HOOLIGAN // october 2019
interviewed by lucy dacus
HOOLIGAN MAG IS
EDITOR IN CHIEF MORGAN MARTINEZ
MANAGING EDITOR RIVKA YEKER
ASSOCIATE EDITOR ROSIE ACCOLA
special thanks dewayne perkins charia rose rae big thief jacob daneman emily dubin lucy dacus mackenzie werner a-lan holt a klass cody corrall sarah coakley lemmy lempert
A PUBLICATION HOOLIGAN IS CREATED FOR THE HOOLIGAN SAKE OF HOOLIGAN ART, AUTHENTICITY HOOLIGAN & AMBITION
hooligan mag issue #30
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dewayne perkins dewayne perkins / Comedy on His Own Terms
With the comedic giants beginning to fall like Goliath, and a new wave of funny people taking advantage of this changing tide, comedy is no longer a land built on making people feel bad. It is a conversation that the zeitgeist has been attempting to have for years now. Is this new generation too sensitive or have we just realized that funny isn’t always painful? Maybe the realization has been that the comedy space has been a cis-het boys club. Comedy was never a space for folks like Dewayne Perkins to feel safe, but that changes now. Dewayne is a testament to what the future holds for comedy: young, black, and queer, he embraces his identity in his hands and hurls it at you. He is not afraid to be himself; those days are behind him. The 28-year-old comedian from the Southside of Chicago is making shit funny and doing it in a way that isn’t just liberatory for himself, but for everyone else, too. In addition to his stand-up and work on the hit NBC sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, he has multiple projects in the works: a pilot and a feature that he is shopping around, to start. Naturally hilarious and bouncing off the walls with rare comedic timing, Dewayne has an innate ability to light up a room with laughter. Wise beyond his years, he uses his experiences as a means to bring joy to others instead of weighing them down. He is exactly what comedy needs. We spoke about growing up in the midwest, bullies, and not taking “no” as a final answer, but as a blessing to change courses.
// WRITTEN BY CHARIA ROSE // PHOTOGRAPHED BY RAE
Tell me about how you got started. How did you get into that artistic space? In elementary school, I got picked on quite a bit. Kids are the worst. Fucking terrible. But, when I went to high school, I said, ‘this is the time for me to reinvent myself’. Up at that point, I was in the mindset that being as smart as possible is your way out of the hood. That’s what my parents told me. Then, in my freshman year, I joined the football team because jocks never get bullied on TV. But I was like, I hate this. This is terrible. Boys are terrible. It’s very funny ‘cause I was very shy, and very small, and had a growth spurt. I was maybe 4’10” so I was very small and a little feminine. Then I quit that. Sophomore year, I was a dancer joined the dance team. But then I was like ‘oh no this is too gay. Ahh! I’m not there yet!’. Then, my junior year I found improv and sketch and was like oh, this is good, this is chill. From there, the director of the improv team was also the theater teacher and told me to join the musical -- so I started doing musicals and theater. My teacher convinced me to audition for the [DePaul] Theater School and that’s what put me on that path. And I never knew that I could do something like that. Until this one white woman told me. It was very The Blindside-esque. Why did you decide on comedy instead of sticking with theater or dance? I found Second City, and comedy, and, stand-up. That is the path I am on now. I can’t fathom wanting to do like, plays. Even when I was there they would still make me play the strong black man. And I wanted to do something fun! I don’t always want to talk about trauma. It was so serious and sad. It’s the easiest space to be in where you can say wild shit and get away with it. I think comedy was a defense mechanism for so long. Like, if I was really charming people would be nicer to me. I was bullied pretty badly. Physically and other crazy shit. Growing up in the hood is wild. But [I always thought] if I’m funny, people will be nicer to me, and they were. As I got older, I realized that if I say my truth in a funny way it’s so much easier to digest. Especially being black, drama always went the trauma route. I’ve experienced enough trauma that I don’t want that to be my art. Comedy makes me happy and it’s fun. Every other genre felt very constrictive. I felt like with comedy you can have drama but there are so many different ways to use comedy. And coming from a musical theater background, I can use those skills as well. Comedy just felt like the umbrella term to be whatever I wanted.
