot and one at Secret Headquarters. They were both in LA and it was just a couple years after I moved here. I hadn’t really done anything in LA yet. So I was like, Well, I guess I better share my work with the community I live in now. At the time I had just been drawing girl gangs. So I decided I would just draw a bunch of different fictional girl gangs in a fake LA. The Giant Robot show was a show with three people, and I did the Secret Headquarters show like six months later. I had done a few paintings before that. Some one offs for other group shows that just got really popular online, so I decided to just keep doing them in that style. A bunch of characters in a really detailed setting where there’s some kind of narrative, but you don’t know what it is. I kind of like when people just project whatever they want. They are like, “Oh this is just totally about this!” I was doing paintings that were around 12in by 16in. I did the shows and they were pretty successful. I sold out at both shows, and I think for each show I made maybe 10 to 15 paintings. I just put them online because that’s just what I do, and people started sharing them over and over again. On Tumblr they were getting so many comments and likes. I remember Grimes reblogged it, and I was like, “Whoa! Holy shit, that’s crazy!” Then my friend Ryan Sands—I’ve known him since we were both in college—he had just put out the first issue of Frontier by Uno Moralez. He was like, “You know, if you ever want to publish something…” I hadn’t made a comic in a long time, and I was very insecure. I felt like, No one cares about me anymore. I don’t make comics anymore. What am I doing with my life? He was like, “An easy way to make a publication would just be to collect these paintings you’ve been doing and put them in a book.” I was like, “Ugh, but it’s not a comic.” I had such a weird complex about not doing comics meaning I wasn’t a real artist. That obviously doesn’t make sense, but it was so rooted in my mind after I hadn’t made any books in a while. I was just making prints. He was like, “No seriously, just make it a book!” He laid it out and held my hand through the whole thing. So I just sent him a whole folder of paintings and he laid the book out. He did a little short interview that I hand wrote.


At the time the paintings were already really popular on the internet, so once he published it, people would pick it up and be like, “Oh! I’ve seen this somewhere… I’ve seen this around.” I mean my stuff was out and about because I did lots of random freelance for a decade. But people were starting to recognize these specific images. People still do! They’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t really like comics. But I recognize this!” Eventually the print run sold out. The original intention with Frontier was that they would only print 2,000 copies of each issue and never print it again, so that they would be special. But it sold out and he made a bunch of new Frontier issues after it. Then Ryan was like, “I think I might reprint it.” and I was like, “Yeah, please reprint it! I have nothing to sell at these zine fests. I need something!” haha. It still sells pretty well. I’ll see it at out of state comic shops all of the time. It’s definitely the most popular zine I’ve ever made. It’s pretty old now—I think it came out in 2013. Now I’ll have people come up to me and be like, “I was a huge fan of yours in high school!” and I’m always like, “What?!? Oh my god, how old am I? How old are you?” But they always found my work because of Frontier. I think it’s awesome that people are still finding me through printed matter, and not just on the internet. It’s like the same feeling I had as a teenager

finding printed zines. It’s interesting that you have to maintain this balance of the work you do for free for yourself that solidifies your identity as an artist, and the work you do for money that you have less ownership of but that allows you to survive. I think a lot illustrators struggle with that because you’re making a lot of work and a lot of it ends up being editorial or freelance jobs. It can be hard to separate the personal work. It’s important to maintain a percentage of personal work. Honestly for me, a majority of it has to be personal work. I don’t like putting stuff out that doesn’t represent me on a personal level. If it has to look commercial or different from my style, then I don’t really want to do it. Why would I do that? I would prefer they just hire someone else—which is totally fine! I want to make work where people instantly know that I did it. I feel like I’ve been kind of successful doing that, because now people will look at younger people’s work and be like, “Wow, they’re so influenced by you.” I’m just like, “Yeah, that’s what I do!” haha. Honestly, I’m pretty proud of that. Seeing other people’s work and being like “I helped spawn this shit.”

“At the time I had just been drawing girl gangs. So I decided I would just draw a bunch of different fictional girl gangs in a fake LA.”


“I got a lot of the Greg episodes—which is the character who is Steven’s dad. I really liked writing for him, and I’m proud of the way Lamar (Abrams) and I wrote him. He’s a loving man who’s ashamed of himself for not caring for his child in a way that he thinks he is suppose to.” Yeah I think there’s a huge difference between being hired as a pair of hands and being hired as someone with valuable ideas. Exactly! It feels so much more humanizing and respectful. How did your time working in animation impact your approach to writing? I mean, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about how other people work and how people who are really good at storyboarding are insane, haha. They can produce so many drawings in such a short period of time. I also learned about how, when you’re working on something like television animation, where you’re working with a big group of people on a project, you can’t have an ego. That can be very weird for a cartoonist. Often you’re only by yourself and everything you do is under your control, so your ego ends up being everything. But having to abandon that was a big culture shock. It’s a good way to force you to grow up. You have to work with other people, you have to work with a corporation, you have to understand that it’s not a dream job and you’re not their to flex your personal skills. You’re there to help realize this other bigger project. It was humbling and I think I needed that. Sometimes you don’t want your ego to get too huge, because then your work just gets boring and you’re never challenged. I learned how to draw faster, a little bit, haha. I definitely learned how to be a more organized writer. Kids TV shows all follow a three act structure—which I don’t necessarily

follow. But it helped me understand principles of comic timing and how specific compositions of shots can be used to drive the story forward. In TV storyboarding, a lot of it is cutting out the fat. You’re constantly cutting out anything that isn’t driving the story forward, and I really liked that. Before I was just kind of rambling and doing whatever. That can also be fun—in comics you can do whatever. But I like the idea that your story can be stronger if you eliminate shit you don’t need or that doesn’t help your story reach its conclusion. I think that’s the big thing I took away from working as a board artist. Are there any specific contributions that you made to those shows that you feel particularly proud of or that stick out to you? I have a terrible memory, and I have such a weird complex about my time in animation. I’ve never actually watched most of the stuff I worked on in its final form. I think it’s partly because, at the time I didn’t watch any animation. It was such a stressful job that, when I watched it, all I would do is think, What misery must this person have gone through to make this. You go through all of these pitches, then you go cry in the bathroom at work, they you’re at work until 2 in the morning making revisions. I couldn’t think about it, so I just stopped watching anything. I haven’t actually seen most of my episodes. It’s a shame, I should just watch them—like, Get over yourself! Who cares. But there are some things I’m proud of. On Steven Universe I storyboarded a sequence where Steven has


“When you’re working on something like television animation, where you’re working with a big group of people on a project, you can’t have an ego. That can be very weird for a cartoonist.” one of those ‘90s Japanese pencil cases where all of the things that pop out. I was really proud to have put one in, haha. I also wrote a couple songs for that show, and that was cool. That’s not a skill I get to use ever. I’m just a casual musician. I use to be in a band, but I was a cellist. I didn’t sing or anything. So I was like, “Wow, I get to write lyrics and play guitar in front of people?” That was pretty cool. On Steven Universe I got a lot of the Greg episodes—which is the character who is Steven’s dad. I really liked writing for him, and I’m proud of the way Lamar (Abrams) and I wrote him. He’s a loving man who’s ashamed of himself for not caring for his child in a way that he thinks he is suppose to. I really liked writing for him a lot. At FOX ADHD, I just got to paint random strange frames. I worked on the show Stone Quackers. All of the characters were ducks, and I remember I did one painting of one that was stung by a jellyfish on its foot. They asked me to draw this really infected, disgusting, swollen foot, and I was so proud of it. That was probably the best thing I did. That and I also did a hand animation for the show. There were

three comedians who wrote the show together from the group Power Violence. The comedian Clay (Thomas) had a sequence where he was drawing an animation about how he wants to kill himself, because he hates himself so much. So I took the amazing storyboard done by Sean Glaze, and I drew this jacked up pencil and crayon animation of him throwing this huge boulder on himself and crushing his head. That’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done for any animated anything. I was really proud of that, haha. When it was actually animated I was like, “Oh my god! I actually did it!” After leaving the animation industry, how have you gone about carving out your personal practice? Do you feel like you’ve had to make sacrifices or develop some discipline to work in that new headspace? Yeah totally. Like I said before, I have no time management skills. I’ve had to kind of learn how to wake up in the morning and not work all night. That’s just not efficient. There were two big adjustments after I left animation. The first thing was, when I was working in animation I


had health insurance and I found out I have diabetes. So I started to manage it. When you have unmanaged diabetes your energy is really fucked up and you’re just tired all of the time. After I started taking medication and insulin, I was like, “Oh! I’m awake in the morning and I’m actually sleeping at night.” I remember going to my doctor and being like, “There’s something wrong! I can’t stay up all night anymore!” and she was like, “That’s normal. That’s what normal people do. You’re not suppose to stay up all night.” But that was when I would get all of my work done. So that was a huge shift. Now I have to wake up and interact with other living people instead of just procrastinating all day and doing everything at night. That’s actually been better. Now I sleep at the same time my partner does and we actually see each other, haha. Now I can leave the house in the day time and interact with other humans, which is very important. The other really big adjustment is, I’m not rich anymore, haha. When you’re in animation you make a lot of money. I was like, “Wow, I paid off my credit card debt! Now I’m going to get two guitars and some furniture! I can buy this couch and I can get this car!” But now I keep track of everything I eat and how much I’m paying for everything. I actually accumulated more debt last year, and then I paid it off because I was doing well last year. But now I’m trying to maintain better financial practices. Being more aware of how much I’m spending on my business and how much I’m spending on my free time, and then limiting it. Also when you work in an office you see people every day. But when you work in a home studio you don’t see anyone ever. There are times when I’ll only talk to Calvin for weeks, and that’s not good. I’m an ambivert, which means I’m introverted and I like being alone the most. But I still need to see people once in a while so that I don’t go crazy. So I’ve been trying to be more consistent about going out and seeing my friends and talking to people at least once a week. Otherwise I like start to forget English—which is weird because that’s my first language, haha. I’ll hang out with people after not seeing them for a long time, and they’ll be like, “What’s wrong with you?” and I’ll be like, “Is there something wrong with me? I guess it’s because I’ve been sitting in this dark ass room for 60 hours.” I think as I get older, I’m realizing more that I have to maintain a better balance with my work life and my social life. Before I would party like fucking crazy and then work like fucking crazy and there was just no middle ground. But now there is no reason to do either of those. It’s just better to be moderate in everything, because then you can get more done. I feel less stressed and more rested through that. Do you think there are any misconceptions that young people have about developing an art practice? Have you unlearned some of those assumptions as you’ve worked to create a sustainable practice? I use to think working all night and sleeping all day was