Have you had any setbacks in your career, specifically because of your queerness and blackness? I want to say yes, but then in the big picture, no. All the setbacks so far have been validated by what happens after. Those setbacks felt like that at the time, but with a little foresight, those things needed to happen for me to be able to experience this thing which made this thing easier. For example, at Second City, the tiers of working are: the touring company, then e.t.c. and mainstage. My last year working there I was up for mainstage and I had a meeting but the person in charge at the time called me in just to tell me someone was getting it over me because he didn’t question them as much. So basically, he said, “If you just do what we said and stopped calling us out for racist stuff, then maybe you’d get this job.” And I was like, wow. Yeah no. If I had gotten that job, I wouldn’t have had time to do the commercials I did that got me booked on the shows I’ve done. Not getting that job gave me the platform to do this other stuff. Then, I wrote a show in DC with Second City’s first all-black touring show. It was the best-selling show in Second City’s history. With the mentality I have now, all these setbacks felt like they were meant to happen. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. These were all things I thought I wanted based on like, Tina Fey did this so I should do this. And I realized, I’m not fucking Tina Fey. I don’t have to do this. It’s hard to hear no but where I am at now, the no’s don’t feel as important. What are you working on now? I have my own show in development at Gary Sanchez. But I’m struggling to find a black showrunner. But, I don’t want a non-black showrunner. My show is about a queer black man in Chicago that is in a gang and decides to get into musical theater. And I don’t want to explain blackness to a person. They need to be able to understand the black experience. I can share with you my personal experience as a queer black man in the hood wanting to do musical theater. I have that. But, if you don’t have the basics of what it means to be black in America, it’s just very difficult. That has been a journey of its own. Like, are we running out of black people? By the time we find a showrunner, I should have enough experience where I can just run the show myself. We might have to go out without a showrunner ‘cause they wanted there to be someone to go out with me. But, I sold my first movie. I moved out here in October and sold the movie on Halloween, a horror-comedy.
You moved from Chicago to New York and now LA. What has that experience been like? From Chicago to New York, the change was this city is very fast. Hustle hustle hustle! And I’m tired. LA has been really dope so far. I moved here from New York, which I hated. Not a fan. It’s weird. The work and the people I really love, but the city and the environment … I was very much like, no thank you. It’s very very smelly. It’s hard to get places. The city wants so much from you and I felt like there was an easier way to do this. The show I was working on got canceled in August at the same time that my lease was up. So, it felt like the universe was saying to get the fuck out of here. And here in LA, it’s like no one has enough hustle. Chicago was the perfect midpoint but there was just no industry or jobs there. So many people have so much money here, they can move through life with so much ease. At my job right now, with all the WGA stuff, it’s a lot. At work, we are in our tenth week, and I did not get paid until week seven. Everyone else was like ‘Oh it’s fine’ but they have been doing this since the beginning. Like, y’all have houses and teslas. I just got here. I am poor. I need my money! Hopefully one day I can be this chill about not getting money. Cause if I don’t get paid I am going to die. How have your experiences been working in television? The culture and atmosphere of rooms are so steeped in tradition and whiteness. Tradition is something I don’t like because it is a way to keep the status quo. These traditions were not made for me. If we stuck to traditions, I would not be here. Fuck your traditions! I am walking into a space that was not created for me. If things have to change, so be it. It is not a space where a lot of questions are asked. The showrunner is the boss so you kind of just do what they say or want. And it’s like, does no one have any agency? People are very much "yes men" in those spaces. It’s a very fun job, but as a human, it’s the being in a room of 12 white people for ten hours a day that is a lot. I didn’t know it would be a lot until I was doing it. I thought I had built up more walls. But I am so exhausted. I go home and I am just so tired. You think you’re adjusted but then you realize how much it takes out of you and how much it takes to exist in that space. There’s a lot of self-doubt being in a space where there is no one like you. Would you say that is one of the main reasons you write? To be able to tell your own story in your own way? Yes. It mainly comes from the Theater School and being forced to play things I did not want to play -- even at Second City. My first improv teacher said I should play more strong black men. And I’m like, can I just be a fucking unicorn? This is improv! Why do I have to do that? Writing has been the thing that has allowed me to play the parts I want to play and say the things I want to say. I started doing stand-up and realized it’s me going on stage and doing and saying what I want to say. And that was really important to me. Now that I am trying to create things on a bigger platform, I want to keep that energy. I’m finding people that are going to allow me to say what I want to say. Dope. And those that don’t, I’m like, cool. No hard feelings. That’s one thing my mother used to do, not so much anymore. She’d call me every few months and say maybe I’d be further along if I stopped being so open about my sexuality. Trying to say things that she thought would help. But like, what she didn’t realize was that I’m not getting a job because I am too black or too gay. It just means that [the] job was never meant for me and I don’t want to do it. It is crazy to want to voluntarily be in a space where someone is telling me not to be myself.
Comedy just felt like the umbrella term to be whatever I wanted.
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The more I do, the more I am so thirsty to gather every black person I can and say, ‘this is a trick!’. No one is that good. They have been lying to us. You think this is hard and this is inaccessible. It’s all lies. I go to work every day and realize that any of my friends can do this. It is, not by any stretch of the mind, a job that people cannot do. POC are always like, I’m not good enough. And chances are, you already are. But, there are no resources or anyone telling you that you are. I have to figure out how to get a platform big enough to let people know that these are all lies. I feel like being a queer black man has always been my mindset. If I were not in mind when the rules were created then I don’t have to follow those rules. And the rules of this industry were created for white people. I’m not white. I’m not straight. I’m not doing any of this. For what? And so far, it has worked for me. In ten years, if you were doing what you absolutely want to be doing, what would that be? I would be a star! My career will be just like Jordan Peele’s. There will be the things that I am in that exist in one space. And then I create things. I want to create things and be in them, but I don’t want to be in everything I create. So, I’d like to have a couple of movies that I’ve written. Maybe I’ll be in some of them. I’d like to have some tv shows I’ve created, and have enough money to be comfortable. Famous enough that people recognize my name and work but not enough that people care about me and what I’m doing. Do you feel that twitter and social media force you to be funny all the time? Is it detrimental to you or a benefit? It varies from day-to-day. I think it can be super helpful but also very toxic. I try to have a good grasp on why I’m doing this. With Instagram, I felt like I had to post every day. A social media manager gave me tips and it felt like a job. So, when I stopped doing that, it became much more enjoyable. With Twitter, I feel more obligated to do it because as a writer; it is a writer’s medium. But it’s getting more and more like work and I don’t want to do it. The more real work that I do, it feels less necessary. I don’t feel like I have to use that to get jobs, which are an extra thing. I just tweeted something recently. It was like, how do I stay humble? Have a couple of viral tweets then a month later have a tweet with twelve likes. It’s so inconsistent that I don’t put a lot of weight behind it. I always like to ask people what does Liberation mean to you? It’s a broad question that allows for broad answers. For me personally? I’d say, to exist in a space where no one is pretending that this country isn’t fucked up. That the effects of slavery aren’t a thing I feel every day. I think right now my biggest frustration is people not admitting how shitty everything is. It’s okay to talk about slavery. It happened, and the effects of it. We talk about the Holocaust, but slavery is such a taboo thing in this country and no one talks about it, and being able to be open and talk about issues. Right now I feel very constricted by race relationships. I feel like I can’t critique blackness without it feeling like I’m betraying blackness. So, liberation for me would be able to talk freely about my identity and not feel bad about any of it. But the way that things are, it is hard to talk about the problems in the black community when we don’t dig deep into what is causing them. Liberation would be being able to speak openly about those things without fear of persecution.
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interviewed by LUCY DACUS
Schedules were misaligned on the day that Hooligan was meant to interview Adrianne Lenker, and so Morgan reached out in a low-grade panic to see if I could step in. I said yes, ignoring my lack of experience on the other side of an interview. She sent me Two Hands, the new Big Thief record that I had been eagerly anticipating like a holiday. To receive it before its release felt like cheating. I was expecting to listen to it the moment it came out, along with most of my friends, letting it unfold into all of us at the same time. When U.F.O.F. came out, I stayed up late sending and receiving messages from friends about which lyrics and moments hit us the hardest. On the release of Capacity, a load of people I love came over to my house and laid on my living room floor and curled up into my armchairs to listen together. The day Masterpiece came out, I was on a road trip with a friend, driving into an orange sun, blasting the songs loud enough we could feel them in our seats. On this day, I was on a highway in between shows on tour. It felt comparatively unceremonious to just put on my headphones and listen there and then, but it didn’t matter. The songs still reached me as deeply as everything else they’ve made. This time, more than ever, it felt like the record had already been in my life for a long time. I’m sure anyone who has seen Big Thief live in the past few years is grateful to finally have recorded versions of “Shoulders”, “The Toy”, “Not”, “Cut My Hair”, and others that they have been playing at shows for some time. It was a treat to be able to sing along on a first listen, to become a part of it immediately, once again accepting their invitation to warmth. We both put our first records out in 2016, and have been circling each other since, playing some shows together, crossing paths at festivals and such. It’s clear that their music is a joyful byproduct of a lot of love and friendship. I am always happy to see them, comforted by the earnest way they look at and speak of the world, and I was happy for the excuse to talk
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LD: Hello Adrianne, how’s it going? AL: Good! How are you? LD: I’m good! It’s nice to talk to you! Where are you right now? AL: Prospect Park. LD: Oh wow, what for? Any reason? AL: Well basically I’m doing a few press things today and it just seemed like a nice place to do it. I’m in New York for a few days. LD: We’re in Portsmouth, I’m about to just sit by the water and talk to you. Last time I saw you, we were in Portugal, I suppose. I’m finding a rock to sit on. I see the rock, I’m getting on top of the rock… AL: (laughing) That rocks. LD: (laughing) So, I just heard the new record an hour ago, and I’m so happy to have heard it. It’s so, so good. AL: Oh, you heard the new record? LD: Yeah! They sent it so we could talk about it. AL: Oh that’s perfect.