normal. A lot of people do that because they develop those habits in college. But it’s not good. It doesn’t make you more efficient. If anything it gives you more space to procrastinate and put stuff off. You’re just like, “Well, I have all night to do it.” I still procrastinate, but I actually get more stuff done now. There’s no reason to wait! Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I feel like mortality is setting in. I’m like, “Ugh! There’s less time, so I just have to do shit!” That was definitely a big one. The whole “grind until you’re draining your body of energy” thing is not a good way to work either. It’s not sustainable. That’s how I use to work, but it also lead to a lot of anxiety when I wasn’t doing work. I ended up wasting a lot of time because I was freaking out about not constantly doing shit. I could have been getting stuff done instead of freaking out about it, haha. Those are the two big ones. I also eat regularly now, and that’s a big thing. Live like a normal human, and that will definitely make you a more efficient and happier human, haha. I also feel like when you’re young you feel like you have to do big things before you reach a certain age. By the time I was 30 I was really disappointed in myself. I was like, Oh, I don’t have a graphic novel. Everyone else has a graphic novel. But I mean, Emil Ferris put out her first graphic novel when she was 60, and it’s brilliant. It’s an amazing book. There’s no time limit. I mean… I guess there is the ultimate time limit, when you die. You can’t predict that, so you should try to make work. But you don’t have to do certain things by a certain age. Just do stuff now that you want to do, don’t stop making things, and don’t be concerned with how other artists see you. I think I use to be more concerned with that. But now I know it should be more about pleasing myself and doing the things that I want to do, and fulfilling my goals without worrying about that too much. When you’re young you think that you have to do stuff before the time you hit 30 or whatever. But I don’t want to only read comics by 20-somethings. That’s boring. What the fuck do you have to say unless you’ve lived some incredible life or a really tortured life. Life experience is good, haha. It gives you better perspective to become a better writer. That’s another thing—the idea of the tortured artist. If you’re miserable… you’re not making good work. You have to take care of yourself. And not just like taking bubble baths or whatever. You need to go to the doctor and get fucking checkups. If you’re taking medication for mental illness, fucking take your medication. Take showers. Eat regularly. I kind of like that “self-care” is a thing, but I feel like it’s been really derailed. Self-care should just be taking care of your most basic needs so that you can actually accomplish the things you want to accomplish. It’s hard! It took me a long time to get to that point. But it’s also important.

What are you working on at the moment that you can talk about? I’m currently writing and drawing a comic. It doesn’t have a title yet, but I think it might be called 딸기 which is Korean for “strawberry.” I’ve been subletting a space in Silver Lake to work on it. But it’s going to be a single issue coming of age comic. It’ll be my first real comic in eleven years or something. It’s actually really similar to Jin & Jam, haha. It’s about girls hanging out and being friends. I don’t want to talk about it too much of give away the ending. But I’ve been writing this comic for years. I’ve been really like, “Uh, I really want to make another comic. Or should I just make a second Jin & Jam?” I have 50 pages of a second Jin & Jam inked, but I inked it 10 years ago and I feel like I don’t want to put it out, haha. So instead I was like, “Okay, fuck it! I’m just going to start over. I’m going to make a new comic, and it’s not going to be serialized, so it’s just going to be one issue. I’ll just go back to doing what I like which is coming of age stories.” There’ll be a little bit of horror in there too, haha. I’m trying to draw it really quickly by just penciling it and not inking it. Then I’m going to self publish it and then hopefully have it by September, which is in a few months. I’ll be doing two festivals that month. I’m going to Austin for Fairweather Friend Fair, which is a small zine fest outside or a cider brewery. Then I’m going to Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. I’m a special guest I think? That was the main impetus to make a book. I was like, “I need a book. I have nothing.” haha. I mean, I just made this poetry zine, A Bleeding Cut, but I want to make a substantial comic. It’s been too long. So I’m working on that. I’m still doing mail order. I’m working on a painting for a skater group show at Subliminal Projects. It’s the same gallery I had my other show at in December, Folk Medic. Let me look at the to-do list really quick… I always have like multiple things, haha. Oh! I’m on the board for the illustration conference ICON again. I think next year, in 2020 it will be in Kansas City. I’m actually the programing chair, so I’m currently going through a list of potential speakers, which is really cool. I’m excited about that. There are a few other things, but I can’t really talk about them. I always do tons of little jobs the hopefully pan out to be bigger things. They usually do. I’m very lucky. But right now my main focus is that comic. What do you feel like you still struggle with as an artist? What hurdles do you still see ahead of yourself after accomplishing as much as you have? It’s nice to hear you say that I’ve accomplished a lot, because I don’t believe that, haha. That’s the biggest hurdle—I’m really down on myself. I really feel like, Oh god, I’ve just wasted my career and my life. I haven’t done anything. But then when I hear people say, “Oh you’ve done a lot.” I’m like, “Have I?” I think it’s a child of immigrants thing where you’re just negating everything you do as not a real accomplishment. So that’s the number

one thing I’d like to work on. Also time management. That’s still something. I feel like I’ll be working on that until the day I die. I’m never on time for anything and I can never finish anything on time. I’d like to be able to finish something and be like, “Wow! I have so much time left!” I’ve never said that, haha. I’d really like to do that. I hope that as I keep making work, my work gets better. With my drawings and my writing, I don’t want to be stagnant. Sometimes I feel like I get too stagnant when I do a lot of the same paintings over and over again. I’m just like, “Oh.. I’m just doing the same thing.” I know that it works and I know that people like it, but I also hope that I can continue to challenge myself to do better or to do more interesting work. I want to keep excelling at what I’m doing. I feel like the only way to do that is to do different things. My ultimate life goal is to make a graphic novel— or maybe make several graphic novels. But I don’t know if I’m really there yet. I don’t have the discipline to work on one project for very long. But that’s what I’d like to do. I just feel like I am my biggest obstacle. I need to get therapy or talk to other people about it or something. Maybe get over myself, haha. That might be the only way to unlocking the ability to do more of the things that I want to do. Are there any projects that you’d like to embark on, that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? Oh man… I’ve always wanted to make a horror movie. But I don’t know anything about film or directing or whatever. Living in LA, there are some avenues where—I know if I made another horror comic, I know some people I could give it to and they could make my story into a film. That’s something I would really like to do. But also, with horror films, there are so many of them and a lot of them are terrible, haha. It’s like, “Wow, it takes so much money and effort and time even to make a terrible horror film.” Is it a worthwhile pursuit? I don’t know. I kind of want to pitch a cartoon—but not really. My boyfriend went through development on his pilot, and I’ve seen multiple friends go through it, and it just seems like shear hell. If I could somehow go through it and avoid all of the stress, I would love to. I have a pitch idea. But I don’t want to be stressed out, haha. So there are things related to either animation or film that I have lofty dreams about. But they are also things that if they don’t happen, it’s fine. Comics are the most important to me. If I can make more comics, then I can die happy. If I don’t make a film, then I can still die happy. Oh and I also want to start a band, haha. But I don’t know if that’ll happen.




In just under a decade, Seattle based musician and songwriter Julia Shapiro has shared an enduring body of work that

masterfully pairs the lighthearted with the truly devastating. What started as a mythical all women post-post-post-post punk band devised by Julia and her friend Lydia Lund in college, has become one of the most refreshing and beloved indie rock bands of recent memory. Through Chastity Belt, Julia and her three bandmates have charted their growth and transformation as people, fearlessly confronting their doubts and insecurities through humorous and heartfelt songwriting. The band’s infectious interlocking arrangements—with parts written by each individual member—have become more and more complex with each record, but showcase the trust the four women have had in one another since day one. Julia’s clever and often confessional lyrics evoke an emotional vulnerability that many front people shy away from, but has given courage to generation of introverted young people like her.

This spring Julia released her first solo record, Perfect Version, demonstrating her talents as a multi-instrumentalist,

producer, and storyteller through some of her most honest songs to date. This cohesive and self-reflective collection of songs was born out of an incredibly tumultuous time in Julia’s life, when uncertainty about her health, relationships, and career led to a sudden hiatus for Chastity Belt. Across the album Julia examines the seemingly mundane and inconsequential moments of her life to ask much more profound and existential questions about her purpose on earth. I was lucky enough to get to work with Julia on a music video for the album’s first single, “Natural.” I met Julia for the first time when she visited the set while she was in LA to finish mixing the new self-titled Chastity Belt record. Then a few months later, while I was in Seattle for a gallery show I organized there, I met up with Julia again to conduct an interview for this issue. Over the course of our conversation, Julia and I discussed playing old songs years later, the value of side projects, and how to maintain a healthy relationship with your bandmates.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Palo Alto, California and I live in Seattle now. What was your experience like growing up in Palo Alto? What role did art and music play early on in your life? I’ve always been really interested in music. As a child I was always singing. When I was like eight or nine I took piano lessons. I remember being pretty good at it, but I hated doing the recitals, so I quit. My parents just let me quit, but I wish they could have just been like, “Oh, you can just stop doing the recitals! You can still play piano!” because I did enjoy playing piano. Then when I turned 11 or 12 I decided I wanted to play guitar. My first electric guitar was a Fender Squire strat. Like the classic—the one you get in a box with this little practice amp, which I actually still have, haha. It’s really shitty sounding. It’s a “Kustom.” I think when I first started my mom wanted to make sure I was really serious enough about it to buy a guitar, even though it was the cheapest guitar, haha. She had an acoustic guitar, but it was one with such a thick neck—I think it was a classical guitar—and my hands at that point

couldn’t wrap around it. I was taking guitar lessons with my friend, and she could just play the chords so much better than me, and I just felt like I sucked at it. Then we switched guitars at one point—she had this nice Martin guitar that her dad gave her—and I was like, “Oh my god, this is so much easier!” It was like training to run in sand. I was always interested in discovering new music. Throughout high school I would be reading music blogs and stuff. Until Chastity Belt formed, I never really jammed or wrote songs with other people or anything. It was just kind of a solo thing that I would do. Was there any sort of music community at your disposal in Palo Alto? No, not at all. There was like no live music. I went to San Francisco a few times for shows in high school, but it wasn’t that often that I would see live music. In college too, there wasn’t much going on in Walla Walla. I did go to a few shows. I worked at my school’s radio station, and we would organize to have bands come to campus. But the whole like “music scene” thing was kind of foreign to me. When Chastity Belt first formed, we had to always bring our own PA and set it up because we’d play these house parties. I’m just really impressed by us, that we


figured out how to do that and set everything up—no one taught us what to do. It sounded pretty messy and fucked up, but no one really cared. It was fun. Once we started to play real shows and had to do sound checks with monitors and stuff—that kind of took us a while to figure out, haha. No one tells you how to do it, haha. Were there any musicians or performers in particular that motivated you or convinced you that you could write your own music? Do you remember some of the earliest music you started writing? The earliest music I wrote was, maybe a couple songs that I wrote in high school that were just joke songs. I’d just make them up on the spot. Then in college I wrote some more joke songs. I had “The Slut Song” which sort of turned into “Cool Slut” later on. When Chastity Belt formed I started writing more fun jokey songs. At that time we weren’t super confident in our musical abilities. Gretchen (Grimm) didn’t even know how to play drums. So it felt easier to make the band a joke. Also it was just fun. We still don’t take ourselves that seriously. What was your experience like going to school in Walla Walla? Was it difficult to make time to commit to music? When did you begin to see music as something you wanted to pursue further? I studied psychology and I minored in art. But honestly,

my high school was so rigorous that college felt pretty easy to me. Palo Alto is really intense in that way. My high school math class was really hard, so taking a math class in college was really easy. It was still challenging at some points, but I did have a lot of free time. I managed to do well in school and still have free time. It was really nice to have that balance. Also, since there’s not much going on in the town of Walla Walla, it was all about making our own fun, and so the band was one of those things. When there’s not much else to do, you kind of gotta come up with your own things to do. I think that was part of the reason we started a band. I think we played our first show at the end of sophomore year. It was Beta Fest Battle of the Bands. We had one song and it was like five minutes long. Then the next year when we all came back to school, we kind of all agreed, “Yeah, let’s keep doing this.” Gretchen and I were living together, so we’d practice in our basement. How did the four of you initially meet? Was there a catalyst for starting Chastity Belt? I met everyone in the band my freshman year of college, but they hadn’t really met each other yet. I got to know Lydia (Lund) because we lived in the same section of campus the first semester. Then I got to know Gretchen (Grimm) really well because we lived in the same section

“The earliest music I wrote was, maybe a couple songs that I wrote in high school that were just joke songs. I’d just make them up on the spot.”


the second semester. Then Annie (Truscott) just kind of sought me out and just decided we were going to be friends on day one of school, haha. I probably knew Lydia the least out of all of them, but we were sort of “party friends” throughout college. We’d run into each other at a party and just want to get up to mischief a little bit. We’d have this thing that we’d do where we’d get into a fake fight when we saw each other. We’d be like “You fucking bitch!” and pretend to get at each other, haha. We’d go to Frat parties and fuck things up. I guess how I got to know Lydia really was—I didn’t have a guitar my freshman year at school, so I would always ask to borrow her guitar. So I knew she played guitar. Then sophomore year Lydia and I were having one of our drunk party nights, and we somehow formed the idea for a band called Chastity Belt. It would be a post-post-postpost-punk band that was all women. We were with our friend Ben (Robbins) at the time and he was like “Yeah, I’ll be your manager!” So it was just this concept before it was actually a real thing. I started trying to enlist other people to be in the band… and for a while I was asking a lot of people. But the people who seemed most interested ended up being Annie and Gretchen. For a while, at house parties where another band was playing, we’d take over the stage afterwards and just use their instruments, and pretend like we knew what we were doing. Or we’d get all of our friends to be like “Chastity Belt! Chastity Belt! Chastity Belt!” I remember I learned that song “Photograph” by Nickelback and would sing the first lines and then start riffing on it. Then we all got to know each other. Annie and Gretchen lived together in sophomore year too, so they got to know each other that year. But we all got closer through the band. Especially after moving to Seattle—it’s crazy how close we are now.

It’s cool how when something starts out more conceptual, it’s a lot easier to break the ice. The reception can’t really be positive or negative when it’s still just an idea that doesn’t have permanence. After you moved to Seattle and started to develop an audience here, how did that change your attitude about what you were doing and the potential of it? I think it gave us more confidence. It gave us the confidence to write the type of music that we were actually interested in listening to. I feel like in college I just wanted the songs to be danceable and funny. But seeing other live music in Seattle was inspiring. Seeing how people reacted to our songs that were less jokey was nice. It wasn’t necessarily intentional—it just happened pretty naturally. What was the experience of making your first record, No Regerts, like? What do you feel like you learned from the process of making it? Well the first songs we recorded—we did an EP with our friends Andrew Hall and Peter Richards who are in this band called Dude York. They went to school with us, but they were a couple years older. They were fans right from the beginning. They were super supportive and they were like, “We want to record you!” So we came to Seattle our senior year and recorded four or five songs with them. That was really exciting. We had no idea what we were doing, and then once we moved to Seattle, we started playing more real shows and people actually seemed to like us, so we were like, “This is confusing!” We started to write more serious songs, because our audience went from drunk college kids to kids who would actually sit and listen to a song. Matt Kolhede, who works at Hardly Art now, was starting this record label with a few of his friends called Help Yourself. Early on—maybe the summer that

“Then sophomore year Lydia and I were having one of our drunk party nights, and we somehow formed the idea for a band called Chastity Belt. It would be a post-post-post-post-punk band that was all women.”


“I feel like in college I just wanted the songs to be danceable and funny. But seeing other live music in Seattle was inspiring. Seeing how people reacted to our songs that were less jokey was nice.” we moved to Seattle—he was like, “We want to put out a full length album for you on vinyl!” We were like, “Oh whoa!” I kind of remember talking to Andrew about it, and he was like, “Oh no, do an EP. You guys don’t have enough songs.” haha. Half of our songs on No Regerts were written in college and were more jokey. Then the other half were written in Seattle and were a little bit more serious, so it was an interesting mix. So we recorded with this guy José (Díaz Rohena) and we did it pretty quickly. I mean, it turned out great for the amount of time we took to do it. At that point, none of us really used petals or anything. They were sort of simple catchy songs, which made it easier to record. We recorded it live. We’ve actually recorded all of our albums live and not to a click. On this most recent album we still recorded it live, but about half the songs we did live to a click, and then there are lots of guitar overdubs and other stuff. But it’s crazy to see how far we’ve come in recording. It probably took almost four weeks to record this last record.

What were some of the first tours you went on and what bands were really supportive towards you early on? Our first big US tour was with Pony Time. They aren’t a band anymore, but our friend Stacy (Peck) was in it and she’s now married and has a kid with Annie’s sister Shane. Luke Beetham was playing bass and Stacy was drumming. So we did our first tour with them, and I think we just had that one record out. While we were on that tour we got asked to do a west coast tour with Wire. I didn’t even know who Wire were at the time, but we looked them up and were like, “Yeah, they’re cool! Hell yeah!” It was kind of a random lucky opportunity because the band who they asked to open those shows had dropped out at the last minute. KEXP sent them a list of Seattle bands that might be interested, and Colin (Newman), the lead singer of Wire, was really into the song “Giant Vagina” haha. I think he liked “Black Sail” also. But he listened to our music and really liked it, so that felt really cool and exciting. It was a pretty funny tour because, at the time we must have been like 22 or 23 or something, and we were with these British men in their 60s, haha. But we got along


“We recorded with this guy José (Díaz Rohena) and we did it pretty quickly. I mean, it turned out great for the amount of time we took to do it.”

with them. It was kind of awkward in this cute way. We just decided we were going to be best friends. Then we toured with Courtney Barnett a little bit after that. At that point we had two records out. She’s been really supportive. That tour was really fun and we all got along really well. It was just one of those magical tours where there were no punishers. Everyone was great and we had a great time. It was just a really really cute tour. Since then we’ve all become closer friends. Darren Hanlon, who was opening that tour, is one of my best friends now. I just


went to Australia to tour the outback with him.

We were talking about it a bit before the interview, but how do you think the internet affected how you were able to do what you did as a band? What do you think are the benefits and setbacks to the way that the internet impacts how people approach making music now? I think we were lucky to get some attention at the time that we did. Now I kind of feel like it’s really over saturated.

The first thing that people really picked up on was—I guess we just put out No Regerts and Marc Riley from BBC was playing “Black Sail” a lot. He was really into that song and that felt like a big deal, to be played on the BBC. Then there was also this Buzzfeed article about the top ten worst band photos, and ours was number one. It was the picture of me with a steak chastity belt, haha. It’s just funny that they clearly made that whole list just because they saw that photo. But it’s also funny that they missed that the photo was a joke, and all of the other photos on the list were these sort of awkward band photos from the ‘70s and they didn’t really fit together. But that article kind of blew up, and I guess that photo got a lot of attention. We weren’t expecting that many people would see it. I don’t think I would have done it if we thought that many people were going to look at it. We mentioned to the photographer how early on in the band we had joked about throwing raw steaks on the audience and stuff. But the chastity belt made out of raw steak was her idea, and I was like “Sure, I guess I’ll do that.” haha. It was a little bit shocking when it came out,

and it got us a lot of attention which was pretty funny. So even if the internet is working against you, it can get you some publicity I guess, haha. What did you know you wanted to do differently when you started working on the second record, Time to Go Home? What do you think separates those two records from each other? Well we definitely wanted to spend more time on it. I think that one was done in a week or maybe six days. We also wanted to do it at a more legit studio, because the way that we did the previous one was in a DIY space that we turned into a studio for a couple days. At that point too, it was still really early on. I just wasn’t thinking about guitar tones and stuff like that as much as I am now. With each record we’ve learned a lot. I think we’ve taken more control with what we want the outcome to be. But for that first record we let go of a lot of control and let José figure out how to do things. We also had Matthew (Simms), the youngest member of Wire, mix the record. It was still pretty

“It’s just kind of funny because the first songs that I ever wrote are technically by the band that I’m still in, so they’re still being listened to, haha. It’s pretty crazy because most people’s first songs don’t really surface. With the internet too, they’re just out there for people to listen to!”