LD: Oh it’s so good, and what’s so nice about it is that I feel like I’ve heard more than half of those songs over the past couple of years, when I’ve seen you live, I’ve probably seen you twenty-something times just from playing the same festivals and being in the same cities. Do you feel like the songs are kind of old to you? Or, are they new now that you’re putting the record out? AL: They feel very comfortable and familiar, like old family members, but there is a newness now with putting the record out. When we make records, we’re thinking about the record in its wholeness. I’ve almost forgotten that we’ve been playing them for a long time. I’ve just started thinking about them as parts to this record, it all fits together as a whole. There are some songs that we’ve never played live for anybody, and some that we’ve been playing for a couple of years, like you said, but we’re just so project-oriented and these seemed to fit together. I’m so relieved that these specific songs are recorded and have a home on an album now. LD: I feel similar just having heard them, and wanting recorded versions from having seen them over time, it’s nice. I read a bit about how a lot of the takes are live, just all of you in a room. Is that pretty much right for all of it? AL: Yeah, the whole record is live takes of all of us just playing in a room together, and the vocals are live too, except for two songs: “Two Hands”, and “Those Girls”, I overdubbed the vocals. But even so, the takes are live so it’s pretty raw. There’s not much editing. LD: It’s something that y’all are capable of though, because you listen to each other so well, and you’ve been playing them for so long. It makes sense that they would sound so cohesive to me. AL: Aww… LD: I guess since they’re not here we can talk behind their backs, but Max, and James, and Buck, are there any ways that you’re proud of them that you’d want to say?
something that we reapproach constantly is how to continue to grow and change and take care of our individual selves, inside all of the machinery and vortex of being a touring banD.
AL: Oh my gosh yes, there are so many ways. I mean just on the level of human beings, I’m just proud of them because we’ve been on this journey for about four years now and we’ve all seen each other grow so much. The music is just an overflowing of what’s actually happening 90 percent of the time which is just growing and friendship. The ways in which we are now able to play together on a musical level are resulting from the work that we’ve put into our relationships with each other. LD: I think that that’s really clear for anybody that’s been tuned in from the beginning. Since then, what do you think the biggest changes have been? Or the biggest realizations? Have there been any big topics that y’all circle around, and come back to, and talk through? AL: All the big life questions, like the mystery of existence is something that we talk about, and wonder about a lot together -- feeling ourselves as individuals, and then as a group. I think something that we reapproach constantly is how to continue to grow and change and take care of our individual selves, inside all of the machinery and vortex of being a touring band. How to better take care of Big Thief as an entity, as an organism, but it always comes back to how we’re treating ourselves as individuals. How to continue to dissolve the layers that we each have that seperate us. LD: You’ve put out two records, and you’re about to have put out two more records in one year. You’ve been giving so much, do you have any plans to be “getting” any time soon? Do you know when your next break is? Do you have any pursuits beyond music that you want to pursue? Like, I want to learn how to cook someday, but I guess I’ll do that in five years, that’s how I feel. Do you have a time in the future that you’ll fill with something besides music that you’re looking forward to? AL: There are a lot of things when it comes down to it, that I would love to have time to do, and sometimes I go, “well maybe in a different lifetime.” Drawing is something that I’ve recently been wanting to dive into, but the nice thing about that is that I can do it on tour. I eventually really want to learn how to paint. My grandparents on both my mom and dad’s sides were painters, but that’s just something for fun that I would love to do. I really want to learn how to garden, and work with plants, and take care of plants.
LD: Me too, I have a yard, and my roommates tend it, so I just get to see it at different stages of its life but I’m not really a part of it, but I do get to see it grow. AL: Oh, that’s nice. LD: It is. I want to ask, do you feel like there are recurring characters in your work? There’s talk about “the boy”, is it the same boy? AL: Woah. (beat) Like in “The Toy”, the boy… LD: And in “Cut Your Hair”? AL: Oh yeah, I’m thinking about that line, “talk to the boy in me, he’s there” in “Cut My Hair”, and then the boy crying and cumming in the dream in “The Toy”... “I’m laughing and running from the boy who’s crying and cumming …” (laughs), that’s an interesting question. I definitely have recurring characters, and some recurring characters that have different names in different songs. I address “my mother” a lot, but sometimes it’s the mother inside of me. Sometimes my mother goes by different names. There’s different dimensions and aspects of my mother, same as my father, same with “my child.” It’s either the future child, or the child that I was. There’s the child, the mother, and the father, but there’s also the boy, the girl, and everything in between. I like to blur genders a lot because I feel like they’re little structures that have been built. The constructs and associations that we have with different genders, they don’t make any sense. I feel like I’m so many things. Sometimes I think of myself as a woman, but that’s only on occasion, in certain moments. Oftentimes I feel more like a bean sprout, or like a little ball of distant energy, or an apple. I feel like I’m just constantly moving through different forms.
LD: It makes sense. I love the way you look at childhood specifically. Do you feel like you’re facing the past, or the present, or the future most often? AL: I feel like sometimes I’m facing the future from the past, the past’s version of the future. Sometimes, I’m writing from the future looking at the past, like the “future past” (laughs). A future self that I might be, looking back at the past, which is actually absurd and never exists. But the present is a constant, I feel like the future and the past are present, in everything. I’ve heard that anxiety is anything but being in the present, like replaying scenes from the past, or worrying about the future, but that confuses me a little, because how could you be present if you’re not grappling with the future and the past? Memory, and association, and recollection are so present in how we perceive. We daydream. Imagination and vision are so present in art. When you’re making a painting, or you’re making a song, imagination is so intertwined with the future. I don’t necessarily think it always has to be anxiety-inducing, but sometimes it can be. LD: That’s very well put. We’ll see if a question comes out of the next thing I say (laughs). I just read this book called Motherhood by Sheila Heti, have you heard of it? AL: No, I haven’t. LD: The book is amazing. She is approaching 40, and she hasn’t had a kid, but she’s a writer, and basically she posits, “am I exempt from motherhood?” because she’s created something. Her great creative act was her books. It’s a great book, I recommend it, but basically I was wondering, if you feel that pull to be a mother, or if you feel satisfied with the mothering you do through making music? It’s a big question, but I thought I’d put it out there.
AL: Wow, yeah it’s hard to say what will happen. I can imagine being a mother to a human child. I can imagine enjoying that, and I don’t know what form that would take, being a mother to children in some way. Maybe it will be a child that comes from my body, or maybe it will be a child that I end up taking care of. Maybe it will just be learning about a different facet of motherhood in tending to the earth, and being a steward of the earth, tending to little seedlings. I feel like the motherhood spirit can exist in so many forms, and it can exist beyond women, it exists in men too. This nurturing, it’s so interesting to think about, “what is motherhood?”. I definitely can envision that, I’m certainly not opposed to becoming a mother to a child. At this current moment, I feel like I’m trying to learn how to be a mother to myself. LD: Definitely. AL: That can be challenging.
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LD: I would agree. That’s been the newest beautiful thing I’ve been realizing, is how grand mothering can be. Not grand like “swell”, but grand like “vast”. That term can be so inclusive, and it doesn’t have to start or end with the care of a human life. We can start practicing it now. That all just came up listening to your record. I feel like you have such a nurturing heart, and you care so much about who is listening. I was wondering if there are any common misunderstandings that you run up against, or anything you wish people knew about you? Or about the band, or about this record? AL: I haven’t really come up against any frustration. I don’t feel like there’s any right or wrong way to interpret the music. I think if someone finds [a] connection to it, and meaning in it in any way then that’s enough, and that’s alright. I almost have to let go of my control over how people perceive the minute that something goes out into the world, which can feel very vulnerable. Of course, I run up against my own want that people can extract something that would help improve their lives, or would bring some nourishment or some positive feeling, or [would] help people through. If ever I were to find out that the music caused somebody to feel alienated, or, I just would hope that it would never create a negative experience, but I can’t control that. When I create songs there are some moments I run into, maybe writing lines where I feel like it could be… I just never want to diminish anyone else’s perspective. I haven’t run into anything recurring that I’ve felt is a misunderstanding. The biggest thing, which is more of an irritation than anything else, is when everything is so “genre-fied”. Sometimes when people just quickly refer to the music as folk, or this, or that, I think, “but it’s not just folk, or just anything, it’s more like a landscape,” and then trying to explain. But, even that I’ve gotten used to. I realize that the way I experience music is different than the way anyone else experiences music. It’s not such a terrible thing that some people need, or want to classify, but it does make me wonder about the human tendency to classify everything and put everything into categories and groups with names, and compartmentalize everything. I think that it can take away from what you can actually learn and see in something, if you’re really quick to put a name to it. Even with something like flowers, you get used to thinking, “Oh, there’s flowers, so pretty, I know what flowers are,” but when you’re a little kid you probably don’t think, “yeah, I know what that is.” You see things, you see the raw energy and essence of things without the need to name it. You don’t have to name the bullet point characteristics that make it itself. It’s actually a live, fluctuating, river of constantly pulsing life and change. That’s what I want for myself, and for our music, to be allowed.
LD: It’s okay if language doesn’t reach it. I forget which song it is, “forgotten tongue is the language of love…”, which song is that? AL: “Forgotten Eyes” LD: Yeah, I love that line, and that reminded me of what you were saying. When do you feel most loved? Or nourished? You were talking about nourishing other people, but what does that look like for you? AL: I feel most nourished when I’m sitting in forests, or by a body of water. When I’m able to enjoy the fragrance of flowers or trees, or wet earth. When I can hear the sounds of nature, I feel that that is incredibly nourishing. It makes me feel really alive, and vibrant. I also feel most nourished when I’m in focused time with loved ones. We don’t necessarily need to be doing anything, just gentleness, conversing and listening to each other, talking or being silent. Time around loved ones and time in nature lifts my spirit up the most. LD: That’s the good stuff for sure. AL: Oh and time alone with my guitar! LD: Oh yeah, I heard you were taking some guitar lessons? How was that? AL: Yeah! I got a connection for someone who teaches metal guitar… LD: Woah! AL: Yeah! And I haven’t started yet, but I think I will on this next tour. I also got a classical guitar recently, and next time I’m still for a little while I really want to take some classical lessons. I just got this guitar when I was in Copenhagen, and it’s been so inspiring. LD: It’s a beautiful instrument, one of my favorites. I wanted to ask if you’re a listener of your own music yet? Do you ever listen to your early records, and do you feel like you’re the same person? Or does it feel like a different person? Do you approach that with tenderness? Do you hope people know that you’re different now? AL: I do on occasion, when it’s been a good amount of time, maybe every six months. Sometime in the last few months I listened to Masterpiece and Capacity on a plane or something like that, and it feels so wild to listen back. I’m really happy to say that I don’t really cringe too much, I’m more like, “aww”, I feel tenderness. I feel a part of my spirit that I just feel so much affection for. In the moment I feel like we’re doing really heavy, intense expelling of all of these demons, and all of these beautiful conjurings, and it’s only in retrospect that I can see the ever present sweetness, or child in myself, and I think “wow”. LD: Yeah, it’s nice to find yourself becoming more generous over time, and I think you should look upon them with tenderness. They still contain so much power and good will for the world. I feel like you’ve always had high hopes for everybody listening. AL: I know the world is really crazy right now, and the earth has been wounded for a long time by humans, and it feels like it can feel hopeless and defeating, especially witnessing violence between human beings, or corruption. But even so, I feel like I don’t really know what the way through is, but I do feel that the only hope is in keeping hope. If we completely lose sight of it, and lose the vision, and visualization of what healing looks like, and what peace could feel like, then it’s really lost. We’re the only ones who can pull ourselves out of it, and try to come into a place where we are unifying as human beings, and start to build a relationship of reciprocity with the earth. I just feel like it’s a responsibility, like so many people are losing hope so I better try to keep visualizing what it could feel like to have peace, you know?