early on and not as thought out as our third record. I think our third record was when we actually started thinking a little bit more in terms of guitar tones and stuff. But even that album compared to how much we thought about it this time—this new record was very thought out and very intentional. We did so many overdubs and had a lot of ideas. We added violin and cello to songs, and all sorts of stuff. We just had way more ideas, because we had way more experience with mixing and listening to songs. It takes a lot to be able to describe what you want in music. So I feel like it takes a few tries to figure out the language even around mixing and stuff. Also this time around I had some experience of my own mixing, so I could actually explain things if I had an idea about panning or something that I wouldn’t have thought about on the record before. You mentioned that you all write your own parts for songs separately. How do each of you as individual songwriters inform how a song is constructed and arranged? It’s pretty cool how easily songs can come together sometimes, because we’re so used to playing with each other and because we’ve learned how to play with other people through each other. It’s very natural and we can kind of predict what everyone is going to do. We’re really good at creating space for each other and listening and finding parts that don’t interfere with each other, and instead add to each other. That’s a pretty special thing, I think. On our second and third record we would switch a little bit. Lydia had songs that she would bring to the band. Gretchen had songs that she would bring to the band, and I would drum on those. So in that sense, the band changed a little bit, because I’m not always the primary songwriter bring ideas to the band. I think that’s made things more interesting and more interactive. I don’t think I’d ever want to write other people’s parts for them. I don’t think that would be fun for them. Even with trying to get a band together for my solo stuff I’m like, “Ugh…” I hate having to tell people what to play. I’m just like, “Is this fun for you?” cause I don’t think I’d have that much fun learning a bass part that someone else had already written. I mean, it’s good practice, but it’s not as fun as getting to write your own thing. You’ve written so many great and memorable lyrics across all of the records you’ve made and each of the projects you’ve played in. Are there any lyrics that still feel particularly tender to you when you perform them? Are there any lines that you still feel proud about writing? I’ll go for a while not hearing a song and I’ll forget about it. Then revisiting a song I’ll sometimes think, Oh… this is a good song. But you kind of forget after playing it over and over and listening to it so many times. I think I was

maybe a little embarrassed by some of the songs on No Regerts, but now I’m like, “‘Pussy Weed Beer’ is genius.” haha. I don’t know, looking back on the more jokier songs, I feel like they’re pretty clever and I don’t have to be embarrassed by them. It’s just kind of funny because the first songs that I ever wrote are technically by the band that I’m still in, so they’re still being listened to, haha. It’s pretty crazy because most people’s first songs don’t really surface. With the internet too, they’re just out there for people to listen to! I mean, there are some songs that I’m like, “Woo, that’s not good.” Mostly just lyric wise I’m like, “Oh god…” But you know, I was young and I didn’t know what to write about. I was just still finding my voice. What do you think has informed your songwriting? Are there any writers or pieces in specific that have been inspirational for the voice that you have developed? I’ve always loved Elliott Smith and have always thought that he was a genius songwriter. I listened to him a lot in high school. He’s always been something to aspire towards, because his songs are really hard to play and he was really good at guitar. I watched this YouTube video of him explaining how he writes songs, and it’s pretty funny because he’s just like, “Yeah I don’t know, I just try different shapes and I’ll do this and I’ll have a descending bass line…” and he’ll start doing all of these crazy things on the guitar. But I think watching that was inspiring. There was something that clicked at a certain point where I just started playing chords that I made up. I don’t know music theory really, so I would just try different shapes until I was like, “That sounds cool!” I also like that some of his songs don’t have a very typical song structure. They’re sort of a stream of thoughts, and then it ends. So his music kind of expanded my idea of what a song could be. How did moving to Seattle impact your ability to do what you do? What has it been like to participate in the music community here? When we first moved here everyone was super supportive, and that gave us the confidence to keep doing what we were doing. It was really easy to get asked to play shows. We played a lot of shows when we first moved here. There were lots of opportunities and we just said yes to everything. I haven’t lived in any other city during my adult life really, so it’s kind of hard to compare it to other places. I’m not really sure what the music scene is like in other places. But I think Seattle isn’t competitive in the way that maybe New York or LA are. It’s more of a supportive community. So it was a really nice place to be starting off. How have you approached the other side projects that you’ve played in? How have those bands impacted your overall creative practice? Childbirth was pretty fun. I think when Chastity Belt started writing more earnest songs I formed Childbirth


“I formed Childbirth and directed the jokier songs into that band. It worked well because Stacy (Peck) and Bree (McKenna) had some really funny ideas. They inspired me to write these funny songs. It was nice to have that outlet at the time so that I could kind of balance Chastity Belt with something else.” and directed the jokier songs into that band. It worked well because Stacy (Peck) and Bree (McKenna) had some really funny ideas. They inspired me to write these funny songs. It was nice to have that outlet at the time so that I could kind of balance Chastity Belt with something else. For me it’s always been important to have something else going on besides Chastity Belt, so that I’m not putting all of the pressure on Chastity Belt. I think it’s healthy the have another outlet and to learn how to make different types of songs from it and play with different people. I do feel like I kind of outgrew that band a little bit. I just don’t have the energy to be that kind of front-woman anymore. Who Is She? kind of came out of my friends Bree and Robin (Edwards) living together and them writing these silly songs. At the time I was trying to get better at drums, and the three of us were all hanging out a bunch. We’d have these late night jams, and it just kind of formed from that. It helped me a lot with my drumming, even though Robin’s songs are way different to drum to than Gretchen’s. But having more practice with drums was good. That band was very much, “We’re hanging out, why don’t we just jam because it’s fun.” It’s a friendship band, haha.


How would you describe the process of writing and recording the third Chastity Belt record? I feel like that album is particularly cohesive in the ideas you’re all talking about and the visual elements you put forth. How would you characterize that album in particular? It definitely has a mood to it. For that one we thought we were giving ourselves a lot of time, but we actually did it in like a week… which makes me think that we actually did Time to Go Home in like four days, haha. We did it in a week and we had 14 songs to record, so it was pretty rushed. I don’t know what we were thinking… haha. We did that one in Portland with Matthew (Simms) who mixed Time to Go Home. He produced and mixed that one, so he had a vision for it. I think at that point we fully formed our sound and moved into a certain direction with our song writing. A lot of the songs on that record were written within the span of three or four years. But I think at that point we had developed our sound more, so that’s why it sounds more cohesive. And I think having the same person mixing and producing it added to that as well. But if I were to do it over again, I definitely would have taken more time recording it, because it felt pretty rushed. With each record I’m more and more proud of it and I think each one is a better representation of the songs and what we all envisioned for them.

Photo by Angel Ceballos

“I think I always develop a level of detachment from what the song even means after a while, because it loses its meaning when you’re singing it every night. But taking a break from songs and then going back and revisiting them helps me remember what the songs are actually about.” How do you look back at songs when you’re playing them years later? How do you feel about the way that you saw your life when you were writing those songs? Yeah it’s kind of trippy relearning old songs. It does take me back to the place I was at when I wrote the songs. I guess the whole “touring your album” thing is weird even, because a lot of the time you’ll write a song and then record it maybe a year or two later, then the record comes out a year later, and then after that you’re touring it. So the songs can be three or four years old, and you’re singing them over and over again. It’s kind of backwards in a weird way, where you’re having to revisit that mindset. But I think I always develop a level of detachment from what the song even means after a while, because it loses its


meaning when you’re singing it every night. But taking a break from songs and then going back and revisiting them helps me remember what the songs are actually about. Then it’s interesting to see how things have changed with my songwriting—and also how things haven’t changed, haha. It’s an interesting way to mark different times in your life and anchor different things. Something I really respect about you and a lot of musicians who are writing from a similar place is this ability to allow oneself to be so vulnerable and communicate these things that the people listening to the music don’t have a way of communicating themselves. Performers are often making that sacrifice and enacting this catharsis that people in the

audience are paying to witness or take part in. What do you feel like you’ve given up by putting yourself in the position of doing that for so many of your fans? Yeah, it’s definitely pretty hard at times. It does take a lot of vulnerability to be able to do. I think it’s just something that you have to get use to—but it’s hard. Even thinking about it now, it’s kind of scary. I’m not really the type of person to put myself out there. Pretty much none of us in the band are. We’re all introverts, haha. But I think that’s kind of what makes our band special. We’re not really in it for the performance of it, we’re more in it because we love playing music with each other and we love writing songs. So I think that differentiates us from some other bands that are maybe more interested in being famous and playing shows and getting attention and taking press photos. That’s all the stuff that is actually my least favorite part of being in a band. We’re not typically the types who would want to share intimate things with a large number of people. It’s been challenging, but it’s also really gratifying when you do get people who can really connect with your music. People say some really nice things about how some of our songs have gotten them through a really rough time. That

feels really good. Usually that outweighs some harsher comments that I’ve read on the internet, haha. I’ve kind of learned not to read internet comments. Occasionally I will if I feel like punishing myself, haha. I think a lot of people develop an art practice in order to have a place to communicate things that they would otherwise have a hard time communicating. I think especially when you’re starting out it’s a lot easier to use music or art as a way to hide things that you want to say out loud without worrying about who is listening and when you don’t have much to lose. How do you remind yourself that you still have the freedom to communicate whatever as the stakes feel like they’re getting higher once more people are listening? I think I went through a phase where that really affected me. When I first started writing songs I didn’t think about the reception at all. I didn’t think that many people were going to hear them, which made the songs more pure. You can see it with a bunch of different bands and musicians. Their earlier stuff feels more vulnerable and more pure—because it is! There is no faking that. Once you start getting some reception, it’s hard to get out of that mindset and still be making the same kind of art. Things