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LD: I do. Hope is also contagious, so since you’re putting that out there, I do hope that people get that from the record. Especially the line, “the blood of the man who’s killing my mother with his hands…”, isn’t that about mother earth? AL: I definitely think that’s contained in there. LD: It’s nice to remember that everything that feels bad, you have the potential to do, but you also have the potential to stop the cycle of abuse against the earth however you can. Thank you. I hope to come see you and Palehound on this upcoming tour, I love that freaking band so much. AL: Me too! LD: Have a lovely time in New York, and best to all of your crew, big love to all of you. AL: Thank you, and thank you for doing this, it’s been fun! It’s so nice to be interviewed by another musician. It felt good. LD: It did. Well, I’ll talk to you later! AL: Yes, see you soon!
a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt a-lan holt
“I think the film is very Pisces,” writer/director A-lan Holt says with a laugh. It’s an apt characterization of Inamorata: Holt’s lucid, introspective and deeply personal short film about her own experience with infedelity.
// WRITTEN BY CODY CORRALL // PHOTOGRAPHED BY A KLASS
“It definitely isn't a one-to-one direct translation,” says Holt. “But it was me working with and through this moment of betrayal and also this moment of transforming and becoming a mother — and doing that in a way that really pushed how far my relationships could go in terms of other women.” The film follows Lola (Sabina Karlsson,) a yoga teacher and mystic who after discovering her husband’s unfaithfulness, finds herself in the bedroom of “the other woman” — who happens to be her close friend, Tabatha (Natasha Mmonatau.) The word “inamorata” means someone’s female lover, reminiscent of those hyper-specific words in other languages for hard to describe feelings or nebulous concepts. “I think it's a very difficult word to penetrate but for me it really got the essence of what this was about,” says Holt. Holt grapples with, and often rejects, traditional ideas of ownership and jealousy in relationships in Inamorata. What does it mean to be the other woman? How has language around infidelity shaped our perceptions of complicated interpersonal relationships? Holt hopes that the film pushes against the idea that any relationship requires ownership. “I don't know if it's the most accessible word but for me it really helped me to access the feeling of the film I was going for,” she says.
I think that poetry is the thing that weaves all the work [I do] together.
Holt captures the emotional rollercoaster of her experience
in a way that’s both visually grounded and refreshingly non-normative. It’s an impressively done debut thanks to Holt’s masterful grasp of storytelling as an established playwright and poet. “I think that poetry is the thing that weaves all the work [I do] together,” says Holt. “As I've been experimenting in different forms....poetry I think is the through line across it. And I think it allows you to tell stories in different ways.”
Inamorata doesn’t have a lot of dialogue intentionally, so much of the story is told through experimental cinematography and editing, emphatic and looming sound design and stark depictions of feelings that often go unspoken. “We're watching [and] we're letting the magic and the surrealism kind of immerse us — and I think that's what I learned from poetry,” says Holt. “What I learned from playwriting is when those words come, let's make them worth it. Let's make them beautiful, let's make them paint the world even more fully.” And in those moments when words do come, they carry a lot of weight. There’s a moment in Inamorata that has stuck with me ever since I first watched it. Lola is in Tabatha’s room and they’re coming to terms with this multi-pronged relationship without much compromise. “Don’t be afraid of me,” Tabatha says to Lola, “If you’re afraid of me, I will eat you.”
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There’s a lot to be said of power dynamics in relationships, even more so when someone else comes into the picture. What is enthralling about Holt’s version is the power and agency that is given to these women fulfilling roles that are traditionally pitted against one another. There’s a complicated tenderness in its ending, an unlikely solace in someone is supposed to be your enemy. “I wrote that ending before I had that ending [in real life],” says Holt. “That kind of reconciliation moment.” Since the film has come out, Holt has gotten reactions, and closure, from the actual people in her life who inspired it. “[Inamorata gave us] an opportunity to really, after that time, be able to come back and really close that chapter in our lives,” says Holt. “It was unexpected. And so it was actually really nice to be able to experience that because of the film.” Spirituality plays a major role both in the film and in Holt’s life. Holt’s aunt has read and divined Tarot for 35 years and Holt often came to her when she was in this dark period of her life. Her aunt ended up teaching her Tarot which Holt used as a way to understand herself. “At that time, those were the things that I was using to move myself from a curse to a cure,” says Holt. “Using the things that were happening in my life from feeling like these huge curses to feeling like they were...it was the medicine to transform and move on and do better.”
Inamorata is deeply spiritual text: Lola uses divination not only to work through her trauma, but it also acts as a tool that moves her throughout the world. It shapes her relationship with herself and other people. Holt wrote the first draft of Inamorata in 2014, it was shot in 2015 and premiered at Blackstar Film Festival in 2017. In 2018, Holt got a call for the film to be picked up by Issa Rae Productions for their #ShortFilmSundays initiative. “It really felt like a call was answered and received in such a beautiful way,” says Holt. “I felt like it was very lucky for us that it was rooted in community and within a creative community that we loved and that we felt could love us, you know? And appreciate a film like this.” “It's experimental in its own way — it's not the most inaccessible but it's still an untraditional telling of this type of story,” says Holt. “Just to be able to appreciate that and appreciate the woman of color that lead the film, we were so excited.” Now, Holt is in the early stages of some larger feature film projects: a biopic on Philis Wheatley, the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry, and a magical realism coming of age story about Japanese pearl diving in partnership with Sundance. “I’m still living in the magical world, still writing on behalf of women and femmes of color,” says Holt. “I'm using what platform I have to support the narratives and stories of other women.”
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how I saw you again and didn’t die by Lillian Sickler
I found you in the watery light of St. Michael’s parking lot as it bent inside the kitchen. it was mineral, more a hum than a gasp. you were tense by the window, sucking on the pit of an olive. I just didn’t want to tell you that salt did not originate in the ocean but rather from rocks older than the moon. this memory comes in through the front door, hard and flashy as nickels. I am still afraid of the half-dead wolf. I still guard the pear-soft foals, all I can think of is how you filled my chest with your hands, making love to me with your mouth open while mine was pinched closed like a change purse. all I’ve become is taken up by the high crescendo of missing you, tight and long like steam through a hollow metal pipe. I pass a collapsed mine, I come to the edge of a quarry and miss the whole world. my hands smell like horses, my breath dark and feathery
Palmistry by Yoshika Wason
Open palm empty, tired flesh cut by lines that whisper my past, my future Astronomy of the skin. The cosmos of my hand is mapped by vainy routes that run curve and lattice. Trace my heart line life line mount of moon. Look for my absent fate line. Third finger is Saturn’s; where a ring would sit, a faith line orbits
stopping midway. Troubling that the line is broken— physical proof of faltering faith. I’ve gotten in the habit of pressing fingernail to faith line’s end, a shallow imprint to stretch my time in the universe a little longer.
my frog alexis by Michael Chang
Hey what are you running from? I want to be the one you leave behind Adjacent to greatness Face blank and appraising Eyes brown like autumn Your body fused to my mouth I take your moisture I am radiant, glowing In Italy, they would go to war for me In France, they would surrender for me Cannon fodder Dime-a-dozen gabacho White jeans White Ford Bronco Put you out to pasture You are one of many Sir, this is a McDonaldâ€™s
Ode to Scotâ€™s by Sydney Sargis
There stands a bar underneath the endless shaking of the Montrose brown-line with a top-to-bottom front window and dimmable green light bulbs, with roars of drunken laughter and wood-waxed bar tops. Here is where tethered bodies meet to take laps around the sun, where beaten souls come to get patched up by bartender-doctors and their heavy rags that keep the place afloat, and the candy-colored jukebox on the wall. This place, which bears no true name but home, is really not a place at all, but a brave joining of commonalities, a collection of embodied hearts that keep each otherâ€™s feet on the ground, that keep the lights always burning.