“We felt some pressure from everyone else who was working for us to do what they wanted, and we weren’t really stopping and checking in with ourselves about what felt good. I think there was a certain amount of pressure from how big a part of our lives Chastity Belt had become.” Photo by Conner Lyons


just change… But I try not to think about it, haha. But it definitely has affected my songwriting a little bit. I think after Time to Go Home people sort of latched on to songs like “Cool Slut” and “Drone” and only wanted to talk about those songs because they are so overtly feminist. I just felt like, Well, what about the other songs? haha. It was kind of frustrating that every interview was about being a feminist or being a woman in music. It was pretty annoying. I kind of remember consciously trying not to have overtly feminist lyrics in the next album because I wanted to have people ask different questions. Also I felt like there was something to being feminist and not having to overtly say it. To me, my version of feminism now is that I don’t have to talk about being a woman or like I don’t have to talk about feminism in my music. That shouldn’t be expected of me. To me, that’s what felt good at the time—writing what I felt like writing and not necessarily what people expected or what was going to get the most attention. I think in a way we’re lucky that we didn’t get too big because it allowed us to make progress without people just being like, “Oh, we liked your old stuff!” I mean, people probably still say that, but I just don’t care. It’s funny—with each record the press for the record has been like “Oh, Chastity Belt is more mature now.” and we’re just like, “Well, yeah! With age you grow, and you get older, and things change, and you make progress.” But it’s like, that’s all they could think to come up with for our last record becasue their wasn’t specifically a feminist slant. But we’re older, so what do you expect. We’re not going to be writing the same music that we were when we were 19. After you put that record out you went on tour and then sort of abruptly took a break from a lot of things. You’ve talked about going through a rough point when that was going on. How did all of those things happening in your personal and professional life force you to take a break and reassess what you were doing? All of the essential band stuff started feeling un-fun. I felt kind of trapped in this album cycle thing. All of the touring was kind of getting to me and the novelty of it wore off. Mostly, we all just felt like we had been forced into certain things and we lost sight of why we were making music in the first place. We just felt like, Well, we’re just doing what bands do. This is what the label wants. We felt some pressure from everyone else who was working for us to do what they wanted, and we weren’t really stopping and checking in with ourselves about what felt good. I think there was a certain amount of pressure from how big a part of our lives Chastity Belt had become. I just felt very defined by the band, because pretty much my whole adult life has been defined by the band. Maybe I was having a little bit of an existential crisis…


So it was nice taking a little time off. I mean, we probably only took like six months off before we started practicing again. But it was nice to have that time to just figure out who I was outside of the band and what else I could possibly do. I was toying with the idea of not being in the band, and what that would be like. But at the time I was still writing music and recording it. That felt good, and I realized that I’m always going to want to write music. That’s always going to come naturally and I’m not going to have to force that like I do have to sometimes force performing and touring. It was nice to recognize that and move back into doing something with the band with more intention and figuring out how we all felt about it. I think it was nice for all of us, and everyone enjoyed taking a little break and being able to do our own things. Lydia and Gretchen also started doing solo stuff and Annie toured with a couple different bands. It was just nice to take some time off and revaluate. I think we’re all into taking whatever time we need and doing whatever we need to do. We don’t want the band to define us completely and take away from other things in our lives that are important. If that means we won’t put out as many records each year, than that’s fine. We’re all interested in writing songs and recording, and that’s most important to us. It was nice to feel all on the same page about wanting the band to last. So making it sustainable includes taking time off and doing other things. What do you think it takes to maintain a healthy relationship with each other as a band? What do you all actively do to make sure everyone feels supported and respected? I think we’re all… Well I made everyone take personality tests, haha. Gretchen and Lydia and I are all INFPs and Annie is ISFP. So we’re all pretty similar. I think we’re all just naturally the kinds of people who care for other people and don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Something that can not be great, because we all avoid conflict and we’re not as direct as we could be. But we’re all very conscientious and ultimately, we’re going to try to talk things out and work things out. We’ve had some hard times that we’ve gotten through. It feels like a marriage. I was watching this Coldplay documentary, and Chris Martin was talking about how Coldplay was a four way marriage, and I was like, Yes, I can relate! It is really sensitive stuff that you’re dealing with— other people’s creative voices and things getting really personal. It’s hard having an opinion and not hurting other people’s feelings. It’s just a tricky thing. I think we’re all sort of learning how to communicate with each other in the best way. But we’re definitely more intentional about checking in and talking about things that don’t feel good and things that feel good. We’re all really good about showing each other that we care and that we’re all very loving. Especially Annie—she’ll be the one to bring it up. She’ll be like, “Love you guys so much! So grateful! So

Photo by Carley Solether

“It is really sensitive stuff that you’re dealing with—other people’s creative voices and things getting really personal. It’s hard having an opinion and not hurting other people’s feelings. It’s just a tricky thing. I think we’re all sort of learning how to communicate with each other in the best way.” grateful!” It’s really nice that we all get along. I think it is pretty rare for a band to be able to stick together for this long. Did you start working on the material that would become your first solo record, Perfect Version, when you took that break from the band? I had already recorded like half of my solo stuff before that. The four songs that I did in a studio, “A Couple Highs,” “Around The Block,” “Harder To Do,” and “Parking Lot,” were what I had already recorded. But after that I started recording songs by myself in my apartment. I had just gone through a breakup, so I had the apartment to myself, and that felt really good to have my own space. To be able to set it up as a studio and leave it—that was really nice. I was originally just trying to record demos, so that I could re-record them in a studio later, because that’s what I did with the first four. But I got really attached to how the demos sounded. I felt sort of like, These sound good to me. I don’t really want to re-record them. Partially because I’m kind of lazy, haha. But I also think there’s a sort of magic captured in the first recording of something.


I’m always kind of drawn to demo versions of songs because there’s a certain intimacy to them. So I just tried to think about that. I also was having a lot of fun learning how to mix and learning how to record. So it was a cool learning experience too. What do you feel like you learned from working on those songs that helped inform the writing you did for the new self-titled Chastity Belt album? Has the band as a whole changed how you approach songwriting at all? Our songs are getting a little more… “intricate” haha. Very jammy. When I started recording songs for my solo album, I kind of got more experimental, because I had the time to do it and I didn’t have anyone judging me—except for myself. So I could really create some sort of fucked up sounds, just for fun to see what it was like. It was nice having that room to explore. I think with the Chastity Belt record too, it was cool to envision other instruments and things. We had more time to explore with overdubs. I also don’t think we had done much in the way of harmonies before. With my solo record I recorded all of the vocals

“It’s more of a thoughtful record in the way that we recorded it. We just had more time to try new things and I felt like I had more ideas with tone since I had spent time fucking around and really listening to things.” myself—even the ones that I did in the studio—so I had more time to fuck around with the harmonies and I realized how much I like harmonies. That informed some things with the Chastity Belt record. There are a lot more harmonies on it and all of us singing different parts at the same time. A lot of overlapping vocals. In that way too, it’s more of a thoughtful record in the way that we recorded it. We just had more time to try new things and I felt like I had more ideas with tone since I had spent time fucking around and really listening to things. Before when we were mixing, I wouldn’t really listen to the bass or the drums as much. I’d be more tuned into the guitar. Then after recording all of my own instruments and mixing them, it made me pay attention to how the drums could sound differently. With this most recent Chastity Belt record I was listening to it more as a whole and I had a lot more ideas and ways to communicate. Are there any interests outside of music that you’ve been wanting to devote more time to? I remember you talking about doing some of the packaging design for your albums. I’m interested in all forms of art. Music has just been the

one that has taken off. I had a lot of fun designing all of the art for my solo record. I was just working on the Chastity Belt art too. I designed the cover and the back and the insert for it. Design has always been interesting to me. I did the Childbirth record and the art for Who Is She? But I don’t exactly know what I’m doing, so it would be cool to take a class and have more options of things that I can do. I’m kind of limited with what I know how to do on Photoshop. I think if I were to choose any other career, it would have to be something with some amount of creativity in it. I don’t think I could really do an office job where there was no creative control over anything. I think the main thing that I spend my time doing outside of music is just hanging out with my friends, haha. I don’t know if that would count as a hobby or interest, but I’d say my friends are really important to me. Probably more important than music. So I try to balance my time with working on music and hanging out with friends. That’s a nice thing about living in Seattle. People are usually down to hang. I think it’s different in other cities. We were talking about it before, but I get the sense that people feel like they’re hustling in New York, and in LA it’s harder to get across town. In Seattle everyone just wants to hang, which is really nice. Everyone knows each other in my building,


“I think the main thing that I spend my time doing outside of music is just hanging out with my friends, haha. I don’t know if that would count as a hobby or interest, but I’d say my friends are really important to me. Probably more important than music. So I try to balance my time with working on music and hanging out with friends.” and now that it’s summer time people are just hanging out on the side lawn. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? It would be really cool to have a studio space where I could make art and paint and stuff, because I am interested in that. But I also don’t really have the time or the space to do it that often. But it could be cool to get back into that. As you can see, I have a couple paintings I’ve done on the walls in my apartment. I was painting things from TV shows for a second, haha. There’s just not enough time for everything. What do you feel like you still struggle with as an artist? What hurdles do you hope to overcome in the near future?

I’ll probably always struggle with that. Maybe it’s a good thing to stay modest though. I think that’s the biggest hurdle. It is hard when you’re vulnerable and there’s a lot of shit on the internet that you can read about you that is not very nice. So if I am in a bad mood I think about that kind of stuff, and that’s not great. But I think there’s always going to be a certain level of self-doubt and feeling like I’m always questioning whether what I’m doing is the right thing or how long I should be doing this for or what else I could be doing. But right now it feels like the right thing, and I’m not really the type of person to have a five year plan or whatever. But I’m going to be 30 in a little over a year, so I think at that point I might be like, “What am I doing?” But it feels right to do this right now. I’m always trying to check in with myself and remind myself of other things I can do so that I don’t feel totally stuck.

I guess just like… self-confidence, haha. I don’t know,



Jenn Pelly is a New York based editor and music journalist who has poured every ounce of her being into championing

the voices and innovations of women in the underground music community. While growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Jenn and her twin sister Liz were captivated by the expansive pop-punk scene that flourished during the mid-2000s. Although her interest in music was activated by her local scene, Jenn found her voice and motivations as a writer through her observation of the pervasive sexism rooted in much of the scene’s music and ideology. From that point on, Jenn has spent much of her adolescence and young adulthood investigating, documenting, and celebrating independent musicians around the world, while making every effort to preserve the stories of underrepresented voices.

Jenn’s career as a music writer has existed in a post-internet music industry, where infinite space and connectivity

has led or a wider scope of perspectives but a startling lack of revenue streams. Despite the internet’s turbulent impact on both music and journalism, Jenn has continued the legacy of many of her favorite 20th Century writers, diligently discovering new music and documenting it thoughtfully. Shortly after graduating college Jenn began a staff position at Pitchfork and has since introduced dozens of underexposed artists to the site’s massive global audience. Over the past decade Jenn has become one of the most influential contemporary music writers, while contributing pieces to the gamut of top tier publications like The New York Times, Spin, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian. Last year she published her first book, a heartfelt exploration the self titled debut of visionary feminist punk band The Raincoats, as a part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 book series.

I first met Jenn and her sister Liz a few years ago when I would frequent the Brooklyn DIY space The Silent Barn,

which they both were very involved with. This spring I happened to run into Jenn while she was visiting Los Angeles, and we commiserated over some of our less enjoyable interview experiences. Afterwords I asked Jenn if she’d be interested in doing an interview for this issue, and we arranged to meet up again several days later at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Mt. Washington to take photos and conduct the following conversation.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from a town called Massapequa, which is on the south shore of Long Island. My high school is best known for the fact that both Jerry Seinfeld and Alec Baldwin attended; we had The Baldwin Auditorium at MHS. But the Warhol superstar Candy Darling also grew up there and I always thought that was much, much cooler—like the Lou Reed song, Candy came from out on the Island! That’s Massapequa, not as catchy in a song I guess. All of my possessions are in Brooklyn currently, but I don’t really know where I live. I’ve been in Los Angeles since the end of January. What role did music play early on in your life? Did your parents introduce you to a lot of music? I didn’t grow up in a particularly musical household. In elementary school I remember hearing “No Scrubs” by TLC and my mom wouldn’t get me the CD single because it had an explicit-content warning, so I secretly called my

dad while he was at work in the city, and he got it for me from the Virgin Mega Store. That’s the first time I can remember being curious about music on my own. Me and Liz (Pelly)—who is my identical twin sister and a brilliant music journalist—we got into everything together. Growing up on Long Island, there was a really active music scene. I don’t know if I would say it was a “good” music scene, but it was active. We started getting into it in middle school when we met our friend Lauren who was from Brooklyn and she was totally responsible for introducing us to the concept of anything alternative. The first song I ever heard that was even remotely punk was called “Life Makes No Sense” by The Ataris. I felt it super deeply at the time—life did not make sense. I was 13 and I was already really shy and quiet and awkward and self-loathing. I remember being in elementary school and hiding under the slide at recess because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was such a loner. When I discovered what counterculture was, I resonated with it deeply, from


a really young age. Liz and I both played the violin in school, and for a brief moment we were like third or fourth chair, but we fell from grace with that pretty abruptly. I took guitar lessons in ninth grade, but that didn’t last long either—I wanted to express myself directly and writing seemed like the best way. Do you remember any of the specific things that you found or that were going on around you that left a big impression on you? When we were growing up on Long Island, it was like the post-Taking Back Sunday, post-Brand New style of emo or post-hardcore, or whatever you want to call it. There were a lot of people on Long Island who were booking all-ages shows at places that seemed strange and exciting—temples, churches, VFW halls, backyards, practice spaces, driveways—it was all totally new to us. We spent a ton of time at a bar/venue that would do allages shows called The Downtown, that was like the emo epicenter for a while. There wasn’t a ton of reason to immediately explore music beyond Long Island, or into

the past even, because there was so much happening where we were from. I was really into this band Straylight Run, which was former members of Taking Back Sunday making indie rock more or less, and it was also the only band I’d ever seen that included a woman. It didn’t take long for me to see how that subculture was male-dominated and pretty sexist—I wrote an essay called “Unraveling the Sexism of Third Wave Emo” where I reflect on this—and in an unlikely way, it encouraged my feminism. When I was 15 I was already thinking about the possibility of doing journalism that amplified women’s voices. But it’s complicated; I still value the scene I grew up with in ways, it was a mostly straight-edge scene that helped me see the world differently. When did you initially get interested in writing? How did that eventually lead to you writing for a local paper and starting a blog with your sister? Truthfully, I’d love to forget the blog era haha, but you can’t erase anything from the internet. I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was five. I was at a Daisies meeting and this woman came to read to us from a children’s book

Me and Liz (Pelly)—who is my identical twin sister and a brilliant music journalist—we got into everything together. Growing up on Long Island, there was a really active music scene.

It didn’t take long for me to see how that subculture was male-dominated and pretty sexist—I wrote an essay called “Unraveling the Sexism of Third Wave Emo” where I reflect on this—and in an unlikely way, it encouraged my feminism. she wrote about these anthropomorphic soap bubbles hanging out on the edge of a rainbow. It was really psychedelic. I was drawn to the idea that someone could create a whole world on their own. I related to storytelling in that way. Liz and I made our first zine around that age by collecting our parents’ receipts from the grocery store and stapling them together and writing “Our Parents Spend Money on Junk” on the cover. In middle school we’d go to Tower Records and linger in the books section. One day I was paging through a copy of Alternative Press and thought, Wow, a music magazine! I became obsessed with the idea of merging my interests in music and writing. My eighth-grade boyfriend broke up with me because he said I cared more about music than I cared about him, and he was right! By the time high school rolled around I was still mostly spending my lunch periods alone—not hiding under a slide but I would go to Starbucks and read The New York Times. I carried The New York Times around in high school, that was kind of like, my thing lol. I’d read it all the time. I joined the high school paper, and then Liz joined, and one day the newspaper club took a field trip to The

Long Island Press, which was the alt-weekly on Long Island. I remember thinking the people we met there were so cool. The main daily newspaper on Long Island is called Newsday, and the staff of The Long Island Press told us about how they did a story where they uncovered that Newsday was inflating their circulation stats, and everyday Newsday would dump a bunch of issues into the trash. The Long Island Press went to the dumpster and did this big expose on how Newsday was lying to sell ads. The Long Island Press was doing journalism that was clearly kind of subversive, and it introduced me and Liz to the concept of an alt-weekly and we were like, so captivated. After that field trip we both started pitching The Long Island Press and writing for them. We tried to bring that oppositional alt-weekly spirit to the high school paper. Senior year I was the editor-in-chief of the paper and Liz was managing editor and we decided that there was going to be a Newspaper Revolution. We increased the frequency of the paper from three issues a year to 10, or something, and each issue went from like 12 pages to 36, and we added a color-splash centerfold, and Liz and I also wrote a lot of the articles. So it was kind of a combination of discovering music journalism in


middle school, becoming involved with the high school newspaper, and writing concert listings for the alt-weekly that gave us our start. In eleventh grade, as soon as we’d gotten a few clips writing for The Long Island Press, we both started pitching to national publications. I pitched and wrote for some music papers I found at record stores in the city, too. I ended up writing a lot in high school and I also worked part-time jobs—I don’t know when or if I did homework. How much of the community that you found through writing were people that you discovered online and how much was people you met in person? Did you start interacting with more people outside of where you were because of the internet? The internet was a huge catalyst, for sure. Especially with getting into music in middle school and early high school, we were super tapped into online communities. LiveJournal and MySpace were so at the center of our music fandom. What was your experience like moving to New York for college? Growing up on Long Island we hung out in the city all the time, especially in high school. It was post-9/11 and a lot of parents in our town wouldn’t let their kids go into the city, but our parents encouraged us to. I had taken drawing and photography classes at FIT in high school; we’d have to go around the class and explain what we wanted to study in college, and I’d say I wanted to be a journalist and I was trying to learn about everything. So anyway, by the time I got to college I was familiar with the city, I had even taken an elective senior year called “Navigating NYC” where we just studied the subway map and got quizzed on NYC history trivia. It was kind of a fake elective for kids who needed to boost their GPAs and I was the only person who took it seriously, the teacher used to joke that I should be leading the class. I initially went to Fordham and then transferred to NYU, where I quickly got involved with college radio, which was life-changing. WNYU is really where I started to learn everything about music. I worked at the station and did internships at Rolling Stone and Spin, alongside other paid jobs. It was hard, I was utterly overworked in college, but I knew what I wanted to do and how unlikely it was, so I just stayed focused. What department were you studying within in college? Did you meet anyone or read anything that left a lasting impression on you? Tons of stuff. I double majored in Journalism and English & American Literature. I took a lot of classes about the history and literature of New York. I read Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Joseph Mitchell, and Virginia Woolf for

the first time in college, all life-changing. People are often like, “You don’t have to study journalism!” but I loved studying journalism because I love journalism! I still often think about things my journalism professor Frank Flaherty taught me about choosing powerful verbs, structuring stories, and writing ledes. I also had a class with the writer Suketu Mehta and I remember him telling us that as journalists we should study poetry, which was really affirming since I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing poetry. One of my English professors was Bryan Waterman, who taught me so much and was such a big influence. I took a class with him called The Downtown Scene in the ‘70s where we read Grapefruit by Yoko Ono, Just Kids by Patti Smith, Silence by John Cage, I Remember by Joe Brainard, the Arthur Russell book Hold Onto Your Dreams by Tim Lawrence, we watched Blank Generation, studied Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg—it was just an amazing class that left an enormous impression on me. During my senior year there was a symposium at NYU about the pioneering feminist music critic Ellen Willis, who was the first rock critic for The New Yorker. I am so grateful that that happened when I was a senior in college. It was also life-changing. There was a book of her work that came out that spring called Out of the Vinyl Deeps, which must have been the first time I read criticism that felt really perfect. Out of the Vinyl Deeps has since become one of my bibles, alongside books like Mystery Train by Greil Marcus, the Spin Alternative Record Guide, and the Angry Women books from RE/ Search. When did you become more active in the DIY music community that was blossoming in New York? That started when I got involved with WNYU. I started going to all-ages DIY shows at Silent Barn, Death by Audio, and Market Hotel, punk shows at 538 Johnson, experimental shows at Issue Project Room, in-stores at Other Music, wherever. Underground music scenes can feel elitist or intimidating from the outside, but I cared about the music so much that I guess most of the time it didn’t really bother me. I always hope that will be the case for others. At some point I started volunteering for Showpaper, which was a free all-ages show-listing, and I would help distribute it at shows. I’d encourage anyone who wants to get involved with their local music scene to start a listings calendar to give out around town. Volunteering with Showpaper lead to me working at shows in other capacities—bartending, working door, mopping floors, and other unglamorous tasks. I was doing that a lot in 2010 and 2011 at 285 Kent, Silent Barn, Monster Island, Shea Stadium, the Showpaper Gallery, Living Bread Deli, the Chinese Buffet shows in Ridgewood, wherever. Eventually I started booking shows and even playing shows, but that had a lot more