Monument by Finn Cohen
After a slow ascent, I wonder whether this will end. Maybe we’ve stumbled into Escher’s relativity. I tie my lace on a step and wait to catch my breath. You’re faster than me, I hear you teasing down the stairs. Suddenly, the sky’s in sight— It’s framed by netted metal. Half-looking at the vista, I’m glad to be with you. Below, cranes on the Thames look like reeds in a stream. It’s claustrophobic here with the Americans.
the curse of the undead king by Adrian Sobol
In another life, I burned all my bridges for money. In another life, I owned a boat in a landlocked country. In another, my regrets were essentially the same. In another, two twin boys performed surgery on me (their third and therefore most evil twin). They closed me up and buried my organs where I would never think to look. But I looked. It didn’t end well. For me, or them, or civilization, really, in the long run. Listen. I’m not taking credit. I know how this goes. You open one wrong tomb, and that’s it. You’ve unleashed the Curse of the Undead King, Jeremy, crowned at 2009’s infamous homecoming dance. You remember, I know, how we carried him in our arms, passed him from table to table, anointed his body with bottles of smirnoff ice smuggled in from our cars. His handsome mouth, a lavish boxed-in canyon, echoed back our laughter. It’s a shame what happened to him, there at the end. How no one considered how much confetti would kill a man. But I try not to think of that. Instead, I think of Betty, her dress, how it lit up there in the hallway, against the burning dancefloor. As paramedics rushed in around us, she held my hand for the first and last time, and promised me that if we could get through this, we would get through anything.
on the drive from new york to michigan by Kathleen Taylor
america becomes an inescapable unfolding story of fields and snow covered mountains. this is early march and, by the grace of god, the sun shines as christie and I move ever forward in her old white car. ten hours or the rest of my life. it is possible that we never make it, that we never extract ourselves from the concrete, tarred beltway of I-80. sometimes we talk and laugh. sometimes I get lost following the skeletal bodies of winter trees with my tired eyes. sometimes we stop at rest areas with no real location. they appear when we need them. in late afternoon the light changes and reality materializes around us like an old friend. there is an ending. we change onto the ohio turnpike after 400 miles and scream our favorite songs, performing for each other and no one. and we witness the longest sunset in all of eternity, which makes the barns and silos and billboards and short grasses and occasional horses and haphazard highway graves of ohio into a perfectly convincing heaven. but maybe it is just the two of us being here. golden, red, and holy. this is my last stretch of college. christie, still driving with care and focus as we near the close of a long day, is the reason all my journeys are adventures. I would like to think of us side by side, traveling into sunset, forever. and it would not be enough.
Peter by Eva Swiecki
I felt sick on the boat tour in St. Petersburg but I remember what the lady said about the city and its lines. It was the second day of our visit and we only had a day and a half left. I felt sick too much. She said the city is often defined by its orders of horizontal lines: the buildings built up to complement each other— the roofs meant to mock the rivers’ edges. I was leaning over the boat, hooked by its rail, spitting, spitting, spitting. It would be brilliant to contemplate anything as you considered the architecture. If I were being fair, it wasn’t me who categorized St. Petersburg’s audacity to build itself into a portrait as stunning. I would look back at you and realize I would rather be looking at you than the city’s lines. Yet, I lingered: spitting, spitting, spitting.
For Joseph by Taylor Robinson
You are my fatherâ€™s child with hands as big as star stuff as lowercase god as uppercase world for the sake of the body there is nothing left for Tomorrow has enough joy of its own though I have not seen the inside of the temple You waver like words with wine Like words like full bodied blood and today the color of rust of wound of stitch and mend and spit and leftover shower water and mind the gap before you step out before you step Can you see the sun from where youâ€™re standing? So yellow and so something new
the window by Jordan Eby
crystalline and dawn-lit in that summery scrape of morning its blood stained shards peppered christopher street to the steady rhythm of determined footsteps and limp wristed hail maryâ€™s for today in here together behind the pane we dance for mourning hips slapping cops across the face whose boots and bricks once split us to shards carried back together by the sweet scent of sweat and latex as the morning warms us bursting through that solid pane
In a world of my own making by Darshita Jain
there wouldn’t be a box. or man. or gods vicious enough to set a trap. eyes, looking under - not for the stab wound - eyes peeking tenderly below the scar - eyes tired with pain ; what’s mine is yours; let’s heal together – eyes not green with lust of thirst and desire to burst a bubble of their own making - a world in violet and blue - transparent skin - transparent floating beings - bubbling to the brim of this urn, a world with ants and wasps and hummingbird songs – fairy wings not too tender to touch – not trapped in a golden box – not frozen for eternity in a snapshot – not waiting to take the incriminating shot of Pandora opening the box and remain damned for eternity - unable to resist beauty and open a can of worms – not this world, always a shade of grey, mixed with the red daze of being played - there was never grass. never shadow. never a tree bent over backwards to please the sun, never rose petals under the palm of my hand, never a woman too dumb to not wonder if it was a rigged game.
YOM KIPPUR by Lemmy Lempert
I was trying hard for this to stick consider the care elmer’s glue purple in it’s tube, a poor excuse for an adhesive teachers gave you for a macaroni craft nothing ever stays on this paper so I keep stacking paper and let my glue dry under a pile of art supplies for months just to uncap it spider web dust floating in the sunlight from the window in the room in my brain where I kept us and then I’ll eat everything I’ll put it all in my belly so that my warm will warm you and I’ll clear my throat and hear my mother’s noises in it instead of my own and I will know that I have again become her wailing to her G-d I never understood who she was yelling at
thank you thank you thank you thank you
for being here or being here for being here or being here
Featuring Big Thief, Dewayne Perkins, A-Ian Holt, and more.