to do with the second iteration of Silent Barn, which was extremely inclusive, than it did with my college days. Once you were finishing school, were you nervous at all about the industry that you were entering into? What were some of the first articles you remember writing towards the end of school? I was nervous, but I also wanted to be a freelance journalist, go figure. Even then, in 2011, it seemed too ridiculous to imagine I’d land a staff position. After interning at Rolling Stone and Spin, my hope or dream was that I would one day get to contribute to those publications. So I tried to freelance as much as I could senior year. Pitchfork was my favorite music magazine by then, and I was writing for its short-lived experimental spin-off site Altered Zones. I wrote a couple of concert reviews for The Village Voice, and I did a piece for Nylon about the DIY scene in Dublin. Also NYU offered a graduate class that year where you’d spend the semester reporting stories for this New York Times East Village hyperlocal website, and I was able to register for that. That was exciting but it was not paid. It was definitely daunting graduating, especially with so much debt. I quickly got a part-time office job to pay my rent. I moved into one of the tiny rooms at Market Hotel the summer after I graduated, because I didn’t want to move home and it was cheaper than living in a real apartment, though it was still too expensive for what it was, which was more or less a disgusting vacant warehouse (there were only a couple of shows there that summer and one was Death Grips; they brought a fake guillotine to Market as a “prop” and it just sat there in the main space of the venue all summer). At the end of that summer Pitchfork reached out to me about a position. What seems different about what was going on around the time that you started writing for Pitchfork in 2011 and now? What was the environment like when you started there? When I got hired at Pitchfork, Mark Richardson had just taken over as Editor-in-Chief, and he hired a lot of young women. I think this was a moment where Pitchfork was maybe grappling with how the site had been so maledominated for so long. So they hired me, Carrie Battan, Lindsay Zoladz, and Laura Snapes all around the same time. I thought it was a really pivotal time. Culture in general seemed to be becoming more feminist again. I remember in 2011, around the Ellen Willis conference at NYU, Ann Powers wrote a piece for NPR with the headline “A Golden Age For Women Writing About Music.” The economic realities of journalism are depressing, but there’s also so much inspiring writing happening, and there’s been such incredible growth in representation across media in general. I’m really into digging through music magazine archives, and it often makes me sad and


angry to see how women artists were written about in the ‘90s and early 2000s, not to mention the ‘70s and ‘80s. Even five or 10 years ago, so much sexism was allowed to fly in a way that it’s not currently. Something I’ve really admired about your approach to your work is that you’ve contributed equally to this national music publication and your local music community. What do you feel like you’ve learned from both? How do you let your view of both inform each other? Journalism and writing are my job; it’s a skillset I have. So having the opportunity to take this skillset and use it to serve an underground project that I care about—I’m always interested in that. When my sister’s website The Media was happening more, it was exciting to put as much intention and thought into a piece for The Media as a piece for any other publication. Journalism moves so fast—you finish a piece and then you’re onto the next thing. You put as much as you possibly can into a piece, maybe you even lose sleep over it, but then you have the opportunity to do even better next time, and it’s just an ongoing process. On a totally different tip, my sister and I started this spoken word/noise project a few years ago called Abandon— mostly so that we could play shows at Silent Barn when an opener was needed. Our friend Stephen Lee Clark eventually joined and he would do power electronics and contact mic a cinder block/chains/sheet metal. I was intent on keeping it a secret project at first, but lately we’ve been slightly more public about it, I think mostly because we can’t believe it’s still going. We had a track on a benefit comp put together by our friends at Wharf Cat Records last year and people still ask us to perform. Liz and I used to have this joke: she was really invested in the idea of community, and I was way more of a recluse—I was more like, “Oh no, people.” But Silent Barn kind of changed the way I thought about being around people. Abandon started purely as an experiment: I wanted to know what it felt like to perform in that context. I was working on my book about The Raincoats at the time, and they totally inspired me, but Abandon also informed some of my writing about “beginnings” in the book. Unlike a lot of other music writers, you also haven’t really written many scathing reviews or tear downs. You’ve taken a lot more opportunities to validate musicians that didn’t have much exposure before you wrote about them. Where does that impetus come from and where do you see value in writing pieces with that focus? I think there are a few factors. One is that, while I was working full-time at Pitchfork as an editor and a staff writer, those roles didn’t leave much time for writing album reviews during the day. So for most of my 20s, if I

wanted to write an album review, it would be on nights or weekends. I only had and have so much time and energy, so I’d usually prefer to take assignments when it was something I was really interested in and excited about. Another part of it is, I think I’m really hardwired towards a more journalistic mindset—I like to uncover something new, something you might not hear about otherwise. That seems like a more valuable contribution on my part than to pan something mediocre—though those also serve a purpose. I like reading incisive, negative criticism. It’s important and it’s healthy for culture. But I think what I can contribute more is that I often know about stuff that no one else is writing about.

2016 I profiled Camae Ayewa who makes music as Moor Mother. She’s one of my favorite contemporary artists. It’s been amazing to see her take over the world. I saw Laurie Anderson present her The Kitchen’s Emerging Artist Award in 2017, and witnessing Laurie Anderson—a hero—giving Camae—a hero—an award was so sick. Getting to interview Jenny Hval in 2013 and 2015 was really meaningful. I was also the first person to write about Mitski on Pitchfork.

What are some things that you’ve felt really proud to write about or introduce to new people?

At some point I realized that journalism and criticism are sort of the same thing, except with journalism you’re posing questions at other people and with criticism you’re posing questions at yourself. Both are necessary. Especially right now, when music is so grossly devalued in our culture despite how we all know it is one of the only good things about being alive. We’re living through a cultural crisis in music, and the only way to wake people up to that is by focused investigation and big-picture critique. The work my sister Liz is doing about Spotify is

I’ve done a lot of Pitchfork Rising interviews over the years, and I love doing them. I was a huge fan of Katie and Allison Crutchfield’s music when no one at Pitchfork was talking about them. The first thing I pitched when I got hired was a review of the Waxahatchee song “Grass Stain,” and in 2012 I reviewed the Swearin album and I interviewed Katie for a Rising. Another that sticks out is in

How do you try to differentiate music journalism from music criticism? How does each one function differently, and how are both individually valuable?

At some point I realized that journalism and criticism are sort of the same thing, except with journalism you’re posing questions at other people and with criticism you’re posing questions at yourself. Vivien Goldman and Jenn Pelly

Liana Jegers

I think a lot of that involves thinking beyond genre and tapping into what is actually important to you about music. Why is music a life or death thing to you? If you can pinpoint what that is, then maybe it can be a way into your writing. a huge inspiration. I feel like Spotify is normalizing theft from artists in an unprecedented way. Spotify is trying to tell us that music holds less value than it used to. My sister refers to the “automation of selling out” on Spotify and it seems like Spotify wants to automate music from a creative standpoint, too—to make it more complacent. That poses a shattering threat to the survival of music and it should be met with resistance. Over the past ten years you’ve done so much to validate and uncover a lot of women’s contributions to underground music and culture through your work. You’ve worked to document innovations made by women in underground music and you’ve worked to fill in a lot of gaps in our understanding of that history. How have you approached having a platform to do that work, and what stories have your felt proud of preserving? I try to follow my intuition. As a writer you have to make tiny decisions constantly, whether it’s word choice or deciding what piece to pursue. You have to be tapped into what you like and what you don’t like. As goofy as

it sounds, knowing yourself is really important because your whole life as a writer revolves around your intuitive knowledge of what you do and don’t want to say. I believe in objectivity, but I also believe in obsessions, and I think it’s interesting when you can get into the heart of a song or a record or even just a moment in music (and I don’t mean by interviewing the person who made it, I mean by listening closely) and really think about it from the inside out. The Raincoats are a band that has spoken to me so deeply for all of my adult life. When I first heard them, I felt so reflected in their music to the point that I felt like the songs were an extension of me, but I didn’t understand why. Part of why I wanted to write a book about them was, I thought that if I could understand why I related to them so deeply, maybe I would understand something bigger. And I think my instinct was right. I learned so much from the process of doing that book. Not just about their music, but also the way that we all (feminist outsiders) might see ourselves in the world.


With a lot of your writing you’ve highlighted perspectives that are important and that need to be more a part of the greater conversation about underground music. The common thread for a lot of the music you write about isn’t like a genre or anything, it’s more so voices that need to be understood and recognized right now and in history. I think a lot of that involves thinking beyond genre and tapping into what is actually important to you about music. Why is music a life or death thing to you? If you can pinpoint what that is, then maybe it can be a way into your writing. For me, I like to celebrate imperfections, oddity, stuff that is poetic and slightly askew, intense lyrically, noncommercial and nonmale. When I really dig into it, a lot of those interests are rooted in how capitalist heteropatriachy and greed have created a system in which women are made to hate themselves, and how music has helped me survive that since childhood. I think a lot of music journalists and fans would agree that music is a way of interacting with the world, and that’s part of what is really exciting about it. I think if you can tap into what really matters to you in music, you can tap into what really matters to you in the world. What are some pieces that you’ve written that felt like turning points in your career or that changed the way you approach your work? Writing my Raincoats book was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I’d also say my 2014 review of the Sleater-Kinney discography box set Start Together—they’re my favorite band in the world— and an essay I wrote in 2016 about Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” around the 20th anniversary of Tidal. I felt like there was some stuff in that essay that had been inside me for at least 10 years. What was the catalyst for you to begin writing your 33 1/3 book about The Raincoats self-titled debut? How did planning out that project differ from every other project you had done before it? I had never written a book before. Again, The Raincoats music felt like it was coming from inside of me and I didn’t know what it was. It was mysterious in a way. I thought it sounded feminine, but I didn’t know how to talk about that in a way that didn’t sound ridiculous. So I was looking for a language, and I felt like doing the book helped me find one. I wanted to write a book about The Raincoats and I decided to pitch it to 33 1/3 because I didn’t know anything about book publishing—I was 24. But 33 1/3 has an open proposal process detailed on their website, so I knew I could try to pitch to them. I decided to pitch the selftitled album because it seemed like the most historically significant one. I also just love origin stories. It’s why I really


like Our Band Could Be Your Life, because it’s the stories of the beginnings of all of those bands. I love reading about the point at which an artist realizes that they can do something, or finally convinces themselves, or when they are just barely getting the confidence to start. What was it like working so closely with the band on the book? What do you feel like you learned from making the book? I wasn’t totally sure how interested they would be in speaking with me. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me. But I knew I wanted to approach it as a piece of longform reporting mixed with criticism, history, theory, and just a little bit of first-person narration—a collage of those forms, because their record feels like a collage to me, too. I went to London in November 2014 for a research trip and I think I earned their trust then. Ana da Silva (singer/ guitarist) and Shirley O’Loughlin (collaborator/manager) are a couple and in their apartment they have a huge archive of newspaper clippings, zine clippings, photos, videos. They just pulled it out and brought it to the kitchen table, and I was able to sit there and scan like 200 pages. I was in awe as I was doing it. None of it had ever been digitized. I thought some of the papers might crumble in my hands. It felt like a secret history. I printed everything out and assembled the pages in this pink binder that I marked up with a highlighter and tons of notes. There was so much I learned from that process that I never would have found just by using Google. I’m super grateful— the book wouldn’t have been the same if they hadn’t allowed me to access their archives. Everyone from the Raincoats—Ana da Silva, Gina Birch, Shirley O’Loughlin, Palmolive, Vicki Aspinall—are hugely inspiring artists and people. I mean, they inspired Bikini Kill to reunite. I learned so much from writing about The Raincoats: I refer to “Raincoats logic” in the book, and I really feel like there is stuff to be learned about life from their music. Their music is beautiful—melodically, lyrically, texturally—but it is also a bit shaky, which is a really disarming combination. They are reaching for a sound that they “possibly can’t achieve,” as Vicki told me, and there’s a lot of power in that reach. Every note of their music contains the basic idea that as people we are not perfect, we are not fully formed, we are making things up as we go along, but there’s still a lot of poetry and grace to be found in our attempts to work within that. What was it like doing the book tour following its release? I felt so lucky to be able to attend the Q&A and performance you organized at The Kitchen in New York. The Raincoats have a long-standing relationship with The Kitchen, and after writing the book, the band liked it, and

Greil Marcus and Jenn Pelly

It was interesting to write a book about a DIY punk band and have the process of promoting it also feel grassroots. they were interested in participating in events that I did. So Shirley, the manager, kind of told me, “You know, The Kitchen really want us to come back and play shows. Maybe we can do something around your book?” and I was like, “Yes please!!” My understanding is that they had been planning to do something at The Kitchen if the occasion arose. The Kitchen is a really important space to me. I studied its history in college. I’m a huge Arthur Russell fan, and he was a musical director of The Kitchen; that’s probably how I first found out about The Kitchen. Arthur Russell and The Raincoats were actually labelmates on Rough Trade. Ana told me a story about how when The Raincoats went to New York in 1980 they bumped into Arthur Russell on the street and he just started singing “The Void” to them. (!!) I was like, “That’s musical fanfiction to me!” haha. I couldn’t believe it! I was emailing with Arthur Russell’s partner once and I mentioned it, but he didn’t respond to that part of the email when he replied. Those events at The Kitchen were just so special. The Raincoats exhibited their visual art and we showed their short films. I had no idea that Bikini Kill was going to perform. I knew Tobi Vail was going to be there; she’s one of my favorite thinkers on music ever. Aaron

Cometbus was at one of the events—his writing is also really important to me—and he came up to me and was like, “Congrats on bringing all of these people together. I would follow this crowd anywhere.” So for the next night I got a guest book and I asked people to sign it. It was interesting to write a book about a DIY punk band and have the process of promoting it also feel grassroots. The very first event was at McNally Jackson with my friends and heroes Rob Sheffield, Vivien Goldman, and Lindsay Zoladz, who all helped and encouraged me so much. At the first UK event in London I was in conversation at Rough Trade with the entire 1979 lineup of The Raincoats, and it was the first time they’d all been together since recording the album! I organized a string of readings in California with the help of friends, and was beyond honored to do a talk with Greil Marcus at City Lights in San Francisco, and one with Simon Reynolds at Poetic Research Bureau in Los Angeles. Their books about punk and post-punk have influenced my life beyond measure, of course. Alice Bag also helped organize an event for me in L.A. with Allison Wolfe and Patty Schemel, which was wild—Alice Bag changed my life when I saw her perform at Ladyfest Boston in 2012. She said something on-stage like “You have to validate the culture you want to see around you”


which is a simple but powerful idea, and it just struck a chord with me in that moment. I’m currently working on a Raincoats Book Tour Diary zine/text to document all of these events because in a lot of ways I feel like I’m still processing them! How do you think music writing has changed as a whole? How do you see it changing in the future? Music and culture are mirrors and they reflect what’s happening in the world. I think music writing has gotten smarter and more rigorous, more diverse and better, because we now live in a world where everything is under a magnifying glass. Everyone is wearing x-ray spex. And I don’t know if it’s true to say there is more music writing than there was in the past, but there is a lot of writing. I definitely think there’s more widely circulated writing now. Also, I feel like a lot of the music history that is still left exploring is the music and contributions that have been overlooked for so long. It’s interesting to hear you say that. A year or two ago, when I was finishing up The Raincoats book, I was telling a friend about how I wanted my next book to also be a music history book—kind of an expansion on the work I started. And he was like, “Don’t you ever get tired of writing about the past? Wouldn’t you rather be writing about the present?” My reaction was, “It doesn’t feel like that to me because these stories haven’t been fully told.” They haven’t been properly contextualized, haven’t existed in some substantive, artful, compelling, comprehensive historical record. They’re stories from the past, but it’s a part of the past that could only be written about this way right now. Because it wasn’t taken as seriously in the past. What do you think are the benefits and consequences to there being less money in music now? I’m going to defer to my sister Liz on this one—lately, she’s been framing the problems of the streaming era more around the fact that it actively exploits artists (by disproportionately profiting off of them) and exploits listeners (by mining and selling their streaming data). And the exploitation of artists and listeners is unacceptable. We don’t necessarily need to go back to the insane excesses of the classic rock era, but artists need to survive. I don’t really see any benefit to an era in which most independent artists can’t afford to live. It’s cool that we live in a time where the biggest pop stars can take more risks and make more interesting, challenging work because there’s not as much money and excess so, from a corporation’s perspective, there’s less at stake. But at what expense? The current economic models around both music and writing don’t make sense. We need to be instigating and pressing towards new funding models like everyday.

What are you working on at the moment that you can talk about? Part of the reason I came to California was to isolate myself a little bit to work on a proposal for another book, though I’ve honestly been preoccupied with other work. I want to do another book that’s like a follow up to my Raincoats book, or an extension of it. I continue to be a contributing editor at Pitchfork, writing reviews and features. Aside from that I’m Saturn Returning in an intense way. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? I would like to write another music history book, a collection of poetry, a collection of essays or short stories, maybe a novel. I have an idea for a column about music and memory around the music of the past decade that I’d love to bring to fruition. I really want to do a zine or short book (which would be v meta) about my Raincoats book tour. I want to write something weird about my poetry/ noise project Abandon. What do you feel like you still struggle with as a writer? What hurdles do you hope to overcome in the future? I guess just being too hard on myself. I’m really hard on myself—I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. It can be so hard to accept that you did something good. For a lot of writers it’s hard to write something, publish it, and like it the next day. So I would like to write something and really like it a week later. I don’t think it has to do with becoming a better writer either, though of course I’m always trying. On a more practical level, I’m most productive and least depressed when I’m disengaged from social media. That’s a hard fact. I have tangible proof of that from my life. I try to have hours in the day where I leave my phone at home—wherever home might be—and go outside and read and write and think without my phone. For me an ideal day includes some hours like that. I have a Walkman I use—I’ll listen to tapes or the radio when I’m out in the world. I want to try to be better at keeping that time. It’s crucial to give yourself that kind of freedom.


Photography by Matthew James-Wilson

Photography by attendees of the CURRENTS 2019 opening on May 2nd at Mount Analogue

Maya Filmeridis of POP3 @ LAABF

Valentina Cabezas, Bilphena Yahwon , and Kimi Hanauer of Press Press @ LAABF

Los Angeles Art Book Fair

Lawrence Burney of True Laurels @ LAABF

Matt Davis of Perfectly Acceptable Press @ LAABF

Thomas Colligan, Nichole Shinn, Rob Blair, Kurt Woerpel, and Rose Wong of TXTBooks @ LAABF

Clay Hickson & Liana Jegers @ LAABF

Jenny Gitman & Jesjit Gill of Colour Code @ LAABF

Khari Johnson-Ricks @ LAABF

Aidan Fitzgerald of Cold Cube Press @ LAABF

Killer Acid & Wizard Skull @ LAABF

Eunice Luk of Slow Editions @ LAABF

G.W. Duncanson @ @ Paper Jam 5

Jamiyla Lowe @ LAABF

Leslie Lasiter @ LAABF

Kendra Yee @ LAABF

Los Angeles Art Book Fair

Red Ribbon @ Barboza

Red Ribbon @ Barboza

Moaning @ Barboza

Moaning @ Barboza

Moaning @ Barboza

Moaning @ Barboza

Chastity Belt @ Clock-Out Lounge

Chastity Belt @ Clock-Out Lounge

Chastity Belt @ Clock-Out Lounge

Red Ribbon @ Clock-Out Lounge

Wild Powwers @ Inscape

Dusty @ Inscape

Snuff Redux @ Inscape

PLDG @ Inscape

Beverly Crusher @ Inscape

Beverly Crusher @ Inscape

Beverly Crusher @ Inscape

Julia Shapiro @ Inscape

Julia Shapiro @ Inscape

QOQO @ Inscape

Hello, I’m Sorry @ Inscape

Hello, I’m Sorry @ Inscape

Proofs @ Inscape

Lunch Lady @ Zebulon

Lunch Lady @ Zebulon

Lunch Lady @ Zebulon

The Pantones @ Zebulon

French Vanilla @ Zebulon

French Vanilla @ Zebulon

James Swanberg @ The Echoplex

IAN SWEET @ The Echoplex

IAN SWEET @ The Echoplex

IAN SWEET @ The Echoplex

IAN SWEET @ The Echoplex

Grapetooth @ The Echoplex

Grapetooth @ The Echoplex

Grapetooth @ The Echoplex

Grapetooth @ The Echoplex

Danger Collective Records 5 Year Anniversary @ The Bootleg Theater

Jacob Rubeck & Nick Rattigan @ The Bootleg Theater

Dirt Buyer @ The Bootleg Theater

Dirt Buyer @ The Bootleg Theater

Gap Girls @ The Bootleg Theater

French Vanilla @ The Bootleg Theater

French Vanilla @ The Bootleg Theater

Momma @ The Bootleg Theater

Momma @ The Bootleg Theater

Momma @ The Bootleg Theater

BOYO @ The Bootleg Theater

BOYO @ The Bootleg Theater

Slow Hollows @ The Bootleg Theater

Slow Hollows @ The Bootleg Theater

Model/Actriz @ The Bootleg Theater

Model Actriz @ The Bootleg Theater

Model Actriz @ The Bootleg Theater

Current Joys @ The Bootleg Theater

Current Joys @ The Bootleg Theater



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